Playing The Fool

How Embracing Your Shortcomings Leads To Creativity

Antonio Rengel
2 min readMay 17, 2021
Photo by Rachel on Unsplash

I recently stumbled across a TED Talk from actor Ethan Hawke. In the presentation, Hawke cites the ability to play the fool as the essential part of the creative process.

As someone who’s long been a proponent of making silly art and giving yourself permission to suck, the idea of playing the fool stuck with me.

It’s a role we’ve all played at times in our lives — especially if you’ve chosen to do creative work. In a world full of fools, we are perhaps the biggest fools of them all.

This may sound like a slight, but it shouldn’t!

The fool may be disparaged in polite society, but in the works of fiction and philosophy he is one of the most celebrated characters.

Shakespearean fools were often the wisest folks in the realm. Their lowly status allowed them to speak defiant truths most dared not say.

Philosophers like Socrates embraced the role of the fool by proclaiming their ignorance and stating “the wise man knows he knows nothing.”

In Jungian mythology, the fool is the precursor to the hero. He is the one willing to humble himself for the greater good.

If the fool is indeed a noble character, what does it mean to play one?

Playing the fool means being open to possibility — the fact there is much in the world you don’t know.

Playing the fool means making daring choices in the face of uncertainty. And remaining at peace with the outcome.

Playing the fool means looking at the world with a light heart. If Shakespeare is correct, and all the world’s a stage, the fool sees the grand tale as a comedy rather than tragedy.

However, playing the fool occasionally means looking the part.

Putting yourself out there bare-faced for the world to see and falling short.

But in both life and art the fool is someone brave enough to look stupid. One who can shake off their mistakes and smile at their shortcomings.

For in the seeds of these shortcomings, there is the potential for something remarkable to grow. Something bold, daring, wild, and wonderful which would not exist if you had not made the choice to play the fool.



Antonio Rengel

Educator and Copywriter Who Writes About Creativity, Marketing, Pop Culture, And Occasionally Mindfulness Meditation