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A Fool At Forty Is A Fool Forever

The saying; “a fool at forty is a fool forever” is quite popular in English speaking West Africa. This is an international saying, one which seems to have sprang up during the colonial period. A variant of this saying is “a fool at forty is a fool indeed.”

This article examines the saying, its applications, and origins, but makes no effort at a verdict as to whether it is true or not.

Let us start by looking at the saying itself.

A Fool At Forty Is A Fool Forever? Why?

For a species that lives for 80 years, the age of forty represents a significant milestone; it represents the midpoint of our lives. At that point we start to imagine what it will be like when we are gone.

Secretly, humans resent the idea of passing on; everybody wishes he could live forever, or at least a little longer. Even if one has never actually given thought to this fact, at the age of 40, that though starts to come to mind.

Why?

A person who could walk for two hours straight when he was in his 20’s may soon find that his body is no longer up to that task. He may also start finding that his body is beginning to look different.

We also resent the idea of being insignificant; of not living up to our potential, or of not attaining the height which we know we can attain. If we have not been able to attain that height with the full force of our physical might, it starts to look like we can no longer attain it.

Playing Too Much?

To the bystander looking on from afar, it looks like a person who has not achieved anything at forty has simply played away his life, or has at least played away his youth. The second part of the sentence may be used even by those who do not agree with the statement that “a fool at forty is a fool forever.”

They may say that even if he is not a fool forever, he is at least a fool. He has been a fool up to this point.

Even if he goes on to achieve something great in his life, they argue he could have achieved a lot more if he had been serious. But he has not been serious, he has taken life like a joke which is what a fool actually is; a jester.

So Jesters Should Be Poor?

Without the need for any further explanation, it is poverty that brings up the saying “a fool at forty is a fool forever.” Nobody ever calls a millionaire a fool, no matter how stupid he may behave. As long as he has money he must be smart, studious, and wise. As far most people are concerned, foolishness equals poverty, and wisdom equals wealth.

Lottery winners may spend years wearing bad shoes and torn clothes, until they finally win the lottery, and other people can make money through other investments such as stocks, land, and other things. Are they still foolish when they make the money? Does that one big win change them from being fools?

Professional jesters often live quite comfortable lives. They can even get immensely rich as they perform their stupid antics for the entertainment of crowds who pay high premiums.

Hardworking people, on the other hand can then have everything taken from them through something of which they have played no part.

Life Fools Us All

Sometimes a person can work so hard accumulate some wealth, and watch it all go puff through a fire, a divorce, war, sickness, theft, getting swindled, or a downturn in the stock market. These are just a few ways via which people can experience severe setbacks which can send them back to square one.

Maybe they are still technically fools. Maybe if they had diversified their investments they would not have lost it all to a downturn in the stock market. Maybe if they had got insurance, a fire would not have upended them. Maybe if they had been more alert to the political situation and had sold their assets they would not have lost everything to a war.

Maybe, just maybe.

Further Reading:

Closing

It certainly is an interesting saying; there are possibly many other aspects that this article has not touched. Is a fool at forty a fool forever? The vast majority of people will answer in the affirmative. Maybe they are correct, or maybe they are not. This writer does not know.

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