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of the globe is peopled by cultures that have not known who, at the very least, do not accept the modern atheist the dominance of this class of people, of this style of liv- vision, even if some of his gestures certainly raise serious ing. Instead, a great proportion of the world is inhabited religious questions. by peoples who were rapidly thrust from villages into There is a theme I have encountered in Slavophile “projects,” from traditional — and religious — rural soci- authors and even in Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (in his eties into the radically secularized world of modernity. poem “To Robinson Jeffers”) in which the Slavic sensibil- Surrounded by the world of “blocks,” of the particularly ity is contrasted with the Western: Whereas Western Eu- soulless projects built by atheist governments in Eastern rope is seen as profoundly pagan, haunted by notions of Europe to shelter “the masses,” John Paul emerged carry- doom and fate, grim battles to the death with no reconcili- ing the ultimate symbol of God and wounded humanity: ation, the Slavic foundational myths hold out the hope the Crucified One. In this he proclaimed hope to all in that the inevitable fratricidal conflict will end up with rec- Africa or Asia or Latin America who have known God, and onciliation, everyone seated around one table, eating — long for God, and who find themselves in societies rapidly and drinking! There was much of this largeness of soul to moving away from any traditional expression of the rela- John Paul, something childlike in his desire to embrace tion to God. It was the hope he fostered when he led the everybody, with no cynical knife held behind his back. He battle to have a church built in what the communists had was no fool, but he had so large and pure a soul that, to planned to be a modern, godless workers’ town near him, the sins of man — if he really could believe that men Krakow, called Nowa Huta. could be as wicked as they apparently were in Boston, At a deeper level, humans — especially economi- among other places — were more like swarming mosqui- cally deprived humans — are at risk of a profound dehu- toes that could simply be brushed away than products of a manization in the modern world. John Paul was pro- foundly human — that is, he was an actor, a being of dramatic performance, not cowed or subdued by the de- mands of any machine, political or physical. This ability to perform drew millions to him for whom he was vi- Letters brantly alive, far from the gray personage representing to the editor of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW are al- some bureaucracy or another. Somehow, one
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