Born in 354, Saint Augustine of Hippo was a saint of the Catholic Church whose writing influenced much of Western philosophy. His works have been quite controversial even among Christians, and rejected by several scholars of the Orthodox church. In his book Confessions, he tells the story of his life, and how he went from sinner to saint. While his tale is most likely to resonate with Christians or those leaning towards Christianity, I feel like there’s wisdom in it that anyone can identify with.
1. Depravity and sin
For I heard them bragging of their depravity, and the greater the sin the more they gloried in it, so that I took pleasure in the same vices not only for the enjoyment of what I did, but also for the applause I won.
Much of the moral decay in society starts like this. Not everyone feels the need to do wrong on their own, but with a little social push, they bite. University campuses are a perfect example for this quote. Even kids who were raised in very traditional families are subjected to all sorts of peer pressure in college.
They’re pushed into substance abuse and experiment with their own sex and social justice not just out of their own interest, but from pressure to conform. They’re validated when they rebel against ”outdated” values and scorned when they don’t. When depravity becomes the norm, we shouldn’t feel surprised to see people embrace it.
2. Nothing lasts forever
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.
Everything in this world is transient and cannot last forever, yet we hold on tightly to the things around us, whether they’re loved ones, fame, or wealth. They start feeling like permanent or unchanging parts of our reality. Then when we lose them, the pain can feel unbearable.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t love the people in our lives or strive to achieve success. But we must remember they’re not eternal, and that we could lose them at anytime. Even our own lives are simply borrowed time. If we are to cling to something, it must transcend the limitations of our own time. Otherwise, we’ll only be miserable as we watch our world crumble.
3. The essence of truth
I had learned that wisdom and folly are like different kinds of food. Some are wholesome and others are not, but both can be served equally well on the finest china dish or the meanest earthenware. In just the same way, wisdom and folly can be clothed alike in plain words or the finest flowers of speech.
Look at politics in the West any given day and you’ll see this in spades. Leftist politicians promoting lies with flowery rhetoric. They hide the ridiculousness of their policies and intentions behind pretty words, but a monkey in silk is a monkey no less. Truth, on the other hand, can be expressed in the simplest of terms and will still be truth.
We might do well to remember this in our own speech. Some of the wisest people I’ve known used very simple speech, not caring for excessive formalities. As important as delivery is, the meaning of your words should still take priority. A few authentic words can have more weight than an entire speech full of garbage. If all truth is lost no amount of rhetoric can make up for it’s absence.
4. Everyone has an opinion
They speak as they do, not because they are men of God, or because they have seen in the heart of Moses, your servant, that their explanation is the right one, but simply because they are proud. They have no knowledge of the thoughts in his mind, but they are in love with their own opinions, not because they are true, but because they are their own.
Everyone has an opinion on everything, even the things they know nothing about. And when our views are challenged, we hold on to them simply because they’re our views. We feel attached to them and defend them out of habit. Truth works independently from opinion though, it doesn’t care how you feel about it.
I’m sure that this has happened to most who take the red pill in one form or another. There’s a period of hanging on to what you believed before. You don’t want to change your views, even in the face of new information because then you’d be wrong and nobody wants to feel like they’re wrong. We simply can’t help but be biased towards our own opinions.
Divisive as it may be, Saint Augustine’s work contains timeless truth. It rings as true now as it did more than 1600 years ago. As society slips further away from truth, it steps deeper into all manner of sins. It was precisely Saint Augustine’s reflection on society’s ills and his own faults that led him to realize this and find truth in turn. Let’s hope the current state of the West will lead us to do the same.