When we’re young, we’re most likely to yearn for a better place to live than where we grow up. In my own instance, the often stultifying, backwardness of the Midwest inspired dreams of far-away, progressive England. I daydreamed about the land of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. England also represented the chivalry of King Arthur and his court. There were many places and people I hoped to meet. These daydreams helped me get through many hot-humid summer afternoons.
Once, while I repeated to my best friend my England fantasy, his mom overheard me. She smiled and told me that I was living in a fool’s paradise and that because I was still young, my daydreams were pretty harmless. Someday, though, reality might break my heart.
When I finally did manage to travel to England, I had an immense amount of fun and felt a strong sense of wonder. I made friends with some warm, kind people. I visited several historical sites and places where popular culture began. Reality set in quickly, too. Certainly I didn’t get to meet any of The Beatles nor Rolling Stones. Their old hangouts seemed like hollow relics. While British climate is certainly different from that in Nebraska, it’s not at all to my liking.
I learned one lesson that Ralph Waldo Emerson had told. Travel is a fool’s paradise. If we believe we can only find the happiness in far-off lands that we cannot find at home, we are only fooling ourselves. Even if we do escape our demons by flying away to somewhere exotic, our demons will eventually return to haunt us.
A few years ago, a friend told me there is something called Fool’s Paradise Day that happens in July. He believes it is a holiday to be celebrated like All Fool’s Day, except that it happens in the summertime. My friend thinks Fool’s Paradise Day should be filled with pranks and practical jokes, it is a day to act idiotically. I told him that interpretation doesn’t feel right.
I don’t think Fool’s Paradise Day is supposed to be the summertime variation of April Fools Day at all. Today is the day we understand the meaning of Fool’s Paradise. It’s an idiomatic phrase that means, “a state of happiness based on belief, denial, or false hope.” I compare “living in a fool’s paradise” to another popular idiom, “to lead down the garden path.”
We understand the “garden path” to be deception in romance, politics, religion, or finance. We are told that lasting happiness will only happen if we follow the “road” that a lover or some social authority is offering to us. If I choose to believe that person then take her up on the offer, I may soon find myself being led down the garden path to live in a fool’s paradise.
A fool’s paradise might be found in the so-called “prosperity gospel”. It says,that if you believe fervently enough, you will attain great spiritual wisdom and financial abundance. Another type of fool’s paradise could be turning one’s health over to the advice and care of a quack or medical charlatan. We understand that regarding cancer, heart disease, AIDS, or other serious conditions, living in a fool’s paradise or being led down the garden path is especially dangerous. To offer a sufferer a paliative fool’s paradise is highly unethical.
On a lesser scale, how many of us have been led down the garden paths of common cold remedies, bodybuilding miracles, fat-loss gadget scams, or questionable herbal therapies? I’ve been there, done that, and have the tee-shirt.
Popular advice columnists sometimes say something like, “A fool’s paradise is a wise man’s hell.” We are admonished that to seek satisfaction and happiness in alcohol, drugs, sex, fame, and monetary wealth is to seek refuge in a fool’s paradise.
In my opinion, to commemorate Fool’s Paradise Day means to look within to analyze one’s beliefs, deceptions, and where we are in denial. The next steps are to perform a reality check then make amends to ourselves and anyone we may have hurt.
In short, Fool’s Paradise Day is a great time to discover and acknowledge the inner locations of our personal fools’ paradises.