My most respected American friend, Greetings from Thuringia
Your remarks to my colleague in the Church of England concerning your homeland, the Dustbowl, were most interesting, as was the wealth of electronically provided reference material informative. As regards the significance which you attach to the Dustbowl, namely as symbol for the American experience, it all seems somehow long familiar to me, and I ask myself how that can be. I come to a conclusion which will, I think, strike a sympathetic note with Pastor Wesley.
Did not you Americans declare to Europe that her "nobles shall dwell in the dust," yea, "shall lick the dust like a serpent"? The Pilgrim fathers "shook the dust from their feet" and departed Old England, saying,"Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we wipe off against you." When the Colonists declared themselves independent of the King, some Englishmen "cast dust on their heads," and others "rent their clothes and threw dust into the air." The powerful among them, having "heaped up silver as the dust and gold as the mire of the streets," might threaten that "blood shall be poured out as dust." but it availed them not, for "The Lord hath his way with the whirlwind and the storm and the clouds are the dust of his feet."
If you American laymen are indeed, as you claim, more familiar with the Bible than we high churchmen of old Europe, then the source of your powerful symbolism must be obvious. I say symbolism, because biblical dust rises above mere allegory. It both is dust, means dust, and transcends the dust, for the symbol arises from the heart of each individual. Those who hear of "dust and ashes," of the "dust of the earth," and of the "dust of the serpent's head" with its "mouth in the dust," must call "dust the serpent's meat." Then their "soul cleaveth unto the dust," they lament that "our soul is bound down to the dust," in the fear that men "die and return to the dust," for they have heard the ominous words "dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return." With the Psalmist, we cry out to the Lord, "What profit is there in my blood when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth?"
Yet since time out of mind we also know that life arises from the dust. "Aaron smites the dust of the earth and it became lice." Yet more: "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth." We do believe He will "raise up the poor out of the dust." He promised father Abraham "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth then shall thy seed also be numbered." And we know He fulfilled that promise, for "Who can count the dust of Jakob?"
So you see I even suspect, my dear Professor Worthy, that you are so firm in your Bible as to count yourself lucky to be born just at that juncture in place and time which you proudly call the Dustbowl.
With all best wishes, your faithful
Johann Gottfried Herder
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