Friday, June 17, 2005

Book VI

This is another rich but easily approachable book of the Confessions.

Augustine is still in Milan. He continues to slowly work through his spiritual crisis. He continues to wrestle with the metaphysics of God. He is full of turmoil, agitation, despair, misery. Ambrose’s sermons are having an effect on him. Augustine talks admiringly of Ambrose but is puzzled by his celibacy.

It is interesting to note that having been extremely disappointed by Manichaeism after formally pursuing it for nine years, Augustine is very reluctant to commit himself to Catholicism unless he is absolutely convinced that the truth it teaches is correct.

(In chapter 5, in the first paragraph, we see Augustine being very realistic, meeting the definition of realism as defined by Msgr Luigi Giussani in the book, The Religious Sense.)

Augustine continues to talk of his friends Alypius, Nebridius, Romanianus, and Epicurus. Throughout the entire Confessions, almost unnoticed, Augustine makes many comments about friendship. I imagine much of what he says about friendship show the Hellenistic and Christian concepts of philia, and possibly agape as well. I imagine it must be the nature of society at the time that he only makes these comments about male-male relationships and not male-female ones.

Augustine doesn’t fail to give us another metaphor of lust:

“Without knowing what was happening, he drank in madness, he was delighted with the guilty contest, drunk with the lust of blood.”

He was talking about his friend Alypius and his attraction to the gladiatorial shows. As an aside, in thinking about what is morally wrong with gladiatorial shows, I think that we ought to consider the morality of T.V. shows and movies that depict assaults, killings, and more, for the sole purpose of entertainment. Even though it only involves actors, the intent and effects on both the part of the movies makes and the viewers, is the same. They say that a child in America, by the time he is 12 years old, will have seen 12,000 killings on T.V. and in the movies. There was an incident in the media recently where one of the cable T.V. shows was criticized for showing a new clip of someone being killed. The cable channel was criticized, including by other media outlets. The criticisms were over the idea that children who saw it might be traumatized. I felt it was terribly hypocritical since T.V./movies show much more dramatic killings all the time.

Sometimes I wonder why Augustine didn’t simply become a philosopher only. He continues to show his passion for wisdom, which is the definition of philosophy. His goal is to know truth and to live the happy life.

Augustine talks about people’s efforts to get him to marry, which he resists. However, he ends the chapter with a positive discussion of marriage. Remember, this was written after Augustine chose a life of celibacy. I believe it was social forces and class differences that prevented him from marrying his mistress. I believe that someone in his position was supposed to marry someone with wealth or status or who could otherwise help one’s career. Yet, Augustine expresses such extreme conflict and loss over the almost forced departure of his mistress who he seems to have truly loved. Why couldn’t a man of Augustine’s intelligence and backbone go against the social convention? Why couldn’t Augustine have God and have taken his mistress as his wife?

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