WHEN I was growing up, playing April Fool tricks was over at the end of the first day of April. Anyone caught trying to trick another on April 2 earned the retort ''April Fools' is past / you're the biggest fool at last.''
Although I liked the fun of playing tricks and trying to avoid being tricked, I was happy when April settled into just being spring and I didn't have to call anyone a fool. Even though it was meant as good-natured fun on these two days, I took literally Christ Jesus' warning ''Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire'' (Matthew 5:22). I am still inclined not to use the word, and the significance of the warning deepens with everything I learn about the true nature of man as God's wholly spiritual creation.
Those who accept the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as followers of some other religions, recognize one all-powerful creator. Such a creator must also be all-wise, and He creates man to be like Him. This ideal man can never fall to the level of a fool. The contrast between the human condition and the spiritual ideal is painfully obvious, however. And mental anguish is usually what one feels when he has done something foolish. In such a case, he or she needs comforting instead of a spotlight thrown on the offense and tongues wagging over it.
When we observe mistakes or shortcomings, we can use the occasion to acknowledge man's true nature as the image of God, good. Starting from the premise that wisdom is the reality of being, we accept the conclusion that the foolishness we might see in ourselves and others is the unreality and that evidence of it can be wiped out. Our computers can delete a mistake in a microsecond. We, too, need to be instant in obliterating mistakes. Mankind has the potential for being consistently wise, making right decisions, using good judgment. Mulling over mistakes gets in the way of fulfilling this potential. We need to remember mistakes and their causes only long enough to correct them.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, observed in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Society is a foolish juror, listening only to one side of the case'' (p. 238).
To judge any situation rightly--if it is ours to judge--we need to view it from every perspective. In the Hebrew testament, wise hearted is often used to indicate God-given wisdom. Doesn't that very term, wise hearted, lead us to conclude--and rightly--that wisdom is not alone cold logic, but a blend of heart and head?
When others or we ourselves do something foolish or even criminal, whatever the situation, we must turn from a narrow, judgmental view to looking at every side of the issue. And as we let our heart speak, we will find understanding and compassion replacing a ''Thou fool'' attitude. Such an approach does not excuse wrongs or prevent punishment, but it does point out the path of reformation.
Every individual must someday, here or hereafter, come into his or her heritage of wisdom. Each of us can begin today to recognize and applaud every gleam that we see. And we may pray with the poet John Greenleaf Whittier these words, adapted as a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal (No. 49):
Dear Lord and Father of us all,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
A foolish way forgiven can no longer be assumed to be true. So if we're holding in memory some foolishness, aren't we being the mistaken one? April Fools' Day is past and so is every day of saying ''Thou fool.''
I'm glad Jesus gave such a stern rebuke to this kind of name calling. We need to help one another get past embarrassing moments, for embarrassment often causes more than mental torment. Too frequently more than a blush results when one has done a foolish thing. An understanding friend can make a healing difference.
How about having a wisdom day? We could record all the things we and others have done right under God's direction. Think what that would do to improve both mind and body every day.