By Jeffrey Runyon
A dictionary defines what a thing is – say, a mountain. Art teaches what that mountain means.
This may be similar to what Oscar Wilde meant in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, where he suggests, contrary to long-held belief, that art does not imitate life, life imitates art – that perhaps the universe has meaning that art teaches us to see.
I sometimes wonder how much his visit to Leadville in 1882 affected his philosophy, and I met an old man in Ireland who seemed to wonder, too.
In 2010 a handful of students from Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville Campus, where I teach creative writing, composition and literature, joined my study abroad program bound for Ireland to experience literature for a month. The literary spirit thrives in Ireland, especially during May and June, when there are many literary festivities. (Ireland even has holidays devoted to literature, like Bloomsday.) So, when we decided to attend a literary tour through the city (i.e. pubs where famous writers like Joyce and Yeats wrote), we joined a large group trying to hear the old tour guide, who barely scratched the five-foot mark and whose voice seemed weak with age.