LITERATURE: Confessions – Setup

While it is not with thought of critique here, for story or narrative style, I can’t help but allow that to enter into the reading despite my best efforts to alone enjoy Augustine for the wisdom and philosophical theory he offers.

Who then are you, my God? What, I ask, but God who is Lord?  For ‘who is the Lord but the Lord’, or ‘who is God but our God?’  Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and ‘leading’ the proud to be old without their knowledge’; always active, always in repose….etc."  (p. 5)

Augustine is quoting scripture here, and yet by recalling it in this text, he is affirming his belief.  What smarter way to start out this narrative but by buttering up the one who you believe controls your life, or at the very least has the answers you seek.

What a wretch I am!  In your mercies, Lord God, tell me what you are to me.  ‘Say to my soul, I am your salvation’ (Ps. 34:3).  Speak to me so that I may hear.  (p. 5)

And inevitably, the biggie:

What, Lord, do I wish to say except that I do not know whence I came to be in this mortal life or, as I may call it, this living death?  I do not know where I came from.

(…) My infancy is long dead and I am alive.  But you, Lord, live and in you nothing dies.  You are before the beginning of the ages, and prior to everything that can be said to be ‘before.’ (…) In you all irrational and temporal things have the everlasting causes of their life.  Tell me, God, tell your suppliant, in mercy to your poor wretch, tell me whether there was some period of my life, now dead and gone, which preceded my infancy?  Or is this period that which I spent in my mother’s womb?  (p. 7)

Rather boldly, Augustine asks God to explain the mysteries of the soul. He oddly puts the question as to existence prior to birth, rather than the more common wonder of permanence beyond mortal death.

And with such humble piety and great homage of words, do you think he’ll get an answer?

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