Friday, November 30, 2007

A Day Of Thoughts

Today was a lot of thinking. My mind was chugging along with mostly thoughts of it own, some loosely or wholly unconnected from my academic endeavours.

Fire for Life
In Sociology we were talking last week about experiences and these week about tourism. Everything we have studied thus far in that class has been amazing and completely intertwined. However, those two subjects resonated with me. I think it is because I am pretty much a tourist for a prolonged amount of time and I am a glutton for all types of experiences. The following is more about the experiences part because tourists are generally those seeking said experiences.

This is the passages that got my cognitive cogs turning today:

"men travel widely to different sorts of places seeking different distractions because they are fickle, tired of soft living, and always seek after something which eludes them"*

*The italics are my own emphasis

This passage immediately related to our previous discussion on what people look for in experiences, what they look for when they buy something or go somewhere. Our class struggled with this concept; maybe the want status, maybe they want to grow as a person, maybe their possessions could adequately represent who they are. No, no, no, said our professor.

I had an inkling of what it might be the entire time but I never raised my voice. Towards the end the class made it's way there but never clearly articulated it. So after class I stopped the Professor and asked him if humans wanted experiences purely for experiences' sake. I couldn't describe it any better way then with a fire; the fire for life.

Love of life or experience is often paralleled to fire, e.g. people burn with passion or desire to experience things. My hypothesis is that we don't have this fire for new experience because we want something out of it specifically, it's just there.

New experiences are the logs we toss on this fire for life to keep it burning bright. We throw on the log and enjoy it's immediate rewards, increased heat, the satisfying crackle. But soon, the log begins to wither away and we become disenchanted with it. Then you must add another log to feed the fire. The desire isn't for the logs themselves because they come and go, i.e. possessions and experiences can be immediately satisfying but soon become the norm or confined to memory. What we strive for is for experience itself, the rush you might say, not what those experiences may provide us with in the end; anything extra may be considered as an added benefit. To summarize, we want to experience experience.

Carefully Worded & Hopefully Uncontroversial
Oscar Wilde died today; 107 years ago.

I don't know why, but I can't describe how I feel about Oscar Wilde. I was once told I looked like him when I had long hair. After finishing my previous reading material, I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray and just finished the first chapter. Wilde is quite a descriptive writer and I like how he rights, though, through the first entire chapter my mind was uncontrollably tangential; it was struggling to remember something about Oscar Wilde.

Oh yeah. He was gay. Wasn't he?

I skimmed through my book and found his chronology. It mentions a man that may have been Wilde's first homosexual lover, despite the fact that he was married. Question answered.

Not that his sexual preferences in any way demean the majesty of his prose (perhaps to some, unfortunately), but I began to wonder if his sexual preference had an affect on his writing. In the first chapter of Dorian Gray there is a resounding male recognition of male beauty as expressed by the artist of his muse. But my question isn't actually about possibly homosexual undertones in Wilde's writing, it is more "am I more prone to look for possible homosexual undertones because of our current societal views on homosexuality?" That I'm not sure of.

Whether or not the following quotes have underlying implications of homoeroticism is for you to decide, but they are the ones that made me curious.

"You know yourself, Harry, how independent I am by nature. I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then -- but I don't know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I grew afraid, and turned and quit the room." (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Penguin Classics, pg 10)

*Deleted from Wilde's original 1890 version was, "I knew that if I spoke to Dorian I would become absolutely devoted to him, and I ought not to speak to him."

"... How often do you see him?"
"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me." (Dorian Gray, pg 12)

*Deleted in 1891 for Wilde's revised edition was as follows, "of course sometimes it is only for a few minutes. But a few minutes with somebody one worships mean a great deal." "But you don't really worship him?" "I do."

If I am more prone to look at these passages for homosexual influences, due to my current, and arguably, more accepting culture, then I am curious how the readers of 1890 may have regarded these passages? They strike me as so obviously homoerotic and yet, in a culture where homosexuality is completely unrecognized, hidden in the attic, ignored like the proverbial elephant, then what might they have taken these passages to mean? Perhaps they were taken as descriptively beautiful; beauty for beauty's sake?

At first I feel this view is ignorance. They didn't have all the facts, I don't think they were aware that Wilde was gay. They couldn't see the true meaning in his writing because of their disregard for homosexuality. They are therefore left to attribute Wilde's expressions of beauty to a description ultimate beauty or him being artistically extravagant; they could not begin to see that Wilde may be describing beauty as seen by homosexual attraction. But then I found myself questioning my own attitude. Maybe those of 1890 had it right; albeit, accidentally right.

Why couldn't Wilde be describing beauty for beauty's sake even if he was gay? Why did I immediately question his gayness then find passages to prove it? What does it matter? It doesn't!! I practically want to shout it out sitting here in this quite room tucked away in the sociology department. If the actual picture of Dorian Gray were painted by a woman and she was so passionate about him, I would be struck with the thought that she was deeply in love. And while the thought that Wilde may have been describing love at first sight when he writes of the painter meeting his muse, that thought was suppressed by the more pressing curiosity of his gayness.

I have to say, I feel a little ashamed in some way that is hard to describe. I feel like I should have just read the chapter and understood how beautiful Dorian Gray was without fixating on a possible homosexual attraction between painter and muse. Whereas perhaps the people of 1890 saw it as purely beauty due to an ignorance of homosexuality, I wish I had initially seen it as simply beauty due to the acceptance of difference; I wish I had just seen it as beauty.


*Sidenote: Today I saw a man with a legitimate Guy Fawkes beard and and flat brimmed hat. It was incredible.

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