I finally finished The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde over the weekend. I first became intrigued by this book during the Florida Music Festival (FMF) last year. It was pouring rain that day, so I decided to take refuge in the enormous downtown Orlando public library for a couple hours while we waited to load our equipment onstage. For some inexplicable reason, I picked up the Ravi Zacharias Deliver Us From Evil.
Looking back on it, I don’t know why I decided to read such a heavy book that day but I did. I honestly think I was in a Ravi mood at the time, having just finished Can Man Live Without God? (Brilliant read, by the way).
In one chapter, Ravi described the story of the wealthy, beautiful, young Dorian Gray, how he forges an unnatural connection to the portrait painted of him by the artist Basil Hallward. The portrait somehow supernaturally took upon his sins and deformities every time Dorian did something cruel or evil, but Dorian himself escaped unscathed from the consequences of whatever he did, until the hideousness of the portrait drove him mad with violence.
The idea of that totally intrigued me, but since I am forever wading through piles of books and trying to prioritize what I’m reading, I never got a chance to read it until recently, when Carrie hooked me up with a major discount at Barnes and Noble;) I got a copy of the book for a cool $3.99.
Anyway, the picture on the front majorly creeped me out, because I think whoever chose the portrait is obviously trying to evoke Dorian Gray, but it’s actually of Franz Liszt. I love Liszt, but there’s something about that particular portrait of him that’s always weirded me out. And to now associate that portrait with Dorian Gray is downright eerie.
As evidenced by his Art for Art’s sake manifesto that served as a preface to the book, it is clear that Wilde’s intention—as a major proponent of the aesthetic movement—sought to free art from social responsibility. Ironic that in his attempt, although he perhaps succeeded in shocking Victorian sensibilities and ethics, he actually made a deeper philosophical statement about the nature of evil and how seductively easy it is to be molded and shaped and doomed by ideas and our conversations.
I think so many times–and I am guilty of this–we thoughtlessly consume culture via media and swallow ideas without even thinking them through and before we realize it, we’ve internalized it and it becomes a part of who we are instead of “testing everything” by the Spirit and “holding on to the good.”
I’m in the middle of reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard and it explores the power of philosophy and ideas to shape the world. This is something I believe that we as Christ-followers need to take more seriously. I thought of this because I went to see the midnight showing of Sex and the City last weekend with some friends. True to form, it was definitely an enjoyable film with oodles of fashion, humor and heart (I did get misty-eyed at one point…not gonna lie) with perhaps a bit (okay a lot) of scandalaciousness (yep, I invented a word. Deal with it) thrown in there… (it’s called Sex and the City, what can I say?).
However, although the film resonated with me in lots of ways as a young single woman in this crazy Western dating culture, there were still many things I so fundamentally disagreed with about the way the characters approach marriage, love, sex and relationships in general.
But the problem is, how many women out there are seriously going to dissect the philosophical threads and worldviews running through that entire film? Not many. The film is a wonderful cultural mirror, but cultural mirrors have a sneaky tendency to become roadmaps if we’re not careful.
Guess that’s what these blogs are for, eh?;)
All that to say (wow I got really off topic that time), I really appreciate The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s a haunting story. And it’s just plain fun to read. I highly recommend it.