Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why I Like Germany

I get asked "Why Germany?"  Yes, I love the breads and salami, the Kasespatzle and access to good Italian food.  Yes, for a long time I thought Schenck might be German (actually I have the Dutch to thank for its offensive pronunciation--I think however my Dad's grandmother may have been thoroughly German).

The reason is that, for good or ill, the most generative thinking in all of human history came from Germany these last three centuries.  France gave us their sloppy, head-chopping version of the Enlightenment.  Perhaps some of our more enduring ills as a nation are its shallow version of freedom, a freedom that self-destructed there. The English/British are of course a strong second to the Germans, with their Newton, Shakespeare, Locke, Hume, Bacon, Wesley, and so forth.

But these shining lights cannot compete with the mass of Kant, Goethe, Luther, Leibniz, Schelling, Schopenhaur, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Heidegger, Gadamer, Wittgenstein.  In Bible/theology we have Lessing, Ritschl, Troeltsch, Harnack, Wellhausen, Baur, von Rad, Barth, Bultmann.  Then in music we have Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Strauss, Wagner.  Nuclear physics was born here, with Planck, Einstein, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, and many more.  It is hilarious that Hitler in effect bequeathed these geniuses to America because of his prejudice against Jews.  It is sobering to realize that so much of American science was transplanted.

To be sure, these German names raise all kinds of flags.  We do not associate many of these names with good ideas.  But until World War 2 and Hilter's black comedy of self-destruction, Germans were almost always at the forefront of the wave of human thought--leading the next step.  We can learn something from all of these thinkers.  They were not crazies but thinking on a deeper level than most of us could imagine.  Their thinking forces anyone interested in truth to deal with them in one way or another.  You can't dismiss them with a German joke.

Where in my world is anyone thinking on this level?  Sad to say, I'm not sure anyone is.

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