Passion for passion’s sakePosted: January 7, 2012
“I loved not yet, yet I loved to love.”
If nothing else, St. Augustine was a passionate young man. And when he reflected upon his young and rambunctious years, he observed that he had a certain desire to experience strong, passionate emotion. He was, in a general sort of way, indiscriminate about the nature of the emotion so long as it was intense. He was irresistibly drawn to the theater “to be made sad, beholding doleful and tragical things… and this very sorrow is his pleasure.” Passionate relationships afforded him a certain double pleasure because he could experience a whole range of emotions associated with relationships: “I was both beloved, and secretly arrived at the bond of enjoying; and was with joy fettered with sorrow-bringing bonds, that I might be scourged with the iron burning rods of jealousy, and suspicion, and fears, and angers, and quarrels.”
The way Augustine describes his emotional masochism and his attraction to drama is so interesting, in part, because it raises so many questions about why he wrote The Confessions at all. Writing about his turbulent, passionate youth may be seen as an attempt to exorcise any remaining demons, but it approaches dangerously close to simply rehashing all of those youthful passions and indiscretions in an attempt to feel some hint of those embers still glowing within him. What of the person who reads and responds emotionally to Augustine’s personal struggles? Doesn’t the reader become a sort of voyeur like young Augustine at the theater? Surely, it is more moving to witness the inner turmoil of Augustine than to read about a pure soul who never needed (as much) redemption, but Augustine himself admits that this is problematic because people actually enjoy watching how low and how wicked another person will become. The reader of The Confessions must constantly be on his guard not to anticipate with a secret joy what sin Augustine will confess next. But the temptation that Augustine lays before his reader is too great. Even (or perhaps especially) the most righteous reader will take pleasure in viewing Augustine’s sinful and self-destructive behavior, if only because it makes the redemption seem the greater. So Augustine’s great cautionary tale becomes the very stumbling block about which it warns.
Beer of the Week: Corona Extra – This extremely pale macro lager is nothing special. It is watery and has a bit of a chemical aftertaste. Some may complain that since it was consumed without lime, I didn’t get the full experience. Perhaps the lime would have helped. I did, however add a pinch of salt (as I was taught to by some Mexican co-workers ages ago.) The rough surface of the salt crystals acts as a nucleation point for bubbles to form, releasing more of the beer’s aroma. It also gives the beer a cleaner finish, covering the chemical flavor and cutting any sticky feeling that would otherwise exist. Maybe the “Extra” in the name refers to the extra work one has to do to make it a reasonable choice.
Reading of the week: The Confessions of St. Augustine Book 3, Paragraphs 1-4 – If ancient Carthage had a tourism industry, the slogan would have been “What happens in Carthage, stays in Carthage.”
Question of the week: Wouldn’t young Augustine have absolutely loved the show Jersey Shore? Simply watching sinners to see how low they will sink sounds right up his alley.