Paying for sunsets

Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.

— Orthodoxy (1913).

Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 7:25 am  Comments (7)  

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  1. Can someone please explain this quote to me? I’m a big Chesterton fan but don’t understand this one

  2. I expect one better understands this quote the better one understands Oscar Wilde.

    Chesterton’s point, it seems to me, is that Wilde’s comment about sunsets was — take your pick — superficial, cynical, demeaning, and ungrateful. He who actually values sunsets will be capable of doing so because he is capable of humility and wonder, and this requires a kind of “payment” — a willingness to put one’s ego aside and simply appreciate the world.

    The trouble with explaining an aphorism is that it rather takes the wind out of the aphorism’s sails.

  3. Oscar Wilde was a known hedonist. He valued many things, namely fashion, ethically pointless art, diletantism, that Chesterton openly criticized. They have very different perspectives of what esthetics and beauty is. Chesterton, considers the inner beauty of the world to be perceptible only through a pure heart. A pure heart, is a gift from God but also requires a struggle to defeat inner selfishness that reduce things to their relative value to us and not in itself as a pure gift from God. Reality, the world, sunsets all belong to this amazing gift that life is and to enjoy it fully one has to die to itself. This death that the Gospels speak of is the payment. This purity (unity with God) is the Precious Pearl that, in order to achieve one has to sell all others. Very different from Wilde’s hedonistic perspective.

    Thank you

  4. Reblogged this on Book Geeks Anonymous and commented:
    I’m currently reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and thinking of Chesterton’s adroit observations on its author.

  5. If Wilde actually meant that he might appreciate a sunset the better if he had first to provide remuneration for the experience, he was not the man who wrote The Happy Prince. Frankly, Could it not be that Wilde was actually presenting an irony about an aspect of human nature which he detested in this statement? His writing is strewn with gems against the hypocrisy of the rich, and their blindness to the beauty and truth of nature. The theme is virtually the entire topic of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Have a think about who is viewing the world through his own distorting lens here; Wilde, or Chesterton himself.

  6. We may achieve a far more accurate assessment of Wilde’s statement by not being Chesterton, and, happily, the sunset is not affected by doing so. Irony, my dear Chesterton.

  7. The curse of the ironist, and especially of the intermittent ironist, is that his irony, if and when it is irony, may be taken as not-irony, or his not-irony as irony. Wilde seems to have taken some pleasure in being mercurial.

    More on Wilde.


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