Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our hearts are restless until they find variations on overused quotations

"Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they blah blah." Unfortunately, that is probably how many hear that haunting opening citation from Augustine's Confessions. It's sorely over-quoted, and if only to preserve its power, we should either recite the original Latin, or change things up a bit.  And with all due respect to North Africa, there are North American saints as well, so here's Innocent of Alaska (an arctic Bartolomé de Las Casas, if you will) with roughly the same idea:
Kindling wood and oil can never extinguish fire; water alone is capable of doing so.  No more can the good things of this world ever satisfy the desires of the human heart, for the grace of God is alone able to quench our thirst's desires.
For a heartbreaking tale of kindling wood and oil being poured onto just such a burning heart, consider the following excerpt from Robert Hughes' autobiography, The Curse of Free Love (a link to which I might append a parental advisory).

There's a sublte similarity between that excerpt from Hughe's Things I Didn't Know and this depth-plumbing portion of Roger Scruton's autobiography, Gentle Regrets. Hughes lived hard and transformed his weary wisdom into intelligent art criticism. Scruton lived more, well, gently - but has also earned a requisite gravitas with which to infuse his cultural commentary.  There is something in both excerpts that makes one wonder how much can really be achieved, in the realm of letters, prior to one's fiftieth birthday.