Welcome to “Why Ruskin”

The intent of this website is to introduce its readers to the remarkable thought of the great 19th Century British Art and Social Critic, John Ruskin. Even though his is hardly a household name these days, it is my deep and enduring belief that Ruskin’s brilliant thought and carefully worked out ideas (always encased in glorious prose) still retain great relevancy for our modern days, offering new ways of thinking about and, quite possibly, if put into practice, alleviating or lessening many of the troubles which still beset us. But there is second level to Ruskin’s genius, his unparalleled ability to make the beauty of this world and life come alive. I am hopeful that, after reading some of the posts that follow you might be inclined to agree with these assessments.

If you are a First Time Visitor, I recommend you begin by reading the First Post: “An Introduction to this Site” (just click on this link). Using a number of Ruskin’s best quotes, this initial offering outlines the site’s history and goals. If, after reading it, you’d like to read other Posts, scroll up to the top of this screen and, under the banner, chose the Page, “Previous Posts in Sequence.” This will bring you to a list of all the site’s posts; chick on any one and you will be taken to it. The other Pages listed under the banner, “Writing Ruskin,” “Talks and Walks,” “Ruskin Resources,” and “Ruskin’s Life: A Radical Revision” will be self-explanatory as you open them.

The ten most recently published Posts can always be found in the right hand column. Click on any one and you will be taken to it. If you’d like to be notified of  new Posts as they publish, as I hope you will, click on the “FOLLOW” button at the top of the column and just type in your email address. (Questions, suggestions, or comments always welcome.) Also in the right column you will find a feature that allows you to view “Previous Posts by Topic,” and a very useful search engine (type in a word or phrase you are interested in).

If you’d like to read an overview explaining how I came to admire Ruskin as much as I do, complete with examples showing why I think that judgment is sound, you can have a look at my essay,  “Why Ruskin?”  The lovely drawing below–there are hundreds more (many are reproduced in the following Posts)!–is Ruskin’s

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210: “All Things Must Pass”

George Harrison,  I’ve always told  anyone who  asked (few do these days),  was my favorite Beatle. George was “the Spiritual Beatle,” the one who, in the late 1960s, was responsible for introducing his band mates, me (and, I believe, millions of others), to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and transcendental meditation (TM). It is a meditation which now, slightly over than a half-century on, I still practice, 20 minutes a day, twice a day, every day. It is a calming and health – generating practice that, as advertised, has  proved of  enormous benefit.

But George was more than a Beatle and  advocate for TM. He avidly took to much of the philosophy associated with TM, much of that grounded in the great sacred texts of India, and used the insights he gathered as  guides to his own life. When the Beatles broke up in 1970, it was not long before he released his first solo album, appropriately titled, and reflecting these spiritual views, “All Things Must Pass.” The first verse of the title song, ran as follows:

“Sunrise doesn’t last all morning; a  cloudburst doesn’t last all day;

it seems my love is up and has left you with no warning

 But it’s not always going to be this gray;

All things must Pass;

All things  must pass away,,,

The cover of the album, which, as a whole, the critics considered  a pop-culture masterpiece, was graced with  a picture of George sitting in a  field surrounded by four rather impish-looking, recumbent dwarves: Beatles in symbol. (The record has just been reissued in a 50th anniversary edition!!) (50th!!)

 All of George’s still wonderful songs on the album are steeped in his Eastern views of how the world works, which, as he saw it ,was: gently—but always leaning toward the good “(Isn’t it a Pity?” “I Dig Love” “Beware of Darkness,”; the gloriously reverential, “My   Sweet Lord,” and the unabashedly ebullient ‘Apple Scruffs,’ among them). It was a sanguine view with which Ruskin, especially in his later years when he was ever more depressed, probably would not have easily accepted, as he had by then become largely convinced that, as my father frequently put it: “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” However, earlier, when Ruskin was doing his detailed studies of nature and art along what he called his “Old Road,” on the European Continent, he  published not a few passages indicating  his perception and acceptance of the view of the transient nature of all things. Here is one such – from the fourth volume of Modern Painters (1856), a passagesupported, as so frequently in his case,  by various biblical references.

As we pass beneath the hills which have been shaken by earthquake and torn by convulsion, we find that periods of perfect repose succeed those of destruction. The pools of calm water lie clear beneath their fallen rocks, the water lilies gleam,  and the reeds whisper among their shadows; the village rises again over the forgotten graves, and the church tower,  through the storm’s twilight, proclaims a renewed appeal to God’s protection–in whose hand “are all the corners of the earth and the strength of the hills also.” (Psalm 94). There is no loveliness of Alpine Valley that does not teach the same lesson. It is just where “the mountain falling comes to naught, and the rock is removed out of its place,” (Job 14:18), that the clearest rivulets murmur from their crevices among the flowers,  and the clustered cottages, each sheltered beneath some strength of musty stone now to be removed no more, with their pastured flocks around them, now safe from the eagle’s stoop and the wolf’s Raven, have written upon their fronts in simple words, the mountaineers’ faith in the ancient promise, “neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it comes, for thou shall be in league with the Stones of the Field,” And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee (Job 5; 21-23).

John Ruskin was one of those things that passed away– January, 1900.

George Harrison was another who passed away, now nearly twenty years ago– November,  2001.

Please do continue well out there as we pass through our own brief moment of time on the Great Mandala.

Until next post!!

😊

Jim

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