I’m just back from the Annual Roycroft Arts and Crafts Conference in East Aurora, New York. Roycroft (not far from Buffalo) was founded in 1895 by Elbert Hubbard (if you are interested, you can find out more about Roycroft and the Conference at: http://www.roycroftcampuscorporation.com/conf2014.html). Hubbard, who had been deeply influenced by Ruskin’s argument regarding the importance of hand-work and his correlative argument that all workers, from the most to the least important in any endeavor, be allowed the chance to let their creative thoughts and impulses flow, was dedicated at Roycroft to not only treating all his workers decently (paying them a living wage in the process) but to giving them in their work the opportunity to find the special something within themselves which, expressed, would afford them the chance to contribute to their own growth, give them a sense of doing something meaningful in life, and generate a feeling of having done something to better the society in which they lived. Such a humane philosophy of work, as we all know, is hardly the world’s even now, despite its most legitimate claim to be so.
That said, it seemed to me that this passage of Ruskin’s from The Stones of Venice (the nearly-forgotten work of genius on which I spoke at the conference), surely would have garnered Mr. Hubbard’s applause, setting forth, for all of us, in our several ways, both task and path:
This infinite universe is unfathomable, inconceivable in its whole. Every human creature must slowly spell out, and long contemplate such part of as it may be possible for him to reach–[and] then set forth what he has learned of it for [others]–extracting it from infinity as one gathers a violet out of grass. One does not improve either violet or grass in gathering it, but one makes the flower visible–and the human being has to make its power on his own heart visible also, and to give it the honor of the good thoughts it has raised up in him, and to write upon it the history of his own soul. And sometimes he may be able to do a little more than this, and to set it in strange lights, and display it in a thousand ways before unknown, ways specially directed to necessary and noble purposes…
For fall’s flowerings, outside and in.
Be well out there.