Has it ever passed through your mind that there’s a certain amount of irony in the fact that a champion of the aesthetic movement, Oscar Wilde, made a good enough living from his writing to support a wife and two children? He was extraordinary.
Another extraordinary writer is David Sedaris, whose most memorable line, for me, is that he’s the one who makes tinfoil suits of armor for dead bees while his partner does the taxes. I’m a tinfoil suit of armor maker too.
Sometimes I appreciate Oscar Wilde’s wife Constance and David Sedaris’ partner Hugh. They have helped make my pleasure possible. Every once in a while I take a moment to appreciate Ron’s unwavering support in the tangled chain of decisions that have led to making my attempts at art possible. I like to think that my friends who are tinfoil suit of armor makers get a similar level of support, but I know that it’s not easy and some of them don’t. As Thomas Gray put it, “full many a flower is born to blush unseen.” And who can blame Constance for not being constant in her devotion to the person who eventually created what must have been an exquisitely humiliating living situation for her?
What happens to some of the people with wit or a lovely tenor voice or any talent that doesn’t get the right kind of notice at the right time? Nothing. They don’t get a lucky break and a few of them meet their ends like Willy Loman, believing themselves to be failures, possibly not even defended by their wives in a speech like Linda Loman’s: “attention, attention must be paid to such a man.” Few mothers manage to do what the mother of the author of A Confederacy of Dunces accomplished after her son’s death.
So for today let’s all look at life like the aesthetics, appreciating the swath of red that is the floral section of the grocery store, the form of the words our loved ones offer us, the sound of a singing voice. Let’s celebrate the ordinary process of making art and–if we know one–the person who makes it possible for us to keep trying to make our tinfoil suits of armor and other kinds of art.
For Ron, here’s a poem by one of the aesthetics, Algernon Charles Swinburne:
Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Heart of my heart, were it more,
More would be laid at your feet—
Love that should help you to live,
Song that should spur you to soar.
All things were nothing to give,
Once to have sense of you more,
Touch you and taste of you, sweet,
Think you and breathe you and live,
Swept of your wings as they soar,
Trodden by chance of your feet.
I that have love and no more
Give you but love of you, sweet.
He that hath more, let him give;
He that hath wings, let him soar;
Mine is the heart at your feet
Here, that must love you to live.