A New Year’s Challenge and How I Gave You a Holiday Gift Without Your Knowledge

We are poised to begin the New Year.  2014…  Yaaaay…  Are you someone who loves to load up on resolutions and good intentions at this time of year, digging your treadmill out from under a mound of drying laundry and stocking the fridge with kale?  Or do you think resolutions are ridiculous and you deliberately make zero alterations to your life in the month surrounding the arbitrarily-designated “fresh start”?.

Either way, I am delivering the same challenge to you all!

But first, I just wanted to remind you about my Christmas Day post.  Remember it and how awesome it was?  No?  Probably because it didn’t happen.  I thought of you all that day, and was going to post.  The problem is, you would probably have hoped that I would send some Christmas puppy cam your way.  Or something else lovely.

Christmas gift 1

Of course by now you know that the reality would be something far more dark.  My mind would birth a yule post about global warming, or the ivory trade, or something equally un-fun.  Feliz Navidad and Happy Kwanzaa!

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And then I would have to deal with letters.

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So on Christmas Day, I gave you the best thing ever…Nothing!  Interesting side note: that is what 99.99999999999% of the world gets from me every day, but I know that one or two of you check in every once in a while, and for you, relief on that day!

In October, I took a month-long online course with the Institute for Humane Education called “A Better World, A Meaningful Life.”  This course came at a particularly significant time for me.  Now 40, childless and faithless, I struggle constantly with how to make meaning in my life.  I have noticed that friends with children pour their hearts and souls into their children, knowing that their raison d’etre is raising happy, healthy children.  Those with faith that something lies beyond this life feel that their work in this fleshy body is a mere stepping-stone to something greater (or recycled or different).  I, having no adorable carriers of my DNA nor a belief that I will meet anyone after my heart stops beating, merely stare into the black void, sure that there is nothing more than what I see, trying to figure out how to shape my hours and my days to have purpose.

All my pondering points back to some fundamental things.  First, I am really not at all special.  I say that with no self-pity; I simply mean that in the scheme of life I am one insignificant human.  Second, though insignificant, I was privileged to be born in a time and with the support, brain, air, water, and money to be able to make choices.  Thirdly, those choices can be either positive or negative with respect to other people, animals, and the environment.  And fourthly, the actual meaning in my life comes from being extremely conscious of how to make choices with points 1, 2, and 3 above in mind.  I do not want to float along hoping or thinking that everything will work out on its own because I know that it won’t.  Terrible, unspeakable things are happening in the world this very second.  A baby is dying for lack of a cheap vaccine.  An 8-year-old girl is being sold into a life of sex slavery.  Elephants are being shot for ornaments.  A rabbit’s eyes are being singed with oven cleaner to test its safety for humans.  Our North American penchant for never experiencing discomfort is leading to an over-consumption of oil that is burning the world.

Here’s the bad thing: This is all so depressing we could just ignore it and trust that as long as things seem to be going well for us, it’s okay.  We could say that things are fantastic as they are, maybe knowing deep down that that means we are on some level okay with the terrible things that are happening to others.

But here’s the good thing:  We could realize that we all have a role to play here.  We could take this opportunity to look horror in the face and say we actually aren’t okay with how things are and that we are going to make changes in our lives.  What can do?  How do I want to see the world?  What do I want to pass on to future generations?  There is no external measure for what is successful or necessary; we all know in our hearts what we need to do.

I am including below the MOGO plan, courtesy of the Institute for Human Education.  This call to be a better planetary citizen means something different to each person, but it is a delightful opportunity to take inventory of our values and goals.  I am rather clumsily pasting the text below.  Please take some time to consider this plan for the new year and beyond.  I will be right there with you, evaluating my own choices and actions.  Please post in the comments what you think of the MOGO plan, and what changes you might be making in your life.

HAPPY 2014!


MOGO Questionnaire and Action Plan

The following questionnaire and action plan gives you the opportunity to reflect upon your choices and your vision for your life and put into words some concrete goals. As you complete it, try to tap into your deepest wisdom and your most ardent hopes for yourself, your family, your community, and the world we all share.

If you haven’t already begun a MOGO journal, now’s a good time to start one.  Let this questionnaire and action plan launch you on your journey toward MOGO living, serving as a guide to which you can return again and again, and which you can modify and expand with new knowledge, experiences, and understanding.

You’ll notice as you complete this questionnaire that most questions are divided into three parts: a) What you currently do, b) What you want to learn/do, and c) What steps you will take. The purpose of this three-part approach is to help you: a) Identify the ways in which you already live according to your values, b) Inquire about what you need to learn to lead a MOGO life, and c) Introspect in order to make tangible plans so that you might live with deeper integrity.

Initially, there may not appear to be much difference between (b) and (c). You’ll be asked in (b) to clarify what you think you need to learn, or what you’d like to change. Then you’ll be asked in (c) to write down the steps you will take to follow through, and it may seem that you’ve already done this in (b). But, the purpose of the third part of each question is to make very concrete, and very manageable, plans for yourself. Please make sure to write down only those ideas that are actually possible to carry through, and which truly inspire you.

  1. The qualities (virtues) that are most important to me are:

2a. With my family, friends, and neighbors I model the following qualities:

2b. I would like to model the following qualities more consciously with my family and friends:

2c. In order to achieve this goal, I will take the following steps:

3a. In relation to my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) I take care of myself in the following ways:

3b. I would like to learn/do the following in order to improve my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual):

3c. I will take the following steps to improve my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual):

4a. In relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use, I currently make the following choices to prevent others from suffering or being exploited:

4b. In relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use, I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my values:

4c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more humane choices in relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use:

5a. In relation to animals (wildlife and those used for food and clothing, in product testing, in forms of entertainment, who are in shelters, etc.), I currently make the following choices to minimize animal suffering and exploitation:

5b. In relation to animals (wildlife and those used for food and clothing, in product testing, in forms of entertainment, who are in shelters, etc.), I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my values in relation to animals:

5c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more humane choices in relation to animals:

6a. In relation to the environment (air, salt water, fresh water, land, soil, forests, rainforests, natural resources, etc.) I currently make the following choices to live an environmentally friendly, sustainable life:

6b. In relation to the environment (air, salt water, fresh water, land, soil, forests, rainforests, natural resources, etc.) I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my commitment to protecting and restoring the environment:

6c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more environmentally friendly, sustainable choices:

7a. In relation to activism and volunteerism, I already do the following:

7b. In relation to activism and volunteerism, I would like to help more in the following ways:

7c. I will take the following steps in order to help others through activism and volunteerism:

8a. In relation to charitable giving and sharing my resources, I contribute in the following ways:

8b. In relation to charitable giving and sharing my resources, I would like to contribute more enthusiastically and effectively in these ways:

8c. I will take the following steps to contribute more enthusiastically and effectively:

9a. In relation to democracy, I’m active and engaged in the following ways:

9b. In relation to democracy, I need to learn the following in order to be more meaningfully and actively engaged and participatory:

9c. In relation to democracy, I will take the following steps to be more meaningfully and actively engaged in the democratic process.

  1. This is the epitaph I would like to have:

  2. In order to turn my intentions in this questionnaire into practical changes, I will use the following methods to support and discipline myself (this support can be internal, such as starting a meditation practice, or external, such as taking a class, finding or creating a support group, or a combination of both):

  3. Within the next week, I am going to do the following 3-5 things in order to implement this plan:

  4. I am going to put a reminder to myself in my calendar on this date to assess and evaluate my efforts and successes at fulfilling my commitments and to plan again:


MOGO plan reprinted with permission by the Institute for Human Education (http://humaneeducation.org).  Created by Zoe Weil.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. eleutheria1980
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 16:32:57

    Ummm…I love you. I just read this and honestly, it’s like we think the same. Same stages in life, same “moment” when you thought “where is the meaning in my life”? But you did what I did – you started to look at everything differently – started writing, started thinking…really thinking about things… Don’t be creeped out – I just really like that I found you blog and I am going to go through these exercises this week. Fantastic! 🙂

    Reply

  2. Jason
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 16:08:18

    I like the MOGO plan, but am troubled by the fact that I can’t figure out what the acronym stands for. 😦

    Reply

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