Of Lent, text messaging — and the true “necessities” of life …

t’s the heart of Lent, and millions of Americans are giving up something to follow traditional observances. Millions of other Americans don’t observe Lent at all. Either way, it’s the principle of giving up something I’d like us to think about.
    To introduce the idea, I have to turn to the Lenten theme and a novel idea the Italian diocese of Modena-Nonantola proposed to Catholic youth: Give up text messaging for a day. Here’s part of the message, translated from Italian by Google (with a little clean up from me):
    The diocese “proposes this year a particular fast: The Friday of Lent, we ask you to renounce the use of SMS. No SMS is just one sign, a small way to remember the importance of virtual relationships and of others not with us.”
    This is appealing to the young. That’s one reason for the diocese’s proposal. (Just a cheap marketing ploy, a friend told me.) But there’s a deeper reason, and it involves increasing awareness of the consequences of mining and trading a mineral called coltan. If you are like me, you never heard of coltan until now. Turns out this mineral is used in all sorts of consumer electronics. And much of it comes from Kivu, a region of the Congo ravaged by war – millions of deaths caused, in part, by the commerce of coltan.

    So giving up something as small as text messaging – or merely hearing about the idea – increases our awareness of the global intricacies and consequences of our actions. I know, of course, that electronic devices are here to stay, and that giving up text messaging for a day has no effect on the demand for coltan. It’s a symbolic gesture.
    Do you text message?
    Could you give it up for a day?
    If you don’t text message, how about giving up email for a day? One company I know has declared “Email-Free Fridays” – to give people relief from the constant waves of email and to create the opportunity to – get ready for this – actually meet colleagues face to face.

    How much do you need what you have? What could you do without and what would the consequences be? These are the questions we’ll discuss this week on OurValues.org. Please participate in our discussion and let us know what you think!

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