Death by Beauty

Years ago Somerset Maugham wrote of this in his short stories. Of  an Englishman who had loved the beauty of Denpasar so much that he settled down there. On a full moon night known to be amazingly beautiful in Denpasar this man went up for a walk on the beach and was found dead in the morning. Maugham conjectured that the man had died from being struck by all the beauty of the full moon on the ocean that night - his heart couldn't take it. I read this book in my twenties and 2,5 decades ago I still remember this and used to wonder about it. But now as I explore the world of old art, I think this is how I shall meet my end. I have had near-death experiences in the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Guwahati Museum (to name a few) being awestruck by the beautiful old Jain paintings and Chettiar jewels and Ahom weavings on display. I was in agony that day - the trauma of watching so much beauty is seriously too much to bear! Add to that the unfulfillable pangs of wanting to own it all. It is totally likely that Maugham was correct in his conjecture. I can complete imagine being found dead one day in one corner of some museum sighing and dying quietly! jm August 2013


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