To be excited for an hour—and, if possible, amused

In May of 1874, John Ruskin received a letter from the Chair of the Glasgow Athenaeum Lecture Committee, inviting him to address the Athenaeum later in the year.  Ruskin, who was then fifty-five, was sorely ruing the many, many hours he had spent tickling the ears of indolent listeners, and he declined the invitation with this explanation:

“I find the desire of audiences to be audiences only becoming an entirely pestilential character of the age.  Everybody wants to hear—nobody to read—nobody to think.   To be excited for an hour—and, if possible, amused; to get the knowledge it has cost a man half his life to gather, first sweetened up to make it palatable, and then kneaded into the smallest possible pills—and to swallow it homeopathically and be wise—this is the passionate desire and hope of the multitude of the day.”

I have not gathered so much knowledge as Ruskin did, but I would bet there are things I could teach him about sweetening knowledge, and about kneading it into the smallest possible pills.  I have spent much of my live japing and capering before audiences, the best of whom desired to be an audiences only, and the rest of whom were not there out of desire.  So I have learned to honey words, and if you ask for a pill, I’ll answer “how small.”

3 thoughts on “To be excited for an hour—and, if possible, amused

  1. Pingback: To be excited for an hour—and, if possible, amused | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: To be excited for an hour—and, if possible, amused | Reaction Times

  3. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2018/04/29) - Social Matter

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