The water bottle in front of me now has a sticker with the old Ignatian motto, age quod agis: “Do what you are doing.”
As I recover from a concussion, this has been a healthy reminder. My doctor insisted on no multitasking or screentime. In this age of information, he asserted, all of us are taking in an unnatural amount of mental stimuli. This is especially concerning for young people whose brains, summoned in myriad directions, are still developing. But in the midst of the chaos of information overload, we still have a choice about where we put our attention.
I look back at my water bottle. “Do what you are doing.”
It’s reusable, not plastic, thanks to the challenge of my students for me to practice what I preach. As an environmental educator, I know students are demanding more climate education, but teachers are undertrained.
But in the midst of climate chaos, we have a choice to live simply, and perhaps, if Pope Francis is right, better.
In reality, those who enjoy more and live better each moment are those who have given up dipping here and there, always on the look-out for what they do not have. They experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them. (Laudato Si, 223)
Today’s gospel passage is a call, for me, to mental and material simplification, and a challenge for teachers and parents to practice what we preach. An invitation to focus on what matters most: the Word of Love from the one Teacher and Parent of us all. No frills.
- What am I focused on this Lent?
- Are my practices, not just my words, manifesting ecological conversion and creative simplicity?
Michael Downs serves as director of justice and kinship at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. He is also a member of the California Catholic Conference’s Environmental Stewardship Committee and the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform Working Group.