It’s a strange and perverse sort of joy we get from April Fools Day. It is a bit like our fascination with haunted houses. I suppose we love being scared if we can control it and know there’s no true danger. And in the same vein, we enjoy our little jokes at one another’s expense so long as it is temporary and the fact revealed quite soon after the matter.
The magic of April Fools is exactly that – a kind of magic. It is an illusion. Getting someone to look one way while sneaking something behind them. It can be fun – our ability to blur vision, to convince others to focus on misdirection. The cynic would say we love to manipulate and hurt one another. I think it is more accurate to say we love to influence others.
A Fool’s Influence
We like the idea that what we do affects others. It makes us feel important, purposeful. It is quite easy to take this to an absurd extreme. This is how we get dictators and serial killers. Influence gives way to control. If we lose the perspective that our influence is for the benefit of both us and others, we can easily give way to soft manipulations, subtle lies, and attempts at control. There is a power that is perverted.
Every middle schooler can tell you that people are cruel. We like “getting one over” on someone else. We like being the one clever enough to deceive others.
What we are doing in all of these scenarios is wasting the longing inside of us to influence. Deception is a shadow of reference. And since the latter is much harder, we revert to the former.
Just as we like doing it, we sometimes like it done to us. We like someone making the choices for us – then they get the blame if it goes badly. We like feeling out of control, so long as we can call back the dogs.
Perhaps the best thing about April Fool’s is the feeling you get right after you discover the truth. It is like discovering how a magician pulled off an illusion. When something external points out just how blurred our vision is, this is the first step toward seeing more clearly.
We smile after the joke is revealed because we feel strangely more clever on the other side of our confusion. We feel as though we are capable of more. As if we have learned something of the world and of ourselves, some secret truth has been revealed.
Again, this is just a shadow of the deeper truth about the give-and-take of influence in community. We learn more by being together. We grow by seeking and sharing truth. Although it is certainly easy to manipulate and pervert, there is a joy and a benefit to growing together. April Fool’s is somewhere in between, blurring the lines between manipulation and influence. A blurred vision can be fun (and even helpful), but only if we get glasses at the end. Only if our vision clears. We can spend our whole time tricking one another or we can show each other what we don’t know in a way that can be fun, engaging, and edifying (and maybe a little cheeky).