Favourite things: Penguin Great Ideas

It is well-known that Betty has a fairly hefty thing for Augustine. She also has a committed fondness for Unity Books and Penguin. Imagine her excitement when she gets to go in and peruse the Penguin Great Ideas display.

And these are the tip of the iceberg — the series includes Robert Louis Stevenson’s Apology for Idlers, George Orwell’s Decline of the English Murder, Virginia Woolf’s Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid, Søren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death, William Morris’s Useful Work versus Useless Toil, Plato’s Symposium, Marco Polo’s Travels in the Land of Kubilai Khan, even Revelation and Job in one slim volume. Each book is small and pleasing, in lovely paper, beautifully designed, and cheap. Great ideas, indeed.

I have a tiny wee crush on Augustine

He knew what’s what, I tells you. When I read him, I find myself gazing fondly at the words in a demi-fugue state, as if tasting caramel. I’m not worried: these little crushes never last, of course, although it has been a wee while…

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.

Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first. To call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher?

Who will grant it to me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you should come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself?

Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.