Monday, March 5, 2007

Rhapsody on a Theme of Superficiality

In the half hour "Making Of" documentary on the DVD of Sofia Copolla's "Marie Antoinette", actor Danny Huston, who portrays Emperor Joseph, remarks "As Oscar Wilde said, 'Only superficial people can't be superficial.'" It's a fitting quote for the film and its aesthetic of candy colors and powdered wigs that decorate the surfaces of desperation, lonliness and futility. It reminded me of director Baz Lurhman and his wife/creative partner Catherine Martin's aesthetic Film theory of "Real Artificiality" as opposed to mere artificial reality: that in exploring human stories and truth, the audience's imagination and empathy can go deeper when surfaces are taken seriously in their surfaceness, instead of putting all one's creative effort into literalism. Mars Hill Graduate School president Dan Allender posites one of the foundational theories of the Mars Hill philosophy when he says "Metaphors Change Lives" or, better explicated, "Metaphor[s]...reveal new and deeper truths than nominative truth."
So I did some web browsing to locate Oscar Wilde's quote and found a host of varied versions, some harmonious with the idea, others just plain silly. I present them here in order of what I think is the original quote, to the ones I think are acceptable paraphrases, down the not-so-helpful.
1. "It is only superficial people who do not judge by appearances, the mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible" -- Oscar Wilde.

2. “Only superficial people cannot see that the most profound ideas are expressed in the most superficial things.” –Oscar Wilde

3. “Only superficial people do not judge by the outward appearance” wrote Oscar Wilde

4. “It is only superficial people who do not judge by surfaces” – Oscar Wilde

5. Oscar Wilde: "Only superficial people don't pay attention to appearance.”

6. But in the words of Oscar Wilde, "Only superficial people can't be superficial."

7. Oscar Wilde once remarked that only superficial people disliked the superficial.

8. Only superficial people talk about deep things." --Oscar Wilde

9. Only superficial people know themselves. -Oscar Wilde

And to close, here's thoughts from Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), from his "Summa Theologiae" on these ideas of surface, metaphor and revealed meaning in the realm of Scripture:

“Holy Scripture fittingly delivers divine and spiritual realities under bodily guises… Now we are of the kind to reach the world of intelligence through the world of sense, since all our knowledge takes its rise from sensation. Congenially, then, Holy Scripture delivers spiritual things to us beneath metaphors taken from bodily things.” Aw heck, let's take it to the next level: What are metaphors? Surfaces? Mirrors? To me, it's like seeing your reflection in a river; part of yourself is shown to you while gazing at the surface of something deeper that you cannot quite see the bottom of.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
1 Corinthians 13:12

PS: Did you see the image parallels between Oscar Wilde's cigar and Thomas Aquinas' quill? I did that on purpose. If I were April Bernard, I'd have to draw out further allusions having to do with men, cigars and quills, but since I'm me, I wont.

1 comment:

Falcon Moon said...

Thank you so much for your Oscar Wilde rhapsody on the superficial. It was just what I needed! :)