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March 16, 2009

Quotes from Wilde & Dannatt

by quaesitor

A number of people have requested two quotes I used in my sermon on Phil 2:12-18 yesterday. So here they are:

Oscar Wilde wrote these remarkable prison reflections on his life in De Profundis. It’s a long piece, and wide-ranging (the link has the whole text) and full of diverse opinion, some of which i don’t necessarily agree with! (after all, you should never believe everything you read in print). But in this paragraph, amongst others, he reveals a piercing, disarming and painful honesty.

When Oscar Wilde arrived in the US in 1882, he was asked by customs officials if he had anything to declare. “Only my genius” he famously replied.

15 years later, alone and broken in prison, he reflected on his life: “I have been a spendthrift of genius… The gods had given me almost everything, But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search of new sensation. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace. There is only one thing for me now, absolute humility.”

Then at the end of the talk, I quoted Sir Richard Dannatt, British Army Chief of Staff. He caused rather a hoo-haa 18 months ago by saying this at a Spring Harvest Leadership conference.

In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal, and I think there is very much an obligation on …a Christian leader to include a spiritual dimension into his people’s preparations for operations, and the general conduct of their lives. Qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level.

Read the whole story on Times Online.

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