Confessions

Dear Confessions,

You are a highly meditative book. You sparked further contemplations, connections, and spiritual revelations. I find I am leaving you a better person than I came in. For this reason, and many more, I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet you and spend many hours with you.

With Love,
Hannah

P.S. Book Details
Author: St. Augustine
Book Length: 484 pages
Book Genre: Classics, Philosophy
Publication Date: ~ 400 AD
Awards: N/A
Synopsis: In this intensely personal narrative, Augustine tells the story of his sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. He describes his ascent from a humble farm in North Africa to a prestigious post in the Roman Imperial capital of Milan, his struggle against his own overpowering sexuality, his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage, and the recovery of the faith his mother had taught him during his earliest years. Augustine’s concerns are often strikingly contemporary, and the confessional mode he invented can be seen everywhere in writing today.

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Confessions has the unique ability to speak across generations and challenge people to think deeper. I felt ambitious starting this book, and the fear of being “not smart enough” to read an ancient text was a barrier I had to overcome. I wonder how many other readers have been in this position and feared starting Confessions. Yet, as I read Sarah Ruden’s translation, I found myself engaging with the words of Augustine and following along with what he was saying. Nobody was more surprised than I. In fear that I was missing the deeper level of the philosophers, I sought out an additional podcast. I was encouraged at not being too off base, yet taught a lot more than I was seeing. I can see myself re-reading this book, if solely to ponder my own reality and decisions more deeply.

My biggest take away from the book actually happened at the end as Augustine spoke about memory. He changed my terminology from past, present, and future to memory, contemplation, and expectation. I am unable to look at reality in the same way. The past is a mere memory, it is not in the “present”. Yet, when we bring memories into the “present”, they turn into contemplations. Likewise, memory influences expectations, but it is not set in stone, it is an expectation of what is to come. I am not doing the concept he eloquently articulated in Confessions justice. After thinking in his way for a while, I find I have spiraled down into a philosopher’s cave. I am unable to stay in this cave for long, because my mind begins to hurt.

I found this book had a lot of themes, similar to the one of memory, that are meant to be thought over longer periods of time. My normal pace is to read quickly, so to stop and take a couple weeks to read a book is difficult for me. I was challenged in new ways as a reader in this book. And, I do believe I came out a better reader, thinker, and individual.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a facilitator in thinking deeply. Augustine writes in a memoir manner, but not in the traditional sense readers would associate with today’s memoirs. Confessions is deeply contemplative and reads like a prayer. It is daunting to read an ancient text outside of an academic setting, but rather than letting fear conquer ambition, readers get to chose to let ambition conquer fear.

Goodreads | The History of Literature Podcast

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