“In Praise of Folly”

October 3, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Nonfiction | Leave a comment

In Praise of Folly is a subversive, comic gem of the late middle ages.  Erasmus tells us that if it weren’t for Folly, none of us would even be born, and it gets better from there.

Here are some quotes for your delectation.

The pursuit of wisdom makes us old before our time:

Do but observe our grim Philosophers that are perpetually beating their brains on knotty Subjects, and for the most part you’ll find ’em grown old before they are scarce young.

Get used to it, we’re all fools anyway:

But methinks I hear the Philosophers opposing it, and saying ’tis a miserable thing for a man to be foolish, to erre, mistake, and know nothing truly.  Nay rather, this is to be a man.  And why they should call it miserable, I see no reason; forasmuch as we are so born, so bred, so instructed, nay, such is the common condition of us all.

We are grateful when we survive accident, illness, and everything except Folly:

…no one gives thanks for his recovery from Folly; so sweet a thing it is not to be Wise, that on the contrary men rather pray against any thing than Folly.

I have two examples of folly picked up from reading this book.  First, some Fool before me wrote in my library’s copy, even defacing an illustration at one point.  Some of the quotes were in Latin, but others were simply comments like “Excellent!”  What kind of a fool thinks another library patron is going to want to see “Bravo!” pencilled in the margin?

The second example is my own pleasure in my ability to read the Greek words that were left untranslated.  This ability came from two dire years suffering under the bonds of the Classics program at my school, for which I was so ill-suited that I finally had to change majors.  Folly!

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