It is 10AM on a Saturday, and you are walking over to Lower after raging in the Mods the night before. Your hair is a mess, there are stains on your shirt, and the sight of scrambled eggs is enough to make you puke. You sit down to eat, hoping this food is going to cure that throbbing headache when you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?”
As you try to piece together what happened the night before, the first thing you probably remember is having to yell over the bass line from the host’s crappy Spotify playlist. Thinking about it more, you realize that there were also smiles, there were laughs, there were definitely too many Snaps.
You look at your current state, think about the night before, and you tell yourself, “I had fun and people seemed to really like me. Last night was totally worth it.” You pick up your trash and head out to do some work before going back to the Mods that night. Rinse and repeat.
In his youth, Saint Augustine led a similar lifestyle. In his Confessions, Augustine talks about stealing wine from his parents’ cellar, getting drunk with friends, and sleeping around. Surely, this isn’t the same Saint Augustine that we heard about growing up? I had only known Augustine as the pinnacle of perfection, a man with everything figured out, including his relationship with God. I was given a strict set of rules and told to be more like him. Little did I know that one of Augustine’s lesser known prayers is, “Lord, grant me chastity… but not yet.”
Here’s the problem, even Augustine saw the perfect as the enemy of the good. He spent his life trying and failing to attain some ambiguous ideal of perfection, much like many BC students try and fail to attain the ambiguous ideal of a “BC man” or “BC woman.” In his Confessions, he writes “I was praised by people whose approval was at that time my criterion of a good life.” He felt a deep sense of insecurity that led him to seek the approval of others.
When Augustine sat down to write the Confessions, he gifted himself the time, space, and silence needed to ask, “What am I doing with my life?” Using writing as a medium of reflection, he realized, “The single desire that dominated my search for delight[s] was simply to love and be loved.” If we were to take a slow walk alone along the Res, if we were to stop and say hello to the people we pass on the quad, if we were to sit in our rooms alone, without music, without work, without distraction, wouldn’t we come up with the same answer? Would we not see how our restlessness comes from our deeply rooted desire to love and to be loved?
Saint Augustine spent much of his life beating himself up for not feeling that he was perfect. We constantly do the same when we spend too much time thinking about the social missteps we have made, the positions we have failed to fill, and the love we have yet to receive.
I think the most powerful piece of Augustine’s Confessions is not even his conversion to God, but his act of letting go. He was able to get himself to a point where he let go of his shames, fears, and weaknesses to allow Love to fill in the cracks of his broken heart.
Augustine seems to echo Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. When Paul felt downtrodden and despairing in his work, he heard God say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Our college years are a time of restlessness. When we gift ourselves time, space, and silence, we are gifting ourselves an opportunity to bask in Love. When we reflect on our mistakes lovingly, we no longer need to sacrifice the good for the perfect. Love becomes us; it flows through us, and with us, and in us.
For Augustine, Love was enough: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”