Whew! I finally finished Augestine's Confessions at long last. That was the longest 200-page book I think I've ever read. The more I read ancient literature the more I realize I do not have a natural affinity for it (unlike my beloved). I'm not saying it was boring exactly or unworthy to be read. Parts of it did drag, but it was worth reading and I'm glad I did; however, I don't think I will again for a long time.
Why am I glad I read it? Because it's a classic not just of Christian literature but of Western literature. Augustine's influence on the Western church, and consequently Western civilization, is enormous. I have gained a better understanding of the man and his influence through his Confessions. I value the perspective gained from reading books written by minds from dramatically different ages and places; as C.S. Lewis said, reading old books is a corrective for historical myopia. Sometimes it's a chore to digest such correctives, but just like we need to eat our vegetables, we need to read old books. I realize that many people hold Confessions near and dear to their hearts, but I am not one of those, alas.
I was amused that Augustine makes many of the same complaints about his world as we do about ours. As a teacher, he laments the lack of diligence and respect and the love of idleness shown by his students. We hear (and I have made) that grievance in our own times. He complains~no doubt rightly~about the violence of the circuses and gladiator fights. Who hasn't heard many criticims of today's violent movies and video games? The Young Augustine chases after the celebrity actors of his day, wishing to be one of them. If the newspaper tabloids of today don't attest to millions of Americans who wish they were rich and famous, then I don't know what does. As the Preacher says, "There's nothing new under the sun." If we hold romantic ideas about how people of times past were more noble, more learned, and all around more righteous, reading a book like this will surely cure us of that notion.
One of the most interesting aspects of Augustine's life was his long, slow conversion to Christ. Although taught the Christian faith as a child by his devout mother Monica, Augustine turned from the Truth as a young man and sought to fill the void with various philosophies. For years he wandered in the dark, but all the while God was drawing Augustine to Him. He slowly chiseled away at Augustine's intellectual objections to the Christian faith until he was won. Such a drawn out coversion was a reminder to me to be patient with other people's objections and to take them seriously. What may seem like ages to me is a short time to God. I wish to see instant change, but God is sometimes content to move at a slower pace. I need to leave that to Him.
All in all, I'm glad I read Augustine's Confessions, but I'm glad it's finally over. I'm going to treat myself for the next few weeks by reading something less laborious. Maybe I can make some progress catching up that way too. :-)