Obviously, I am working through Confessions – again. I try to teach it roughly once a year. I always find new things when I read it; what I find engaging is not the narrative of his life, per se, but his meditations on it. I find the contrapasso of the following line quite striking:
For you have imposed order, and so it is that the punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder. (1.xii ; trans. Chadwick)
God is a God of order – Augustine is very much a Platonist on this one – but if our mind (the thing in us that is closest to God), is disordered, its disorderliness is the punishment. Our disorder creates evermore disorder in a downward spiral – and perhaps that is what he is foreshadowing for the rest of the narrative, much like he signals his “restlessness” in the opening lines: “you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in you.” Disorderliness and restlessness are symptoms of estrangement from God; it is equivalent of saying sinfulness is its own punishment, that it is both means and end in a cycle of self-destructive behavior.