In the 1890s author Oscar Wilde was asked why he thought American society was so violent. Wilde replied simply, “Because you have such ugly wallpaper.” There are numerous ways of interpreting Wilde’s response but many understand him to be drawing a link between self-loathing and violence. The idea is that humanity, as it has expanded its cities, chopped down the trees, and polluted the rivers, has then failed to recreate the same beauty that once surrounded it. In other words, the concrete jungle is of no comparison to the Amazon. Humanity then struggles with depression and self-loathing as the echoes of its mistakes and inadequacy very physically surround it in the form of “ugly wallpaper.” The end of it all, for Wilde, is frustration and violence.
It is an interesting line of thought and one that rings true to my experience, at least a little. Not long ago I had the opportunity to participate on a photography tour in Central London. We visited the ‘concrete jungle’, took pictures of the Gherkin and Brick Lane. After a whole day, I left feeling impressed and yet stressed rather than refreshed. By comparison, I need only spend a few minutes looking at the ocean or walking through a wood to feel my spirits, and interestingly, my faith increase. How many times have you heard accounts of people talking about the spiritual experiences they have had in creation? Is there a reason why? Job 12:7-9 certainly suggests so:
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
January can be a difficult time for many people, for all kinds of reasons. One factor can be the returning to all too familiar ‘ugly wallpaper.’ If for whatever reason you find yourself getting depressed, why not try taking a walk with God in His natural world (either literally if you are able or perhaps via one of TV’s nature programmes). Examine the complexity of the trees, hear the beauty of the birdsong, and let them confirm to you that you too are God’s handiwork and you matter to Him.