One faculty member in my MA program was Ken Feit who identified as an itinerant fool. A Jesuit seminarian, he was told by his provincial to give up his foolishness and start teaching like other obedient Jesuits. “But Paul and Ignatius urge us to be fools for Christ,” Ken argued.” “Not that kind!” shouted his provincial.
So, given the two options, Ken left the Jesuits and followed his fool’s vocation. He educated himself as a fool by attending clown college and a school for the hearing impaired to learn sign language, and studying with Native American and African storytellers.
He took his rituals, his “Fool’s Mass,” and his stories around the world—taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad he would stop on platforms in Siberia and mime on the platform. He spent time with Mother Teresa’s dying ones in Calcutta. When Ken and I talked about producing a magazine, he came up with the idea of doing a column for each issue that would be (1) upside down and (2) edible. Yes, he wanted his readers to eat his column, eucharist-like, each issue.
Ken taught with us during a five-week summer session in San Rafael. His described his course, “Clowning and the Art of Failure,” this way:
“An exploration into the literary and historical motifs of the priestly clown and fool with emphasis on mask, makeup (whiteface), and pantomime. Students will discover their own clown character and interact with the off-campus community. Students will be joined the last two weeks of the workshop by a bevy of clowns including jugglers, unicyclists, etc.”
A few of Ken’s teachings follow.
Did you ever liberate an ice cube? An ice cube, after all, is water that’s kept in prison to serve man’s needs by cooling his drinks and soothing his headaches. Well, I sometime ransom bags of ice cubes from gas stations, take them to nearby ponds and let them go so they can return to their water brothers and sisters.
One of the wonders of life is a bubble. It is born from human breath like a story. There’s so much color alive inside each bubble. Each one is a window, a magic magnifying glass. No two bubbles are like. Some spin while others are still. Some linger and have babies before your eyes while other crash madly against walls and sidewalks. A bubble’s life may seem short but it never really dies. Like music or incense, a bubble blends with the rest of the world.
Questions for Contemplation
Well, have you ever liberated ice cubes and ransomed them from gas stations? Why? Why not? It’s not too late….
Do you agree that a bubble never dies?
Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.