One of the more memorable books I read in college was assigned to me in comparative literature class: Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly. It is an exploration of human folly, written during the Renaissance by Erasmus, who was a philosopher and theologian, as an elaborate inside joke for his friend, Sir Thomas More. Folly is personified as a particularly vain goddess who praises herself (which is itself folly) for all of the great joys and accidental discoveries that folly brings to our lives.
It was memorable to me because, while folly is ubiquitous, it was something that was almost never well explored in my English-major coursework. (It was discussed in my Shakespeare courses when it came to Bottom and Fallstaff, but that is about it.) Little did I know when I was a twenty-year-old college student that understanding and appreciating that I, too, would be capable or folly, succumb to folly, and see folly in others on a daily basis. Life experience, far more than schooling, has taught me that folly is inevitable and inescapable in life, for both good and for ill. As Erasmus’s essay cheekily suggests, if folly is inevitable, you might as well find something to enjoy in it.
My folly, as a very young adult reading Erasmus for the first time, was thinking that adult life, which I was heading into apace, was going to make sense once I got there.