In Praise of Folly

Feb 21, 2012


I’ve been sick and in bed a lot (Florida’s motto should be The Pollen State) and dreaming of everything I want to do when I’m feeling better. You know, practical, productive activities like cleaning my house, making dinner for my kids, and organizing my desk.

I kid! I’ve actually been dreaming of the wonderful and utterly nonessential. Things like making my own sourdough bread and picking a bouquet of teensy flowers for my daughter’s dollhouse. Oh, and writing out my favorite recipes to fill an antique recipe box. Why? Because it’s prettier than my binder full of recipe clippings, that’s why.

Illness has stripped away my ability to be energetic and efficient, but I am not daydreaming about regaining my productivity. I am daydreaming about Folly.

The capital F is important. Do you know about Follies? Those small architectural oddities which dotted the landscapes of eighteenth-century British aristocrats? If you’ve seen the latest film version of Pride and Prejudice you know what I’m referring to. Elizabeth and Darcy exchange words when they take shelter from the rain in a miniature reproduction of a Greek temple. That is a Folly with a capital F.

It serves no purpose. It has no point. It is as if those who built them said, “I am going to create something beautiful. And, then, I am going to look at it.” That is all.

We can easily criticize the Folly (and the one who built it) for its ridiculousness. Its wasteful extravagance. What is the point? What does it do? Aren’t there better uses for your time? Your money? Your life?

I have no desire to defend those eighteenth-century aristocrats. Is it a coincidence that this century ended in revolution or the threat of it all around the globe? Probably not.

Lying in my sickbed, however, I find a lot to like about the idea of Folly with a capital F. Folly, as it appeals to me, has more to do with beauty than foolishness. It means acknowledging that life is not Life if it is all efficiency, productivity, and utility. It must also make room for beauty, creativity, whimsy, and delight.

For homemade sourdough bread. For handwritten recipe cards. For tiny tabletop bouquets bestowed on a family of dolls.

For art.

For music.

For dance.

For embracing the Creator in whose image we are made.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.”

(Psalm 36:7-9)

 I’d love to know: what is bringing you delight during these late winter days?



  1. Katherine Loftin

    Enjoyed reading this, Chrisite. Hope you’re feeling better and can get that bread made soon and also the recipes written.
    Aunt Katherine

  2. Danielle Diehl

    funnily enough, it’s cleaning my house, making dinner for my kids, and organizing my desk. ha! I can’t relax and have inner order without outer order. Which is a HUGE bummer since i’m not a neat person to begin with. I find myself needing to read Quotidien Mysteries more and more these days. Oh, and taking my dog to the dog park alone, watching him run and chase, and walking with him through the woods.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Danielle, you made me laugh. It’s true, I’ve never associated house cleaning with delight.

  3. kelli

    I’m delighting in the quiet winter beach before the spring breakers and summer vacationers arrive (and without the extra towels, water bottles, floaties, umbrellas, snacks, and heightened situational awareness required in “swimming” weather!)

    I hope you’re feeling better soon. I’d bring over a loaf of that sourdough (totally store bought though) if only I could.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Yes, summer beach visits are stressful. Lily believes that she should be allowed to go out at least as far as the surfers. I beg to differ.
      We may need to make one more winter visit to our own beach.

  4. Myrna Purifoy

    Christie, I can relate to doing some things for the pure enjoyment. I am preparing the soil in our garden for spring planting. Later, I will have a cup of tea under the pergola and enjoy the abundance of flowers brought forth by the rain. Just listening to the creek’s waterfalls is so soothing, too.

    Hope you will be completely well very soon. Love you!

  5. Mark

    Very insightful and stimulating. Thanks so much!
    Hope you bounce back to full energy soon….Thought of your writing this afternoon as this 60F weather wooed me to the back yard where I divided a huge, healthy clump of shasta daisys…….in my own folly dreaming that one day they will spill out of the tree-line and over the rocks out back.



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