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  • Nora Koch

Aesthetics

I’m reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. A little beyond mid-way through the book is a long chapter that details how Dorian Gray finding at his fingertips wealth and extreme good looks, devours life. It is exhausting to read about his acquisition of beautiful things and experiences, one after another, it feels so familiar – it is what our culture is all about. He is filled with Self-indulgence, deceit, and vanity, coupled with beauty.


It makes me take a long look at myself.


Attraction to aesthetics as a way of life began early on for me, as a UW Stout college student in the 1970s. I thought it was my own idea, but I suspect the concept was suggested by one of my professors. Later, living alone on Gravel Pit Drive I loved reading the books of May Sarton; I was especially taken with her descriptions of her house with the mustard yellow floors in Plant Dreaming Deep. Later, as a practicing Catholic, I still believed that life itself could be an aesthetic expression.


I fought passions; without faith I would have been lost.


Wilde embraced and eventually fought them himself. He says “. . . I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world . . . And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom.”


I have found that the trees on the shadow side of the garden have been the most fruitful. Looking, through the lense of God’s love, at what I’ve wanted to run from in my life has saved me. I am grateful for shadow and gloom and see the gift to me that they have been as I age.


Prisoner C33, Oscar Wilde, after leading a life of dissipation was imprisoned for his life choices. He lost his health there. Yet he truly loved beauty. He was baptized a Catholic on his death-bed.


It is ironic that his tomb is so hideous.



Oscar Wilde's tomb



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