Zoe Weil on "the MOGO principle": An excerpt from Most Good, Least Harm.

December 17th, 2010 12:01 pm by Kelly Garbato

Zoe Weil at College of the Atlantic July 2009 via the IHE on YouTube.
(Click through for a detailed description of the video,
as well as additional clips of the 90-minute talk.)
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Good morning, y’all! Long time no see. In the wake of veganmofo, I’ve been so completely and utterly exhausted that the mere though of blogging is enough to send me, diving with no small amount of frenzy, back beneath my unintentionally festive, red-and-white striped bedsheets. (Burnt out, that’s me.) Luckily, I have several guest posts lined up which, along with a few fluffy, holiday-themed pieces, should carry us through the rest of the year! (Emerging from behind the clouds, Mr. Golden Sun shines in approval! Yes, I’m in a weird mood today; a week’s worth of criFSMas chores will do that to a person.) Let’s get to it, shall we?

Zoe Weil is the founder of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), a group dedicated to training humane educators “big” (read: professional) and “small” (i.e., the rest of us). The IHE offers a number of online courses and in-person workshops to help spread the principles of humane education to teachers and students alike (not that the two groups are mutually exclusive, mind you!), including its Humane Education Certificate Program (HECP) and “MOGO” (most good) workshops.

Coming this January is the 30-day online course A Better World, A Meaningful Life. (In attendance will be Deb, one of my co-bloggers at Animal Rights & AntiOppression; keep an eye out for a possible post or two from her!) Based on Ms. Weil’s most recent book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life, the course explores how we as individuals can align our actions with our values. If you’re like to learn more, keep reading for an excerpt from Most Good, Least Harm, or check out the 8-minute video I’ve embedded above. (You may remember that I also interviewed Zoe for AR&AO back in August.)

Most Good, Least Harm by Zoe Weil (2009)

Excerpted from Zoe Weil’s Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life (2009)

During my sophomore year in college I embarked upon a quest for inner peace. I yearned for relief from a persistent lack of purpose and meaning in my life. I began to study various philosophies and religions, hoping I would discover within them that elusive inner peace I sought. One evening, I was talking with a rabbi about my struggle to understand and experience faith. He told me not to worry about faith, that it didn’t matter what I believed. “What matters,” he said, “is how you live and what you do.” These words eventually led me toward my life’s work and to a realization of what inner peace is all about.

I stopped questing for inner peace, but not because I “found” it. Rather, I realized that inner peace is not a thing to find; it follows inevitably from what we do. When we act peacefully, living with compassion and respect for everyone—people, animals, and the earth—we experience greater inner peace. Moreover, we help bring peace to our world.

My book, Most Good, Least Harm, is based on a very simple premise: when we do the most good and the least harm through our daily choices, our acts of citizenship, our communities, our work, our volunteerism, and our interactions, we create inner and outer peace. I call this way of living “MOGO,” short for “most good,” and it has become the guiding principle of my life.

The MOGO principle is simple in theory, but it asks much of us. It requires a willingness to learn new information and a commitment to conscious and deliberate choice-making that demands our integrity, courage, wisdom, perseverance, and compassion. While at first glance such demands might seem challenging, embracing the MOGO principle puts us on a lifelong journey that helps us realize peace within ourselves as well as create a peaceful world.

I realize that it can be very hard to imagine a peaceful world given the state of things—the horror of war, poverty, genocide, and human oppressions; the escalating degradation of ecosystems on which all life depends; the unimaginable cruelty that is perpetrated institutionally on animals, and the attachment to materialism that consumes us as we consume the products of our desires and the resources of our planet.

Yet, we humans have faced seemingly insurmountable problems in the past, and we’ve triumphed many times. Apartheid in South Africa is over; Mahatma Gandhi has shown us that non-violent resistance can topple an empire; and women have gained the right to vote in democracies across the globe. While few of these successes have been fully realized, many people could not have imagined the end to these injustices prior to their demise. And, although humanity’s cruelties and failures persist, our positive achievements are enormous and unstoppable. These positive achievements have happened because individuals like you have chosen to make a difference.

Some may be pessimistic that MOGO living can truly change intractable problems and create a peaceful, humane, and healthy world. Yet the MOGO principle is not just for the optimistic. Walking the MOGO path is joyful and meaningful in and of itself and inevitably restores our hope as we, and others who share our vision, persevere and create healthier lives and a healthier world. As former Czech Republic president, Vaclav Havel, has written: “I feel a responsibility to work toward the things I consider good and right. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to change certain things for the better, or not at all. Both outcomes are possible. There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.”

If you’d like to gain strategies and support for pursuing a joyful, examined life and helping create a just, compassionate, healthy world for all, then I invite you to sign up for our 30-day online course, A Better World, A Meaningful Life (the next session runs January 3-28, 2011). It’s a great opportunity to do more good for yourself, other people, animals, and the earth. Many of our participants have found the course life-changing and transformative. We think you will, too.

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One Response to “Zoe Weil on "the MOGO principle": An excerpt from Most Good, Least Harm.”

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