155: Prophylactics


I don’t know what your experience may be, but mine, at least when browsing through  our current cultural world is, much more often than not, one of despair and distaste. So much that we encounter panders to our lowest common denominator, our susceptibility to the salacious, the violent, the mean. It is as if, daily, we seek–and are gladly given (many having discovered that there is money to be made in the giving)!–our dose of debasement. Paying attention, debased we become, however impecepitable and slow that declension might be. Naturally, if you ever accused the purveyors of this flotsam of doing anything corrosive, they would immediately deny the suggestion as intemperate and unjust, would aver that they are, rather, our benefactors, their only wish being to inform or entertain us, are, in fact, beneficent, bastions reflecting our belief in the vital importance of free speech.

Ruskin encountered all these same debasers, of course. In the Preface to Deucalion, a smallish book he published in the 1880s in which he extolls the wonders on eternal display in the world of rocks, stones, and fissures, he told his readers what he did to fight the plague. One day, he said, riding in his carriage, he was reading a book he had recently bought, hoping it would be either of interest or use. It proved to be neither. So, he said,

I threw the [absurd thing] aside and took up my [Henry Francis] Cary’s [translation] of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is always on the carriage seat or in my pocket–not exactly for reading, but as an antidote to pestilent things and thoughts in general, [a] store, as it were, of mental quinine–a few lines being enough to recover me out of my shivering marsh fever fit, brought on by foolishness or stupidity.

…which, I thought as I finished this passage, is exactly what reading Ruskin does for me.

I hope very much that you are well out there, as, like the rest of us, you do what you can to keep the malignants at bay.

Until next time!



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