May I go a step further and suggest that there is no such thing as a moral or immoral person? People are well behaved or poorly behaved. That is all. It ought to be noted that I am in the camp of the latter. And it is understood that people are not books. They can be one thing one day and quite another the next. Like me; one moment a total prick, the next Prince Charming.
Lord Henry – A Role Model for Sir Jolly
I must admit to being exceedingly amused by the character Lord Henry Wotton and his charismatic bravado. In fact, after reading the book twice without an in-between read, I insisted on being called Lord Christopher for nearly a year. This guy is Mr. Fun with a capital F, the type of guy you beg to attend your parties or join you at your favorite tavern.
And just because he is so persuasive, he is a villain? His elegance and eloquence are not evil, nor is the power of suggestion. I think on all the amusing and clever TV commercials I used to see that never got me to purchase a damn thing. I can enjoy the commercials for what they are, a little disport. Why then the hang up over humans?
A Scarcity of Common Sense?
How is it that poor Dorian ended up in such a horrible state while others went on enjoying Lord Henry’s company for decades? Dorian is young. Alright. We are teaching high-schoolers that The Picture of Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale, I hope, against pure hedonism which considers no one but the self. They get that they can hang with Lord Henry for the evening, laugh their ass off and go to school, not the opium den the following day. Well, most of them do, anyhow.
Certainly our adult friends get it, right? But what if we are teaching that Lord Henry is an evil man and The Picture of Dorian Gray is an evil book written by an evil author? What if we are teaching that we can never spend time with the Lord Henrys of the world? Please say it is not so!
Oh, the fun on which I would have missed out. I am with Billy Joel: I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun. And with Thoreau when he ponders, What demon possessed me that I should behave so well? You may say the wisest thing you can old man, – you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind, – I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that.
Is Being Jolly Evil?
I consider myself somewhat the inveigler. My wife knows damn well what I am, but she is far too clever to fall prey to most of my machinations. Do I struggle with my influence over others? Not at all. I am not a roll model, thank goodness. Like my good friend Lord Henry, I do not intend nor do I foresee destruction when I employ my jolly ways to beguile and blandish. I am simply being a Good Time Charlie.
Serious folks may infuriate themselves with such a prospect, but is it so bad? This notion of fun and play? The art of suggesting that someone indulge themselves, take a little dare?
Methinks Lord Henry has it right when he says, the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it, only we must at times be inventive about how we yield. In other words, show some restraint in order not to hurt ourselves or others or compromise our intellectual progress in any way. When we yield to temptation in this way, we make manifest the perfect union of hedonism and morality: FUN, the very antithesis of tedium, that pious authority who catechizes, if Johnny jumps off the bridge will you follow? To which we ought to reply, perhaps, depends, lemme get back to you.
Bungee jumping was and perhaps is still a thing, no? All that I ask is that we avoid the automatic no to the temptation of fun and fun people. Rather, I’d suggest the automated no to the greatest of all the overlooked offenses we can bring against humankind: seriousness.
Where do we draw the line between helpless victim and a lack of responsibility for one’s own actions and intellectual integrity? Please share in comments.