The strongest argument for the unmaterialistic character of American life is . . . that we tolerate conditions that are, from a materialistic point of view, intolerable . . . the food we eat, the cramped apartments . . . the crowded subways. . . . American life, in large cities, at any rate, is a perpetual assault of the senses and the nerves; it is out of asceticism, out of unworldliness, precisely, that we bear it.