In Praise of Folly


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?


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