The essayist who writes under the pseudonym "Spengler" is quickly becoming one of my very favorite writers. I recommend to you his excellent "The devil's sourdough and the decline of nations".

For this reason Goethe is the most relevant, and paradoxically the least understood, of modern writers. Life's triumph is to digest the daily sourdough, and its anxiety and sorrow are the greatest temptations. Contrary to my namesake Oswald Spengler, Western society is not "Faustian" because Western man seeks power, but rather because Western man still plays dice with the Devil for his soul according to the rules of the game established by Faust and Mephisto. Technology and freedom offer modern man the temptations of Faust more than those of Job.

Faust thwarts Mephisto because he never ceases to strive, but Faust is an exceptional fellow, a proxy for the inimitable Goethe. What we learn instead from the lives of ordinary people - and from the life and death of peoples - is that a sense of divine presence is what makes the Devil's sourdough digestible. US evangelical Christianity is not "about" conservative values, school prayer, or heterosexual marriage. It is about Christ crucified, and the rest follows as a matter of housekeeping.

By the same token, Muslim unhappiness is not "about" the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or even the intrusion of Western secular values. It is about the Muslim perception that Islam's promise of success against its enemies has eluded them. It is a crisis of faith.

He's going on my list of people I want to meet.



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