Revisiting A Wonderful Fool

When someone is outrageously rude I am shocked into silence. I stand there, like a fool, unable to think of one single thing to say back.

It’s been like that since I was a child. I was taught to love others, or at least be kind, and I have learned that lesson so well it’s almost a fault. I need more lessons in how to stand up for myself.

Ever since I finished reading Shusaku Endo’s Wonderful Fool two nights ago, I’m unable to think of much else. It is a book which has profoundly affected me, as I ponder this dilemma: is being loving the same as being a fool?

Gaston Bonaparte, a Frenchman, has come to Tokyo with a purpose we do not understand until the conclusion of the novel. Over and over, he is embroiled in a volatile situation in which he is being beaten, or he’s cold and hungry, or he’s taken advantage of in one way or another. As the sister of his friend looks at Gaston’s departing train she thinks,

“He’s not a fool. He’s not a fool. Or, if he is, he’s a wonderful fool. For the first time in her life Tomoe came to the realization that there are fools and fools. A man who loves others with an open-hearted simplicity, who trusts others, no matter who they are, even if he is deceived or even betrayed – such a man in the present-day world is bound to be written off as a fool. And so he is. But not just an ordinary fool. He is a wonderful fool. He is a wonderful fool who will never allow the little light which he sheds along man’s way to go out. It was the first time this thought had occurred to her.” (p. 180)

What do you think? Is it possible to be a wonderful fool? Is it foolish to love, and trust, even in the face of betrayal? Is there ever a time when one should allow a little “light shedding” to cease?

11 thoughts on “Revisiting A Wonderful Fool”

  1. Sometimes, stooping to the level of others who would harm or slander you might seem foolish to most. If so, colour me guilty. I think that staying above this sort of thing is the right thing to do. I suspect that you are very much like that too, that after an initial flash of anger or resentment, you just let these things pass. Who needs more vindictive people in the world, after all?


  2. From a Christian perspective, I think we are to love even when we're not receiving love. I think we are to forgive over and over and extend grace as we want it to be extended to us. NOW I don't think you should be a doormat either. The hard thing is knowing where the balance is. This was a great "thinking post" for me. Susan


  3. Atavist, because we must live with ourselves more closely than with those who offend us (most of the time), I cannot deter from what my heart says is right: we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, says the Bible. I'm not being persecuted, as some individuals are in some countries, but living a life which is not vindictive, as you say, is the only choice for me. Run over or not. I'm always glad when you visit and leave your thoughts.Susan, it is especially hard as a Christian, and as a woman, because we are called to be forgiving AND nurturing. Finding the balance is critical and difficult. This book was so fascinating to me. The main character was touted as a Christ like figure, and it captured my thoughts all the way through. In many places I felt so sorry for him, and yet I closed the cover with a deep respect and admiration for one who could live a life for the purpose of "carrying others' sorrows on his back."


  4. Ah, Bellezza…I'm in the same boat as you. Kind to the point of being trampled on at times! I like to look at humanity as being basically good. That may make me a fool at times, I have no doubt about that! But it works for me. Now I could definitely use a lesson on how to stick up for myself a bit more, but I really just don't think I have it in me to be as blunt as I need to be with people sometimes or to see the world as it really is sometimes…who knows. I think I'd love this book. It sounds very philosophical and I love books like that, but it's so expensive! I can't find this one for a decent price, lol! If I can though, I'll add it to the challenge list.


  5. Chris, it would be a fascinating book to discuss more in-depth. It has really captured my attention. My copy is from the library, which has to be returned or I'd pass it on to you. Ultimately, I'd rather be kind than assertive. Which I need to remember when I feel trampled upon.


  6. It is a fine line, isn't it, Bellezza? We need to protect ourselves, which paradoxically means extending compassion even to those who are rude and hurtful while at the same time being strong and standing up for our beliefs (and ourselves). There's a walk along a tightrope for you! I completely agree with you that at the end of the day we are living with ourselves. It is easier for me, personally, to have dealt with someone who was rude or hurtful to me and then to have moved on, than to have been rude or hurtful to someone else. It's harder for me to move on from that. I have no idea if that makes any sense!


  7. Don't you think with this definition that Jesus would be a wonderful fool. And aren't we, as Christians, supposed to be becoming or transforming to be more like Him in every way. Just food for thought, no pressure I mean.I pray that I can be a wonderful fool.


  8. Lady G~ I love it when we see the miracles that take place when we are obedient to Him.Darla D, I think it is easier to be on the receiving end of rude than the giving end. At least when we're the recipients, we can move on as you say. And, I can't sleep thinking I may have offended someone.Kay, you hit the nail on the head! I have not read much of Endo, but I have a very strong sense that he is a Christian. His character in this book is compared to Christ, who then could be called a wonderful fool (although I have a hard time calling Him a fool) because of all the pain he suffered for us. We are supposed to be like him, we are supposed to carry others' sorrows on our back, just as the Bible and Endo point out. I, too, pray that I can be a wonderful fool.


  9. Of course it is foolish to love, especially when that love is given without guarantee of reciprocity…but oh what a glorious rush one gets from being that sort of fool!!!


  10. Is it humanity that is vile and evil or is it the individual who is vile and mean? And the big question: Are you sure of your answer? "Light shedding" sounds a little like hey, I'm right, you're wrong and you need to be educated to think my way. Kind of dangerous ground, don't you think?


  11. Yo, Catmoves, "light shedding" is not my term, it comes from Endo, at the conclusion of his book.His hero, Bonaparte, is obviously a Christ-like figure in that he purposely comes to Japan to help carry other's burdens. He dies in the effort. If you have an issue with that, take it up with Endo, not me.I never thought to take on the issue of humanity being vile; I only question the vileness I encounter from time to time in others as well as myself. Do I have an answer? I believe I posed a question, not an answer, at the end of my post. As for me, whether it's foolish or not, I choose to love.It seems like this post of mine touched a few nerves with you…


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