Linking Prayers and Purchases, Art and Labor

Alan Jacobs

What does it mean to live an integrated life? In this fascinating article, Alan Jacobs turns to the undeniably strange Victorian sage John Ruskin for an answer.

"The great quest of Ruskin’s life," Jacobs writes, "was to amalgamate disparate experience: not to allow the various aspects of life to sit separate with one another, as though our prayers have nothing to do with our purchases, or our arts from our labor, but rather to bring all of them together into a healthy, vibrant symbiosis."

One of Ruskin's key insights later in life was “God has lent us the earth for our life; it is a great entail." Because of this, we mustn't compartmentalize our life as if what we make and do will have no effect on those who come after us. Whether or not we intend it, we will pass down parts of the lives we've lived.

Integration looks like striving to pass down things of true value, all the while remembering "the One who has given it to us; and also by making it our regular discipline to look as far beyond our own moment, and therefore our own gratification, as we can." Read "Prophet of the Human-Built World: An Introduction to John Ruskin" at Comment. Also, read everything Alan Jacobs writes. Start with How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds or subscribe to his Snakes & Ladders newsletter – "A weekly look at some of the ups and downs of art and culture."

Pouring Coffee