122: Education, True (2)

Good Friends,

As mentioned in the last post, we are on Mr. Ruskin’s Old Road in Northern Italy. I had hoped to put up a number of posts while we traveled. I may yet! More than one or two are gestating. But the days are intense, the seeing more so and, when the later hours of the day arrive and the fine Italian food and wine are settling in for their digestive night, whatever concentrative power I might have still retained, vanishes.

But, as I also mentioned earlier, I have brought with me for daily perusal Rose Porter’s lovely collection, Bits of Burnished Gold. And so, while those longer, hopefully thoughtful, Old Road posts continue their slower-than-expected path to appearance, here’s a few more of Rose’s Ruskin wisdoms for interim, each, like the whole from which they are extracted, I think worthy of reflection.

Some few reading this will remember Post 23 where I first introduced a few of Ruskin’s best thoughts on the essence of education. But these were hardly the last wisdoms he penned on the subject, and on education’s attendant companion–a companion we increasingly shunt aside today–books. Here are some of those other bits, with abiding thanks to Rose Porter for assembling them for us:

(1) Education enables us to consult with the wisest and the greatest…on all points of difficulty. It allows us to use books wisely and to go to them for help. To appeal to them when our own knowledge and power of thought fail; to be led by them into wider sight, purer conceptions than our own, and receive from them the united sentence and councils of all time against our solitary and unstable opinion.

(2) Life being very short and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books… No book is worth anything that is not worth much, nor is it serviceable until it has been read, and re-read, and loved, and loved again–and marked so that you can refer to the passages you want in it as a soldier can seize the weapon he needs in an armory…

(3) Books! The value of them consists first in their power of communicating the knowledge of facts; secondly, in their power of exciting vital or noble emotions and intellectual action.

(4) We talk of food for the mind as we talk of food for the body. Now a good book contains such food inexhaustibly… Bread of flour is good, but there is bread, sweet as honey, if we would eat it, in a good book.

Be well out there with your good books.

More from the Old Road in due course.

Jim (in wonderful Siena)


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