Quotefilter: St. Augustine
July 18, 2005 10:27 AM   Subscribe

There is a quote from St. Augustine, suggesting that while it is impossible to help all beings in need, it is incumbent on us to help those who happen to intersect with our lives. Anyone know the actual quote, and where it "lives" in his writings?
posted by everichon to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total)
Yes, but not I.TM

Meanwhile, this is an important theme of The Year of Living Dangerously (following from an email I sent recently):

In The Year of Living Dangerously Linda Hunt's character asks "What then must we do?" And then provides the answer, "We must give with love to those whom god has put in our path." (the question is Tolstoy and Luke 3:10 apparently, the answer may be original)

posted by Chuckles at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2005

Reading your question makes it clear that the answer isn't original either, of course. (hit post too soon, doh)
posted by Chuckles at 11:15 AM on July 18, 2005

I don't if that's helping or not but Wikiquote has a bunch of quotes from St. Augustine, but not the one you are talking about.
posted by McSly at 11:18 AM on July 18, 2005

You might be looking for:

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others. ~Saint Augustine

Christians often modernize this as "Take all the love you need and pass the rest on." I hate Augustine but it's a good quote.
posted by nixerman at 12:03 PM on July 18, 2005

There's a lovely little bit in the chapter "Rebellion," in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, in which Ivan Karamazov says something hilarious in reply to this.

"I've never understood how one is supposed to love the mass of mankind," he says. "To my mind it's just those whom one can't love - although it's easy enough to love them at a distance, I suppose."

Worth a read if you're interested in Dostoevsky's classic take on the topic.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:52 PM on July 18, 2005

If your looking for a specifc quote you can skip this reply, but if you're looking for something motivational along the lines of the St. Augustine quote, then this is my personal favorite:

As a man walked a desolate beach one cold, gray morning he began to see another figure, far in the distance. Slowly the two approached each other, and he could make out a little girl who kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again she hurled things into the ocean.
As the distance between them continued to narrow, the man could see that the girl was picking up starfish that had been washed all up and down the beach and, one at a time, was throwing them back into the water.
Puzzled, the man approached the girl and asked what she was doing. "I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."
"But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach," the man replied. "You can't possibly get to all of them. There are just too many. And this same thing is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"
The little girl bent down and picked up another starfish, and as threw it back into the sea as she replied, "Bet I made a difference to that one"
posted by forforf at 8:33 PM on July 18, 2005

Friendship begins with one's spouse and children, and from there moves on to strangers. But considering the fact that we all have the same father (Adam) and the same mother (Eve), who will be a stranger? Every human being is neighbour to every other human being. (Augustine, Sermon 299D)

That's probably not the quote you're looking for, but it's as close as I can find. (I'll keep looking, though, and if I find anything closer, I'll post it here.)
posted by verstegan at 12:17 PM on July 19, 2005

Possibly this is the passage you're after:

And the order of this concord is, first, that a man should harm no one, and, second, that he should do good to all, so far as he can. In the first place, therefore, he must care for his own household, for the order of nature and of human society itself gives him readier access to them, and greater opportunity of caring for them. (Augustine, City of God, XIX.14)
posted by verstegan at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2005

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