Today, April 1, is April Fools’ Day – or at least it has been, in more innocent and guileless days past. Pranks are fewer, good-natured deceptions less welcome nowadays. It seems in the 21st century, we are often in a race to be savvy and in the know, never surprised or caught unawares, and generally more-cynical-than-thou. The best of us is nobody’s fool, but once upon a time, we were happy to take our turn being the object of a joke, pleased to be surprised, and ready, if not eager, to believe in something and say so, even if it meant being made a fool for love or deeply held conviction.

The origin of April Fools’ Day has itself been the subject of more than a few jokes, but the most frequent serious explanation dates to 1582, when western Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar, beginning the new year on Jan. 1 instead of April 1. New Year’s celebrations having traditionally included hijinks and revelry, more than a few people who “didn’t get the memo” appeared publicly or at the homes of their neighbors decked out and ready for the annual new year’s celebration, only to be made fools by the revelation that they’d missed it by three months. As time passed and that particular foolishness died away, it was replaced in France by a prank that involved pinning a paper fish, known as “poisson d’avril,” or “April fish” to a friend’s back; and in Scotland by “Gowkie Day,” a gowk being a name for the cuckoo, symbol of the fool, when pranks were played by family and friends.

So what has become of the harmless prank, the silly surprise, the genuine and mutual laughter when one friend is tricked by another and made foolish? Is it the same fate of guileless affection, and of faith in that which cannot be seen and touched or bought and sold? Are we so humorless and coldly cynical that we can’t laugh at ourselves, or take a chance we may be caught believing in something, hoping for something, trusting in something that isn’t what we thought?

For centuries, religious and philosophical writers have weighed the costs and benefits of taking the chance, coming down on the side of belief – in God, in beauty, in love. Most famously, Pascal’s wager posited that believing there’s a God and acting accordingly could, at worst, cause one to have been made foolish at the end, but at best, could win the rewards of heaven. Earlier variants of this proposition are found in the Sanskrit writings of Vararuci, the Islamic discussion of Al-Juwayni, the Greek writer of Dionysus, the Sophist Protagorus, and more.

So I guess I’m in good company: Since girlhood, I’ve been a fool for God (/Spirit/the Divine), seeking Ultimate Meaning everywhere, creating spiritual practices for myself before I was old enough to learn them in church, eager to explore religious traditions from around the world. I’ve been a fool for love, too, faithfully sending cards and letters to friends and relatives over years of time and miles of distance, whether reciprocated or not, committing to marriage again after suffering heartbreak the first time, showering affection on many. And I’ve been a fool for beauty, gazing at sunrises and sunsets, waxing ecstatic at flowers and mountains and seascapes, weeping over poetry, drama and literature. I had a cousin who was too cool for all that, and made fun of me when we were kids, so maybe I was inured to the ridicule early on, choosing to endure it for the rewards of living with my eyes, my mind, and my heart wide open. Sure, it’s made me vulnerable to disappointment, embarrassment, heartbreak. But with Quaker writer and educator Parker Palmer, I choose to keep my heart soft, so that when it breaks – and it has and it will, again and again – it will not shatter into shards that can never be put together again, but rather, it will break open, making room for even more love, even more beauty, even more God.

So go ahead – let’s all be April Fools! Let’s put on the silly costume, show up for the party, dance and sing and cry. Let’s open our eyes and our minds and our hearts to beauty and love and God. Let’s live life as fully and deeply as we can, shrugging off the ridicule, reckoning on the better bet. As recently as 2008, Cambridge University Fellow Iain King (whom I’d guess is no fool!) wrote this contemporary version of Pascal: “What does it hurt to pursue value and virtue? If there is value, then we have everything to gain, but if there is none, then we haven’t lost anything.”

Happy April Fools’ Day!

Andrea Thompson McCall is a retired United Church of Christ minister who served as interfaith chaplain at the University of Southern Maine.