The passage of the Confessions in question (also familiar to lovers of Eliot's Wasteland): "I came to Carthage, where a cauldron of shameful loves seethed and sounded about me on every side. I was not yet in love but I was in love with love [amare amans], and by a more hidden want I hated myself for wanting little. I sought for something to love, for I was in love with love [amare amans, again]; I hated security, and a path free from snares." The point being that Augustine, afraid of real commitment, chose not to love people but instead the subjective experiences of attraction and intimacy, which of course only fed his frustration. He was in love with love, not with an actual person.
Augustine continues, with what could just as easily describe many of our popular entertainers: "Therefore, I defiled the very source of friendship by the filth of concupiscence, and its clear waters I befouled with the lust of hell. Yet foul and vicious as I was, with overflowing vanity, I took pride in being refined and cultured." One need only think of the recently uncovered rape culture of Hollywood (as if there had ever been a doubt), whose members have--for decades now!--arrogated the role of our moral and cultural educators.
To finish the passage, here Augustine remarks on how its downright providential that superficial love, unlike the genuine article, always fails: "I plunged headlong into love, whose captive I desired to be. But my God, my mercy, with how much gall did you sprinkle all that sweetness of mine, and how good you were to do it! For I was loved, and I had gained love's bond of joy. But in my joy I was bound about with painful chains of iron, so that I might be scourged by burning rods of jealousy, and suspicion, and fear, and anger, and quarreling."
This year, Valentine's Day coincides with Ash Wednesday. Thank God. I hate Valentine's Day for all its mercantilised erotomania, the awkward neckties, the hasty reservations, the second guessing--so much second guessing--the glaring fact that you can't pin the ineffable motions of the heart to a calendar. I suppose it's cute when the darlings come home bearing their Valentine construction for you. In fact, it's very cute. But isn't it also kind of weird that the images they have cut and glued together ultimately derive from adult romance? Is romantic love really the primary analogate of human love? And isn't this confusion only heightened by the school mandate that everyone give everyone a valentine treat, presumably for the same reason that zero-sum games are increasingly discouraged? What precisely is all this supposed to inculcate? Romantic love is after all necessarily exclusive. It's a mystery to me, the whole thing's a mystery to me.