Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Confessions, Redux

More than a thousand years have passed since Augustine—now known by the name Saint—started composing his famous Confessions. Augustine senses a profound interiority, a deep memory in which he finds what constituted him.  He calls this interiority God. The dream of deep interiority is not disconnected from the violence on the streets of Baltimore.  Is it paid for by black bodies, Te-Nihisi Coates?  Well, no, because Augustine was pre-American, pre-modern slave trade.  But it continues and finds a new ground.

 Our interiority is not the interiority of Augustine.  His was an interiority where there was no inner life: he watched Ambrose read to himself with amazement. One read, in Augie’s time, aloud and heard the words spoken. This explains, in part, the power of the Qur’an today, because of its insistence on a unique aural aspect. To read aloud is to populate a room with two and to make oneself into a hearer. 

Our interiority is again a striving for solitude. The best of us strive for solitude through music played at a volume where the music seeps from our earbuds into the atmosphere and irritates others.  We want to block out the external world and to have one thing for ourselves. In the automobile, with the windows closed or with the windows open.  In the latter situation we are evangelists: “Join the jam!”

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