“’It brought me no happiness, for what harvest did I reap from acts which now make me blush [Romans 6:21], particularly from that act of theft? I loved nothing in it except the thieving, though I cannot truly speak of that as a ‘thing’ that I could love, and I was only the more miserable because of it. And yet, as I recall my feelings at the time, I am quite sure that I would not have done it on my own. Was it then that I also enjoyed the company of those with whom I committed the crime? If this is so, there was something else I loved besides the act of theft; but I cannot call it “something else”, because companionship, like theft, is not a thing at all…. But as it was not the fruit that gave me pleasure, I must have got it from the crime itself, from the thrill of having partners in sin.’” Pavel repeated from Book 2 Chapter 8 of St. Augustine’s Confessions and then paused.
“I wonder why he does not consider companionship a thing. Has he gone from matter is evil to matter is the only thing that exists?” Pavel asked.
“He at least thinks companionship is a reason, if not a thing. It is his most compelling reason. How the thrill of theft compares, I don’t know. In confessing both his indiscipline in studies and his falling in among thieves, he seems to have to work pretty hard to admit he did a bad thing because of being bad. He explores in a more heart-felt, justifying way, his psychological needs at the time. He looked for acceptance from his peers in playing and in thieving. He felt the authorities that made him study were wrong and that he couldn’t stand the loneliness of separating from his friends. He also talks about how he did not respect his father and that his mother, though better intentioned, did not give trustworthy direction either. He felt on his own, and his peers provided a stop gap. So is not wanting to be completely bereft of companionship at a young age condemnable?”
“He does seem to pity his situation. Later when he talks about loving theater, he dwells on loving to feel vicariously sad.”
“I wonder if theater allows one a public expression of grief that one feels for oneself. So is his love of this expression legitimate or not?”
“There seems something kind of off about his being so hard on his teachers and parents, and on God for wanting him to be so sorry for what they lead him into.”
“Yes, but he is being as honest as he can be. I think he feels something is off too, and that is why he does think he should confess his part,” Elena added.
“Perhaps he still has some work to do in not condemning those in his circle of influence.”
“It’s hard to be honest about how things have affected you and to simultaneously justify those who appear to have made them happen.”
“The part just before where he compares himself to those who have not fallen into sin as he did is interesting, ‘There are some who have been called by you and because they have listened to your voice they have avoided the sins which I here record and confess for them to read. But let them not deride me for having been cured by the same Doctor who preserved them from sickness, or at least from such grave sickness as mine. Let them love you just as much, or even more, than I do, for they can see that the same healing hand which rid me of the great fever of my sins protects them from falling sick of the same disease.’”
“That seems more balanced and healthy.”
“Some people have to learn by experience.”
“Yes. I am one of those. I am always desperate for relief and will run here and there, where sometimes I make things worse, until I find it.”
“At least St. Augustine did have a strong drive to make things better, misguided though he was.”
“Yes, I wonder at why some seem content when things are bad with how things are.”
“Maybe they have a different idea of what is bad. They may see St. Augustine’s rebellion as worse than the subject matter being prescribed.”
“Justifying rebellion is very tricky.”
“It’s too hard, Elena.”