August 21: One or Two Digressions on Augustine's Confessions.

Why isn't this post more insightful? Blame this guy.

Hey, Harvard Classics, what's with all the Jesus all of a sudden? Luther, Milton, and now this? August seems like the least Jesusy month. December would be number one, of course, then April or March, then November because of Thanksgiving -- basically I associate Jesus with cold weather, and the nice weather with pantheism. Why are you bothering me with redemption when I'm eating corn on the cob? This would explain California's religious culture, but would completely fail to explain Spanish Catholicism.

In our excerpt today, Augustine ("St. AugusTEEN is in Florida and St. AugusTIN is in heaven," one of my college professors once said) is about to pull the trigger and turn Christian, but can't quite. It is remarked to him how happy everyone will be because of his conversion. Augustine, like an observational comic, wonder what the deal is with that:
What then takes place in the soul, when it is more delighted at finding or recovering the things it loves, than if it had ever had them? ... A friend is sick, and his pulse threatens danger; all who long for his recovery are sick in mind with him. He is restored, though as yet he walks not with his former strength; yet there is such joy, as was not, when before he walked sound and strong. Yea, the very pleasures of human life men acquired by difficulties, not those only which fall upon us unlooked for, and against our wills, but even by self-chosen, and pleasure-seeking trouble.
I give Augustine credit for not answering the question. I'm sure somewhere else he says it's Original Sin or something. My own sense is that we're so ready to expect the worst -- the house always wins, you could say -- that any time the house loses we're pleasantly surprised. The question for Augustine (and Milton) is, why is the house against us?

Also noteworthy in this reading is Augustine's anticipation of the snooze alarm:
Thus with the baggage of this present world was I held down pleasantly, as in sleep; and the thoughts wherein I meditated on Thee were like the efforts of such as would awake, who yet overcome with a heavy drowsiness, are again drenched therein...And when Thou didst on all sides show me that what Thou saidst was true, I, convicted by the truth, had nothing at all to answer, but only those dull and drowsy words, “Anon, anon,” “presently,” “leave me but a little.”
I haven't complained about the translations in a long time but this is a work that would benefit from being modernized; it probably already has, only I've forgotten it, like everything else I read in college, apparently.

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