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Oscar Wilde’s Advice for Understanding Ridiculous Social Behavior


Wilde left innumerable lists of social observations that are good for refreshing our outlook (because times have not changed very much).

“My first meeting with Oscar Wilde was an astonishment,” the Romantic poet W.B. Yeats wrote in his autobiography. “I never before heard a man talking with perfect sentences, as if he had written them all over night with labour and yet all spontaneous.”

Wilde, as we all know, was an insolent genius who practiced the art of verbal dueling vehemently and with humor but, judging by the stories of those who knew him, among them Yeats, he personified all of that style and genius that he put down on paper. He was an aesthete, an academic and, above all, a gentleman who lived his life on the edge of drama.

We could make as many lists as we wish from his works. From aphorisms one could construct manifestos, and Wilde like nobody else allows us this fascinating literary exercise. Here we highlight some of his phrases on social behavior. Wilde knew that,

“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”

And as Borges said, Oscar Wilde was a genius who was almost always right.

We can take something from these observations that are politically incorrect but full of truths.

Wilde’s advice for understanding a little of the (often ridiculous) social behavior:

It is better not to be different from one’s fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live–undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed. (I don’t think I will marry. I am too in love).

It is personalities, not principles, that move the age.

With an evening coat and a white tie, anybody, even a stock-brokercan gain a reputation for being civilized

We always misunderstood ourselves and rarely understood others

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

All that it really demonstrates is that our future will be the same as our past and that the sin we have done once, and with loathing, we shall do many times, and with joy.

There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

A man cannot be too careful in his choice of enemies. I have not got one who is a fool.

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