Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Still Sleeping

This week in my Varies of Early Christianity class we are reading Augustine. It is surprising how easily I connected with his ideas, though he wrote in the 5th century and here I am in the 21st. This semester I've been thinking a lot about addiction. Whether it pertains to my family, my friends, or myself, it seems as though addiction has been a common trend for me this semester in a detrimental way. In Augustine's "Confessions," he addresses the attractive pull of vices in a way that helped me understand their power.
"The burden of the world weighed me down with a sweet drowsiness such as commonly occurs during sleep... Noone wants to be asleep all the time, and the sane judgement of everyone judges it better to be awake. Yet often a man defers shaking off sleep when his limbs are heavy with slumber. Although displeased with himself he is glad to take a bit longer, even when the time to get up has arrived."
Habits are easily formed and even more easy to fall back into. All my detrimental habits are ones I enjoy in the moment, but regret later. Reason tells me one thing, and desire another. "Confessions" was written with many aspects of faith in mind, a few being chastity and converting to Christianity. It is in this context Augustine further writes:
"But I was an unhappy young man, wretched from as at the beginning of my adolesence when I prayed you for chastity and said: 'Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.' I was afraid you might here my prayer quickly and that you might too rapidly heal me of the disease of lust that I preferred to satisfy rather than suppress."
I think this applies to so much more than sexual desire. Whenever I have vices that I feel like I can't get ahold of, it's because consistently waiting until next time to fix the problem. I have heard people say, with ironic indignation in their voices, anything that feels good is probably a sin. By this I think they mean the suppression of drinking, sex, drugs use, or even chocolate gorging. The tradition of the church has been to ban all of these actions, perhaps to stave-off potential excess in any of these areas. Historically the Church's view says: To avoid any problems, do not engage in the first place. I understand this philosophy-- addiction is a slippery slope. I've seen the downward spiral of alcoholism affect a friend, starting from occasionally being excessively intoxicated on the weekend to getting kicked out of bars on Tuesday nights. However, I think moderation shows much more internal power than deprivation. Can I have one piece of chocolate without eating the whole box? Can I drink one beer without taking seven shots? Can I be aware of, and engage with, the potential of addiction without falling into it's trap?

Coming out of the Lenten season, I have returned to Facebook. Do not think I'm being dramatic as I say that Facebook is definitely detrimentally addictive. "Creeping" people has taken hours away from my life. So why don't I just delete it all together? Because I don't think Facebook is all bad. It allows me to keep in contact with my friends abroad, see the growth of my cousin's baby boy, and make sure my brothers are staying in line. Just like a glass of red wine can be good for the heart, Facebook in moderation can keep me more socially connected. To me, self-discipline is much more admirable when enacted with temperance, rather than denial.

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