Welcome to the first day of the New Year. Welcome to the first of 365 days where you can make a real difference. Whether newly vegan or a seasoned activist, today is the day where you can improve your health, the health of the environment, and most important of all, the health and happiness of other sentient beings who share our planet. Today is a fresh day of a fresh year, but every day of the next 364 days is a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
The framework for this endeavour is love and compassion. For ourselves (yes, we may stumble), each other (no one is perfect), the innocent beings who suffer mightily at the hands of our supposedly superior species, and even (as hard as it may be) the ones who knowingly or unknowingly inflict such suffering. What would love do is a question that can guide us as we try to make the world better.
Joy may thus seem like a frivolous component when there's so much animal (both human and non-human) suffering going on, but without the lightness and hope that joy brings, it's too easy to get swallowed up in the pain and darkness that most of us confront daily. It would be wise for us to remember that many of us humans are drawn in part to other beings because they instinctively know how to live in the moment, how to derive pleasure and joy in the ordinary activities of living. Some of us may kid ourselves into thinking that we are more advanced, but we would do well to learn from those we denigrate.
You may have asked yourself upon reading my series of previous posts what excitement had to do with being vegan. In short, life's too short to be without it. In my own particular case, coming up with new ideas is when I feel most fully alive and is one of my biggest sources of satisfaction. The point here isn't what actually excites you (like feelings, they're neither right nor wrong), but how you apply your passions to making things better. There's lots of ways activists can contribute to animal well-being, and doing what you're good at, what you en(joy), and what gives you energy, is the surest way to become and stay involved. After all, we're in this for the long run!
What can YOU do? Well, lots. And it's up to you to decide how others will be best served. There's a plethora of skills, interests and knowledge that's needed and for you to draw upon. The key is doing what personally draws you in and what you find satisfying and sustaining. Don't make the mistake though of trying to do too much, thinking you can or should do everything. You can't, and any attempt will backfire. I even sometimes wonder if some of the ex-vegan spectacular about-face stories are the result of burnout. Can't do what I thought I could, so won't do anything at all. The aim here is balance. Be a super duper activist if that's what you want, but don't let it be your whole life. In other words, don't live in a vegan bubble. It won't help them at all, nor you.
Laughter, like joy or excitement, may seem superfluous as well when lives are at stake, but it really isn't. If you're going to try to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself as well. Laughter releases endorphins, releases and provides energy, and is vital especially because of the often-grim nature of what we face and do. A sense of humour is key, even more so because of the stereotype that vegans don't have one!
Gratitude, as talked about in the prior post (can't believe I forgot to mention Vegg by the way!), can grease the activist engine so to speak. Building upon gains and successes develops confidence and stamina, having a supportive vegan community (even if only online) strengthens your resolve to keep doing what you're doing. And what you're doing is creating a vegan world. Slowly perhaps, but it's becoming more visible, more real and more concrete year by year. You're part of an historical movement (future generations may say with pride that you were the first in their family to go vegan) that will one day change the world forever. And the lives of her inhabitants.
Being a fan of Seth Godin (does that make me a godinite?), I'd like to end with a few questions he raised in his blog post today:
A year ago today, do you remember where you stood?
Are you more trusted? More skilled? More connected to people who care about your work?
How many people [sentient beings] would miss your work if you stopped contributing it? *
Today is the first day of 365 fresh days. So enjoy, and use wisely.
p.s. after drafting this post, I of course stumbled upon a book that covers what I tried to convey here, but likely more convincingly and probably better written -- check it out: The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way
* ironically, as I was typing those words, I received an unsubscription notification from a long-time blog reader, snort, so my final tip would be to stay humble! ;)