To somebody lightly skimming through the Confessions for the first time, Augustine seems to be making much of a spontaneous act of juvenile delinquency.
Yes, Augustine does this, and does so because of the darker pattern of human nature that he saw hiding behind it.
In the pear tree incident in his Confessions, Augustine describes how he and a group of friends climbed into the orchard of a neighbour.
They stripped a pear tree of its fruit "not to eat the fruit ourselves, but simply to destroy it."
He admitted that there were better pears to eat in their own gardens.
In Book Two of the Confessions, Augustine selected this relatively minor boyhood action as the starting point of his discussion of sin.
For Augustine, the incident with the pear tree was consequential because the experience showed him that something was out of balance within the deep impulses of human nature.
Here in his own behaviour he saw an example of sin being committed simply for the sake of doing evil.
To him it was a mystery worth examining as to why people - himself included - did this.
Augustine uses the pear tree incident to represent all the other wanton evil committed in his youth, and then more broadly of the general tendency to sin within all people.
(Continued on the next page.)