Fooled into Faith
April fool’s day is said to have begun as far back as 1632 when prison guards in Nantes laughed away as the Duke of Lorraine donned peasant garb to escape from prison one April day; the guards assumed it was a prank. The first of April has become a day of harmless hijinks and tomfoolery.
I celebrate the day for a different reason.
We weren’t a religious family growing up. My mother practiced astrology and served up a slew of new-age spirituality that I resisted the way a child resists sunscreen. A product of public school, I never contemplated God until World History Class.
The teacher spoke in monotone. He slouched his shoulders and walked with his hands swinging side to side instead of straight ahead, like the world’s slowest speed skater. He taught me how the church in the Middle Ages sold indulgences—tickets to Heaven as I remember them—to turn a profit during tough financial times.
The intellectual seeker in me banished contemplation of the Almighty. My dad told me if you don’t know who the sucker is at the poker table to look in the mirror, and I was not about to be some patsy, waiting in line for a phony pass to the hereafter.
I perceived self-reliance as the ultimate trait. Fittingly, when I was stumbling through a sleepy Mexican farm town in a drug-induced psychosis—my first day sober—I carried with me a Dylan flip-book inspired by his “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video, two packs of Camel Cigarettes, a scribble-pad for my non-sensical musings, and a hardcover copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance.
Like a Shakespearian comedy, I was tragically unaware of the irony that a life of self-will left me utterly powerless and insane. When I stripped naked in the church, perceiving a crashing wave through my body that was most likely another bout of withdrawal, I left Self-Reliance with all my other possessions in that church 185 KM south of the border.
My first admission that I was alcoholic was painstaking. I thought in my battered heart that admitting I’m alcoholic would be admitting I was insufficient. But that day, when my intellectual pride left me unable to read the prayer I was given to start the meeting, I was fooled. With nothing left in my scrambled brain, I uttered “My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic.”
My mind reeled—they tricked us. What the hell was that? YOU lock it up!
But it was too late. My body experienced a rush of endorphins and I had to laugh when the group of 28 men responded in unison “Yes you are!”—this tradition was reserved for newcomer defiant knuckleheads like me.
My fear of being a fool was transformed into my greatest strength: faith.
Searching outside of myself for power was not a sucker’s move as I had thought for so long. It was empowering. I have strength today I never imagined existed. Whatever your concept of a power greater than you is, imagine for a moment the ramifications of it working in your life. The force behind the cosmos and distant galaxies, behind this expanding universe and our ever-expanding globalized species, cares for YOU—wants to help YOU—wants to solve YOUR problems.
If reliance on faith has not been your cup of tea, it’s April 1st, try on a pair of new shoes, and if they fit, wear them.
You just may be fooled into a life beyond your wildest dreams, as I was. Perhaps the greatest joke played on us mortals is the bliss of simple-living, how the miracles of simply being infuse our mundane work-a-day woes and trifles with jaw-dropping wonderment.