As I have said a number of times, reading Ruskin is always illuminating. Almost every time you return to his paragraphs, you discover sentences or ideas worth thinking seriously about, however brief they may be. Such revelatory passages occur not only in those works where he is writing about something very serious, such as his desire in the Modern Painters books to convince his readers that J. M. W. Turner was the greatest painter since the Renaissance, or his effort in his essays on political economy (such as Unto this Last) where he argues that the capitalist economic ideology within which we all live and breathe is corrupt at its core because of our false assumption that human nature is fundamentally greedy and selfish; but in his general remarks on almost any subject, you will come across bits that are infrequently included in the anthologies purporting to represent his finest efforts. The short of it is that Ruskin is just so vast and his genius is so profound and irrepressible that, on any given day during which he was composing, ever the teacher, something would occur to him that he thought was worth his audience’s attention and so he simply (or not so simply!) wrote it down. Such is the case with the two passages I share below; they appear “unexpectedly,” in different works written at different times, works that even he would deign to rank among his most significant. Snippets. I offer them as a continuing demonstration of his greatness and in an undisguised hope that they might inspire you to pick up whatever Ruskin work you have to hand and start perusing his paragraphs again.
The first is from a work where he is considering the raison d’etre of religion:
I found, and have since taught, and do teach still–and shall teach, I doubt not, until I die–that in resolving to do our work well is the only sound foundation of any religion whatsoever; and that by such resolution only, and by what we have done and not by any belief, that Christ will judge us as he explicitly has told us he will (though nobody believes him), in the Resurrection.
The second is from a passage on the importance of considering the stars:
I have nothing to do, nor have you, with what is happening in space (or possibly may happen there in the future). Have you ever noticed the order of the stars, or heard their ancient names, or thought of what they were as teachers, as lecturers, in that large public hall of the night, to the wisest men of old? Have you ever thought of the direct promise to you yourselves that you may be like them, if you will? “That the wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness will be as stars forever and ever.”
Ruskin’s works abound in such snippets and you may rest assured that, whenever you turn your attention to his words, you will encounter them. (Send them along as you find them and I will do my best to include them in later posts.)
That is sufficient for today.
Until next time. Please continue well out there.
Thank you Jim, once again.
The first quote is from Fors Clavigera Letter 76, Library Edition p.88 (adapted).
The second is from Fors Letter 75, Library Edition p. 60 (adapted).
Thank you so much, Jim, for your inspiring words. Beautiful quotes…you made my day. Take care,
These were wonderful examples of why it is always a pleasure to receive your posts. Thank you.