I tried for years to capture the graphic beauty of these splendid birds.
While at my family home, after my father died, I took this picture of a magpie flying over the snow. In his beak is a morsel of food left over from my father’s wake. I remembered how my father snickered when I told him that the magpie was my “totem animal” and how he laughed out loud when I told him why. “The magpie, I said, “can make the most of many different environments. They can make a living from scraps and refuse, and they do it all in a tuxedo!”
In Native American tradition, the magpie is both the fool god and the creator god. It is a fool god because it doesn’t do things the way they have always been done. It is the creator god for exactly the same reason. The trickster is the fool card in the tarot, the joker in a poker deck. The fool is free to hold any position it wants. It is the wild card, the one that is free to be a king or a deuce. A fool is free to take advantage of being either. With a joker and two deuces you can beat a pair of kings and queens.
The necessity for foolishness is hardwired into our genes. We are not designed to arrive at some perfect static state. Without the ability to make mistakes we would never make new connections. Evolution would end. Having arrived at the punch line there would be no jokes, no transcendent experience. There would be no need to be. The great goof, the fool, not only makes life bearable. It makes it possible.
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