I have four categories of book in my study. There are those in my 'to read' pile, those I've read, those I don't plan to read and those I would like to read, but have never got around to it. Over this Summer, for the first time I can remember, I finished my 'to read' pile and I've started reading those in the latter category. One of these is The Confessions of St Augustine, translated by Maria Boulding.
When I pick up an 'old' book I never know quite what to expect. There is a place in my mind that is convinced it will be heavy, turgid and unreadable. I guess I could be accused of what C.S. Lewis called 'chronological snobbery'. Yet, again and again I find myself having to re-evaluate my opinions. More often than not these books are lively, gripping, soul searching and mind stretching in a way that the majority of books today don't even come close to emulating. I've found Augustine's book one of these.
I think what has struck me most as I've read through it is that it doesn't feel like a book written over 1700 years ago. The human heart has not changed. Recently I heard an interview with some people who took part in the recent riots and looting excapades in London. They spoke very clearly of having no remorse, but rather a pleasure and joy in what they had done. Notice the similarity in Augustine's reflections:
The malice was loathsome, and I loved it. I was in love with my own ruin, in love with decay: not with the thing for which I was falling into decay but with decay itself, for I was depraved in soul, and I leapt down from your strong support into destruction, hungering not for some advantage to be gained by the foul deed, but for the foulness of it.
The Confessions of St Augustine, p 68.