Some people want to be kings. Others want to be queens. I’d rather be the court jester. To understand why I aspire to such a position, we need to first examine what the role of the court jester was throughout history.
The court jester was more than someone with a fabulous wardrobe.
When most of us think of a court jester, we picture someone in a colorful outfit with a silly hat with bells on it and elf-like shoes to match. I’m sure many of you may be thinking that’s why I want to be one. We all know I’m a fan of costumes. But, surprisingly, that’s not the main reason for its appeal to me. I consider the outfit more of a perk. What I actually admired about the court jester was he (or sometimes she) was able to speak truth to power and live (most of the time).
I did some research and discovered a court jester or similar role were common in many countries around the world. I always believed they originated in 19th century England, but I was wrong. These fools performed before czars, emperors, caliphs, dukes, sultans, kings, queens, and other royalty dating back many centuries earlier.(1) Their job was to entertain. They had to be funny. What they often did was use humorous songs, stories, and such to mock those in attendance. Only the queen and her ladies-in-waiting were exempt from their insults.(2) Sarcasm was the jester’s favorite dish.
How did court jesters get away with all the things they said?
I wondered why the powerful willingly invited this type of attention. Perhaps it was because given their stature, they were usually surrounded by people who didn’t question or challenge them. They lived in echo chambers where everything they did or said was praised or given blind devotion. At some point that must have grown tiresome.
We all want to be encouraged and edified. No one really looks forward to or enjoys being criticized. But if we’re smart, we realize being confronted with an opposing view, or being faced with a differing opinion, can help us grow. It can either aid us in seeing past our blind spots or affirm our chosen decision or path.
The jester was a type of mirror to show the royalty what was really going on around them. These individuals were sometimes close confidantes of their rulers. Many traveled with them and delivered messages on their behalf. (Sidebar: this is how the expression “don’t kill the messenger” originated.(3) True story. There were times where a message was not well-received by its recipient. The jester paid the price. Yes, that means what you think it means.)
My version of a court jester does not include torture or death due to poor message acceptance. My jester is nobody’s fool. They are the influence to the influencer. They use humor to discuss difficult topics and bring dark things into the light.
We need more of this in our lives and in our world. Too many of us are living in our own form of echo chambers, hearing only what reinforces and solidifies our thoughts or beliefs. We’re losing the ability to hear another side. We become so firmly entrenched we develop tunnel vision.
If you never have to defend your beliefs, you may lack true conviction.
Think about it. If you are never asked to explain why you believe what you believe, if no one ever offers any opposition, how passionate do you have to be? On the other hand, if you are challenged, then faith can arise. You have to be prepared to defend your values, morals, or beliefs. This requires you to be more invested in them. You can’t afford to be lukewarm as is evidenced in this verse:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)
Ouch. The church God was speaking about was stuck in the middle. They hadn’t abandoned their love for Him, but they weren’t in pursuit and growing in it either. They were stagnant, perhaps not being confronted with opposing views, never needing to defend their love. They might have benefited from a court jester in their midst to provoke them. They did, however, have something far greater: the Word of God.
This particular scripture always hits me hard. I pray I am never stuck in the middle. May I always be hot and not cold. Most of all, may I never be lukewarm.
I realize this article is a little different from my usual fair. I think it’s important to mix things up from time to time. It helps prevent stagnation.
I want to be a modern day court jester (again, minus the whole possibility of torture or death thing). I want to be someone who doesn’t fear confronting people, regardless of their position or office. I desire to be one who will be bold and speak truth to power. I want to offer them humor, heart and hope so they may be more effective in their responsibilities. If that means I need to start wearing a hat with jingly bells on it, so be it. I look good in hats.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,
(1) https://rabbitholemag.com/to-mock-the-mighty-a-history-of-court-jesters/ To Mock The Mighty: A History of Court Jesters, B. Alexandra Szerlip.
(2) https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/historys-finest-court-jester-was-sentenced-to-death-35da64bb63d6 History’s Finest Court Jester Was Sentenced To Death, Sabana Grande.
(3) https://www.thetravel.com/what-is-a-jester-in-medieval-times/ The Dark History Of The Court Jester, And What Life Was Really Like For This Medieval Joker, Lianna Tedesco.