Fools In Paradise

What’s the point of living in the so-called “real world” if there’s nothing you can do to change it? That’s the question that led to the founding of the Fools In Paradise cooperative. We don’t have much in common but we agree that willful ignorance is a viable strategy—and perhaps the best one—for living in the modern world.

I’d been trying to heal the bruises on my forehead, created by repeatedly banging my head on the wall, when I said to myself, “Hank, there’s got to be a better way.” And I had an epiphany.

So I started talking to people; friends, strangers, enemies. I asked: “Have you been able to significantly control your life? If not, how long are you willing to continue the effort? Are you going to keep working at it until you are dead? Or are you ready to try something else?”

So, now there are three dozen of us, withdrawing from the world to live fantasy lives. We are “Fools In Paradise.”

We get a lot of exercise in our little community, but mostly exercising our imaginations. We lay on our backs and study clouds, using the shapes as a starting point for creating new worlds, countries, civilizations or even just small charming villages.

Best of all, we control everything. This week, Julie created an island of artists and she works on a giant canvas, takes breaks walking on the beach, and makes love at night with the guy of her dreams. Ernie became emperor and enjoyed an opulent coronation. He’s a benevolent dictator serving his imaginary subjects. Nina is in space again, heading this time for one of Jupiter’s moons.

We’re having good lives and we’ve been pretty successful at cutting out the stupid, mean-spirited outside world. We do not bother them and they haven’t been causing us much trouble.

But then Bob arrived. He wore tattered clothes and carried a flask. He was unshaven, had alcohol on his breath and clearly wasn’t having his needs satisfied by the outside world. We accepted him into our group immediately.

Bob was different. We were all clean cut, almost boring. We craved adventure but Bob had had enough—no, too much—adventure. He told us stories of travels to obscure and dangerous places. Of attacks by wild animals and wilder humans. Bob had been an excitement junkie, as well as a literal junkie, and he wanted quiet now. Escape.

He offered us drugs, which was generous but not something that we tended to like. We were already escaping naturally in our hearts and heads. Drugs seemed superfluous. Still, we ate the brownies just to be polite. Some of us thought our imaginations got better, but that might have been from constant use, not pot.

Bob did more drugs than the rest of us put together. And he largely kept to himself. Like us, though, he stared at the clouds and dreamed. Whatever our differences, he was one of us.

Last Sunday, I went over to Bob, just to say hello. He was on his back, his eyes towards the sky. But he wasn’t moving or breathing. I slowly moved closer and put my hand over his eyes to shut them. They would not close. He was dead but still staring, contemplating.

Later that day, we gathered together, all of us, looking up at the clouds together one last time. We buried Bob in the woods, eyes still open. We will all continue our daydreams until each of us joins Bob.