In the summer of 2000 I taught computers at the United Youth Corps Project in Kumasi, Ghana. While I was there, I heard a story from the minister in charge of the project, Joel Meeker, about his own experiences in Thailand. The story went something like this: Joel Meeker and some other people in a remote part of Thailand make a drink out of fanta and local liquors that they call the “foolish grasshopper.” At the time, apparently, Kung Fu was popular, and presumably anyone daft enough to drink local liquors of uncertain provenance mixed with Fanta would be a foolish grasshopper.
I was reminded about that point today for lunch, when I hobbled over to lunch only to find the people finishing lunch and drinking Coca-Cola (one of them, Mati, said he preferred Pepsi, like my brother. Maybe it’s a Matt thing?) as well as Green Fanta. When one of them mixed the two sodas together, I was reminded of the story of the foolish grasshopper. It is strange how memories are triggered by common elements—in this case some unnaturally green Fanta soda.
What is it that makes the grasshopper foolish. In most cases, the foolish grasshopper is someone young and unwise. Think of the “foolish grasshopper” story in Proverbs 7, where a foolish young man goes to commit adultery not realizing he goes to his death, even though the adulteress has smoothly flattered him as if he were doing nothing wrong since her husband was far, far away. Such a person is foolish because they have no wisdom, no discernment about the consequences of their actions. Such folly need not be limited by age—most children are that foolish, the vast majority of teenagers are, and many people are well into adulthood. Additionallly, many of us are foolish about some things and wise about others, as the case may be.
Nonetheless, it is odd how a joke told more than a decade ago can carry such greater resonance now that I am in the place of the foolish grasshopper. We ought to make ourselves aware of our blind spots, lest we condemn others while condemning ourselves, and less we too be found to be foolish despite our claims to wisdom and excellence. For we do not wish to be disqualified if we have attempted to point out the folly of others. And yet if we are foolish grasshoppers, it is our responsibility to become wise, and put away childish things.