Quote for Thought: Nature in Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

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Well, I may be misusing the title. Yes, this quote might spark some questions, but more than anything it’s a quote so beautiful you’ll want to simply enjoy it.

“Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none ay track my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”

De Profundis is a long letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he called Bosie, while he was imprisoned in Reading Gaol.

I may not agree with Oscar Wilde on everything, but I found De Profundis very captivating. I loved reading Wilde’s thoughts on art as much as I liked reading about his feelings and the way he’s coping with his imprisonment. His final words, the ones quoted, left a lasting impression on me. Just a paragraph ago, I was reading his interpretation of Hamlet, and than he turned it all around, and became very personal. The entire text is like this. It’s scholarly and emotional at the same time, it’s personal but with many universal thoughts.

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The idea of finding comfort in nature has always co-existed with alongside the idea of technological progress. Humans have always tried to separate themselves from nature. We built houses, towns and walls. We developed a civilisation (or civilisations). But, of course, we cannot live completely divided from nature. Sometimes, it seems like we’re not aware of that. We are destructive. We suck the life out of our planet. And, apparently, we choose to deny that any of the problems we’ve created even exist, or we just don’t care. Yes, there are many people who are trying to make a difference, but they are still just individuals. Not much is changing on the global scale.

People get scared of spiders, flys, and other insects, though most of them are completely harmless. We fear nature. We always have. We don’t want anything to disturb our secluded lives, without relizing that the world we have created is probably just as dangerous. Society doesn’t treat everyone fairly. “Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me”, Oscar Wilde says. How many people have felt the same?

I’m not pretending to be better or more intelligent that other people. I’m exactly the same. (Except for the fear of spiders. I like spiders, but there are insects that make me feel uneasy.) I don’t have a solution, nor do I think there really is one. A perfect world doesn’t exist. Still, we should think about it. Try to do little things, or even big things, that may make a difference. The idea of nature as something wild and dangerous may be woven into the very fabric of our being, but the idea of nature as a nurturing mother is just as powerful. And I think it’s a very important part of who we are.

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