by Saint Augustine
Confessions Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Section.Paragraph)
I was obliged to memorize the wanderings of a hero names Aeneas, while in the meantime I failed to remember my own erratic ways. I learned to lament the death of Dido, who killed herself for love, while all the time, in the midst of these things, I was dying, separated from you, my God and my Life, and I shed no tears for my own plight. (I.13.1)
He's talking about the Aeneid, the Roman epic written by the poet Virgil, which has been taught to every student of Latin since it was written around 25 BC. Augustine may love him a tragic love story, but his appreciation of literature seems to distract him from a very real problem. For Augustine, literature isn't a conduit for genuine emotion, but a fake substitute for the real deal. Like the Splenda of the soul.
Tears alone were sweet to me, for in my heart's desire they had taken the place of my friend. (IV.4.3)
This passage is really an exploration of grief. Why do we feel sad when we lose loved ones? Is it just that we miss them? Is it something more? Does a belief in God change how we feel about it? Why can't we control our emotions? And what is so soothing about crying during times of grief? That's a lot of implications for one little statement.
I lived in misery, like every man whose soul is tethered by the love of things that cannot last and then is agonized to lose them. (IV.6.1)
The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away (Job 1:21), right? That's one of the problems of having it made; you have a lot to lose. Augustine seems to be saying that it's not worth it, even when that thing "that cannot last" is a beloved person. So is he saying that love his bad? No. He's saying that attachment to anything that isn't God is bad. But compare how he reacts to his friend's death as a young man to how he reacts to the death of his mother after he has converted. Is there a big change in his feelings? We certainly think so.