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18. And I especially puzzled and wondered when I remembered how long a time
had passed since my nineteenth year, in which I had first fallen in love with
wisdom and had determined as soon as I could find her to abandon the empty hopes
and mad delusions of vain desires. Behold, I was now getting close to thirty,
still stuck fast in the same mire, still greedy of enjoying present goods which
fly away and distract me; and I was still saying, "Tomorrow I shall discover
it; behold, it will become plain, and I shall see it; behold, Faustus will come
and explain everything." Or I would say:"O
you mighty Academics, is there no certainty that man can grasp for the guidance
of his life? No, let us search the more diligently, and let us not despair.
See, the things in the Church's books that appeared so absurd to us before do
not appear so now, and may be otherwise and honestly interpreted. I will set
my feet upon that step where, as a child, my parents placed me, until the clear
truth is discovered. But where and when shall it be sought? Ambrose has no leisure--we
have no leisure to read. Where are we to find the books? How or where could
I get hold of them? From whom could I borrow them? Let me set a schedule for
my days and set apart certain hours for the health of the soul. A great hope
has risen up in us, because the Catholic faith does not teach what we thought
it did, and vainly accused it of. Its teachers hold it as an abomination to
believe that God is limited by the form of a human body. And do I doubt that
I should `knock' in order for the rest also to be `opened' unto me? My pupils
take up the morning hours; what am I doing with the rest of the day? Why not
do this? But, then, when am I to visit my influential friends, whose favors
I need? When am I to prepare the orations that I sell to the class? When would
I get some recreation and relax my mind from the strain of work?
19. "Perish everything and let us dismiss these idle triflings. Let me devote
myself solely to the search for truth. This life is unhappy, death uncertain.
If it comes upon me suddenly, in what state shall I go hence and where shall
I learn what here I have neglected? Should I not indeed suffer the punishment
of my negligence here? But suppose death cuts off and finishes all care and
feeling. This too is a question that calls for inquiry. God forbid that it should
be so. It is not without reason, it is not in vain, that the stately authority
of the Christian faith has spread over the entire world, and God would never
have done such great things for us if the life of the soul perished with the
death of the body. Why, therefore, do I delay in abandoning my hopes of this
world and giving myself wholly to seek after God and the blessed life?
wait a moment. This life also is pleasant, and it has a sweetness of its own,
not at all negligible. We must not abandon it lightly, for it would be shameful
to lapse back into it again. See now, it is important to gain some post of honor.
And what more should I desire? I have crowds of influential friends, if nothing
else; and, if I push my claims, a governorship may be offered me, and a wife
with some money, so that she would not be an added expense. This would be the
height of my desire. Many men, who are great and worthy of imitation, have combined
the pursuit of wisdom with a marriage life."
20. While I talked about these things, and the winds of
opinions veered about and tossed my heart hither and thither,
time was slipping away. I delayed my conversion to the Lord;
I postponed from day to day the life in thee, but I could
not postpone the daily death in myself. I was enamored of
a happy life, but I still feared to seek it in its own abode,
and so I fled from it while I sought it. I thought I should
be miserable if I were deprived of the embraces of a woman,
and I never gave a thought to the medicine that thy mercy
has provided for the healing of that infirmity, for I had
never tried it. As for continence, I imagined that it depended
on one's own strength, though I found no such strength in
myself, for in my folly I knew not what is written, "None
can be continent unless thou dost grant it."
Certainly thou wouldst have given it, if I had beseeched
thy ears with heartfelt groaning, and if I had cast my care
upon thee with firm faith.