What is to give light must endure burning. ~Viktor Frankl
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. ~Pablo Picasso
During WWII, a promising young jewish psychotherapist named Viktor Frankl was given an opportunity to escape the Nazis. He had obtained a passport – a golden ticket that would save his life and allow him to continue his groundbreaking work on the human search for meaning. But ultimately, guided by a responsibility to help his parents through the suffering he knew was coming, he remained.
Frankl was ultimately sent to Auschwitz, where he counseled himself and his fellow prisoners through surviving the un-survivable. His experiences in the camps solidified what he had always theorized: life demands meaning.
When there is meaning, there is survival.
Time and again, he saw that those who had “something to live for” did just that. One prisoner yearned to see his young son again. Another, a scientist, was driven to finish the work he had begun before he was sent to the camps.
After the war, he continued to see that people who found a meaning in their struggles powered through them. He determined that “[s]triving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”
This is all the more interesting at this time of year, when we’re bombarded with messages that we should all be searching for “happiness.” Books and seminars tell us to find our happiness with this secret formula or by repeating that affirmation ten times every morning. Articles peddle the “top ten tips for finding happiness.”
Frankl knew better. He knew that “happiness” is fleeting and vapid. It’s the emotion that we feel after we’ve opened the perfect present, or lost the five pounds, or gotten the pretty dress. It’s fun while it lasts – so fun that some people chase that happiness dragon their whole lives.
But happiness is an emotion derived from receiving. It’s a selfish emotion, really. Primal. Instinctive.
Even animals experience happiness.
But humans are different from animals; we look for more than happiness. We look for a reason. We look for a purpose in our lives, a way to give above and beyond ourselves. We look for transcendence of purpose; a way to leave an imprint on the world that lasts long after we are gone.
If happiness is taking, then purpose is giving – and it’s through the giving that we find contentment and satisfaction.
The Resistance has given us a way to give ourselves for a higher purpose, and it’s that purpose that has kept many of us going. This past year has been full of emotional turmoil. Psychologists claim that they’ve seen a rise in anxiety among their patients; articles and books describe how the American psyche is handling the devolution of our democracy.
But go to a meeting of activists, and you’ll see and hear something quite different.
There’s an electricity in the room that hasn’t dwindled since November 2016. (It’s actually increased since we turned the page on 2017.) There’s a certainty of purpose, a renewed self-worth, a feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that our contribution is meaningful – if not downright essential.
So in a few weeks, those who entered 2018 looking for happiness and quick fixes will probably feel unfulfilled. We’ll see more articles about people abandoning their New Year’s resolutions, and about depression, and about anxiety.
But for the Resistance, 2018 holds so much potential. We know our purpose. We know that this is our time to use our unique gifts to better not only ourselves, but our country.
Our community didn’t exist a year ago. We created it with shared values, shared energy, shared hope.
We’re not just surviving this period in time.
This is our time.
Let’s get to work.
Actions: (It’s a short week!)
Wednesday: Start 2018 By Registering More Voters!
I’ve seen a fantastic trend: organizations and people commemorating big events like the Women’s March by having voter registration drives. Awesome idea! You can do it too!
Here are some ideas:
- Encourage and register college students: The folks at Campus Vote Project have a great toolkit that organizers can use to help make their campuses more voter friendly. And the Campus Election Engagement Project has truly fantastic resources to increase student engagement and turn out the vote. Why not partner up with a local college’s Dem. club to see if you can lend a hand – or some resources?
- Register to vote, and make it easy for your friends to do so with the League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org, where you can register yourself and/or send the link to other friends that might not yet be registered.
- Commit to bringing voter registration materials to every public event that you have. Holding a local town hall/meeting/seminar/other public event? Bring voter registration materials. Help people check to ensure they’re registered (and registered with the right address, etc.). Have information about what kinds of ID are required. Start making voter registration and education second nature to your organization.
Let me know what you plan to do – I’d love to help you spread the word!
Thursday: Fund CHIP
We’re all glad that CHIP was given emergency funding, but that funding is temporary. That’s just cruel. Imagine being the parent of a child who needs CHIP insurance to survive, knowing that in just a few months the funding would yet again run out. Would you sleep better? Probably not. So please – take a minute or two this week and remind your Senator that our kids deserve better.
Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because while it’s great that CHIP has received emergency funding, it’s temporary – and that’s not acceptable. I can’t imagine being a parent of a child that relies on CHIP insurance right now – I’d be terrified. Wouldn’t you? What is the Senator’s plan to ensure that CHIP gets full funding right away to help his/her constituents sleep better at night? Thanks!
Friday: (Missouri-specific) Send a New Year’s Message!
You all might remember that earlier this fall I introduced you to It Starts Today-Missouri – which uses recurring small-dollar monthly donations to crowd fund Democratic nominees for the Missouri state legislature. For as little as $2.48 (one penny per state house race, and one nickel for each state senate race to account for their larger size), subscribers contribute to every single Democratic nominee’s state leg campaign.
If you’re a Missouri resident, you know that the situation here is dire. Last year, 60% of the state legislative races either had no nominee, or the nominee was so underfunded they didn’t even have enough for a single district-wide mailer. We can do better. We need to do better.
If everyone reading this would sign up we’d be well on our way to our goal of giving each candidate a floor of $.50 per district resident. (That’s $18k per state house candidate and $88k per state senate candidate.)
And if you’re feeling extra spunky, you can let Senator Roy Blunt know that he inspired you to fund every Democratic nominee. Our goal is to send an avalanche of cards – so that the GOP leaders of Missouri begin to recognize that we’re a force, and we’re coming. For $2.50 to cover printing and mailing, we’ll send Blunt the card below. Just for you. In fact, I will personally address it – with glee! (BTW – We don’t include your name on the card, but send it on your behalf.)
I do love sending a New Year’s greeting. Don’t you?
And this is just the first of what we hope are many state campaigns, so if you don’t live in Missouri, never fear. We are likely (hopefully!) coming to your state soon. And if you want to lobby for your own state to be included – I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.
If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.