I’ve been busy lately.

Perhaps you see very little link between the Charles of 1267 with all his newfangled French notions of chastity and chasing after Holy Grails, the Charles of 1867 with his loathing of trade, and the Charles of today, a computer scientist deaf to the screams of the tender humanists who begin to discern their own redundancy. But there is a link: they all rejected or reject the notion of possession as the purpose of life, whether it be of a woman’s body, or of high profit at all costs, or of the right to dictate the speed of progress. The scientist is but one more form; and will be superseded.

Now all this is the great and timeless relevance of the New Testament myth of the Temptation in the Wilderness. All who have insight and education have automatically their own wilderness; and at some point in their life they will have their temptation. Their rejection may be foolish; but it is never evil. You have just turned down a tempting offer in commercial applied science in order to continue your academic teaching? Your last exhibition did not sell as well as the previous one, but you are determined to keep to your new style? You have just made some decision in which your personal benefit, your chance of possession, has not been allowed to interfere? Then do not dismiss Charles’s state of mind as a mere conditioning of futile snobbery. See him for what he is: a man struggling to overcome history. And even though he does not realize it.