Welcome to “Why Ruskin”

The goal of this website is to introduce 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 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, alleviating or lessening many of the troubles which continue to beset us. But there is another level to Ruskin’s genius, his unparalleled ability to make the beauty of this world and life come alive in his paragraphs. I am hopeful that, after reading some of the posts here, you might come to agree with both assessments.

If you are a First Time Visitor, I recommend that you start by reading the First Post: “An Introduction to this Site” (to do so, click on the underlined passage). Using a number of Ruskin’s best quotes, this offering explains the site’s history and goals. Then, if you’d like to read other Posts, slide your cursor to the right hand side of this page and click on the Drop Down for “Previous Posts by Topic,” select a “Category,” click on it, following which which all Posts relevant to that topic–“Nature” or “Society,” say–will appear on the screen in the sequence of their posting. More information about Ruskin and myself can be found in the Pages listed in the navigation bar under the banner photographs above. If you’d like to be notified of  subsequent Posts as they publish, click on the “FOLLOW” button at the top of the right hand column. The most recent Post on the site can always be read below this “Welcome” note (just scroll down). Questions, suggestions, or comments are always welcome.  The lovely drawing–there are many more–of a peacock and a falcon feather is Ruskin’s.


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139: The Kindly Veil

Sometimes–in truth, often–when reading Ruskin the very thing you need for that moment appears. He would have said that the effect was an instance of the Third Fors at work, that particular fors, force, being the eternal power which, as its appointed task, is always present, waiting at the ready to support and strengthen life when it perceives that someone(s), or something(s) needs a little help. [The gods whom we recently looked at, and then, not long later, cavalierly rejected (Post 135 and Post 136), are ongoing evidence of the reality of the Third Fors.]

Some, of course, would refer to such sudden, happy moments as “blind luck.” But, Ruskin would say that such a view is not only myopic, but foolish, the help bestowed having been neither blind nor luck, and, rejected out of hand, nothing less than a denial of the existence of an intelligent energy source which was constituted from the beginning of time into the very structure of the universe.

In any event, the sentences below appeared in my reading this morning. To, and for, me, they were, in my current state, marvelously helpful. I offer them here in the same spirit of help, they needing nothing additional from me, their sweet insight and–need I still mention?–peerless composition being sufficient unto the day (all days). In the original, they can be found in the fourth volume of Modern Painters (which no one turning that volume’s pages, whether then or now, would have suspected were waiting there on the next page, just waiting for their turn!):

Our happiness as thinking beings must depend on our being content to accept only partial knowledge, even in those matters which chiefly concern us. If we insist upon perfect intelligibility and complete declaration in every moral subject, we shall instantly fall into misery or unbelief.

Our whole happiness and power of energetic action depend on our being able to breathe and live in the cloud, content to see it opening here and closing there, rejoicing to catch, through the thinnest films of it, glimpses of stable and substantial things, but yet perceiving a nobleness even in the concealment, and rejoicing that the kindly veil is spread where untempered light might have scorched us, or infinite clearness wearied…

[If we accept such partial knowledge humbly,] it instantly becomes an element of pleasure. And I like to think that every rightly constituted mind ought to rejoice, not so much in knowing anything clearly, as in feeling that there is infinitely more which it cannot know.

None but proud or weak men would mourn over this, for we may always know more if we choose by working on. But the pleasure is…in knowing that the journey is endless, the treasure inexhaustible: watching the cloud still march before [us], with its summitless pillar and being sure that, to the end of time and to the length of eternity, the mysteries of its infinity will still open farther and father, their dimness being the sign and necessary adjunct of their inexhaustibleness.

(Which words, now that I am done typing them, seem to have a lot more to do with Posts 135 and 136 than I thought when first I set my fingers into motion. The Third Fors.)

Until next time.

Be well out there in Mr. Ruskin’s bicentenary year!


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