In his prescient 1871 essay “Of the Mystery of Life,” social thinker John Ruskin explained the solution to our present pathetic congressional quagmire, and described why our multiple mean-spirited confrontations over social issues are typified by pugnacity disguised as piety.

He wrote: “The greatest of all the mysteries of life, and the most terrible, is the corruption of even the sincerest religion which is not daily founded on rational, effective, humble, and helpful action. Helpful action, observe! for there is just one law, which obeyed, keeps all religions pure; forgotten, makes them all false. Whenever in any religious faith, dark or bright, we allow our minds to dwell upon the points in which we differ from other people, we are wrong … . At every moment of our lives we should be trying to find out, not in what we differ with other people, but in what we agree with them; and the moment we find we can agree as to anything that should be done, kind or good (and who but fools couldn’t?), then do it; push at it together: you can’t quarrel in a side-by-side push; but the moment that even the best men stop pushing and begin talking, they mistake their pugnacity for piety, and it is all over.”

It would be good to see these words posted in every voting booth as an antidote to so much mischievous and malicious campaign rhetoric focused on our alleged differences.

David and Nancy Nyberg

West Boothbay

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