Don’t be a fool? I must confess that my first reaction to that is short and simple:
I have spent too many years doing foolish things with great regularity. I have also punctuated my career them with sustained periods of total folly. Chronologically, I have been a fool about sex, love, sex, sex, love, marriage, money, love, fame (now that was a foolish period), sex, career,… Well, you get the idea.
I think I have commented here before that once you get used to the idea that your job is to be one of the comic elements of the world, things get a lot easier. Of course, you still try not to do stupid things and you still fail, but you can join in the laughter.
Since all of us have committed follies, you may wonder exactly how you can tell if your special role is to be one of those plot elements God adds to the story to lighten things up. I think I can clear that up a little.
It is not enough to do stupid things now and again, or even to be a fool with a predictable, almost periodic predictability. That is certainly one of the job qualifications, but it is not enough in and of itself. Should you find yourself engaged in one of your painstaking, meticulously planned acts of moronic inspiration and you also find the fates carefully conspiring to amplify your idiocy, then you can legitimately infer that God has a very special part in store for you.
Let me give you an example.
Few things drive us to more egregious spasms of absurd behavior than good old fashioned sex. No doubt most of us can easily call to mind more than one piece of lunatic behavior (not to mention bottomless embarrassment) that our gonads have led us into. I also suspect that most of us can recall, with rueful blushes, just how gracefully we handled that wonderful period when irresistible drives were combined with near total ignorance – our adolescence.
My first car (a hand-me-down from my mother) was a 1959 Hillman Minx. For those unfamiliar with this antique little jewel, let me say that it was a typical British product of the period, a two-toned sedan with four anemic cylinders, pretty good mileage, and a well deserved reputation for total unreliability.
I loved it.
It was not, however, one of those chrome laden, horse-powerful Detroit wonders that attracted the girls like flies and had back seats the size of double beds. Nor was it one of those newly arrived European cars with a sexy exhaust sound and seats that folded down.
No. It was four feet something wide, too narrow to successfully lie down, much less stretch out. The seats had nice, upright, rigid backs that would have delighted the nuns had they ever looked inside. In fact, the whole car might have been designed simply to preserve adolescent virtue.
Not that that was a very severe problem. This was in the days just before the Sexual Revolution. Only a few years later the question of the evening would be “when?.” In those older days the question was not really even “whether?.” It was more like a rather desperate “ever?” The final act was pretty much out of the question. All we could do was our level best to see just how close we could come to it.
At the time I was dating a really lovely, smart girl with hormones as active as my own. We had tried out the fabled drive-in theater, earnestly steaming up the windshield and completely missing the movie. Drive-Ins had their virtues, but the truth was that you never quite forget that you were surrounded by cars full of people (on one memorable occasion, my best friend’s parents – and didn’t I hear about that one!).
So one night we went on an earnest search for a really dark, private place to park. We found this great old road out where the suburban met the rural. It wasn’t quite a farm road, but it was pretty close. No sidewalks, no street lights, nearest house lights way back from the road.
Tiny car or not, we were soon doing our best to steam up those windows and loosen a few buttons. It is really amazing how limber a couple of teenagers can be under the right motivation.
In fact, things were getting downright interesting when this blinding light panned across the car. I sat up and was just able to read, past the glaring spotlight, the horrible words, “County Sheriff.”
Oh, my God! I doubt you can imagine the total panic that gripped a couple of good Catholic kids caught in flagrant sin. Next thing we knew, as we tried frantically to straighten our cloths, slow our breathing and look innocent, there was this eight foot tall sheriff shining an eight ‘D’ battery flashlight in our faces. Today, I suspect his gruff manner was simply intended to intimidate us back to good behavior. At the time, all I knew was that his attitude suggested he had captured two ax murderers at least.
Mercifully, we were able to answer his questions and satisfy him that we were really not out there to case the houses for burglary. After what seemed like an eternity he turned off his spotlight and left.
We just sat there in paralyzed relief while our heartbeats gradually returned to normal and the panic sweat dried on our bodies.
Being perhaps more blessed with incentive than sense, we soon found the old hormones rising again. Pretty soon we were back on the seat, attacking those buttons again. As I recall, we actually managed to get to the stage where our shirts came off. My lady friend was rewarded with the sight of my Tee shirt while I was actually facing a real, honest-to-God bra!
At that extremely intense moment this blinding light panned across the car. Obviously, our friendly sheriff had not trusted us.
But, no. This time it was two eight foot tall sheriffs, one for each side of the car. As I handed my girl friend her blouse and she tried to fumble into it by the light of the inevitable eight ‘D’ battery flashlights, we were put through a genuine inquisition. They insisted on seeing our driver’s licenses and, horror of horrors, they were actually writing all of it down on official forms! If we had been terrified before, this put us over the top. We were obviously going to be arrested. Visions of our parents disappointed and damning faces rose before our eyes. I can’t say that we managed to present any picture of outraged innocence. My own recollection is of gibbering in nearly incoherent guilt.
All things, even the worst, eventually come to an end. And I suspect that we must have looked pretty pitiful. Before it was over one of the officers apologetically explained that these were merely Contact Reports and, unless something happened to us later that night, no one would ever see them.
This time we really needed to sit a while and calm down. I am absolutely certain I could not have driven that car if I had to. We sat and literally shook for long minutes.
Now, I wouldn’t want to suggest that I am stupider than the average bear. So please do not take this as a measure of common sense. Rather, let it be a measure of the sheer power of those sexual urges.
You got it. Pretty soon we were at it again. Mercifully, no more cars came along and we had plenty of time to get down to some serious petting. Not to mention stripping. As I recall we had maneuvered ourselves down to the point where we were pretty close to that last, inviolable single garment apiece.
That is when it happened. I kid you not, this blinding light panned across the car.
There is only so much you can take. I sat up, glared into the light, and said, “I should have sold tickets!” I could see the shadowy figure of the deputy walking towards us suddenly stop.
“What?” He said.
“We’ve been hit,” I said. “Twice. Contact Report filled out and everything. Believe me, we’ve been hit.”
He became very friendly. He even shrunk to average height. He still had the obligatory flashlight, though, and he persisted in shining it in the car as he talked and we tried to cover ourselves. (Pardon me if I suspect he was enjoying the sight of my lady friend’s charms.) “Did one of them have two officers?” he asked. “Boy. You guys sure aren’t lucky. That was the Sheriff. He’s out training a guy tonight. You got written up by the Sheriff himself! Boy. You guys just aren’t lucky!”
Then he proceeded to tell us how he and his wife used to park on this very same road. Of course, they didn’t have any problems with sheriffs back then, but it sure was a coincidence, wasn’t it? He went on and on while we shivered and blushed. Kafka wouldn’t have done that to two of his characters.
Finally he finished. As he cheerfully waved goodbye to us he said, “By the way. There are only three cars out tonight and you’ve been hit by all of them. You might as well stay.”
Going back to my original thesis, it is about this time that one should realize that one has passed far beyond the realm of simple happenstance. An experience that was both this ludicrous and this complicated could not have happened by accident. Clearly, God was telling us that he had a special role reserved for us. There was an implicit promise that this level of perversity was going to recur and recur, so we had better get used to it.
Of course, there is one other factor beyond God’s wicked sense of humor that is required to truly become one of life’s comedic elements. To truly live up to the career God has planned for you, it must match something in your nature. You have to have some innate level of folly that will rise to the occasion and help raise the lunacy to a new level.
Which is just my way of saying that we took that sheriff’s advice. As God is my witness, we stayed right there and went back to it.