“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness.” John Ruskin
By Jo Floyd Lucas
I’ve been thinking about this special little tapestry being woven here in Smiling Hearts…four different weavers, and the warp and weft of our stories combining to create art. I believe Rick called it the ‘tie that binds,’ and I'm beginning to see the common thread.
At first glance, we ‘charter contributors’ recognize ourselves as being graduates of Ruskin High School, class of ’71. As another alum and common friend, Danny Burns, has noted before, many of us in this class (and within a year or two on either side of it) seem to have pursued an interest in the arts since then. There is a preponderance of musicians, artists, writers, and performers among us. Others have pursued the healing arts, medicine, and related fields. There are several highly skilled quilters, and and I know of at least one of us who built a work of art into his own property, stone by stone, with his bare hands. I’m sure there are scores more that I have yet to hear from (pardon the preposition, Ms. Searcy!). We seem to be a creative lot, this group of Ruskinites.
Dubby hypothesized that it may have had something to do with the peace and love movement going on while Vietnam raged during our high school years, and I think he’s right. We all felt a tenuous connection to each other during this time, this time during ‘The Draft,’ which was so different than today. Our young men were scholars one day and soldiers the next, and this, I’m sure, led many to search for the sustaining beauty in life.
This musing compelled me to go to our Alma mater’s namesake, John Ruskin, to learn what type of man has, as his legacy, universities, architectural schools, libraries, and fine arts schools.
What an overachiever! I am more than slightly embarrassed that I was unaware of the scope of Ruskin’s accomplishments. Not only was he a leader in progressive social thinking (which is all I knew of him), but he also was a poet, an artist, an art critic, and a prolific writer, offering dozens of influential essays on art and architecture during the late 1800’s. His is responsible for no less than 250 works on a vast range of topics, including a fantasy novel (which most agree to be the first ever written for adult readers, “The King of the Golden River.” (Great Zol!) A compendium of his works was compiled in 1912, and the index to this ‘library edition,’ as it is called, is famous itself for its elaborate scope, and demonstrates the ‘complex interconnectedness of his thought.’
Whew...what a guy. But one thing stands out from all this...’the interconnectedness of his thought’. He saw the big picture, and spent his life attempting to show it to us. The arts relate to the sciences. The sciences relate to social change. Social change relates to writing. Writing relates to fantasy. Fantasy relates to architecture. Architecture relates to the arts. And so it continues.
I began this post with a quote from Ruskin, imploring us to gaze ‘without shrinking into the darkness.’ I think this generation of Ruskin graduates has lived without shrinking too far into the darkness. We’ve fought for civil rights. We’ve fought for peace. We’ve fought for equal rights for women and minorities. We press on. Our job is not done, in fact it’s just begun. But to offer another quote from John Ruskin, “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
Friends, let’s weave a masterpiece.