How to Alter the Past

alter the past painting oscar wilde

Most people have heard of Oscar Wilde and read or used some of his famous quotes. But most people don’t know that Oscar was put into prison at the height of his career. And there he had time to think about life and God – he wrote his thoughts in a long letter that is called The Profundis*

This letter is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking things I’ve read so far. It’s a very honest letter, and Wilde has such a beautiful gift for writing and putting thoughts into words. 

This painting is inspired by a passage from that letter which you can read below. 

“Of course the sinner must repent.  But why?  Simply because otherwise he would be unable to realise what he had done. 

The moment of repentance is the moment of initiation.  More than that: it is the means by which one alters one’s past.  The Greeks thought that impossible.  They often say in their Gnomic aphorisms, ‘Even the gods cannot alter the past.’ 

Christ showed that the commonest sinner could do it, that it was the one thing he could do.  Christ, had he been asked, would have said—I feel quite certain about it—that the moment the prodigal son fell on his knees and wept, he made his having wasted his substance with harlots, his swine-herding and hungering for the husks they ate, beautiful and holy moments in his life. 

It is difficult for most people to grasp the idea.  I dare say one has to go to prison to understand it.  If so, it may be worth while going to prison.”

Read The Profundis online or download it for your e-reader.

*‘De Profundis’ is Latin for ‘from the depths’; it comes from the first line of Psalm 130 ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord’. 

alter the past Oscar wilde painting
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