This morning’s reading (fors at work again!).
It is 1846. Ruskin has just published Modern Painters II. In it, he has worked out, for the first time, his theory of the imagination, arguing for its central role in leading us toward discovering the truth of all things and life. He is 27.
Along his still youthful way, he has said time and again that we should spend relatively little time on things of the moment, that we would be much better served if we gave our perpetually fleeting hours to those who have been acknowledged as the greats of our species, those who have devoted their lives to telling us in their respective ways of the truths they have gleaned and how it happened that they came to glean them. Among such greats, he reports that he has been much helped by Aeschylus, Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare (for the last, see Post 123). Of their impact, he says: that anyone
touched by [them] is by them held by the heart, and every circumstance or sentence of their being, speaking, or seeming, is seized upon by a process within, and is referred to that inner spring of which the hold is never lost for an instant; so that every sentence, as it has been thought out from the heart, opens for us a way down to the heart, leads us to the center, and then leaves us to gather what more we may. It is the “Open Sesame” of a huge, obscure, endless cave, with inexhaustible treasure of pure gold scattered in it. The wandering about and gathering of these pieces…[is] left to us. [True, what is found there] is often obscure, often half-told, for he who wrote it, in his clear seeing of things beneath, may have been impatient of detailed interpretation. But, if we choose to dwell upon it and trace it, it will lead us always back securely to that metropolis of the soul’s dominion from which we may follow out all the ways and tracks to [their] furthest coasts.
As I read this, it occurred to me that Ruskin, though at the time he wrote down his sentences such a thought would’ve been the furthest thing from his mind, was in fact telling us of the health and life-enhancing effects that any careful reading of his own words provide as we, in our separate ways, go forward in our own search for truth. Certainly, this has been the case for me.
Until next time! Tomorrow.
Be well out there!