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by Saint Augustine

Confessions Book X Summary

Sections 1-4

  • Alright, the story's over. Why is everyone more eager to hear more about Augustine's sinful life than they are to fix their own sinful lives? 
  • Well, says Augustine, if telling people where he is now will help them believe, then there's plenty more where Books I-IX came from.

Section 5

  • Augustine says that he is going to tell us about what temptations and problems he might face in the future.

Section 6

  • How do we know what God is if he isn't in the physical world? 
  • Augustine thinks about how God made everything in the world and yet is not the world.

Section 7

  • Augustine wonders how it is that he can love God. Is it through his senses? Nope, because animals have those and they don't have the capacity to love God. Huh.

Section 8

  • Now Augustine tried to understand God by thinking about how we perceive the world through the senses, and pondering how memory works. It's pretty crazy, all the things we can remember—we can't even remember everything we remember. Mind. Blown.

Sections 9-10

  • Augustine separates the "images" we have in our minds from facts, as in, bits of knowledge that we don't attain through the senses. How does the mind store facts if they don't take the form of images? 
  • Augustine concludes that at some deep level, we must already know these facts in order to recognize them.

Section 11

  • Learning something really means to have it at hand so you can use it again. If you forget something, the knowledge hasn't physically gone anywhere; you just have to find it and drive it out to where you can access it again. Solid advice, Shmoopers.

Section 12

  • Same thing applies for principles, which you don't need senses—or even the same language—to understand.

Section 13

  • Augustine also remembers remembering, which will help him remember later that he remembers. It's like God's all, remember who you are, Augustine.

Section 14

  • Get ready for an onslaught of rhetorical questions. Augustine did teach rhetoric, after all.
  • Here's the clincher: if the mind and the memory are the same thing, how is it possible to remember emotions without necessarily feeling them?

Section 15

  • Augustine wonders about how images work within memory.

Section 16

  • Now this one's a real doozy: How can we remember forgetfulness if forgetfulness itself means not remembering?
  • Here, Augustine throws up his hands and says that he does not understand himself. Meaning, he doesn't understand his own mind. Can't help you there, Augustine. But maybe Leonard can.

Section 17

  • In order to find God, Augustine is going to have to go beyond memory.

Sections 18-19

  • When we lose something, we know what we have lost and we recognize it when we have found it. The same goes for memory, like when you're trying to remember someone's name.

Section 20

  • How is Augustine supposed to look for the life of happiness that is God? Which leads him to his next big question: is happiness in the memory? 
  • Everyone wants happiness, everyone knows what it is. But how does everyone know happiness?

Section 21

  • The knowledge of happiness isn't like the knowledge of a place, a principle, a skill, or even an emotion. It's a strange universal thing, even if people achieve happiness in different ways.

Section 22

  • Augustine tells us that true joy is to love God and that everything else is a cheap imitation.

Section 23

  • People must not be very interested in happiness because happiness lies in the truth… and people don't seem to like the truth very much. Oh, snap.

Section 24

  • Augustine says that he has never forgotten about God since he first learned about him. Well, good to know.

Sections 25-27

  • Where is God in Augustine's mind? Like, literally, where is he? Well one thing's for certain: God was with Augustine while Augustine was still looking for God elsewhere.

Sections 28-29

  • No one likes going through hardship, but even when Augustine is fortunate, he worries that he might lose his fortune. Talk about a double-edged sword.
  • But if a person places their hope in God and doesn't look for fortune in the physical world, then it'll all be good.

Section 30

  • Heeeere's temptation (not Johnny, this time). Even though Augustine is now chaste, how is he supposed to stop himself from having sex dreams? 
  • Augustine says that God has the power to help him eventually resist these urges, even in sleep.

Section 31

  • Augustine suffers from another little problem: he likes to eat. This is a problem because, unlike sex, he can't just give up food completely. 
  • But he has a hard time distinguishing between when he needs to eat for health reasons and when wants to eat because eating is pleasurable. Us too, bro, us too.

Section 32

  • Now Augustine talks about… nice smells? He thinks that he can do without them, but then again, he doesn't want to be too confident in his ability to resist things.

Section 33

  • Next up on the List o' Temptations is pleasant sounds, namely music. Augustine loves him some hymns, but only if he likes the words more than the fact that it is sung. It's a bad, bad sin to be attached to something worldly and pleasurable.

Section 34

  • Last but not least on Augustine's List o' Temptations is the temptation of sight. Bright colors. Things that shine brightly, like diamonds. Who doesn't love that stuff? 
  • Augustine wishes that people wouldn't make fancy art objects that are pleasing to look at beyond their utility, because they are like traps that he cannot avoid. Unless he were to just make himself blind.
  • Luckily, though, God will free Augustine if he gets stuck looking at pretty things too long.

Section 35

  • They say curiosity killed the cat, and Augustine agrees, if by "cat" you mean "soul." 
  • The inclination people have to look at morbid things is a distraction from God, and one that is difficult to avoid even when you don't deliberately seek out morbid things.

Section 36

  • There is a third kind of temptation, beyond the temptations of the senses and the temptations of the mind: the temptation to be loved and/or feared. 
  • Yes, Augustine is proud, but he's not proud of it (see what we did there?).

Section 37

  • Having exhausted the list of sins he's knowingly committed, Augustine worries about sins he might commit without realizing that they're even sins. 
  • Basically, Augustine doesn't know whether he is strong enough to live without something unless that thing is actually taken from him. 
  • He also continues to talk about how much he likes being praised, but he isn't sure whether he likes to be praised because these praises are God's truth (good) or because he wants to be loved (bad).

Section 38

  • Pride is bad, but so is taking pride in the fact that you aren't affected by pride. If you catch our drift. There are so many pitfalls en route to godliness.

Section 39

  • Feeling complacent with oneself is also a sin.

Sections 40-41

  • Let's recap: Augustine has considered the world, the human mind, being, the senses, and feelings. None of it has led him to the truth, and now he is separated from God.

Section 42

  • Some people, who look for a shortcut to reconciling with God by performing rites and prayers, are actually doing the work of the devil. Whoops.

Section 43

  • The real mediator between God and man isn't the devil, obviously, but Christ, in whom Augustine places all of his hope.

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