Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 12 (The Joy from Faith and Shallow Happiness)
“I was eager for fame and wealth and marriage, but you only derided these ambitions. They caused me to suffer the most galling difficulties, but the less you allowed me to find pleasure in anything that was not yourself, the greater, I know, was your goodness to me. Look into my heart, O Lord, for it t was your will that I should remember these things and confess them to you. I pray now that my soul may cling to you, for it was you who released it from the deadly snare in which it was so firmly caught. It is as in a state of misery and you probed its wound to the quick, pricking it on to leave all else and turn to you to be healed, to turn to you who are above all things and without whom nothing could exist.
Yet I know that it does matter why a man is happy. There is a world of difference between the joy that comes from faith and the shallow happiness that I was looking for…. My soul, then, must be beware of those who say that what matters is the reason why a man is happy. They will say that it was drunkenness that made the beggar happy, while my soul looked for happiness in honour. But what sort of honour did it hope to find? Not the kind which is to be found in you, O Lord.
If we were immortal, I used to say, and could live in a perpetual state of bodily pleasure, with no fear of losing it, why should we not be happy? What else could we desire? I did not realize that the very root of my misery was that I had sunk to such depths and was so blind that I could not discern the light of virtue and of beauty that is loved for its own sake, for true beauty is seen by the inner eye of the soul, not by the eye of the flesh. And I never wondered what was the source of my pleasure in discussing these topics, shameful as they were, with my friends, nor did I ask myself why, however great my indulgence in sensual pleasure, I could not find happiness, even in the sense in which I then conceived of it…
What crooked paths I trod! What dangers threatened my soul when it rashly hoped that by abandoning you it would something better! Whichever way it turned, on front or back or sides, it lay on a bed that was hard, for in you alone the soul can rest. You are there to free us from the misery of error which leads us astray, to set us on your own path and to comfort us by saying, ‘Run on, for I shall hold you up. I shall lead you and carry you on the tend.'”