Folly. We are all, I am sure, rife with it. I can think of no exception.
Folly humanizes, in both the positive and negative senses of the word.
The word, it is an old-fashioned one. It differs from foolishness in that it is more neutral.
A folly can be absurdly entertaining (as in ‘Ziegfield’s Follies) or it can have very grave consequences.
However, war is not folly. War is premeditated even though it is usually not rational. Folly has an element of, if not spontaneity, incredible almost physical momentum.
It carries the person doing [committing? experiencing?] the folly along like an intoxication. So it’s like gambling.
Sometimes folly is raveled up with power, the need to display or exercise it. All of Trump’s buildings were follies. Bill Clinton is an archetypal walking male folly. Most arguments, I suspect, are follies (intoxicating, carrying-away) — particularly literary arguments.
A person who commits a folly may be paradoxically, and sometimes simultaneously, derided and admired by other people because a folly is a kind of break with expectation. When expectation is broken, we see the little sparks that remind us we are alive. Sometimes the little sparks are pure acid, though.
Folly also, unlike mere foolishness, has an element of gaiety and abandon. In gaiety and abandon the borders of appropriateness are often transgressed, and there are consequences. But the lack of premeditation in an act of folly also points to the folly-doers lack of foresight.
A carousel is always a folly, in the architectural sense, at least. Gary and I were walking through Prospect Park yesterday, on that incredible real verdant spring day overflowing with forsythia and cherry blossoms, past the carousel, whereupon I made the comment that carousels make me cry, and not merely over “spent youth” although there is that, too. It’s more because they represent for me the folly of life, the sad carnival of it, how it goes around and around with lots of seeming activity and then it stops.
Oh and then, we came home, and Gary happened to put on a Bollywood DVD, Mele, which means “The Fair.” Black and white, village imagery, the little ferris wheels handcranked, girls in saris riding by on oxcarts, and a guy with noticeable teeth singing a moody Hindi song…
Once, sitting on a bench outside the Central Park carousel with Masaya on a visit from Japan several years ago, I wept inconsolably, thinking of my first love. Masaya put his arm around me, probably appreciating the poignancy of that moment, i.e. fuel for haiku. He was a strange man who had a very keen sense of folly.
It’s a pretty word, it dances on the tongue, it wears a beaver top hat with bells on it. It is insidious, like a cabaret snake. It puts up buildings and knocks them down. It is responsible for huge flows of capital, language, and bodily fluids.
Folly — I don’t know what to do about it. So far, my follies have been mostly small-scale, involving the purchase of multiple pairs of pink shoes and the like, although, like everyone, I have done plenty of serious ones, for which I may never stop remorsing…