Philosopher Martin Heidegger says we are “thrown” into the world, and then left to our own devices to make sense of that world and our place in it. This challenging hermeneutic endeavour is no joke – or is it? The word “hermeneutics” is derived from the Greek god Hermes – the messenger – hence the concern in hermeneutic philosophy for language, context, meaning and action. Hermes was also a trickster, ancestor to a long line of fools and jesters who see things otherwise. Practicing this way of seeing helps us to be wise to the other, open to another way, more comfortable with ambiguity, less fretted by surprise. Borrowing the joker’s topsy-turvy perspective, we strengthen the funny bone, embrace the contraries themselves, strengthen the imagination, consider alternatives, look again and askance, and keep a humble and hopeful stance. We grow into this peculiar form of wisdom by locating and developing our natural capacities for flexibility, imagination, and courage.
Elaine Decker has been a teacher and teacher-educator for 40 years, exploring and practicing ways to expand horizons and loosen boundaries. She teaches courses on play, comic pedagogy, and leadership as a “funny business,” and she is a member of our faculty.