32: The Morning Star

Dear Friends,

Just home from three weeks in the UK, lecturing in various venues on Mr. Ruskin. To find, as you all are well-aware, the holiday season intently upon us. And life. And its end. For today–just a couple of hours ago in fact–my beloved father-in-law, Peter Stroux, USN Ret., left for that inaccessible place where great mariners, dads, and granddads go when their allotted time with us is over. He was very much loved by so very many: his daughter, Kate, and her family. His son, Mark, and his family. A second daughter’s (Skye’s) family (Skye left for her inaccessible place nearly thirty years ago.) And, in addition to myself, my children, Jamie and Lauren and their Mom, Tracy, a third daughter, and my late wife (who, like Skye, left for that inaccessible place some years ago). The list could go on and I could say much more about the privilege we all had in being allowed to have Dad’s wonderful spirit among us for more than eight decades. But I won’t. Rather, I’ll just end with a lovely passage of Mr. Ruskin’s, one where he is trying to get his readers to think about what they need to do if they wish to see the glorious which, despite the passings out of it which are a part of life, is, every moment, coming into being about us. His immediate reference is, of course, to the great star in the east which appeared over that manger in Bethlehem so many years ago, but his wider pointing is to those precious morning moments which start all the days of our lives; today, when Dad was with us at sunrise, tomorrow when, if differently, he will be still.

In the first place, concerning stars in the east: You can’t see the loveliest which appear there naturally—the Morning Star, namely, and his fellows—unless you get up in the morning. And if you resolve…so far as may be in your own power, to see the loveliest [things] which are [always around us] naturally, you will soon come to see them in a supernatural manner, with a quite (properly so-called) “miraculous” or “wonderful” light, which will be a light in your spirit, not in your eyes. And you will hear–with your spirit–the Morning Star and his fellows sing together. Also you will hear the sons of God shouting together for joy…particularly the little ones—sparrows, greenfinches, linnets, and the like. And you will, by persevering in the practice, gradually discover that it is a pleasant thing to see stars in the luminous east, and watch them fade as they rise, to hear their Master say, “Let there be light: and there is light!” To see the world made, that day, at the Word, and the creation, instant by instant, of divine forms out of darkness.

May you have a wonderful holiday season.


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5 Responses to 32: The Morning Star

  1. David Barrie says:

    My thoughts are with you and your family, Jim, this Christmas morning. The sun – the true Morning Star, is rising into a cold clear sky here in London and I can’t help recalling Dante’s words: ‘…now my desire and will, like a smoothly-spinning wheel, were turned by the love that moves the sun and the other stars.’

    • jimspates says:

      Thanks so much for these good words, David. They are much appreciated, especially the Dante lines. These immortals, so many centuries on, still have the power to heal us if we give them the synapses they deserve. I feel this way about Mr. Ruskin of course, though the skein of years isn’t quite as long. But that matters little: the brilliance and humanity these giants possess are timeless.

  2. Dear Jim and all friends in Ruskin, thank you as ever for all the wonderful insights and inspiration. I thought if you all as I watched a wonderful starry sky in Christmas night and thought of all the wonderful friends I have made in this last year of becoming a Companion of the Guild and the riches it bestows on us and how it does enrich moments of wonder when it leads us to think of such affirmative, kind and thoughtful people. so with love I send greetings for 2015 may you all flourish and enjoy the star studded firmament. Annie Creswick-Dawson

    • jimspates says:

      Dear Annie (and to all of you who have sent such sympathetic notes regarding the passing of our adored Dad/Grandfather, Petee Stroux),

      Thanks so much for these lovely thoughts about stars, morning and evening. You have found, as I and not a few others have, that Ruskin’s thoughts always have a remarkable spiritual element embedded in them. It matters little what he is writing of–whether it is, as in this quote, the spirit of life which is born anew with every dawn, matters religious, economic problems, art, architecture, or nature. In all, his great heart beats powerfully and, even now, well over a century past the moment when he set his pen to paper, radiates up from the page into your own head and heart, brightening them, lifting them from the mundane little worlds where they often reside, into higher realms. In which context, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of Helen Viljoen’s where she reminds us about Ruskin’s wonderful ability to help us. It appears at the end of an essay which she never published (like so much of her Ruskin work) called “Ruskin and Science.” “[F]ollowing Ruskin’s footstep,” she wrote, “never leads us into the mire; rather, it leads us into regions free from pettiness and ignominy, where the air is good for men to breathe. Always, following Ruskin, what one hears is varied in its strain and, not without the discords, poignant in its humanity. The words themselves are never vaporous. Even in their darkest moments, there is a sheen upon their wings.”



  3. Sandra Meggison says:

    Jamie — what beautiful Ruskin words to honor Pete’s memory — he would be so pleased. Love and condolences — from Cousin Sandy

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