Are You Living or Existing?

Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.
Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.

This quote from Oscar Wilde is painted on an old wall on a hilly street near where I often park in Waterford City.

The first time I saw it, I only glimpsed the top two lines as there was a car blocking the rest of it. It certainly captured my attention and every single time I see it now, it stays with me for hours and hours.

I reckon there’s a lot of truth in it and I’m beginning to think that the ‘busy, busy, busy’ approach to life which is so dominant in our society is playing a huge role in dragging people away from living to existing.

I know that there are some people who are genuinely busy and I would count many working parents of three or four young kids as probably being among the most genuinely busy people out there.

For so many other people, it seems that ‘being busy’ has become the ‘in’ way to be. But what exactly are people so busy doing? Does spending hours on SM keeping inboxes under control count? Or what about rushing to the gym to fight obesity after days of driving from pillar to post and avoiding stairs?

Having seen that stark ‘mural’ again today, I wondered about all the ‘stuff’ that we do that is surplus to requirements~ everything from fussing about making fashion statements to giving a toss about the colour of door handles (and mark my words, some people are obsessed with the colour of door handles.)

Christmas really turns up the ‘busy,’ ‘busy’ volume. Is there sense or reason to it all? I think not and prefer to live each day rather than existing in a busy bubble that is so limiting in terms of creativity, imagination and most of all meaningful connections with those we love and who love us.

Perhaps this is a good moment to pause and take a good, long look at Oscar Wilde’s quote. Remember we only have one life and it’s there to be lived. Maybe some would argue that being busy is the way to live but I just wonder how many of the activities that are running people ragged are ones that they will look back on as having been worthwhile, useful … time well spent.


The Waltz of the Dancing Stars

Burning Bright
Burning Bright

“One must have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star.”

(Friedrich Nietzsche)

It all started the other day when I read this quote by Friedrich Nietzsche and posted it here. I got to the quote because my head was bubbling and, I suppose, you could say chaotic. That shortest of short posts settled me as blogging so often does.

But, when you started to comment, dear friends, I found myself moving from thoughts of chaos to dancing stars and all they might entail.

Yes, dancing stars like Michael Flatley spring to mind and all the other greats that I should know about but don’t (yet).

Dancing stars have evoked thoughts of many, many things over the last few days.

  • Twinkling eyes
  • Floating snowflakes
  • The glistening teeth of Seve Ballesteros when I saw  lusted after him at The Irish Open in Mount Juliet some years back
  • Lying on my parent’s bed as a kid ‘helping’ my Mother to get ready to go out for an evening and running my fingers along her string of pearls
  • Watching Richard Clayderman’s hands caressing the keys of a grand piano at the RDS in Dublin
  • Star-gazing in the depths of February in 2009 when son Harry and I spent a week in a remote little cottage on the Burren in Co. Clare
  • Playing mixed doubles at the St. Anne’s Open Tennis Week in Waterford and having an unexpected meeting with bright, bright stars when I failed to get out of the way of my partner’s brilliant first serve!
  • This great quote from Oscar Wilde:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

Where do ‘dancing stars’ bring YOU?

Stepping Out into the Blue

Sky Blue
Sky Blue

This is how the sky was when I went to the beach this afternoon ~ blue, blue, blue.

I feel I should nearly be apologising for posting such a plain photograph. Wouldn’t a bird, a cloud, a kite, tree tops, a steeple ~ almost anything have added to the picture?

Maybe they would but why do we need contrast all the time?  In ways there is a contrast here because this is January blue at a time when all the talk is about ‘January blues.’

Also, I have to say that ever since I read Oscar Wilde’s poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, I have never, ever taken a blue sky for granted:

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky …

Perhaps we are all prisoners of complexity in a world that offers so much in the way of simplicity?







Oscar Wilde ~ Wit and Wisdom

Oscar Wilde: Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony

I suppose it’s fair to say that I was reared on Oscar Wilde as both my parents loved his sharp wit. Today marks the anniversary of his death in 1900 at the young age of 46.

So many quotable quotes but here are a few to ponder:

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one. 

True friends stab you in the front

Men always want to be a woman’s first love, women like to be a man’s last romance.

We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

Is there a specific quote from Oscar Wilde that sticks in your mind?

Time to Look Up ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 281

This is the time of year when I most often think of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol and especially these lines:

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky …

National Gallery of Ireland ~ Turner Exhibition

Yesterday, I was struck by discovering that November 3o was a highly significant date in the lives of two of the world’s most quoted people: Mark Twain, who was born on November 30 in 1835 and Oscar Wilde, who died on November 30 in 1900.

You might well wonder what all this has to do with the National Gallery of Ireland and the Turner Exhibition which takes place there every January.

Well, for me, the link between all three is my late father. He absolutely loved quick wit and  always had a few books of ‘quotable quotes’ close at hand.  The tougher the situation, the more he leaned into these books to garner a chuckle or nugget of inspiration.

I remember well sitting by his hospital bed in Coronary Care waiting for him to wake up.  I was flicking through one of his ‘old companions’ and found myself  totally captivated by the quotes that he had marked. He woke to find me with a big smile on my face and wanted to know what was so funny. I began reading some of the quotes to him and soon we were both laughing with sufficient gusto to entice a nurse over to us. Her words: ‘ You two know how to enjoy yourselves ~ would you like a cup of tea?’  Always one with a sweet tooth, Father seized his moment and said: ‘ Oh, tea would be lovely especially with a few chocolate biscuits!’  The tea and biscuits arrived in jig time!

So, yesterday on learning it was Mark Twain’s birthday, I went to one of  Father’s trusty books of quotable quotes and had a look to see what quotes he had earmarked.  This was the one that jumped out at me:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things  you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the  bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  

 ( Mark Twain)

This quote immediately brought the paintings of J.M.W. Turner into my mind and how Father had introduced me to the January Exhibition of Turner’s work at the National Gallery of Ireland.  What an antidote to post-Christmas blues! I’m already planning January’s trip ~ and yes, I will Explore, Dream and Discover!  Discover the National Gallery of Ireland and its Collections

A Windy Day(J.M.W. Turner)
A Windy Day
(J.M.W. Turner)

Oscar Wilde ~ Words from the Past

Today is the anniversary of Oscar Wilde who died,  at the young age of 46, in 1900.

Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)
Oscar Wilde

I can’t but think today of the great words of wit and wisdom which  are part of  this Irishman’s vast legacy. Here are some of my favourites:

‘When people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.’

‘We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.’

‘I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.’

‘There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else  has a right to blame us.’

‘The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.’

‘The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.’

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ 

‘Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to  live as one wishes to live.’ 

Tapestries of Autumn ~ Perspectives from Newtown Wood, Co. Waterford

Newtown Wood towards Tramore Bay at Dusk

Autumn is generally seen as a time when both the days and year are closing in. If we view life in seasonal terms, the Autumn of life is a time when the innocence of childhood and the colourful exuberance of young adulthood are behind us but we have both energy and a wealth of experience with which to enjoy life. There is a danger, though, that the mind can run ahead towards winter and the inevitable ending of our time.

One of the wonders of Autumn, for me, can be found in woodlands as night is falling. Last evening, I was walking in Newtown Wood, which is just outside Tramore in Co. Waterford.  It was getting dark and I was mesmerised by the way in which the shedding trees were allowing the last moments of daylight to pour down on the carpetted woodland floor.

Looking upwards, the undressing trees where revealing their magnificent shapes with wondrous and powerful clarity. The patterns that were presented to me in this natural movie were infinitely intricate and totally convinced me that Autumn is a time which has endless possibilities and openings that we may never have even contemplated before.

The following lines from The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, which I first learned in the early Summer of my life, came flooding back like the stream that was gushing through Newtown Wood to meet the sea:

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky