A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… a young man started on his journey.
Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?
— Obi-Wan Kenobi
A few times when I’ve done Tarot readings, people mistaken The Fool as a “bad” card. First, there really are no “good” or “bad” cards. Second, this is my favorite card from the deck. I have a close relationship with this archetype.
We’re starting from zero, from nothing. I don’t mean “nothing” as an absence of something. But I mean nothing as a blank page or canvas. It’s ready to be filled with words or pictures. A long time ago, George Lucas took out a blank sheet of paper and wrote his first draft of Star Wars. There are so many blank sheets of paper in the world. Some of them end up as college term papers. Others turn into drawings on refrigerator doors. Few become great epics that change modern culture. And when you’re filling the blank page, a lot of times you’re going to foolishly make mistakes as you write that epic.
Have you seen George Lucas’s original outline for Star Wars? It was sort of everywhere. It didn’t have much structure or sense. But as you go through your path to become a Jedi, to finish a screenplay, or just anything in general, you’re going to try new things. You’re going to experiment. And like The Fool of the Rider Waite deck, you might to fall off a cliff.
It’s like a baby. A baby doesn’t know anything. A baby can’t really do much. A baby is a potential adult and has a long journey to go through until she gets there. Babies make mistakes when they try to walk. You’ll make mistakes when you start a new job. There isn’t a lot of experience a baby has, but there’s a lot of raw potential.
Remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes“? All of his subjects were too scared to point out that he was naked. Everyone except a child. You’ll find brutal honesty with children. Adults will watch a live show and then politely clap no matter how boring it is. Children won’t sit still unless they find the show amazing. The Children, knowing very little, actually know very much about being honest and knowing what they want and like.
Anyway, just look at young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. He’s nothing but raw potential: he could pilot a pod race, he built C3P0 and he has all these medichloreans in his blood. He was strong with the Force.
But in our card, young Luke Skywalker walks on his path blindly. In some Tarot, The Fool is sometimes blindfolded or said to be blind. Our New Hope is naive and plays with a toy T-16 Skyhopper. Its a symbol of his youth but a prediction of his career as a fighter pilot.
With the blast shield on I can’t see anything!
Do you think Luke Skywalker would still take this journey if he was told, “Luke, this is what’s going to happen when you try to find Ben Kenobi: Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are going to die, you’re going to make-out with your twin sister a couple times, you’ll get really messed up on an ice planet, your hand will be cut off, you will find out that your biological father is the second most evilest man in the galaxy and then you might have to kill him”? Do you think he’d take that journey? No, of course not. He’s simply told that he must become a Jedi instead. He has no idea what the rewards and hardships of being a Jedi mean. But by the end of Return of the Jedi, do you think he ever regretted taking that first step? (But the whole sister thing was f#cked up. Obi Wan could’ve said something.)
Following Luke Skywalker like a loyal dog is R2-D2. In the Rider-Waite deck, The Fool is followed by a dog. It is kind of funny that “dog” spelled backwards is “god”. But sometimes the dog is held with sacred reverence. This could be because God, the Force, the Divine is very loyal, just like a dog. It is something that is trustworthy and will never leave you. Unlike C3P0, R2D2 didn’t have his memory erased. So this wise, loyal pet was more than just a cute little droid.
Even on this path, Luke needs to “unlearn what (he has) learned”. In order to become a Jedi, he must give into his own ignorance in order to find greater knowledge.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
–The Jedi Code [Star Wars Legacy]
I have seen other interpretations of the Tarot using Star Wars symbolism. Bernice Gordon has a beautiful deck she’s working on. Jar Jar Binks is The Fool. And I don’t disagree with her decision. The Fool can easily be the court Jester. He can be a bumbling idiot or a rodeo clown. But I must say that I have a deep respect for clowns and fools. I have taken clown classes and its one of the most profound and challenging experiences I’ve ever had. As David Bridell, my teacher, put it, “The clown celebrates their mistakes in public.” The Fool somehow makes his mistakes work. He f#cks up but is still victorious. Fools don’t fight their impulses, they flow with it. They’re incredibly honest with themselves. They are fearless, not because they are brave, but because the just don’t know any better.
The Fool is also closely associated with Kether. Kether is the top sephora or sphere in the Khabbalistic Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is like a map of the aspects of reality, creation, and the divine. Kether, in Hebrew, means “crown”. Thus depicting royalty and authority and the highest point on a person. The traditional court Jester’s hat is a parody of the king’s crown. So The Fool, in a topsy-turvy way, is a king. The Fool is associated with the path between Kether and Chokmah, or “wisdom”. Chokmah is the first step towards creation. Chokmah is the first thought of creation. The Fool is like the action of taking the first step, from nothing to something. Or if you went the other direction on that path, from thought to bliss. (Sorry if I lost you with my esoteric interpretation.)
There’s something very Zen about The Fool. There’s something inherently Taoist about him. Either if he’s the young hero or the court jester, The Fool is unblemished from this serious, structured society. When you first meet the Fool, he might be this little green dude you found in the swamp. He’s nosing around through all your stuff, making a mess, fighting with your droid. But when you get passed that, the Fool is a greater wisdom. The sort of wisdom that leads you to the Force, to the Divine. The sort of wisdom that was always right under your big red nose, but you were taught never to see him.
May The Force Be With You.
More resources on the Fool:
afoolsidea.com – A site about professional clowning
theclownschool.com – If you’d like to be initiated as a fool in Los Angeles.