What Will You Leave Behind?

Dr. Tom Landy speaks to SLU faculty, staff, and grad students

by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Last week, at our annual May event, Dr. Thomas Landy (Director, Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross) talked about the importance of seeing as a foundational aspect of Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit education. He explained that the act of seeing deeply – of paying attention – is at the heart of Jesuit traditions.  It’s important to see the world and one another and ourselves as we really are, both the good and the bad, if we are to bear witness to the created world and the possibility of the divine in that world. As Dr. Landy explained, the notion of seeing, in this way, is fundamentally a theological proposition for Jesuits, whether or not we (as members of a pluralistic university) encounter it as one.

As Dr. Landy talked about the importance of teaching students to see deeply, he expressed a common frustration many of us feel at Jesuit institutions: the idea that the magis – the “more” – can often be experienced as a “do more” mindset, wherein we pile more and more mission-focused aspects of our work onto our existing stack of professional responsibilities and duties.  In deepening our understanding of Jesuit values and traditions, and in thinking about how we will do the work of Jesuit education more intentionally, it is important, Dr. Landy said, to figure out what we will leave behind as we apply new understandings.  He spoke not of legacies but of letting go.  In one poignant anecdote, he described handing each student in a class a stone, and asking them to leave it on an altar, let it symbolize one thing they will leave behind, let go of, in order to do something else.

As you complete your grading for this semester, as you contemplate what more you will do in your teaching next term; in your research; in your service commitments to campus and community – I invite you to identify one thing you will leave behind in order to create space and energy for a new commitment.  What no longer serves your passion? What no longer serves your students, or your course goals? What no longer advances your scholarly inquiries?

Find one thing – if only a small stone – that you can leave behind to create space for something new.

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