Confessions by Augustine

From Book I  [Childhood]

Discusses attempts at communication before he was able to speak. As he grows he observes how others use words to express themselves. He finds school lessons torturous, yet if he doesn’t learn he is beaten. It seems like no one thinks whipping children is horrible except him. Parents and teachers seem to think punishing him is no big deal. He loves to play which is punished, but he notes that grown men do the same things and are rewarded. He dislikes learning, especially when forced, but that is exactly what happens. No one does well when they are forced to do something—even if it is for their own good. God was right for punishing me because I eventually did learn, and that is the only way my education would have happened. “…every disorder of the soul is its own punishment.” He feels he is supposed to be more enmeshed in the stories he is learning in school than he is within his own life. As a boy I was wrong to love the empty and hate the useful. When I was able to interpret a piece of work better than others in the class I would win great applause. Was all that not just smoke and mirrors?


From Book II  [The Pear Tree]

As a teenager I was bent on sinning. I had a strong appetite for flesh and was a horny youth. My parents cared less about my morals and more about me being able to give fine speeches. I ran with a gang and we would steal stuff just for the thrill of it. I loved the evil within me; I loved being bad for its own sake. It wasn’t that I needed pears because I had better pears of my own. Once I stole them I threw them away. Perhaps it was the thrill of acting against God’s law. I found pleasure in the forbidden only because it was forbidden.


From Book III  [Student at Carthage]

I loved the thought of love. I wanted sex with no commitment. I hated the very thought of God. I was polluting my relationships but trying to cover my debased feelings and desires. I fell in love but made myself unhappy with jealousy. I wonder why the most popular plays are the ones that make us cry? We want to be joyful. Do we get some sort of thrill from being able to pity others? Everyone in my day wanted to be a lawyer. I thought the less honest I was the more famous I would be. As I studied I found much of my classmates’ behaviors disgusting. I would study Cicero to learn rhetoric, but what I really sought was immortal wisdom. While studying the book of Cicero I began to have thoughts beyond the book; it made me shift interests. When I read the bible at this time it seemed dumb and simplistic compared to Cicero and other authors I’d read.


From Book V  [Augustine Leaves Carthage for Rome]

I was invited to Rome for more prestige and money, but the real reason was because I heard the students behaved better. I made the place I was living seem worse and the place I was going sound better than it really was. My mother cried when I left. In the bigger picture, my going away was to bring her more happiness than she could predict.


From Book VI  [Earthly Love]

Mother had come to be with me. She was upset I wasn’t yet a Christian. At least I’d stopped being Manichean. I became engaged. Mom picked out the girl, but I had to wait because she wasn’t yet old enough to be married. About ten friends and I would debate how to make a better world. We became very excited about living in a communal house. Then we remembered our wives and knew they wouldn’t go for such a thing, so we dropped it. My girlfriend left and left the baby with me. My heart was ripped out. Then I realized that I didn’t want marriage, I just wanted sex. I took another woman, but my heartache did not go away.


From Book VIII  [Conversion]

Continuing to sin was more comfortable than the way of the Lord I had not tried. My mind was telling me that I couldn’t break out of my old habits. I knew that I should go in a new direction, but I was so scared. I saw so many men, women and children turning toward Christianity. Why not me? The message was that I must turn away from my sin—stop my ears to my sinful desires. My buddy, Alypius, saw me struggling and crying. Will I forever have to apologize to God? Why not end all of my uncleanliness right now? I heard a voice on the wind that seems to say “Take and read” and I felt this message was about the bible. Whatever I read first will be a sign: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.” From that moment on I was totally changed. Mother was overjoyed.


From Book IX  [Death of His Mother]

On our way back to Africa mother died. My mother was the one that brought me to God. Over time, Mom became a big fan of wine. When she once got into an argument with another woman, Mom was called a drunkard. It hit her so hard that she never drank another drop. Mother treated her husband as her god and accepted all his actions with patience. Mother would not stand for servants speaking against her or disrupting the harmony of her family; they would be punished. She was a peacemaker. She did not tell people anything negative she had heard about them. Not only should we never use words to harm, we should speak kindly to engender peace. She converted her husband toward the end of her life. She treated everyone like she was their mother. We were discussing the presence of Truth—just us two alone. She said that she had attained all her goals and that there was really nothing on earth to keep her here. She asked her sons to remember her at every altar they may visit. She didn’t mind where she was buried because she would always be the same distance from God. My son (about 16) began to cry. We didn’t want to be sad because she had not died miserably, nor did she wholly die. My heart grieved because the situation was so new. When I was taking care of her she called me a good, dutiful son. We had always lived together. In front of others I would hold my emotions, but God knew my heart was crushing. I had a good cry session alone with God. I know my Mom is in heaven. I remind you of her good deeds and pray for her sins. Please keep her in your protection.

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I'm a doctor of philosophy in Literary and Cultural Studies which makes me interested in everything! I possess special training in text analysis, African American literature, Women and Gender Studies, American lit, World Lit and writing. I work as an assistant professor of English in Memphis.

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