Erasmus Reminds Us: Defend Your Folly!

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Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote one of the most entertaining books you’ll ever read. It is called The Praise of Folly. Nota bene: Folly here isn’t a term that is the same as stupidity. More like, it is similar to being crazy, acting opposite to common sense. So, here are 5 things you can learn from the book.

Don’t be a conformist. Be extraordinary instead – follow the example of Erasmus

Despite the popular belief, the Middle Ages were not so dark. It is the epoch of great learning. However, it is the epoch of a certain discipline and stiffness, orientation towards the afterlife (without focusing on the one we have), towards God and biblical morality. People were under the rules of the church. Man often turned to asceticism, carrying himself with the thought that the suffering will be rewarded in the afterlife. Man exists only in the communication with God, his individuality and personal identity is very pale, almost imperceptible. BUT, nothing is absolute and there comes Erasmus – a down-to-earth Catholist priest that talks freely about the most earthly phenomenons, and he does it in an extremely humorous way.

If you’re thinking about whether or not you should go to that music festival: DO IT!

You know how during the time of music and other festivals, you feel like you’re entering a special time and place where somehow everything is allowed? There is a reason for that and it has its roots in the psychology of society. In the Medieval Times, carnivals were kind of a controlled anarchy. It was a “legalized mess” that provided order throughout the year. This mess contained a spirit of community, where every kind of hierarchy disappeared. It was intended for all people, in order to consume their freedom! Laughter during the festival times is cheerful and well-intentioned, but at the same time it is stigmatized with mockery, it represents the affirmation as well as the negation. Carnival laughter follows folly. It is necessary for balance in the world. Erasmus gives the word to the Folly herself:

Without me, there could be no right understanding between the prince and people, lord and servant, tutor and pupil, friend and friend, man and wife, buyer and seller, or any persons however otherwise related.

The folly is, therefore, an essential ingredient for the healthy functioning of society. So, go to that festival and forget about social norms!

Accept your craziness in order to become more creative

The process of artistic creation is very complex and it could never be fully understood. The common opinion is that every artist has some kind of eccentricity. Artists are always somewhat separated from the rest of the world, often even excommunicated. There is a subtle and fine line between madness and very insightful lucidity. In order to create great art, you should dance on the mentioned line. You have to learn how to properly cooperate with your foolishness. Erasmus says – embrace it.

Keeping in touch with your own madness can increase your intelligence

With Erasmus, we enter a new era of morosophs – wise fools. Folly is actually a superior form of reason. It is the wisdom in its totality. Folly may direct your thinking into some strange, unexplored spheres, but weren’t all great ideas considered crazy at first? A dash of madness is necessary to overcome what is already known and to reach something new, yet undiscovered. Geniuses were all touched by some kind of madness.

Being a bit crazy can improve your relationships

Of course: not crazy in sense of stalking your partner or being paranoid or overly jealous. But being crazy in the sense of being unconventional is healthy, from time to time. You need to find balance because – madness is a shared destiny of us all, says Erasmus. Plus – isn’t love irrational? Aren’t friendships crazy, if we’re blind to the faults of our friends? Isn’t it amazing that we even manage to love their faults, with all our hearts? We are deluded and we enjoy every second of it. Folly says:

Friendship is the only thing that should be respected and, above all, it is necessary as air, fire and water […] It is, after all, so worthy of respect -if this term could generally be recommended – that even the philosophers do not fear to state it among the greatest goods. What will you say if I prove that I am the beginning and the end of this great good?

To conclude: you have to be a bit crazy in order to stay sane. Folly brings us together! If you want to find out more about the benefits of staying a bit crazy, especially when it comes to women, your work, the relationship with your boss and colleagues – you can find universal truths written in this amusing book of Erasmus.

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