In his lecture on work, Ruskin refers to four types of distinctions among various activities known as work. They are :
(i) Between work and play ;
(ii) Between production and consumption ;
(iii) Between brain work and manual labour ; and
(iv) Between wise labour and foolish labour.
(i) Ruskin, first of all, defines the words ‘work’ and ‘play’. Play is an exertion of body or mind made to please ourselves and with no determined end. If play were done as an ordered exercise for health’s sake, it would become work. In work, there is a definite aim and there is utility.
Ruskin refers to various games. The first of all English games is the game of making money. Money is accumulated for itself, not as a means to an end. Next English games are Hunting and Shooting, which are costly. Horse-racing is ‘a fashionable game which results in gambling. Next game is the ladies’ game of dressing which is also costly. But the greatest game of all, the play of plays, is the game of war, the costliest of games. The money for war is paid by men working in fields and factories. The jewel-cutter whose sight fails over the diamonds, the wearer whose arm fails over the web, the iron-forger whose breath fails before the furnace, pay for wars and they are the sincere workers who know no play.
(ii) Referring to the second distinction, Ruskin speaks of the luxurious life led by the rich at the cost of the poor. The lawful basis of wealth is that a man who works should be paid the fair value of his work and if he does not spend it today, he should be free to keep it for tomorrow. But accumulation of wealth is done by a thoughtless person. The idle person does not work, and the wasteful person who lays nothing by will be doubly poor in possession and poor in morals. The capitalist throbs en the money actually earned by others, whereas the actual producers of money remain poor and become victims of evils of poverty.
(iii) The third distinction is between the intellectual and manual labour. Both kinds of work are indispensable. The work should be done by arms, otherwise none of us could live. Brain work must also be done otherwise life would not be worth living Rough work is to be done by rough men and gentle work by gentlemen. It is physically impossible that one class should do or divide the work of the other. Whether manual work is honourable or not, one fact is clear that the labour is totally exhausted after the day’s work. He is not the same man at the end of the day or night as one who has been sitting in a quiet room, with everything comfortable about him. Rough work is at all events real, honest and generally useful, whereas the fine work is, a great deal of it, foolish, false and dishonourable.
(iv) Speaking of the last point, Ruskin tells that there are three tests of wise work : it is honest, useful and cheerful when we get honesty in play, we call it fair play, when we hate it, we call it foul play. Similarly there is fair work and foul work. Secondly, wise work is useful. It matters little if it is hard. It must lead to some usefulness. It should not be wasteful because of all wastes, the greatest waste is that of labour. To, waste the labour of man is to kill him. Lastly, wise work should be cheerful as a child’s work is. To attain God’s kingdom on earth, we require the character of child. This character consists of three elements : (i) Modesty ; (ii) Faithfulness; (iii) Lovingness ; and (iv) Cheerfulness. By including these qualities in him, man can enter the
. Working men can seek inspiration among children for the redress of their grievances. kingdom of God