Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thoughts on Ruskin

I keep thinking about some lines from John Ruskin's "On Art and Life."

"No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art."

"No great man ever stops working till he has reached his point of failure."

"Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent. The foxglove blossom,--a third part bud, a third part past, a third part in full bloom, --is a type of the life of this world. And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularities as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgement, Mercy."

If I wasn't on drugs (cold medicines) or sick (and groggy from a 3-hour post-church nap), I'd write in length about these quotes, but I think they speak for themselves. However, I think they pertain not just to art, but to our human lives. I've been pondering them all week and I'm really comforted by the thought that although we are commanded in scripture to be perfect, we are never cursed for not being perfect. On the contrary, we are endlessly forgiven of our sins, continuously welcomed back into the fold, and forever loved by our Father in Heaven. All that is required is, as Ruskin says, Effort, which is rewarded by Mercy. In other words, Works and Grace.

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