You pass through the long security line at the United States Capitol building inWashington, DC. While the line of tourists streams forward into the Exhibition Hall, you turn right, and head to the Senate appointment desk. There, you sign in, get an ID badge, and are guided by a security officer to a large meeting room. You mingle with political staffers, reporters, and various notables. Soon, your state’s Senator walks in. You introduce yourself, talk to the Senator one-on-one for several minutes, describe what you care about, and how s/he can help improve US policy. The Senator hears you out, responds to your concerns, and connects with you on a human level.
This story may sound unreal, but it does happen. I’m living proof, as that is my story. I, along with Agnes Vishnevkin, my wife and fellow Intentional Insights co-founder, met with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown at the constituent coffee hour that he holds regularly. We talked with him about the issues we cared about, such as using reason and science to inform education and family planning. We also shared with him about Intentional Insights and its mission of translating complex academic research into practical strategies and tools that help people achieve their goals in daily life. He heard us out and expressed support for our issues and perspectives, and endorsed the mission of Intentional Insights. I was especially surprised when, after I told him I research meaning and purpose and decision-making practices in the Soviet Union, he started speaking to me in Russian.
Apparently, he studied Russian as his undergraduate major, and still remembered it, which impressed me quite a bit.
So what does this political advocacy have to do with meaning and purpose? Well, a strong sense of meaning and purpose clearly correlates with serving others. Likewise, developing and cultivating social and community bonds generally leads to a powerful feeling of a meaningful and purposeful life. And my and Agnes’ meeting with Senator Brown at constituent coffee hour included both.
We met Senator Brown as part of the 2014 Lobby Day and Policy Conference hosted by the Secular Coalition for America. We received training in how to lobby politicians, panel presentations on how to advocate for reason-based political decision-making, and supporting materials on the benefits of using science and data to inform policy. Such political advocacy offers an indirect but powerful means of serving others through influencing the government to adopt the most rational approaches in serving the public good. Moreover, the event offered the opportunity to develop and cultivate social and community bonds with fellow Americans who cared about reason-oriented political decision-making. I was excited and enthused to meet so many others across the country who wanted the government to make decisions based on rational evidence, not on traditional cached thinking patterns, gut reactions, genetic differences, or anti-science dogmatic claims.
The Ohio Secular Summit blog post describes how those who participated found it an empowering and meaningful experience. This demonstrates on a concrete level the research-based evidence of how we can gain a sense of purpose and meaning from serving others through political advocacy, especially when united together with members of our community in a way that helps cultivate social bonds. Calling, sending letters, e-mailing, and signing petitions is harder to translate into a visceral sense of meaning and purpose. I would suggest stopping and thinking through intentionally about how you serve others through your political advocacy to advance the public good. Through such actions, you can become a true agent of change in your society, and find meaning and purpose through helping create a world where the government relies on research-based strategies to evaluate reality clearly and make effective decisions, enabling all of us to live optimally happy, healthy, fulfilling and flourishing lives.
- Have you engaged in any political advocacy, by yourself or with others in your social circle?
- If so, what benefits do you think you gained?
- If not, how could you gain benefits from doing so? How could your local community and our society as a whole can benefit from such activities on your part?
- If you think these activities would be beneficial for you, what are practical steps you can take to help yourself and others in your social circle engage in political advocacy?
P.S. For additional resources on a science-based approach to finding meaning and purpose, check out this free workbook endorsed by Dr. Richard Carrier, Dr. Bob Bhaerman, and other scholars and secular activists; use this free science-based web app to evaluate your current sense of meaning and purpose; and also consider the wide variety of others resources on meaning and purpose available at Intentional Insights.