In the end (as in the beginning) with Ruskin, it is his greatness of heart which sets him apart from almost all other geniuses. This one’s music is the music of the spheres. That one’s brilliant insights explain the cosmos in ways we never before imagined. Another’s paintings show us nature as we have never seen it and teaches that we should have seen it this way all along. Gifts beyond compare, these, our lives enriched forever the in train of them.
But, always, behind and sustaining everything Ruskin writes, lies an intensity of compassion–for our world, for ourselves–that, without doing anything to encourage this result, warms us at the core and gently tells us that what he is saying is so. It is as if his heart is in perfect sync with the spirit of the universe and, however it came to be that he was given a second gift for eloquence, he was capable of writing words and sentences that transferred to us the essential, often strange, and wonderful things he saw.
Every post preceding this, of course, is, in one way or other, a testimony to this magnificence of vision and magnanimity of heart.
But, rather than point backward, here is another, very brief, demonstration of what I am talking about: a couple of sentences from one of the special lecture series he wrote for his Oxford students of the 1870s, a series which, afterward, collected into book form (easily and cheaply available on the web!), he called, in his usual marvelous, metaphorical way, The Eagle’s Nest.
[Y]ou will find that, according to the clearness of sight, is indeed the kindness of sight, and that, at last, the noble eyes of humanity look through humanity–from heart into heart, with no mechanical vision. And the light of the body is the light of the eye. Yes–and in happy life, the light of the heart also.
A view of the essence of things and life which would have been immediately understood by that sweet and wise manifestation of another’s imagination.
After all this, the Little Prince went back to the Fox:
“Good-bye,” he said. “Good-bye,” said the Fox. “And, here, [since we are now parting,] is my secret. It’s quite simple. One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
Until next time.
Be well out there.