Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Book III, More Comments 2

Book III begins with a condemnation of lust that vibrates strongly through the passage.

Chapter/Section 1:

“I came to Carthage, and all around me in my ears were the sizzling and frying of unholy loves.”

In Chapter/Section 2:

“Why is it that it runs into that torrent of pitch which boils and swells with the high tides of foul lust, changing itself into them and of its own free will altering its own nature from a heavenly clearness into a precipitation of depravity?”

In Chapter/Section 8:

“Indeed even that bond which should exist between God and us is violated when the same nature, of which God is the author, is polluted by the perversity of lust”

…and lust as a metaphor:

“Such sins fall under these headings and they spring from the lust of power, the lust of the eye, the lust of feeling—sometimes from one of these, sometimes from two, sometimes from all three.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Book III - More Comments

I don’t think it would add any value for me to say that we see Augustine acting out the grandeur of his humanity by behaving as an anarchist rather than as an authentically religious person--to use the terminology of Luigi Giusssani.

In more common terms, Augustine is “sowing his wild oats.” Moreover, we see the beginning of Augustine finding himself. We see the very beginning of him developing his conscience. We see the beginning of him taking stock of his experiences and learning from them. The Divine was at work here, always urging Augustine on to something else, just as the Divine is acting the same within all of us.

Giussani talks about our drives and desires. Quite often, when we finally find the object, place, person or idea that we think will finally make us happy, afterwards we feel an, “Is that all there is?” kind of feeling. Giussani teaches us to not despair in this situation. He wants us to use these experiences to prompt us to something beyond. That something beyond, of course, is the ultimate reality, the meaning of life, which is God.

Incidentally, Augustine’s engagement with the theatre, literature and the philosophy of his day is something that both Luigi Giussani, John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI would personally appreciate. I think they would all say that these were among the more important “experiences” that ultimately led Augustine to the ultimate reality.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Book III

“I came to Carthage, and all around me in my ears were the sizzling and frying of unholy loves.”

Augustine describes, meditates, and ruminates on, at length, his college experience. It is amazing to see that the experience is no different now than when it was in the late 300’s in the Roman Empire. He writes of going to the theatre. No lover of the theater would appreciate his puritanical commentary! After what, 20 years, Augustine is very dismal in conveying any appreciation of the theatre. He tells of being associated with a group of arrogant, malicious fellow students called the, Subverters. Even then he felt ashamed of them.

Augustine tells of his admiration of the style of Cicero. And then tells of his reading of Hortensius and how it turned him on to philosophy. At this time too, Augustine chose to explore the Holy Scriptures, but decided that they were unworthy to be compared to the grandeur of Cicero.

“And so I fell in with a sort of people who were arrogant in their madness, too fond of the flesh and too fond of talking, in their words were the snares of the devil and a kind of birdlime compounded out of the syllables of your name and that of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.”

“But you were inside me, deeper than the deepest recesses of my heart and you were above me, higher than the highest I could reach.”

At this time in his life, Augustine asked the question about the origin of evil with respect to God, just as so many people today ask the same.

He goes on at length about the law of God and man. Quintessentially Augustinian, he cites the crimes of the men of Sodom, and then again invokes the metaphor of lust: “Such sins fall under these headings, and they spring from the lust of power, the lust of the eye, the lust of feeling…”

Throughout this Book and elsewhere, there are many allusions to Plato’s cave. Most strongly, in Book III: “…you hear the groanings of the prisoners and you free us from those fetters which we have made for ourselves.”

Just as some college students today get involved in new age religions, cults, and various off-the-beaten track beliefs, Augustine writes of his involvement with Manichaenism.

Augustine describes the deep anguish of his mother, Monica, over his sins and heretical beliefs

“And you stretched out your hand from on high and drew my soul out of that deep darkness.”

I am leaving out all of Augustine’s philosophical and theological commentary surrounding these events. They are substantial, and I believe have had great influence on Christian thinkers since then.

I think that the "moral" of the story is that for a student who was raised with the right values, that no matter how misguided or confused they may appear while in school, that if they pursue the truth, they will find it. Or it them.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Book II, Chapters 4-10

“I became to myself a wasteland.”

Augustine describes the famous incident when he was sixteen, when he and his friends decided to have some fun by stealing the pears from a neighboring farmer’s pear tree. The incentive and enjoyment of the crime was simply that it was forbidden, as well as pride and narcissism.

Augustine again uses the fornication metaphor: “So the soul commits fornication when she turns away from you and tries to find outside you things which, unless she returns to you, cannot be found in their true and pure state.” He continues, “So all men who put themselves far from you and set themselves up against you, are in fact attempting awkwardly to be like you."

The late Fr. Luigi Giussani opined that there are two kinds of people that capture the grandeur of being a human being-- the anarchist and the authentically religious person. In the case of Augustine and his friends, they were behaving as anarchists. It is also similar to something in Dante that is quoted by Giussani: The giant Capaneus is chained by God to hell. He cries out to God, “I cannot free myself from these chains because you bind me here. You cannot, however, prevent me from blaspheming you, and so I blaspheme you. This is the true grandeur of man.” To me this is an anarchist's attitude as well. (And by the way, Giussani’s response to this is to say, “But isn’t it even greater to love the infinite?”) Augustine and friends were trying to act-out their human freedom, but as anarchists, which I think is common in adolescence. "Come on, let's do it," and we become ashamed at not being shameless."

Fun is an exercise in freedom. It is reveling in acting out freely. It is a usage of the freedom that we are entitled to as human beings. The difference between fun and a crime is that fun doesn’t shouldn’t hurt anyone.

The last line of Book II is, “I became to myself a wasteland.” The famous poem by T.S. Eliot jumps immediately to mind. I did a Google search and also found references to Carthage and other things from The Confessions.
To read "The Waste Land" go to:
The click on T.S. Eliot, then click on "The Waste Land"