online: 21 may 2007
modified: 20, 21 may 2007

19 may 2007 physical beliefs

17:04 ...outdoor cafe... (a habit resumed)... wood pigeons are walking, and squirrels are running, beneath chairs and tables...

as i walked here i could see the towers of the city (about 5 miles, or 8km away) beyond the distant trees on the south side of the heath...

all the trees are now in leaf and spring is over... and i feel myself also to be in a new season...

...a silvery jumbojet flies over... i think i can discern wing flaps, spoilers or airbrakes already extending to limit its speed and attitude... for descent and landing... parts of the never-to-be-forgotten miracle of a metal tube and wings and engines balanced, so delicately, on the invisible air, made strong and safe by the velocity of the aircraft and the precision of its control surfaces... and with hundreds of people inside it!

...while kept indoors by a pulled muscle, i have been reading Praeterita* (which 'means merely past things') John Ruskin's book of reminiscences ... ... i like this book very much and wonder why i did not read it before (was i misled by hostile reviews?... or by his old-fashioned fatherliness?)... it seems to legitemise, and to encourage, many things i'd like to write, or to attempt... is an edited note of some fragments that i copied out of the book onto some of its blank pages:

scenes of nature... (many intricate descriptions throughout the book)
and how he loves to observe and to draw them, minutely, with a fine pencil point... he could take a whole day to draw a single rock, or a branch,
human feeling that loves a stone for a stone's sake, and a cloud for a cloud's (page 193)

I did not weary myself in wishing that a daisy could see the beauty of its shadow, but in trying to draw the shadow, rightly, myself (page 194)

his extraordinary (and very physical) beliefs, perceptions, teachings... for instance his gradual rejection of the rigidity and barrenness of protestantism... and his conception of the 'total meaning' of Christianity (shorn of what he discarded):

...I find numbers, even of the most intelligent and aimiable people, not knowing what the word means, because they are always asking how much is true, and how much they like, and never ask, first, what was the total meaning of it, whether they like it or not...

The total meaning was, and is, that the God who made earth and its creatures, took at a certain time upon the earth, the flesh and form of man: in that flesh sustained the pain and died the death of the creature He had made; rose again after death into glorious human life, and when the date of the human race is ended, will return in visible human form, and render to every man according to his work. Christianity is the belief in, and love of, God thus manifested. Anything less than this, the mere acceptance of the sayings of Christ, or assertion of any less than divine power in His Being, may be, for aught I know, enough for virtue, peace and safety; but they do not make people Christians, or enable them to understand the heart of the simplest believer in the old doctrine. (page 310)

and of his respected teachers, there was one, Osborne Gordon, who said

When you have got too much to do, don't do it! (page 222)

*John Ruskin, Praeterita, with an introduction by Tim Hilton, Everyman's Library, Alfred A Knopf, New York, London, Toronto 2005.

Robert Hewison, John Ruskin, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York 2007. I found this short biography an excellent foil to Preaterita. It was originally written for the Oxford DNB (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. As the link may not open here is the URL: ).

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