“A wise man changes his mind; a fool, never.” Spanish Proverb

We habitually imagine a fool as a sort of clown. Someone who knows nothing; a bumbling, ludicrous idiot who even the second-most-foolish wouldn’t take seriously. Sadly, fools can be far more insidious, far more persuasive, and far more dangerous:

The bigot who assumes authority over those they cannot easily understand.
The authority figure who arrogantly endangers others by refusing to listen.
The coward who fears change so stands in the way of progress.

To stop thinking, to stop noticing, to stop learning, is to become a fool.

“Learned fools are the greatest fools.” German Proverb

Each of us must start somewhere. Only the very cruel would call a baby a fool. Likewise not every freshman is a fool, nor every graduate wise. Indeed, it’s very wise to make oneself a student in order to learn something, whilst the knowledgeable expert may foolishly miss a simple truth, if too set in their ways. Foolishness, then, is not simply an absence of wisdom or knowledge.

But it is foolish to ignore this absence, and actively unwise to disregard it. Foolish to remain steadfast in arrogance, fear or hatred when faced with uncertainty or doubt. Inflexibility, naïvety, unshakeable confidence and the desire to always be “right”: These are the hallmarks of the fool.

The real fool has much to teach Jedi, seeking to improve ourselves and increase our share of wisdom. One of the best lessons the fool makes clear is that we can’t know everything. We’d be foolish to try to.

“A wise man doesn’t know everything – only a fool does.” African Proverb

The implications of this are far reaching. We are not always “certain”, and should take no shame in admitting when we’re not. We do not promote one opinion at the expense of others. We understand that there are limits to our understanding; which means we also accept that we carry the capacity for foolishness, and remain on our guard for it.

It is wise to recognise this inherent fallibility. We learn the validity of other perspectives, and the wisdom of those who share them. We see the inherent dangers of believing we are “the authority” on anything. We recognise that “knowing” something doesn’t automatically make it a concrete fact.

We know only that there is always more to know, are taught always that there is always another lesson to learn, and see that to the wise, open to new understanding, even the most foolish is a teacher.

“The first chapter of fools is to esteem themselves wise.” English Proverb

Such is the root of true wisdom:
To accept one knows little, and to become a humble student, rather than a confident fool.