I have a friend, Rob, an English teacher from Dublin. He’s posh in an Irish-Catholic way, which is to say that he doesn’t seem posh, at least to me but probably only because my English ears have been prejudiced to hear the Irish lilt in ways other than posh. Turns out that his dad is a VIP in Irish public life and that Rob went to a prestigious Jesuit school. He wears velvet jackets and long hair, has whole sections of James Joyce memorised, and swears like, well, an Irishman.
Our paths crossed during a secondment to a particularly ropey state school in England. The kids were a model of sullen apathy, their behaviour generally poor, their achievements moderate. One day I caught Rob writing a lesson plan. This was a fairly rare occurrence, as Rob typically preferred to let the classroom wind carry him. The plan was scrawled on a sheet of A4. At the bottom he wrote, “AMDG.”
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “for the greater glory of God,” a Jesuit dedication. At first I suspected it was a habitual hangover from his own school days, but Rob — who hadn’t struck me as religious — explained that it represented an earnest desire to dedicate life’s activities to God. Even the teaching of Shakespeare to rowdy kids.
I have begun to realise the power of this philosophy, even, or especially when, it is applied to life’s mundanities. AMDG would naturally attach itself to the most pious of our activities, but as a motto it is more useful written on lesson plans, or to-do lists, or inwardly as we perform A-Z. This is why I do not fault Julie Beck for her talk last year, at least in its most charitable reading. In fact, I think the men should hear it. Mow the lawn AMDG. Bath the kids AMDG. Do your taxes AMDG. Clean the toilet AMDG. Rake the leaves AMDG. Do the washing up AMDG. Respond to your emails AMDG. Draft a letter AMDG. Conduct a meeting AMDG. (Blog AMDG?)
Yes, a life lived AMDG has the potential to turn into Mormon-perfectionist OCD. Rob, however, never seemed obsessive, just quietly determined and remarkably cheerful. It cheers me up no end to think one can watch the football AMDG.
Anyway, my wife is sick and so I’m making dinner. I intend to defrost and microwave the leftover chili con carne and clean up afterwards AMDG. Seriously, the thought of doing it that way makes it seem so much less odious.