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Do What You Are Doing

I want to follow up on what I was writing about: the very modern tendency of checking electronic communication (texts, cell phone calls or messages) while in the presence of a real live human being.

Several of you wrote back to agree, to say that you, too, find the practice of checking texts while talking to someone to be rude.

But my chief objection to checking our electronic devices while in the presence of another human being is not its “rudeness.”

“Rudeness,” after all, is relevant.

At a football game, screaming at the top of your lungs to distract the visiting team’s offensive line is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged; at a golf tournament, talking during play, even in a whisper, to distract a golfer’s concentration is considered so rude you may get escorted out by the marshals.

Besides, who I am to write about what’s rude, or not? Leave that to Miss Manners, the etiquette advisor; I’m Fr. John, the pastor/priest.

So, I want to make it clear that my objection to checking electronic devices while in the presence of another human being (unless of course it’s a true emergency, or you excuse yourself to take the call/check the message) is a spiritual one.

It’s about divided attention.

It’s about being fully present, in the moment. Paying attention to what you are paying attention to.

While on retreat a few weeks ago, I ran across an expression, in Latin, that kept coming back to me: age quod agis.

Literally translated, it means “Do what you are doing.”

Loosely translated, it means, “Just do what you are supposed to be doing, attend to your daily responsibilities, your schedule.”

Such a simple sentiment. Yet (at least, for me) such a challenge!

Because unfortunately, that’s not the way most of us live. Truth be told, that’s not the way I’ve lived, most of my life.

Most of the time, we tend to live much of our day either in the past (thinking about what or might have been, what you’ve done, how lovely things “were”) or in the future (thinking about what will or might be, where you’re going, what needs to be done next, how good things “will be.”)

Now, of course, a certain amount of that is natural and good. We need to reflect. We need to plan.

But where do we live, most of our day, most of the time?

What takes up most of our thoughts and attention?

The present -- being fully and truly present in the present moment, this day?

Or the distraction of something or someone else, the distraction of the past or future?

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus said, “for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

In other words, age quod agis -- do what you are doing.

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