Monday, April 25, 2005

Confessions of a reader

I've recently read an extracted version of the Confessions of St Augustine. One of the reasons I picked it up at the airport was because my high school was named after St Augustine. Since then I've learnt a bit more about the life and writings of St Augustine, and so when I saw it at the airport I was intrigued enough to buy it.

The book was a bit different to what I was expecting. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was a lot more preachy than I thought it would be. As an autobiography it was ok, but the thing I didn't like was St Augustine's attitude toward God. It's very much "all the worthwhile and good things I've done are all God's doing, and the bad things just examplify the areas I need to become closer to God".

The thing I don't like about this kind of attitude is that it ignores the abilities and the accomplishments of people. In Augustine's case, his transformation from a freewheeling rebelous youth to a respectable holy man. Regardless of what inspired Augustine, he made the decision to change and improved himself, and is worthy of respect for that and his other acts. His worth is his own, not just because in a few small ways he resembles God.

I tend to believe that what a person does is more important than the motivations. Recently deceased Pope John Paul II, a very pious and honorable man, accomplished many great things during his life, and you would have to go a long way to find someone who would say otherwise, even if they, like I do not share his beliefs. He was a good man because of what he did, not why.

As a contrast to the writing of St Augustine, I have also recently read some work of Friedrich Nietzsche's, the rather modestly entitled "Why I am So Wise". A brief essay on how Mr Nietzsche feels he's so much better than the rest of us, especially the Germans. Given that my previous knowledge of Nietzsche come's from a faction in a sci-fi show known as the Nietzschiens, who were a rather self serving bunch of people with a very narrow point of view. Anyway, overall I wasn't that impressed by the writing of Nietzsche, so must only assume that his other work is of slightly more merit than this short work.

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