Without the notion of Zero, our system of mathematics becomes meaningless. Similarly, the Fool is an essential part of the Tarot because he is the spark that sets everything else into motion, the divine breath that gives life and inspires the first step towards fulfillment and completion. Though the first step down a long path may often seem small in comparison to the journey, that first step is vital because without it there would be no journey at all! The Fool is the cause behind all effects, the power behind all manifestations and the seeds of the end sown in every beginning.
The Fool is unmoulded potential, pure and innocent, neither positive nor negative yet containing the possibility of both. He is the unconditioned soul about to come into manifestation for the first time to start learning the lessons of the world. Though everyone calls him a Fool, he does not pay them any attention, and he simply goes on his way. Certainly what they say can be justified, since his ignorance of the world can lead him to do things that more experienced people would never imagine. But in these things he can find knowledge and enlightenment. He does not care what others think or say about him, because he knows that what he is doing is right for him.
His approach to life is a strange, unconventional one, because he does what is comfortable to him. This is a viewpoint not often supported in our modern world, in which "do as I say" is the commandment most followed. To those who have lived their life under this philosophy, the approach of the Fool may be extravagant, shocking, even frightening. But this approach is all that the Fool knows, and because the only approval he requires is his own, he will continue to live this way, despite what all others think of him. He has total faith in himself. Perhaps he is not such a fool after all.
The Fool does not hide himself from the light, because he is the light - the wonderful light that shines out of every child before they see the world and are forced to build so many walls and barriers to protect themselves. The innocence of a child, sadly, is something rarely found outside of children, even though a lot of people could use it these days. With this innocence comes perfect trust, fearlessness in others, and total self-reliance. It allows you to see the world with new eyes and learn new things every day of your life. Think of how much better the world would be if everybody acted this way! It's a shame that only children, and the Fool, see this light.
The Fool almost always stands for new beginnings, new experiences and new choices; the first steps along a new path and the first words written onto a blank page. Like the Aces of the Minor Arcana, such beginnings are like the Fool himself - neither positive nor negative, but with the potential to turn into either, depending on the choices you make and the path you follow. But this must not be your concern, because when a journey begins no one can know (or should know) what will happen on the way to the destination. Never let another person control your life. Live in the present and trust in your own abilities - this is the way of the Fool.
Such journeys always imply a degree of risk, and hence the Fool is pictured walking toward the edge of a high cliff. With any new experience there is always the risk of failure and the certainty of change; it is the degree of change, and how that change will appear, that are undeterminable. But the Fool has no qualms about taking chances, so why should you? It is through the first steps that we learn how to walk, and it is through changes that we learn how to live our lives in harmony and peace. So jump head first into the abyss of the unknown, and know that even if you eventually fall to the ground, for a while you will soar.Copyright 2000 James Rioux