The Wasteland: Augustine Of Hippo
At the tail end of Book 2 of The Confessions, Augustine proclaims the following:
And I became to myself a wasteland.
In context, Augustine is recollecting his youthful days. During these days, he imagined he was the furthest from God imaginable.
He recollects an event where he stole solely for the sake of stealing. There was no physical need, it was only for fun.
Looking back on it as a changed man, he realizes how wicked of an act that (and by extension, he) was.
He realizes that this period of his life, full of sin and depravity, was none other than him becoming a wasteland to himself.
I can think of few stronger words to describe one’s own life. A wasteland: Deserted, empty, worthless, devoid of life, full of refuse, squandered potential, and on.
That is how he saw his own life.
Through a study of the Confessions, we see an all too familiar trend. The condition of Augustine did not just appear out of nowhere. He was not a saint one month, and the next became a wasteland. The full picture is clear, and it is a familiar pattern to most of us paying attention.
The process starts with tolerance. Augustine, and his father, were both worldly. They desired the riches of the world and were willing to go to any depths of tolerance to fit in and to thrive within that world.
Augustine himself as a youth not only tolerated sinners, but tolerated even the worst of them and their actions. Because it allowed him the worldly gain.
What followed this first degeneration was encouragement. After a long enough period of tolerance, one starts to encourage sin. In their own life, and then in the life of others. This is why, when Augustine went out to steal, he went with a group so that the event, and feelings, could be shared among many. He was encouraged by others’ depravity, and he likewise encouraged others into their own debasement.
The familiar trend ends with compulsion. Now, without repentance, Augustine had to do even greater sins to acquire the same feelings as the lesser ones used to provide. He became trapped. He felt like a prisoner of his own decadence.
The end result of such a situation without intervention is to become to oneself a wasteland.
But through this, we see that all too familiar trend.
The steps of decadence are as follows: tolerance, encouragement, compulsion.
These particular words of Augustine have always stuck out to me, even when I first read this work when I was much younger. I always remembered the (personally) infamous wasteland statement, and it has always been an interesting thing for me to think back to.
When I was young and unsaved, the wasteland statement seemed profoundly dramatic and foolish, given such a “small sin” as theft. But it still stuck out, nonetheless. I stole as a youth, likewise for fun, and I did not want to admit to the depth of this statement. I was called out. Directly. Boldly.
When I entered my questioning phase, the wasteland statement became a philosophical question of much worth. I spent time thinking on it, but solely from a materialist perspective. I was still lost in the fullness of understanding.
Now meditating on it, I see that deepness and intimacy of the self-admission from the depths of one’s own soul. A beautiful, and at the same time, frightening, observation of the reality of man. A condemnation of us all. We are all wastelands.
I seem to enjoy it now more that I truly ‘understand’ it. Augustine is not alone. I too once was a wasteland to myself. I can now understand Augustine’s admission with a new level of clarity and appreciation.
But perhaps, more important than that, I can see its applicability across a much larger domain.
It is not just the people that become wastelands. Entire nations do as well.
Likewise, that process is no different: tolerance, encouragement, compulsion.
We see how this played out in the United States. We first tolerated evil. It became taboo to fight for the culture or the soul of the nation. We were told the only focus was on the physical, such as the economy, or the political institutions. We were told it’s “old school” to defend the virtues of the nation. In short, we became tolerant. No different from Augustine.
For the United States, it did not take long for our tolerance to turn to encouragement. Various sins and cultural degenerations quickly changed from a small group of freaks into highly promoted favorites of the regime. Everyone was encouraged to take part, or to at least publically approve of the degeneration.
What was once not even tolerated in private became widespread accepted to the point of open inclusivity.
Almost equally quickly, the encouragement turned to compulsion. Anyone living in the United States can no longer deny this. If you so much as speak out against certain things, such as sodomy, abortion, transgenderism, or other moral perversions, you risk being doxxed and fired from your job. In many Western states, you face jail time.
Even if you don’t want to partake, you have to. It is everywhere. The movies, the books, the advertisements, the products you buy, everything is infested with it.
Yet, these degenerations were not even tolerated just a few decades ago.
We should not be surprised to see this. A nation is a living entity, just like a person. Nations can die and be born, just as humans. They could be virtuous or they can be malevolent, just as humans. It should come as no surprise that they could also turn themselves into wastelands through depravity.
What is perhaps most interesting is that we can see this progression from tolerance to compulsion on a national scale.
We can see how the United States itself became a wasteland.
Spiritually deserted, empty, worthless, devoid of life, full of refuse, squandered potential, and on.
It is fascinating to me that Augustine could so clearly see how, and when, he became a wasteland. His journey helped me to see not only my own but also that of my own nation.
Also, lest you think this is an article with no hope: The story has not yet ended.
Augustine was a wasteland to himself, but he was revived. I was also once a wasteland to myself, but by God’s grace I have been made whole.
In the same manner, there is a remnant of us in the United States that will also be healed. In fact, I believe that is happening now, as many of our own are being called to us in larger and larger numbers. The awakening we are witnessing in these past two years is astounding. I have seen nothing like it in my near decade of being a public dissident writer.
More of our own are seeing the wasteland that surrounds them. The desolation, the lies, the lack of solutions. But keep hope; They are also turning from it. Our numbers grow. God is preparing His people.
That wasteland is not the end of the story. On the contrary, it’s only the beginning. Augustine put it into Book 2 (out of 13) of the Confessions for this very reason. The lowest must be reached before the highest can be achieved.
The wise man should apply this lesson to themselves and our national condition. We are in the abyss, but we will not remain here.
Our future awaits. But only for those willing to first escape the wasteland of our own doing.
Read The Confessions Online For Free: Project Gutenberg
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