Now deeply into our second pandemic year, the weariness of the struggle has begun to tell on us all. That it will end, we all know; when it will end, none of us know. We have moved, over the last 20 months, from some measure of light, to some measure of darkness. The alternation of light and darkness in the day, in our lives, in the universe was never lost on Ruskin, as today’s quote should make clear.
The passage is taken from one of the many appendices in the third volume of The Stones of Venice. One of the things that makes this 175-year-old book still wonderful reading, even though most of us are far from the floating city on the Adriatic, the city Ruskin was fond of calling, “this Paradise of Cities,” is the wealth of wisdom it contains. Ruskin was never one to hold back thoughts he regarded as his most essential. If he had grasped a truth, he shared it, believing that stating it clearly would help those who read it along their path. Among such essential ruminations were his cogitations on the intrinsic meaning of yhe alteration of light and dark, In which context, without further elaboration, we move on on to passage.
The poor, we are told, we must always have with us, and sorrow is inseparable from any hour of life. But we may make their poverty such as shall inherit the earth, and their sorrow such as shall be held by the hand of the Comforter with everlasting comfort. We can, can, if we will, shake off the lethargy and dreaming that is upon us and take the pains to think like men, We can, I say, make kingdoms to be as well-governed households, in which, while no care or kindness can prevent occasional heart- burnings, nor any foresight or piety anticipate all of the vicissitudes of fortune, and create places where the unity of affection and fellowship remain unbroken, and where distress is neither embittered by division, prolonged by prudence, or darkened by dishonor…
And now from all directions we hear cries for the education of the lower classes–every day more widely and loudly. It is a wise and sacred cry, provided it be extended into one for the education of all classes, with definite respect to the work that each man has to do, and the substance of which such work is to be done. But it is a foolish and vein cry, if it be understood, as in the plurality of cases it is meant to be, for the expression of mere craving after knowledge, irrespective of the simple purposes of the life that now is, and the blessings of that which is to come.
One great fallacy into which men are apt to fall in their reasoning on the subject is that light, as such, is always good and darkness, as such, always evil. Far from it!! Light untempered would be annihilation. It is good to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, but to those that think in the wilderness, so also is a shadow of the great rock in a weary land. If the sunshine is good, so also is the cloud of the rain. Light is only beautiful, only available for life, when it is tempered with shadow. Pure light is on unendurable by humanity. And it is not less ridiculous to say that the light, as such, is good in itself than to say that the darkness is good in itself. Both are rendered safe, healthy, and useful by the other; the night by the day, the day by the night, We could just as easily live without sunrise as without sunset. Of the Celestial City we are told that there shall be “no night there,” and that there we will all shall be known even as also we are known (Revelation 21), but the night and the mystery both have their service here, and our business is not to turn the night into the day, but be sure that we are as those who watch for the morning.
Until next time !
Please to continue well out there!