Wilde Sunsets

I am reading a book by G.K. Chesterton called Orthodoxy. In a chapter titled “The Ethics of Elfland” he offers the following statement.

Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.”

Chesterton  was defending the value of making the sacrifice of abstaining from some things to enjoying something else in its purest form. For example, by choosing to abstain from promiscuity you can experience the joy of a fulfilling marital relationship in its purest, most beautiful form.

G.K. is saying that sunsets are a gift from God and we can “pay” for them by being obedient to his commands. Like paying him respect. We cannot actually pay for a sunset, but we can honor the one who provided it; much like honoring our military for the freedom we enjoy.

But it struck me in a way that I doubt the author could have ever foreseen.

After I was done laughing about the shot to Wilde’s lifestyle, I was stung by its application to my own.

What if we replaced sunsets with something else…

What if sunsets were a properly functioning brain? How about the ability to walk, or talk, or feed yourself?

How often do you step out the front door and take joy in the step? Do you ever express gratitude when you adeptly manage a pen to address an envelope? Does sitting up make you smile?

When someone extraordinary enters your life you begin to appreciate the simple all over again. When you see them struggle to hold a spoon or erupt with joy when they stand for 10 seconds, you see them pay for sunsets and understand why they value them so.

You see, they get it. Just like an amputee appreciates their remaining limbs, the extraordinary among us appreciate the things they can do. They value the step because they pay for it. They treasure the word because they sacrificed for it.

One of the reasons we have a negative association with CP or any other disability is because we dwell on what they can’t do. Instead of cheering them for taking five steps, we mourn that they can’t take six. Those thoughts produce the clouds that keep us from seeing the explosive sunset right in front of us. Our lives are full of sunsets, yet we undervalue them because we have taken them for granted. We stopped paying for them. We have misplaced our value.

Instead of looking around and noticing what people can’t do we need to appreciate what they can do. Instead of staring into a mirror and dwelling on what we can’t do, we need to appreciate what we can! This is where we find the common ground to establish relationships. This is where we discover shared value. This is where we begin to appreciate the sunset again.

The point of this whole blog is that we will pay for what we value. If we believe it comes cheap we won’t value it. We tend to undervalue our bodies and our health. We don’t cherish the small steps. Why? Because we think they come cheap. We can’t look back and see where we had to strive to walk, or struggle to make the “ch” sound. The truth is we have become Oscar Wilde.

Every step is a miracle. Every word is an act of God.

Sitting up, breathing, wiggling our nose, snapping our fingers, kicking a soccer ball, pushing a grocery cart, opening a door with your right hand while you hold the mail in your left, smelling dinner cooking while hearing your kids play while seeing the green in a blade of grass while feeling the hard plastic of a laptop computer while tasting the chocolate in your mouth…

They are all valuable. No one greater than the other; just valuable. And we can pay for them by no longer taking them for granted, but seeing them as the miracles that they are. When I see Caedmon, or any of my boys, pay to achieve something I will compliment the vibrancy of that sunset! It doesn’t matter if it is building a bird house or saying “Merry Christmas,” I will value the sunset! I don’t have to fret about what they achieve, my only concern is that they achieve at all.

God didn’t make us all the same. But we can all value the sunsets in our lives and in the lives of others!


  1. Ryan-

    I love how you are able to bring insite to a moment without knowing it, for me personally that is. I do need to step back and give thanks.

  2. Thank you, Ryan. Through you, Caedmon gives me new eyes and ears. Give him a hug and tell him it is from me. Much love!

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