The Movie American Beauty And Augustine Confessions

1464 words - 6 pages

A stereotype of life is that when people are teenagers they go through a phase where they test the waters with their parents and start to rebel a bit. The teenager thinks he/she is all-knowing, which would be impressive since philosophers grasp for wisdom all of their lives, and think what their parents tell them is not relevant. The story in movies usually ends with the teenager having a revelation or growing up and realizing his parent’s were right and gains respect and love for them. In a sense he comes back home, which reflects the story of the Prodigal’s Son (Luke 15) in the Bible. Augustine uses this allegorically to explain the human condition of life. Humans travel away from their vocation of “being,” and have to travel back from nothingness to themselves so that they can be fully human again. This is a common theme among works, including the movie American Beauty. This movie displays several themes that are covered in Augustine’s Confessions, some being the ideas of authenticity/inauthenticity, ordered/disordered love, and intersubjectivity, or friendship.
In the books of the Confessions, Augustine praises God and confesses his sins while telling the story of his journey. The first half of the Confessions describe his journey away from himself, which include giving into his personal pleasure. The fifth book is when he has a revelation, and the rest of the Confessions gives the account of the process of getting back to himself, or being fully human. It is a path that took a large part of his life, but it in the end, he accepts his vocation of “being”.
The Augustian form of the prodigal son path is one of losing oneself and finding yourself once again. The way that one becomes inauthentic is that the person follows what others do, therefore being unoriginal. Going down this path of inauthenticity sends a person to a land of nothingness. For Augustine this involved giving into his human desires/lusts. In this period of his life Augustine only lived for the enjoyment of creation. He did not see it as a gift from the Creator, but took it selfishly for personal pleasure. This is the disordered nature of love, which involves the idolization of material things in creation in place of the Creator. The correct way for him to love or enjoy creation, which he comes to later, is by using creation to enjoy the Creator, God. God gives creation back to us as a gift for this. Augustine does not see creation as a bad thing, only the way someone uses it is bad. He differs from Plato in this sense since Plato saw material things as evil. But Augustine, being Christian, sees it differently since God is good and He created physical things.
A pivotal point in Augustine’s path toward disordered love was when he was in a garden with his inauthentic friends, the “gang.” They stole pears from a garden as teenagers purely for the pleasure of stealing. Augustine confesses in Book Two: chapter eight that “Especially in that piece of thieving, in which I loved...

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