Dave Berry retired, Erma Bombeck died far too young, and Will Rogers is doing his rope tricks in some other dimension. Andy Rooney was never much with a rope, but he just joined Will and Samuel Clemens in that…that…whatever. I read David Sedaris and listen to Garrison Keillor, but something is still missing in my life. I pore over my collection of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons looking for one that I might have missed in my numerous past searches. They still make me smile, but not roar like they once did. Where is the humor today? Who are our humorists? Humor seldom survives the passing of time. Abbot and Costello movies aren’t funny anymore. Lenny Bruce isn’t even controversial today, neither is Redd Foxx or Mort Sahl. And how about watching an old silent film starring Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, they’re cute, but hardly funny—side-splittin’ funny—like they once were. The one exception might be Oscar Wilde. He wrote all of his funny stuff in the later part of the Nineteenth Century and it’s still funny today, to me anyway. How could you not be funny, growing up in Ireland with a name like, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde? He once said this about his name: My name has two Os, two Fs and two Ws. A name that is destined to be in everybody’s mouth must not be too long. It comes so expensive in advertisements. When one is unknown, a number of Christian names are useful, perhaps even needful. As one becomes famous, one sheds some of them, just as a balloonist, ... rising higher, sheds unnecessary ballast ... All but two of my five names have been thrown overboard. Soon I shall discard another and be known simply as "The Wilde" or "The Oscar". It was at Oxford that he began to assert himself as an eccentric. He wore his hair long, openly scorned sports, and decorated his rooms with peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers, blue china, and other objets d'art. He once remarked to a friend, “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.” This was to be the first of his many, many memorable lines. Here are some of his witty epigrams that still make me chuckle, or scratch my head in awe: A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction. A pessimist is one who, when he has a choice of two evils, chooses both. A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature. All the good things in life are immoral, illegal, or heavily taxed. Lord Illingworth: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. Mrs. Allonby: No man does. That is his. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them as much. America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up. America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. Anybody can be good in the country; there are no temptations there. Anybody can write a three-volume novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. Art is the most intense mode of invidualism that the world has known. As soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all. As a rule, I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering. Bad artists always admire each other’s work. Being natural is simply a pose. Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same. Caricature is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation. Don't talk about action ... Its basis is the lack of imagination. It is the last resource of those who know not how to dream. Everyone should keep someone else's diary. Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken up teaching. Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect — simply a confession of failures. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. He hadn't a single redeeming vice. He had the sort of face that, once seen, is never remembered. Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, History would have been different. I am not young enough to know everything. I can resist everything except temptation. I can't help detesting my relations. I suppose that it comes from the fact that none of us can stand people having the same faults as ourselves. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I delight in men over seventy. They always offer one the devotion of a lifetime. I think seventy an ideal age for a man. I do not play cricket because it requires me to assume such indecent postures I like men who have a future and women who have a past. I live in terror of not being misunderstood. Oh, I like tedious, practical subjects. What I don't like are tedious, practical people. There is a wide difference. I love acting. It is so much more real than life. In this world, there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame. Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast. Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it has merely been detected. The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything: the young know everything. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. The only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life. The past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what man should not have been. The present is what man ought not to be. The future is what artists are. The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life's tragedy. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast. There is no secret of life. Life's aim, if it has one, is simply to be always looking for temptations. There are not nearly enough. I sometimes pass a whole day without coming across a single one. It is quite dreadful. It makes one so nervous about the future. And my absolute favorite: I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. Oscar left us way too young. He died bankrupt in an obscure Paris hotel of cerebral meningitis on 30 November 1900 at the age of 46. A verse from his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was used as his epitaph.
Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.