I am currently reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey. I have seen the movie years ago and loved it; but the novel itself has so much more to offer. Wilde has an as astute grasp of human culture in the 19th century and could eloquently convey which way the winds were blowing. He, and other astute individuals, certainly had some insight into what was going to unfold in the 20th century.
For example, modern science was toying with human culture at the time and leaving it in the throes of relativism, ambivalence, and uncertainty. Truth, and even reality itself, came to be seen as paradoxical, leading Wilde to declare in this novel, “The way of paradoxes is the way of Truth. To test reality, we must see it on the tight rope. When the verities become acrobats, we can judge them.” T. S. Eliot would later echo this perspective on truth, declaring that to know truth, or reality, we must “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain, and therefore the fittest for renunciation.” (The Four Quartets)
So, today, a century plus from Wilde’s death, we live in the tumult of what he, “modern” science of his day, and literary license would produce. We wrestle with the question of, “What is real and what is unreal?” In my country (the United States) I feel that this is the essential issue that divides the country, that is wreaking havoc on our political system, and even spreading confusion within the erstwhile hermetically sealed “safe” confines of the Republican party.
And, ultimately I feel we must discover that “Real” is apprehended only by faith and once apprehended, we have to realize that we don’t actually “apprehend” it at all. We only intuit it, “faith” it, and hope for it. But, that does not diminish the power of its Presence. It merely humbles us, reminding us of the wisdom of the Apostle Paul, “We see through a glass darkly.” But this Presence is with us, and in us, each day as we seek to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”