“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.” – Cynthia Heimel
You idiot, learn to embrace your idiot. We all have what I term an inner idiot. Which is a bracing term used to describe a substantial, hugely influential, and strenuously concealed part of everyone. An Idiot is someone we deeply fear being, it is what we suspect in our darkest hours that we might be. And it is what we should simply accept, with humour and good grace, that we often truly are. A decent life isn’t one in which we foolishly believe we can slay or evade the inner Idiot; it’s one in which we practice the only art available to us: sensible cohabitation.
It makes itself felt at moments small and large. Somewhat clumsy: it forgets names, loses important documents, spills food down its front, and gets handshakes wrong. It speaks out of turn, thrusts itself forward at inopportune moments, both babbles and blushes. The Idiot is prickly, it gets into a rage because it was momentarily ignored, it sees plots against it where there was only an accident, it shouts when a drawer won’t open properly and it is immediately self-righteous when faced with the most minor criticism. It is, for the idiot, always someone else’s fault. At best it is a child having a bad day.
We know our own idiot from the inside and might suppose it is unique to us. In fact, it represents what might be called the ‘lower’ self of all of humanity. It is only residual good manners that have made the idiot of others less obvious to us – and hence made our own seem like a freakish exception.
Much of wisdom consists in accepting that this idiot isn’t ever going to go away and realising that we must therefore endeavour to form a good working relationship with it.
Trying to prevent the emergence of the idiot otherwise inspires a range of unfortunate traits. For example, we may lose confidence and grow unnecessarily shy and cautious in a bid to appear dignified in front of others. We may refuse ever to ask someone for a date or for a pay rise, we might never go travelling on our own or give a speech in public, all of these moves that require a calculated risk of being hijacked by the idiot.
Or else, by denying ours, we may grow unfeasibly pompous and stiff. Nothing makes us seem absurd faster than to insist on our own seriousness. We are always better off confessing to idiocy in good time. Rather than letting it emerge from behind our carefully-constructed pretensions.
In relationships, there can be no greater generosity than to tell a partner, early on, what our idiot is like, to give them a road map to its antics – and always to apologise promptly and warmly when it has overwhelmed us. None of us should try to find a partner who lacks an inner idiot (it’s impossible); we should just find out more about the particular kind they have. In a wise world, an entirely standard and wholly inoffensive question on an early dinner date would be: ‘And what is your Inner Idiot like?’
By squaring up to the existence of this inner being, we may come to feel useful compassion for ourselves. Of course, we made a mess of certain things, of course, we made some bad decisions, of course, we said the wrong things. What else could we have done given that we are hosting a powerfully idiotic being in our minds and that our rational cleverness and goodness sit firmly on top of its many deeply unintelligent impulses?
We may spread our compassion to others as well. They were not necessarily evil when they hurt us. They merely possess a domineering idiot of their own.
The best school for learning about the idiot is comedy. The essence of comedy is to expose the workings of the idiot in a way that invites sympathetic laughter rather than harsh criticism. The stand-up artist is a sage who knows how to redescribe their idiot with benevolence. And teaches us to do the same, case in point, Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain.
Love is another solution to the problems of the idiot. In its most mature and desired sense, love means encountering and eventually embracing the idiot of another. And regarding it not with horror or as an affront – but with all the imagination and generosity. Like a parent might look upon their beloved serious-faced two-year-old in a tantrum.
It’s not very nice that we have it. In fact, it’s an immense inconvenience. But we cannot wish the issue away. A wise society would be very ambitious about understanding, accommodating, and forgiving the idiot in everyone. And would be devoted to finding ways to soothe it and limit its influence. In the Utopia, there would be classes in schools and headline government policies focused entirely on helping us admit – without too much shame – the presence of our and others’ idiots and then instructing us with patient determination on how to work around their flaws as best we can.
It is one of the greatest of all human achievements when we can finally move from seeing someone as an ‘Idiot’ to being able to consider them as that far less offensive and far more morally-hybrid creature: a ‘Loveable Idiot.’
So go out there and don’t feel embarrassed about your idiot. Rather embrace it, learn to live with it, and get the best out of it. Hope you and your idiot are doing alright, share with us your idiot moments in the comments section.