Roger Scruton was present at Villanova last week. He speaks quietly, he does not project energy, but he leads one carefully through his argument. He is full of Western Civilization, and to witness it was a good moment. Not that many days before Middlebury he said we do not need Harvard University, we need Villanova University, suggesting the elite schools no longer nourish our common identity but rather are at war against it. Very glad to hear him say it.
I’m reading a book that compiles Muslim historical records on the crusades, for what they’re worth. It is interesting to see the thing from an opposite point of view. It raises the question: Why were the Franks boiling over the edges of the Mediterranean? The answer is probably in Christopher Dawson: they were full of the knowledge that they had achieved a first person plural, to put it in Scruton’s terms. What the book also shows, it is a University of Pennsylvania author, is the utter lack of appreciation for one’s own. He suggests the Muslims had higher motives for war: they wanted to save souls, whereas the crusaders just wanted territory. The good thing is he abandons the crusaders’ point of view after that fatuous aside, and manages to make an engaging narrative of the side he virtue-signals his solidarity with. And it shows an odd judgment: a Calormene way of doing things, one might say.
The week before Scruton, Yannick Nézet-Séguin was with the Philadelphia Orchestra for Brahms 4. That was a performance worth attending, and I’m grateful I was taken. Had never had the joy. I believe that guy could make it seem like an astonishing performance even if the orchestra was not with him. Has some Western Civilization in him. Haven’t heard an orchestra play that well since Bogota, to tell you the truth. I was nourished.