MetaConfession

I blame Augustine.  If it wasn't for his writing his Confessions way back when, none of us (including me and Elizabeth Gilbert) would ever have had the idea that it was a worthwhile, perhaps even healing thing to confess our sins publicly before our fellow human beings and God.

I can just hear Augustine's original readers: "Who does he think he is, this professor of rhetoric, complaining about how he feels guilty for stealing a couple of pears?  It's embarrassing, doesn't he realize how privileged he is, what with his education and prestigious career?  And all those details about doubting himself and his inability to stay chaste!  You'd think he'd have better things to do than to whine about why it took him so long to find God.  And blaming the Manichees for misleading him, that was just uncalled for."

It couldn't have been easy reading then, just as for many it still isn't now, and I'm not talking about having to read through all ten books for an undergraduate course in Western Civilization.  "Ah, but," you'll say, "Augustine had a philosophical point to make; you and Elizabeth Gilbert are just pampered white women who don't know how good they have it."  Um.  Right.  And Augustine was a member of one of the most privileged classes of humanity ever to walk the face of God's green earth, an upper-class Roman citizen in the heyday (sort of, the parallels with our circumstances today are at times, shall we say, unsettling) of the Empire, highly educated and blessed with a glittering career.  As Wikipedia puts it: "At the age of thirty, he had won the most visible academic position in the Latin world, at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers"--not bad for someone from Thagaste.  But then he went and embarrassed himself by whining about pears.

No, I don't think that anything that I've written thus far on my blog has come close to the insights that Augustine had about our human condition.  Perhaps then readers like PapaFreeak would be a little more willing to forgive me for not living up to their image of what a professor at a prestigious university should be.  But it is nevertheless unclear to me why it should be such a sin to confess that I don't live up to that image, not even in my own mind, much less God's.*  It seems to me to smack rather of pride to pretend to a certainty about the value of my work, particularly my writing, or to refuse to allow others (including my students) to see the work that I have had to do in order to get where I am, including the work on my self as a human being.  Ah, that we all could live up to the roles that we play on this stage!  Oh, that we should never let our masks slip so that others might see the flawed human being behind the smile! 

If removing that mask means others see me at times as (in PapaFreeak's words) "petty, envious, and self-pitying," so be it.  I rather suspect his contemporaries said much the same thing of that champion whiner King David when he first published the Psalms.

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation,
nor chastise me in thy wrath.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak.
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled 
and my soul is troubled exceedingly.

But thou, O Lord, how long?

Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul. 
O save me for thy mercy's sake, 
for there is no one in death that is mindful of thee,
and who shall confess to thee in hell?

I have laboured in my groanings.
Every night I will wash my bed;
I will water my couch with my tears.
My eye is troubled through indignation.
I have grown old amongst all my enemies.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,
for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The Lord hath heard my supplication.
The Lord hath received my prayer.
Let all my enemies be ashamed and be very much troubled.
Let them be turned back and be ashamed very speedily.

--Psalm 6 (Douay-Rheims translation)


*Does God have a mind?  I don't think so, but then how does He think?  See how quickly confession leads to theology!

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