Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 23 (Toward the Quest for True Happiness and Joy, and Truth)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 23 (Toward the Quest for True Happiness and Joy, and Truth)

“O Lord, far be it from the heart of your servant who confesses to you, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You yourself are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because of you. This is true happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy. Yet their minds are set upon something akin to joy.

We cannot therefore be certain that all men desire true happiness, because there are some who do not look for joy in you; and since to rejoice in you is the only true happiness, we must conclude that they do not desire true happiness. It may be that all men do desire to be happy, but because the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another, so that they cannot do all that their will approves, they fall back upon what they are able to do and find contement in this way. For their will to do what they cannot do is not strong enough to enable them to do it. If I ask them whether they prefer truth or falsehood as the foundation of their joy, they all reply that they would choose truth, and they say this as unhesitatingly as they say that they wish to be happy. True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in you, O God, who are the Truth, you, my God, my true Light, to whom I look for salvation. This is the happiness that all desire. All desire this, the only true state of happiness.

All desire to rejoice in truth. I have known many men who wished to deceive, but none who wished to be deceived. Where did they learn the meaning of happiness unless it was where they learned the meaning of truth? For they love truth, since they do not like to be deceived, and when they love happiness—which is the same as to rejoice in truth—they must love truth also. But they could not love it unless they had some knowledge of it in their memory. Why, then, do they not take joy in it? Why are they not happy? It is because they attend far more closely to other things whose power to make them unhappy is greater than the power of their dim memory of truth to make them happy. There is still a faint glow of light in man. Let him walk on, for fear that darkness may engulf him.

But why does truth engender hatred? Why does your servant meet with hostility when he preaches the truth, although men love happiness, which is simply the enjoyment of truth? It can only be that man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place. Men love the truth when it bathes them in its light: they hate it when it proves them wrong. Because they hate to be deceived themselves, but are glad if they can deceive others, they love the truth when it is revealed to them but hate it when it reveals that they are wrong. They reap their just reward, for those who do not wish to stand condemned by the truth find themselves unmasked against their will and also find that truth is denied to them.

This is precisely the behavior of the human mind. In its blind inertia, in its abject shame, it loves to lie concealed, yet it wished that nothing should be concealed from it. Its reward is just the opposite of its desire, for it cannot conceal itself from the truth, but truth remains hidden from it. Yet even in this wretched state it would still rather find joy in truth than in falsehood. One day, then, it shall be happy, if it learns to ignore all that distracts it and to rejoice in truth, the sole Truth by which all else true.”

“Beyond the Walls of Academia”

“Beyond the Walls of Academia”

Black scholars and thinkers should not spend all their energy writing back and countering every argument raised against the dignity and humanity of black and people of color. They should also create meaningful opportunities and strategic ways (1) to rebuild the black family; (2) to construct the black community; (3) to mentor black youths and adults; and (4) to invest in little black boys and black girls for a more optimistic black life and black community in the present and in the future, correspondingly.

The work of building democracy and constructing a new humanity and a more promising society is not the sacred duty of a particular race or ethnic group, especially in the context of a multicultural and multilingual American society. The project of building and constructing is indeed a multiracial and multicultural collaboration and endeavor. Hence, you go find existing allies in multicultural places; if they do not exist, work toward the goal to create multiracial and multicultural contexts to live a life in common, walk in solidarity, and to sustain a life of commitment and accountability to one another.

A life that is focused only in deconstructing not building is not worth living and maintaining.

A human experience whose goal is to dismantle and not to reconstruct is not worth keeping.

A house that is not unified around some common practical goals and meaningful objectives that will contribute to the common good and human flourishing in this American society will eventually fall when the bad rain comes and when the enemy breaks in the house.

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 22 (God, the Most Majestic and the Most Beautiful One!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 22 (God, the Most Majestic and the Most Beautiful One!)

“O Lord, since you are outside time in eternity, are you are aware of the things that I tell you? Or do you see in time the things that occur in it? If you see them, why do I lay this lengthy record before you? Certainly it is not through me that you first hear of these things. But by setting them down I fire my own heart and the hearts of my readers with love of you, so that we all may ask: Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty? I have said before, and I shall say again, that I write this book for love of your love….

But if my pen is my spokesman, when shall I be able to tell of all the means you used to make of me a preacher of your word and a minister of your sacrament to your people? When shall I be able to tell how you urged me, how you filled me with fear, how you consoled and guided me? Every particle of sand in the glass of time is precious to me, even I were able to set my facts in order and give an account of them. I have long been burning with desire to contemplate your law and to confess to you both what I know of it and where my knowledge fails; how far the first gleams of your light have illumined me and how dense my darkness still remains and must remain, until my weakness is swallowed up in your strength. And I do know wish to allow my time to slip away by undertaking any other task when I am free from the necessity of caring for my bodily needs, of studying, and of giving to others the service which I render them, whether it is my duty to give it or not.

O Lord my God, listen to my prayer. In your mercy grant what I desire, for it is not for myself alone that I ardently desire it: I wish also that it may serve the love I bear to others…Circumcise the lips of my mind and my mouth. Purify them of all rash speech and falsehood. Let your Scriptures be my chaste delight. Let me not deceive myself in them nor deceive others about them. Hear me, O Lord. Have mercy on me, O Lord my God, Light of the blind and Strength of the weak, Light, too, of those who see and Strength of the Strong. Listen to my soul as it cries from the depths. For if you are not there to hear us even in our deepest plight, what is to become of us? To whom shall we cry?

O Lord my God, how deep are your mysteries! How far from your safe haven have I been cast away by the consequences of my sins! Heal my eyes and let me rejoice in your light. If there were a mind endowed with such great power of knowing and foreknowing that all the past and all the future were known to it as clearly as I know a familiar psalm, that mind would be wonderful beyond belief. We should hold back from it in awe at the thought that nothing in all the history of the past and nothing in all the ages yet to come was hidden from it. It would know all this as surely as, when I sing the psalm, I know what I have already sung and what I have still to sing, how far I am from the beginning and how far from the end. But it is unthinkable that you, Creator of the universe, Creator of souls and bodies, should know all the past and all the future merely in this way.

Your knowledge is far more wonderful, far more mysterious than this. It is not like the knowledge of a man who sings words well known to him or listens to another singing a familiar psalm. While he does this, his feelings vary and his senses are divided, because his partly anticipating words still to come and partly remembering words already sung. It is far otherwise with you, for you are eternally without change, the truly eternal Creator of minds. In the Beginning you knew heaven and earth, and there was no change in your foreknowledge. In just the same way, in the Beginning you created heaven and earth, and there was no change in your action. Some understand this and some do not: let all alike praise you. You are supreme above all, yet your dwelling is in the humble of heart. For you comfort the burdened, and none fall who lift their eyes to your high place.”

“Today, we honor you and celebrate your life”

“Today, we honor you and celebrate your life”

Today, we celebrate Terrence’s 17th birthday, the first son your mother and I made with the gracious help of God our Maker. Your mommy and I are very proud of the young man you have become and are becoming. You made me proud of myself as your father; you’re kind, brilliant, obedient, respectful, and ambitious. I see a lot of me in you, and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. 🙂 Nonetheless, I admire all your qualities, virtues, and imperfections.

As a young man, you remain focused toward your goals in life and will not give up until you successfully achieve them and touch the highest star. You’re a brilliant, dedicated, and hard-working student and human being. You graduated from High School at 16 years old and concurrently earned your A.A. degree at the same time plus a Certificate in Aerospace Engineering at 16 years old.

You take good care of your siblings when mommy and I are not home and have become a role model to them to emulate. They love and admire you more than you know and can imagine. They look to you every day and watch every move you make. You’re a handsome young man with a golden heart, and God made you according to his image and has gifted you to represent him in the world and in your interactions with your peers. Don’t you ever forget that as image bearer of God, you have both moral and ethical responsibilities to imitate God’s character and moral attributes revealed in Christ; these moral virtues may include a deliberate commitment to demonstating compassion, grace, empathy, goodness, love, forgiveness, relationality, and kindness toward people. Your soul is beautiful and your mind is strong and stable.

I pray the good Lord and the most compassionate and most loving God will preserve you and continue to grace your life with understanding, kindness, wisdom, and intelligence. Most importantly, I pray he will enable you to love people, serve those in need, and commit your life to a great cause: the cause of human freedom, peace and unity, and human flourishing wherever you are and will be in the world.

I love you, Son.

Enjoy your birthday!

–Dad

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 21 (The Past and the Future Do Not Exist!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 21 (The Past and the Future Do Not Exist!)

“As a boy I learned that there were three divisions of time, past, present, and future, and later on I taught the same lesson other boys. But there might be people would maintain that there are not three divisions of time but only one, the present, because the other two do not exist. Another view might be that past and future do exist, but that time emerges from some secret refuge when it passes from the future to the present, and goes back into hiding when it moves from the present to the past. Otherwise, how do prophets see the future, if there is not yet a future to be seen? It is impossible to see what does not exist. In the same way people who describe the past could not describe it correctly unless they saw it in their minds, and if the past did not exist it would be impossible for them to see it at all. Therefore both the past and the future do exist.

If the future and the past do exist, I want to know where they are. I may not yet be capable of such knowledge, but at least I know that wherever they are, they are not there as future or past, but as present. For if, wherever they are, they are future or past, but as present. For it, wherever they are, they are future, they do not yet exist; if past, they no longer exist. So wherever they are and whatever they are, it is only exist. So wherever they and whatever they are, it is only by being present that they are.

When we describe the past correctly, it is not past facts which are drawn out of our memories but only words based on on our memory-pictures of those facts, because when they happened they left an impression on our minds, by means of our sense-perception. My own childhood, which no longer exists, is in past time, which also no longer exists. But when I remember those days and describe them, it is in the present that I picture them to myself, because their picture is still present in my memory.

Whether some similar process enables the future to be seen, some process by which events which have not yet occurred become present to us by means of already existing images of them, I confess, my God, that I do not know. But at least I know that we generally think about what we are going to do before we do it, and this preliminary thought is in the present, whereas the action which we premeditate does not yet exist in its future. Once we have set to work and started to put our plans into action, that action exists, because it is now not future but present.

But whatever mysterious means it may be that the future is foreseen, it is only possibly to see something which exists; and whatever exists is not future but present. So when we speak of foreseeing the future, we do not see things which are not yet in being, that is, things which are future, but it may be that we see their causes or signs, which are already in being. In this way they are not future but present to the eye of the beholder, and by means of them the mind can form a concept of things which are still future and thus is able to predict them. These concepts already exist, and by seeing them present in their minds people are able to foretell the actual facts which they represent…The future, then, is not yet; it is not all; and if it is not at all, it cannot possibly be seen. But it can be foretold from things which are present, because they exist now and can therefore be seen.

From what we have said it is abundantly clear that neither nor the past exist, and therefore it is not strictly correct to say that there are are times, past, present, and future. It might be correct to say that there are three times, a present of past things, a present of present things, and a present of future things.future things. Some such different times do exist in the mind, but nowhere else that I can see. The present of past things if the memory; the present of present things is direct perception; and the present of future things is expectation. If we may speak in these terms, I can see three times and I admit that they do exist.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 20 (God and Time, and the Natural World)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 20 (God and Time, and the Natural World)

“A fickle-minded man, whose thoughts were all astray because of his conception of time past, might wonder why you, who are God almighty, Creator of all, Sustainer of all, and Maker of heaven and earth, should have been idle and allowed countless ages to elapse before you finally undertook the vast work of creation. My advice to such people is to shake off their dreams and think carefully, because their wonder is based on a misconception.

How could those countless ages have elapsed when you, the Creator in whom all ages have their origin, had not yet created them? What time could there have been that was not created by you? How could time elapse if it never was?

You are the Maker of all time. If, then, there was any time before you made heaven and earth, how can anyone say that you were idle? You must have made that time, for time could not elapse before you made it.

But if there was not time before heaven and earth were created, how can anyone ask what you were doing ‘then’? if there was no time, there was no ‘then’.

Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. I it s in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and eternall al future time. For what is now the future, once it comes, will become the past, whereas you are unchanging, your years can never fail. Your years neither go nor come, but our years pass and others come after them, so that they all may come in their turn. Your years are completely present to you all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill. They do not move on, forced to give way before the advance of others, because they never pass at all. But our years will all be complete only when they have all moved into the past. Your years are one day, yet your day does not come daily but is always today, because your today does not give place to any tomorrow nor does it take the place of any yesterday. Your today is eternity. An this is how the Son, to whom you said I have begotten you this day, was begotten co-eternal with yourself, You made all time; you are before all time; and the ‘time’, if such we may call it, when there was no time was not time at all.

It is therefore true to say that when you had not made anything, there was not time, because time itself was of your making. And no time is co-eternal with you, because you never change; whereas, if time never changed, it would not be time.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 19 (What was God doing before he made the heavens and the earth?)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 19 (What was God doing before he made the heavens and the earth?)

“Those who ask ‘What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?’ are still steeped in error which they should have discarded.’If he was at rest’, they say, ‘and doing nothing, why did he not continue to do nothing for ever more, just as he had always done in the past? If the will to create something which he had never created before was new in him–if it was some new motion stirring in him–how can we say that his is true eternity, when a new will, which had never been before, could arise in it? For the will of God is not a created thing. It is there before any creation takes place, because nothing could be created unless the will of its Creator preceded its creation. The will of God, then, is part of his substance. Yet if something began to be in God’s substance, something which had not existed beforehand, we could not rightly say that his substance was eternal. But if God’s will that there should be creation was there from all eternity, why is it that what he has created is not also eternal?’

People who speak in this way have not learnt to understand you, Wisdom of God, Light of our minds. They do not yet understand how the things are made which come to be in you and through you. Try as they may to savour the taste of eternity, their thoughts still twist and turn upon the ebb and flow of things in past and future time. But if only their minds could be seized and held steady, they would be still for a while and, for that short moment, they would glimpse the splendour of eternity which is for ever still. They would contrast it with time, which is never still, and see that it is not comparable. They would see that time derives its length only from a great number of movements constantly following one another into the past, because they cannot all continue at once. But in eternity nothing moves into the past: all is present. Time, on the other hand, is never all present at once. The past is always driven on by the future, the future always follows on the heels of the past, and both the past and the future have their beginning and their end in the eternal present. If only men’s minds could be seized and held still! They would see how eternity, in which there is neither past nor future, determines both past and future time. Could mine be the hand strong enough to seize the minds of men? Could any words of mine have power to achieve so great a task?

My answer to those ask ‘What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?’ is not ‘He was preparing Hell for people who pry into mysteries’. This frivolous retort has been made before now, so were are told, in order to evade the point of the question. But is one thing to make fun of the questioner and another to find the answer. So I shall refrain from giving this reply. For in matters of which I am ignorant I would rather admit the fact than gain credit by giving the wrong answer and making a a laughing-stock of a man who asks a serious question.

Instead of this I will say that you, my God, are the Creator of all creation, and if we man the whole of creation when we speak of heaven and earth, I unreservedly say that before he made heaven and earth, Go made nothing. For if he did make anything, could it have been anything but a creature of his own creation? I only wish I knew everything that I could profit by knowing with as much certainty as I know that no creature was madebeforee any creation took place.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 18 (On Jesus Christ as the Immortal and Eternal Word and Truth of God)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 18 (On Jesus Christ as the Immortal and Eternal Word and Truth of God)

“It is in this way, then, that you mean us to understand your Word, who is God with you, God with God, your Word uttered eternally in whom all things are uttered eternally. For your Word is not speech in which each part comes to an end when it has been spoken, giving place to the next, so that finally the whole may be uttered. In your Word all is uttered at one and the same time, yet eternally. If were not so, your Word would be subject to time and change, and therefore would be neither truly eternal nor truly immortal.

This I know, my God, and I thank you for the knowledge. I know it, O Lord my God. I confess it to you. And whoever is not ungrateful for the certainty of your truth knows it and praises you for it as I do. For we know, O Lord, that the extent to which something once was, but no longer is, is the measure of its death; and the extent to which something once was not, but now is, is the measure of its beginning. Your Word, then, in no degree either gives place to anything or takes place of anything, because it is truly immortal and eternal. Therefore it is by a Word co-eternal with yourself that you say all that you say; you say all at once and the same time, yet you say all eternally; and it is by this Word that all things are made which you say are to be made. You create them by your Word alone and in no other way. Yet the things which you create by your Word do not all come into being at one and the same time, nor are they eternal.

Why is this so, O Lord God? In some degree I see what it is, but I do not know how to put it in words except by saying that whatever begins to be, or ceases to be, does so at the moment when the eternal reason knows that it should begin to be or cease to be, although in the eternal reason there is no beginning and no ending. The eternal reason is your Word, who is also the Beginning, because he also speaks to us. So he tells us in the Gospel by word of mouth. Your Word, the Beginning, made himself audible to the bodily ears of men, so that they should believe in him and, by looking for him within themselves, should find him in the eternal Truth, where the one good Master teaches all who listen to him. It is there that I hear your voice, O Lord, telling me that only a master who really teaches us really speaks to us: if he does not teach us, even though he may be speaking, it is not to us that he speaks.

But who is our teacher except the Truth which never changes? Even when we learn from created things, which are subject to change, we are les to the Truth which does not change. And there truly learn, as we stand by and listen to him and rejoice at hearing the bridegroom’s voice, restoring ourselves to him who gave us our being. He is therefore the Beginning, the abiding Principle, for unless he remained when we wandered in error, there would be none to whom we could return and restore ourselves. But when we return from error, we return by knowing the Truth; and in order that we may know the Truth, he teaches us, because he is the Beginning and he also speaks to us.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 17 (In praise of the godly Mother)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 17 (In praise of the godly Mother)

“There are many things which I do not set down in this book, since I am pressed for time. My God, I pray you to accept my confessions and also the gratitude I bear you for all the many things which I pass over silence. But I will omit not a word that my mind can bring to birth concerning your servant, my mother. In the flesh she brought me to birth in this world: in her heart she brought me to birth in your eternal light. It is not of her gifts that I shall speak, but of the gifts you gave to her. For she was neither her own maker nor her own teacher. It was you who made her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what kind of woman their daughter would grow up to be. It was by Christ’s teaching, by the guidance of your only Son, that she was brought to honour and obey you in one of those good Christian families which form the body of your Church…

In this way my mother was brought in modesty and temperance. It was you who taught her to obey her parents rather than they who taught her to obey you, and when she was old enough, they gave her in marriage to a man whom she served as his lord. She never ceased to try to gain him for you as a convert, for the virtues with which you have adorned her, and for which he respected, loved, and admired her, were like so many voices constantly speaking to him of you.

He was unfaithful to her, but her patience was so great that his infidelity never became a cause of quarelling between them. For she looked to you to show him mercy, hoping chastity would come with faith. Though he was remarkably kind, he had a hot temper, but my mother knew better than to say or do anything to resist him when he was angry. If his anger was unreasonable, she used to wait until he was calm and composed and then took the opportunity of explaining what she had done…

In the end she won her husband as a convert in the very last days of his life on earth. After his conversion she no longer had to grieve over those faults which had tried her patience before he was a Christian. She was also the servant of your servants. Those of them who knew her praised you, honoured you, and loved you in her, for they could feel your presence in her heart and her holy conversation gave rich proof of it. She had been faithful to one husband, had made due returns to those who gave her birth. Her own flesh and blood had had first claim on her piety, and she had a name for acts of charity. She had brought up her children and had been in travail afresh each time she saw them go astray from you.

Finally, O Lord, since by your gift you allow her to speak as your servants, she took good care of all of us when we had received the grace of your baptism and werr living as companions before she fell asleep in you. She took good care of us, as though she had been the mother of us all, and served each one as though she had been his daughter.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 16 (Writing about God as Vocation

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 16 (Writing about God as Vocation)

“The day came when my release from the profession of rhetoric was to become a reality, just as, in my mind, I was free frol it already. The deed was done, and you rescued my tongue, as you had already rescued my heart. Praising you and full of joy I set out for the house in the country with all my friends and relations. Once we were there I began at last to serve you with my pen.

The books I wrote are evidence of this, although the old air can still be sensed in them, as though I were still panting from my exertions in the school of pride. In them are recorded the discussions I held with my friends who were with me and my deliberations with myself when I was alone in your presence… But time could never suffice for me to set down on paper all the great blessings which you bestowed upon me, particularly at that time, since I must hurry on on to tell of greater things.”