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"I started to smile later; first in sleep, then wake: it told me about me, and I thought it was so; for we see the same thing in other kids, but I do not remember it by myself. Therefore eventually, where I was became aware; I wished to express my wishes to those who could please them and I could not; because they were in me and were outside, nor could they come into my spirit through any meaning of themselves. “ This passage was a depiction of the growth of a person from infancy to adolescence. The slow process of the loss of innocence is seen in the change of our reactions to various situations in our lives. When young we can barely process our surroundings, as shown by Augustine by the smile we have in our sleep an later in our wake that shows we believe in ourselves and those around us but as we become aware we lose that and begin to see negativity and we slowly lose smile. We become less content with ourselves and sadness and jealousy begins to creep in.
“For there is an attractiveness in beautiful bodies, in gold and silver, and all things; and in bodily touch, sympathy hath much influence, and each other sense hath his proper object answerably tempered. Worldy honour hath also its grace, and the power of overcoming, and of mastery; whence springs also the thirst of revenge. But yet, to obtain all these, we may not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor decline from Thy law.”
In this passage, the author confronts the topic of our view on our bodies and other worldly possessions. The passage signifies the sin of lust over worldly goods including the attractiveness of our bodies the amount of wealth one owns in the world as well as revenge. It is a plea that one should leave all these and change since we have become swept away by their value and devalued ourselves since we crave them more. The passage symbolizes our walk away from God due to greed for possessions of this world.
“Among such as these, in that unsettled age of mine, learned I books of eloquence, wherein I desired to be eminent, out of a damnable and vainglorious end, a joy in human vanity. In the ordinary course of study, I fell upon a certain book of Cicero, whose speech almost all admire, not so his heart. This book of his contains an exhortation to philosophy, and is called "Hortensius." But this book altered my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself O Lord; and made me have other purposes and desires. Every vain hope at once became worthless to me; and I longed with an incredibly burning desire for an immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise, that I might return to Thee. For not to sharpen my tongue (which thing I seemed to be purchasing with my mother's allowances, in that my nineteenth year, my father being dead two years before), not to sharpen my tongue did I employ that book; nor did it infuse into me its style, but its matter.”
In book three, this passage has a significance in the in-depth study of the extent of human vanity in adolescents. During teenage years, most people fall back into vanity as a method to validate who they are and this is the same sin the author explores in this passage. It shows the numerous tools one can use to embrace their vain ways, such as the book he read during this time. The author also shows the power of the tongue as to how he used it as he thought he had an immortality in wisdom.
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Augustine, and F. J. Sheed. The confessions of St. Augustine: books I-X. Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1970.
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