Immediately after I sent out our last Post, I realized that it entered this virtual thing we call cyberspace on the 365th day after I began this website, the goal of which is to remind its readers of Mr. Ruskin’s continuing, helpful, significance as we wend our collective and complex ways through this second decade of the 21st Century.
Looking back, I discovered that, on average, a new post appeared approximately every two weeks as this alternative year-within-a-year made its way toward memory; not exactly the once-a-week model I had in mind when I started this sharing, but not an abysmal record either.
So: today’s is the first post of a new Why Ruskin year. Thinking about what it should be, I remembered a particularly moving passage which can be found at the end of the “Introduction” to a particularly important collection of Ruskin’s essays on social life called The Crown of Wild Olive, published in 1866. The metaphor (like all his metaphors) is moving in its own right–pointing as it does to the delicacy of our life together on this fragile planet and the vital importance for each of us of how we choose to spend our ever slimmer number of days on it. Many (most?) of us he argued in that “Introduction,” seduced by the thought that great riches will bring us happiness, think that life’s most glorious goal will be gained if we can but find a way to walk around sporting that famous accoutrement worn by so many of history’s dead kings and queens: an (extremely enviable!) crown of gold. A foolish wish, he said, almost always a deadly one for both aspirant and those touched along such a soul’s acquisitive way. Would it not be better, he asked, if, instead, we aspired to wear the headdress most prized by the Greeks of classical times: a crown of wild olive, a perishable tiara made from one of the most common plants of this good earth, a symbol given by grateful others which indicated that we had done something which our fellows thought so beneficial to their collective well-being that they eagerly and happily bestowed this inexpensive expensive honor? And if that is accepted, Ruskin said bringing his “Introduction” to its end, should it not be the case that the wish each of us should have closest to our hearts, the wish orienting all our days, should be something like this?
Free-heartedness and graciousness, and undisturbed trust, and requited love, and the sight of the peace of others, and the ministry to their pain. These, and the blue sky above you, and the sweet waters and flowers of the earth beneath, and the mysteries and presences innumerable of living things, may yet be your riches here, untormenting and divine, serviceable for the life that now is, nor, it may be, without promise of that which is to come.
Until next time.