A jester is defined as a person given to witticisms, jokes, and pranks. Or a professional fool or clown, especially at the medieval court. This second definition referring to medieval court is where court jester originates.
Beatrice Otto’s book Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World gives a full history of jesters from Europe to China, from India to Japan. Jesters started in Medieval Times and lasted through the Renaissance.
Today, jester is synonymous with being a fool.
Back in the Middle Ages, a jester was someone who used humor to mock and joke. A person who could speak without causing offense. Someone who could sing and dance.
My friend Kristi inspired this post when she said, “A jester was the only person who could speak frankly and directly to the King and not get his head cut off.”
Jesters were often common men – they didn’t come from nobility. They often had an unusual physical attribute – they looked funny or odd. Jesters were irreverent, self-indulgent, witty, and clever. They possessed a range of talents and spawned from musicians, actors, poets, tricksters, and madmen.
Forrest Gump had a few of the characteristics of a jester: He was a common man. Witty. Mildly irreverent. He clearly had the ability to speak directly without offending. And his haircut and style of dress made made him appear slightly odd. Many thought him a fool.
Forrest did those things instinctively and without consciousness. He was simply being who he was.
The historical court jester did those things intentionally. With full awareness of being highly irreverent and self-indulgent. They were entertainers who played instruments and danced for the purpose of seeking attention and providing entertainment. Forrest did none of those things.
So Forrest wasn’t a jester in the classical sense. He simply possessed a few of the court jester’s talents and skills. Innately.
The ability to speak the truth without offending. The ability to say what needs to be said without getting your head cut off. The ability to use words to touch a nerve and cause change. The ability to do this without getting punched in the nose or starting a war.
That is one skill of the jester that Forrest Gump certainly possessed. That’s Gumption.
Our world could use more people with that ability. We need that skill today more than ever.