Sunday, August 21, 2005

Augustine the undergrad

It is interesting to see a figure like St. Augustine, who some would characterize as a negative and puritanical figure, describe his early life in a manner that is probably familiar to almost any undergrad student today. From Book Three of The Confessions:
To Carthage I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves bubbled up all around me. I searched about for something to love, in love with loving, and hating security, and a way not free of snares... I remained without desire for incorruptible food, not because I was already filled thereby, but because the more empty I was the more I loathed it. My soul was far from well, and, full of ulcers, it miserably cast itself forth, craving to be excited by contact with objects of sense. Yet these had these no soul, and would not inspire love. To love and to be loved was sweet to me, and all the more when I succeeded in enjoying the person I loved. I befouled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I dimmed its lustre with the hell of lustfulness; and yet, foul and dishonourable as I was, I craved, through an excess of vanity, to be thought elegant and urbane. I fell precipitately, then, into the love in which I longed to be ensnared. My God, my mercy, with how much bitterness didst Thou, out of Thy infinite goodness, besprinkle for me that sweetness! ... I loved to grieve, and sought out what to grieve at [ie. theatre]. When another man's misery, though feigned and counterfeited, that delivery of the actor best pleased me, and attracted me the most powerfully, which moved me to tears. What marvel was it that an unhappy sheep, straying from Thy flock, and impatient of Thy care, I became infected with a foul disease? And hence came my love of griefs. Not such griefs as should probe me too deeply, for I loved not to suffer such things as I loved to look upon, but such as, when hearing their fictions, that should lightly scratch the surface. These scratches became infected. Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?
He's basically unable to see love as anything more than sensual, and in love with art for art's sake - hardly an uncommon condition. He continues:
My studies, which were accounted honourable, were directed towards the courts of law; to excel in which, the more crafty I was, the more I should be praised. Such is the blindness of men, that they even glory in their blindness. And now I was one of the best in the School of Rhetoric, so I rejoiced proudly, and became inflated with arrogance...
Yup, sounds like second year to me. Text taken from New Advent and edited for readability.

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