What We Can Learn About Human Rights From 'Wise Fools'
Every year, World Storytelling Day is celebrated around March 20. The theme in 2018 is “Wise Fools.”
To commemorate the day, Storytellers for Peace—an international network of narrators who create collective stories through videos—made a video with 10 artists from five continents. Each of them tells a story about wise fools in his or her native language (with English subtitles).
A Spanish proverb says that “Of poets and madmen, we all have a little.” And perhaps these two qualities, madness and poetry, are not two qualities different from each other. There is a brotherhood, a fusion, communicating vessels that connect creativity, storytelling, poetry, madness, the breaking of conventions and happiness. Baudelaire said the genius is the childhood recovered. Without a little madness added to wisdom, we would be nothing more than robots, machines without imagination. So, as a Spanish proverb says: To each fool, his own.
—Beatriz Montero, Spain
Sometimes, wisdom comes from a person who is not so much a fool but an innocent. They say, “Out of the mouths of babes.” There’s a story that is told all over the world in different ways—sometimes it involves a bowl, sometimes a basket, but most often a blanket. It’s always about a man and his wife, and they have a little boy, and the man’s father, who has grown old, comes to live with them. The man and his wife over time decide that the grandfather is too old and too useless—takes up too much space, eats too much—and so they send him off to live out in the shed or out in the woods. As winter comes on, the grandfather knocks back on the door, asking if he can be allowed into the home, but the man and his wife decide they can’t have that. So the man sends the son, the little boy, to go and get a blanket for the grandfather. The boy comes back with a blanket—and a knife. When the father asks, “Why did you bring me a knife?” the boy explains, “Well, father, I’ve brought you the knife so that you can cut the blanket in half, and that way, we can give half to grandfather to keep warm, and I will save the other half for when you are old and useless and I send you out to live in the shed.” The man realizes the folly of his ways and invites his father back into the warmth of the home, having been reminded by his son of the age-old wisdom to always honor our elders.
—Barry Stewart Mann, United States
The man is wise enough to play the fool, because to do it properly you need a special care. You must observe very wisely the mood of those who you’re going to mock, grasp well the type and the moment, and, like the hawk, catch on every feather that passes around. An equally arduous task, like that of the madman who plays the wise one, since the material he shows off must be a form of wisdom. While the wise men, who sometimes lose their wits, miss their mind forever. William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.
—Cecilia Moreschi, Italy
Wisenheimer/A smart aleck
An old wise foolish man, living far in the bush, crazily blaming about the world, breaking bones like stone in word. Human beings lost in ruins, he says they’ve betrayed respect and humanity. There is no longer love in family. Love and marriage are now businesslike. Family heads get lost in bars. Wives say that’s their behavior. Returning home, claiming their wives, annoying their minds, disorganized ceasing to have any more space for peace. Even wives, with their female spirits live committed to hit bars, thinking that they’re unchaining barriers, kids in the home go without food, grow without precaution, parents rid themselves of their responsibility, chaos reigns in the home, girls lost in debasement. Boys stealing and begging in the streets, they end up returning home, they get lost outside, slowly the homes turn into houses, houses of ruins, but if my stay deters not ruinousness, when my ancestors come for me, may they take with me ruins, and perhaps then, love will reign.
—Hamid Barole Abdu, Eritrea
The wise speaks because he has something to say, and the fool speaks because he has to say something (Plato). The truth is that, nor the most foolish, nor the most wise, who speaks to speak. Storytellers will know, very well, that ancestral wisdom transfers from mouth to mouth. From family to family. Among grandpa and among grandma. Storytelling—wisdom or foolishness—it’s joy and one of the most important things. It is knowing to listen. Is it more wise who speaks, or who listens? Well, that’s the gift of storytellers. World storytelling day. Today I leave, here, greetings for you. For all my friends of storytellers for peace. And to all the storytellers who are listening to me.
—Sandra Burmeister G., Chile
One of the best storytellers I know, the Canadian Dan Yashinsky, tells in his book “Suddenly They Heard Footsteps,” how in Alaska and northern Canada, there always existed a kind of storytellers considered half-crazy and half-wise, called “the storm fools,” that appeared in those places where those who protected themselves from the storm took shelter, and entered with the cap covered with snow in the nights of blizzard—without warning, without knocking on the door, because it is not customary to do so—to tell stories, myths, legends, stories, jokes, or news from the tribe or from remote places. These intrepid narrators from northern Canada, who still did not know they were following the tradition started by Homer, were known as medicinal characters, wise elders, community connectors, and also, as “storm fools.”
—Enrique Páez, Spain
Without words … apparently.
—Katharina Ritter, Germany
Wise fools who invented the earth is round. Wise fools who sat their feet on the moon. Wise fools who invented the computer. Wise fools who made various kinds of viruses. Wise fools who perish dividing into groups.
—D.M.S. Ariyrathne, Sri Lanka
Every era has its wise men and its fools. Nowadays, the wise men are always less and the fools are almost all.
However, there are fools and fools, there are the normal ones and others.
Well, among the latter, there are some who are so crazy, so crazy to believe that they can save nature from the destruction by men.
And there are others so crazy, so crazy as to be convinced they can change the fate that awaits us with a story.
There are others so crazy, so crazy as to put their own life at risk, just to give a better example than what they have found coming into this world.
And there are those who are so crazy, so crazy to still have hope that the people of tomorrow will be able to remedy our mistakes.
Every age has its fools and its wise men.
Nowadays, the fools are almost all and the wise men are always less.
And the wisest among them are the craziest of all.
—Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher, Italy
The Woman and the Lion
There was a woman who lived in a farm in the high mountains of Ethiopia. She had a rich husband who’d bring her many jewels and dresses. But he’d started to neglect her, and he would stay away for weeks at a time.
The woman was really troubled by this, and she felt very foolish. So she went to the wise man finally, and she asked him, if he could give her some charms to bring her husband’s affection back. And the wise man pulled his white cape around him and stroked his beard and said: “Hmmm, yes, I can do that. But first you must get three hairs from an alive lion’s mane.”
Oh, the woman was so daunted and terrified at that. On sleepless nights, she would lie awake and hear the lion roaring in the ravine behind her house. But finally, she plucked up the courage, and one morning, she plucked up her courage, and she went to where there were the new lambs, and she picked up one, and she took the path down to the ravine, and she left it there for the lion.
Well, every morning at dawn, from thence, she’d bring an offering of food and leave it for the lion. And after quite some time, finally, she realized that the lion had come to trust her. Because one morning, as she walked down the path, she saw him with his head held high and wagging his tail.
And eventually, he would walk up to her and stroke her side with his mane, and she would pat him, and he would purr like a kitten. So it was easy for her to pluck the three hairs from his mane. And she did, and she took them to the wise man, and she said: “Here. I have the three hairs from the lion.”
And the wise man pulled his hood over his head and stroked his beard, and he said: “Hmmm, how did you achieve that? How did you get the three hairs?”
And the woman said: “Well, with my patience, and my affection, and with my understanding I won the lion over.”
The wise man said: “Yes, well, these are the charms I give you. Your charms. Use your patience and use your affection and use your understanding to win your husband back.”
—Suzanne Sandow, Australia
Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher—an Italian author, playwright, stage actor and director—started the Storytellers for Peace project in 2016 and coordinates all of the videos. His mission is simple: bring storytellers together from all over the world to speak about peace, justice, equality and human rights.
Other Storytellers for Peace videos have been produced for Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” International Day of Peace 2016, Human Rights Day 2016, World Storytelling Day 2017 and International Day of Nonviolence 2017.