This week I lost my lock and my swimsuit at the YMCA. Technically, I did not lose them. I left them behind and they were probably thrown out. In a combination of being hurried and tired from exercising, I was not being mindful. Both were at the end of their useful lives but, it still was frustrating. In this case I was being a fool. Form a secular standpoint a fool is “a silly or stupid person” or “a person who lacks judgment or sense.”However, when we look at how the term fool is used Biblically:
A fool is one who, either by ignorance or by deliberate and calculated pre-determination, follows a lifestyle or commits specific acts that are detrimental for the person or society.”
I think this distinction is important to understand especially in the light of what we are facing in our society today. By relegating the understanding of the fool to perceived or real intelligence levels or competence, we miss the Biblical relationship between the fool and the wise. In fact, the Bible, in many places, shows that the fool has more intelligence than the wise, but the wise ones are living intentionally and also with an understanding of the past, present and future.
It is how I was being foolish last week, thinking through the motions of getting ready, but not thinking about what I was doing, letting the urgency keep me from being mindful and aware of what I really needed to do. It may be a silly example, but it is one that highlights how often we all act foolish in little ways and hopefully helps us see how we maybe foolish in bigger ways as well.
A mentor of mine once told me the difference between the foolish and the wise was simple, “the fool lives in the moment and the wise understand their place in the moment.” This is where being mindful is so important to the growth of becoming wise.
In California we are very aware of mindfulness, we see ads and hear about it in many places. Mindfulness and its practice became part of the culture when “spiritualists” were big in the 60’s and 70’s. As these new traditions were forming, often picking up on themes and practices found in various religious traditions, the leaders often recognized that in both the eastern and western religious traditions, mindfulness was core practice especially in the more mystical traditions.
While different traditions may refer to it in different ways the practice of being mindful is essential for connecting with a spiritual life. Conversely, lack of mindfulness is often problematic to one’s spiritual nature because it removes us from having the intention in our lives and forces us to react to the world. Just like the fool, the one who is not being mindful, often misses out on life because they are unable to see the fullness of what the world offers.
In the Christian tradition, however we recognize that this lack of intention is more insidious than just losing a lock and being inconvenienced. It's what is broken on the inside that makes it difficult to lead our lives, which also, often allows evil to emerge.
One of the great questions of the 20thcentury has been: “how could the most advanced and educated country in the world succumb to the Nazi movement.” So many books written, dissertations, movies, etc. made to try and explain this question though, none really fully answer. The closest is to say that as a society, the Germans were overwhelmed with the situations they were in and the evil of the Nazi party was able to slowly encroach, because instead of thinking, people were willing to accept. Or one could say, instead of being mindful, the were living in the moment. That is how things really become scary.
As Christians we are called to interact wisely with the world. But to do that, we need to think and be mindful of our place within the world and not just go through the motions. If it is easy to lose a lock because of not being aware, we can easily lose our faith and even ourselves if we are not being mindful and wise.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen