Journeys

On many long journeys have I gone. And waited, too, for others to return from journeys of their own. Some return; some are broken; some come back so different only their names remain.” – Yoda

 

The biggest party in the galaxy was the victory celebrations after the Battle of Endor. Darth Sidious had fallen, the Sith was vanquished and Anakin was redeemed. There was a wave of optimism that peace would descend on the galaxy and that the New Republic would bring justice and prosperity to all. On Endor, Han and Leia declare their love for each other, Luke celebrates with his friends as the Force Ghosts of his Father and Mentors look on approvingly.  Luke has arrived at the end of the Heroes Journey. The Ewoks dance and the music plays long in to the night. We can assume that celebrations erupted across the galaxy as the news spreads. “They all lived happily after” and the curtain closes on “Return of the Jedi”, the last Star Wars movie.

 

Then What?

 

Life continued and so did the challenges that life brings, even in fiction. The sun rose to another day on Endor. Everyone went back to their lives. Han and Leia married and had a child, Ben Solo. Eventually their marriage fell apart as their personalities clashed and the conflicting demands of their respective roles drove them apart and away from their only child. Ben Solo grew up in the New Republic in the shadow of his famous parents and his heroic uncle Luke Skywalker. A dark shadow also grew inside of Ben.

 

We can assume that Luke Skywalker resurrected the Jedi Order and rebuilt the Temple once Coruscant was liberated. The democratically elected Galactic Senate was also restored. At some point in the period of recovery and renewal ended. Eventually problems arose and new challenges emerged that threatened the hope promised on Endor. Ben chose the path of the Dark Side and joined the First Order. Luke exiled himself, Leia joined a resistance movement and Han returned to smuggling. The galaxy became rife with corruption and internal conflict. Once again the galaxy faced a nefarious threat.

 

In the final chapter, Rey has returned and confronted an evil force which has re-emerged from the shadows to threaten the entire galaxy with tyranny. An epic battle between good and evil takes place and the evil is once again vanquished, for good this time. Ben Solo is redeemed. The order of things is restored and peace settles over the galaxy. The Force is in balance once again. Our heroes return to where it all began decades ago on Tatooine. In the final scene Rey responds to a stranger that she is a “Skywalker”. So ends the final instalment of the final trilogy of Star Wars.

 

Then What?

 

I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become” – Carl Jung

 

There is no such thing as a “Happily Ever After” in real life. The journey never ends. No  matter how well we think things are going or not, the situation will always change. Everything is transient, nothing comes to rest for long. We may come to the end of a novel or a movie but that is the end of the story as told and known to us. Our story never ends. It continues throughout life and in one form or another long after we are gone.

 

In my more than half a century on this world I have started and ended many journeys. I used to think that these chapters were part of some cosmic joke. After all my life had not exactly been a resounding success or anything to be proud of. I always thought that if I fulfilled the expectations of others by settling down, attaining a respectable profession, a fulfilling relationship, meaningful job and the financial security required to live a materially comfortable life I would not only be successful but also happy. On arriving at a measure of each I soon realized that there is always more to be had and that true fulfilment is not wholly dependent on externals that are out of my control. Happiness is not a benchmark set by the standards of others. My alcoholism proved that there was an important spiritual element missing in my life that barred me from ever being “Happy”.

 

The Cave You Fear to Enter Holds the Treasure You Seek” – Joseph Campbell

 

I have learned that each event in my life and every person I had met played some part in my life Journey. I look back at my life and see my own trilogy unfold as a personal heroes journey of a life before, during and after active alcoholism. At the final turn of events that led to the end of each story within that trilogy I had to confront myself and arrive at some deep personal insight, some meaning. I was forced to stare hard in the mirror and confront myself. I was certainly not a hero but perhaps the journey was heroic. The journey had taught me things about myself, many which I did not want to know or accept but had to in order to move on.

 

When I hit my personal rock bottom I saw my entire life laid out before me, past, present and future. I came face to face with the person I was and was presented with a choice to fall or rise. My ego died that day, for a short moment at least.  I transcended self and saw who I truly was. I knew myself then, I had risen.

 

Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves” – Carol Pearson

 

When I sobered up I realised I would never drink again. It felt as if the door to that dark life had closed behind me and before me lay a wide world bathed in the light of a new dawn. I walked out, as if naked in to that world, unsure of what was going to happen next but certain that it would never be easy. Life did not magically become a blissful utopia, I did not transcend in to the Force like Luke or Yoda. This was no spiritual end to a journey but only a beginning. I soon found out that life still had its dramas, disappointments and demands. Life was simply moving from one chapter to another in my own Heroes Journey.

 

If we reach enlightenment is there still a “Then What”? Does everything end? The Buddha said that in life we experience the tears of ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. We would not learn, grow and improve without those tears. Adversities are opportunities in disguise. Faults are opportunities for improvement. Recovery is a work in progress. Enlightenment is then not freedom from suffering but the arrival at understanding of the meaning of suffering and knowledge of one’s true self. Enlightenment is not an ending but the beginning of a new story.

 

The hero’s achievement, in short, is to affirm life.”– Carol Pearson

 

Every story’s end heralds a new beginning. From death life springs. The sun sometimes rises behind clouds and sometimes in full glory, but it does rise to a new day. There is no ending, there is always a “Then What”. The goal of life is only to know thyself and in the end only our names remain.

 

Perhaps, in the final scene, when Rey called herself a “Skywalker”, that was the whole point of “The Rise of Skywalker”. Rey had risen beyond herself and knew at last who she truly was.

 

To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

 

Further Reading

 

Resolve

Credit: Lucas Films Ltd

 

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker ( A New Hope)

 

In a tragic scene which has become one of the most iconic in cinematic history Luke discovers his Uncle and Aunt murdered by the Empire, their bodies outside the ruins of their homestead. Grief quickly turns to fear and hate and in that dark place he finds his resolve and answers the call to adventure.

 

In order to change we must have resolve. We cannot rely solely on others and must be active in our own transformation. Others can act as guides, mentor or coaches but you are the author of your own change. You are the protagonist in your own “Hero’s Journey”.

 

Once you have decided to do something it is important to clarify in your mind why you are doing it. We are often tempted to pursue a new goal and set off before we are prepared or even willing. New year’s resolutions are an example. We give ourselves an ultimatum to change and improve our lives but fail to commit. We lack resolve. As a result we stumble aimlessly forward without a well-defined plan or even any objective. We then falter and abandon the prize we had set ourselves. A goal should always be articulated in a way that it defines the “why” and “what” you are trying to achieve before racing off to achieve it.

 

A study conducted through Scranton University and reported in the Journal of Substance Abuse found that only 19 percent of individuals follow through with New Year’s Resolutions. The main reason is resolutions fail is because they lack the resolve, the commitment and the “why”.  The main reasons alcoholics and other addicts fail to recover is because they fail to admit they have a problem in the first place. Change is the desire but desire alone is not usually going to get you far. Resolve and commitment will.

 

The transtheoretical model of behaviour change states here are six stages people go through on their journey to recovery. This is equally applied to any change in pattern or behaviour that requires concerted effort and commitment.

 

  1. Precontemplation: Denial of a problem contrary to the opinion of others and apparent evidence.
  2. Contemplation: Admission of a problem. Exploration of the costs and benefits of change.
  3. Preparation: You become mentally prepared to change through acceptance.  Surrendering to the process.
  4. Action: Doing the Work. Demonstrating the change you wish to see  even if you have to “fake it till you make it”.
  5. Maintenance: Taking steps every day to ensure that the change becomes embedded over time.

 

Relapse is the sixth stage. Almost everyone who has attempted a change has slipped in to old habits or suffered a setback.  True failure is quitting while there is still the chance to continue on the journey. On the path to being Jedi you will meet many obstacles and challenges. The temptation to fall off the path and quit will sometimes be greater than the effort required to pick yourself up and stay the course. Relapse should not be seen as a failure unless it is terminal.

 

If you had zero problems in your life and everything was perfect there would have no reason to change anything and no point in being here. Likewise if you are not ready to admit you have a problem or are not fully prepared and committed to change then the change you seek will not happen. No magical date will change that. Whether you start on January 1 or any other day makes no difference if you do not have the resolve to start with.

 

So why are you here? Why Jedi Philosophy? What are you seeking to change or improve about yourself? Do you really want to change or does the idea appeal to you more than the work? If you can arrive at answers to these questions then you admit you have a problem and are willing to change. You resolve to improve. Preparation and action usually follows.  For some people this may be self-evident, for others it may be harder to define or articulate. Often it’s easier to keep it simple.

 

Write down one thing you would change about yourself this very moment. Then ask yourself “Why” five times writing down the answer that comes to mind under each line. Dig deep to get to the “Why” to uncover hidden emotions and motivations and become more self-aware. I had a deep seated habit of catastrophic thinking. This affected my relationships and I needed to address it. In the end I had to confront that the way I reacted to adversity was essentially based on fear of punishment or loss that stemmed from a traumatic childhood.

 

What do I want to change?

I want to stop over reacting

Why?

Because it makes me anxious and upset.

Why?

Because I think the worst possible outcome.

Why?

Because I have no control.

Why?

Because I let the fear and anger dictate my reactions.

 

What upset me was not the problems I faced but how I perceived them. I can choose to allow every single bump on the road trip me up or I can accept that things will not always go as I plan. I can decide not to let it affect me that way. The reason I needed to change was because my behaviour was affecting my relationships. I wanted to achieve a higher degree of peace and serenity responding to life in a mindful way rather than reacting to it. By conceptualising it that way I became more invested in addressing that fault and more willing to change.

 

Without having resolve, change is unlikely to be enduring or meaningful, “half measures avail us nothing”. You need to care passionately about the goal and be single-minded about it giving it the focus it deserves. Accept the odds and don’t let people dictate them to you. Have a plan in mind and a destination but do not cling to either as plans change and goals may be unattainable. You need to accept that change is not easy and must be prepared to endure the obstacles, challenges and setbacks that will get in your way.

 

In order to start on the Hero’s Journey, you need to accept your call to adventure. You need to leave the “Ordinary World” behind. To do that you need a reason to be here. You need to answer with full conviction the “Why”. You need to have Jedi Resolve and be prepared to change despite the part of you that fears change and resists. This is your “call to adventure”. Do you answer that call as Luke did?

No Guru

I am neither a scientist nor a philosopher. I’m a Jedi. I don’t have to explain reality. I just have to deal with it.” – Mace Windu

 

People sometimes ask “why Jedi” and I sometimes see people in the Jedi community online debate strongly the qualities and virtues of a “Jedi of quality”. Likewise in the recovery community we often disagree on what constitutes contented sobriety and perfect recovery. Alcoholics in the 12 Step community cannot even agree on whether one can call themselves “recovered” or not. We are left wondering if we are good enough and whether we can arrive at the standard others expect. There are no Gurus here,  your inner voice is the true guide on this path.

 

The point of recovery  is not to reach a state of perfection or even reach some arbitrary standard set by others. Being sober is often enough. Being Jedi is no guarantee of achieving the rank of a Master. Demonstrating the virtues of courage, wisdom, moderation and justice and maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul is often enough.

 

The goal of anything is to improve incrementally over time and hopefully make some difference along the way. There are no Gurus in the recovery program and no true “Jedi Masters” exist in the real world. There are only people doing the best they can for themselves and those close to them. We all want to live a good and meaningful life. We all want to make some positive difference in the world. True heroes are normal, everyday people getting on with life and overcoming obstacles along the way. They are not fictional characters achieving impossible and daring feats.

 

Buddhism has its Bodhisattvas, those who approach enlightenment through dedicated practice but never achieve it in a life time. The Bodhisattvas cultivate good karma for the benefit of all living things on their life journey. Enlightenment, the achievement of “nothingness” may take countless lives to achieve. In the Vedic tradition Gurus also accumulate wisdom and knowledge in the divine. A life time of practice and application may lead to a state of spiritual bliss but enlightenment occurs once in a hundred generations.

 

In the west, Christianity has its rare saints who have achieved oneness with the holy spirit through a life time of dedication, self-sacrifice and piety. Islam and Judaism also have a spiritual ideal that equates to enlightenment.  the Socratic philosophies speak of the Sage who has lived a life unblemished by the concerns and distractions of mere mortals. The Stoic Sage perfected the virtues of courage, justice, moderation and reason in every aspect of life. The state of perfection was known to be unattainable however this did not prevent the Stoic from living those virtues to the highest standards possible. The end result was the attainment of a “good life” through compassion and service to others.

 

Failing to achieve  enlightenment in a lifetime does not make one a bad Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim or Jew. If a person works hard to make life more fulfilling for themselves and others in a meaningful way, regardless of their religion or school of philosophy, they are a being a good human. They are living a good and meaningful life. The saints, prophets, prophets, gurus and sages provide a sign post and a platonic ideal we can all aspire to.

 

Mythology also inspires. Stories describe the human experience as one in which the Hero will pursue some holy pursuit in order to transcend himself and benefit the world in some way.   The Star Wars mythology is no different. All of the main characters are involved in a journey of self-discovery and self realisation. Their actions somehow lead to a better state for themselves and others. The consequence of those actions ripple out across the galaxy. On rare occasions our Jedi hero achieves enlightenment and transcends to the Force. Their journeys inspire us through the medium of fantasy.

 

The goal of the fictional Jedi is to become one with the living Force. In doing so the Jedi arrives at the perfect states of serenity, peace, harmony, knowledge and unity with the Force. In the real world we can only hope to work towards this platonic ideal. The reward is in the work we do to progress down the path. Helping others, becoming better versions of ourselves and in some way making the world a better place, not enlightenment, are the desired outcomes. The goal of the 12 Steps is to stay sober and live a measure of contended sobriety, to grow spiritually and help others on their journey. The common theme is to improve, grow and serve not to become a Guru to others.

 

Philosophy is not about accumulating fancy quotes and devouring literature to satisfy our thirst for knowledge. The point of philosophy is to learn what is useful and apply the knowledge, skills and tools required to improve our lives and the lives of others. We are not here to be “philosophers or scientists”, but to deal with reality and be better versions of ourselves every day. That’s what being Jedi is.

 

Every day is a new chance to rise up and step forward, one foot at a time on this life journey. Eventually we will come to the end of the road and look back on a life that is spent. The question is will you look back at a life lived well? If you do you will have realised your purpose and come to know yourself. That’s more than most people can lay claim to.

 

As we come to the end of another year, ask yourself “Why am I on this journey?”, “Where do I want to go?”, “How can I be the best version of myself?” and “What do I need to do to achieve my goals?”. When you can answer those questions, get to Work.

Thanksgiving

 

(Credit: Lucas Films, Disney)

 

I’m thinking – I owe you one” – Han Solo (deleted scene, “Return of the Jedi”)

 

In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt and his Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Bobba Fett. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations.  In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends and it is a shame they removed it. Han needed to say Thank you more than anything to his friend and the reaction from Luke said it all. Thanksgiving is a spiritual act, it is nourishment for the soul.

 

This Thanksgiving what do you have to be grateful for? Often we find it hard to be thankful. Life can constantly throw up disappointment and frustration. We seem to resolve one problem only to be beset with another. We deal with issues at work, our relationships, finances and health. The list seems endless.

 

We can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough.

 

Meditate

Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?

 

Accept

Acceptance is a key way to resolve our issues. We have a choice, we can either do something about them or not. Sometimes it is better to act, sometimes it is better to wait and at times, no action is the answer. Denying that the problem exists is no solution as eventually it will force us to face it, possibly under worse conditions.

 

Commitment

Once we have accepted our problems we need to commit to doing something about them now, later or never. Make a decision and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out.

 

Act

Take action, whatever it is to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.

 

Reflect

At the end of Thanksgiving reflect on the positives in your life. List five things you have to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there is always five things you can name which you are grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.  I’m sure you can if you try. Some days you will surprise yourself that are more things to be grateful of than you can count on one hand.

 

Journal

If you keep a journal take time to write your list of gratitude down regularly to remind yourself. You can also keep a gratitude diary. Thanksgiving should be every day.

 

When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection… every time we remember to say ‘thank you’ we experience nothing less than Heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach.

 

Simple Abundance

Han Solo had little to be really grateful for when he met Luke and Ben Kenobi at the  Mos Eisley cantina. The Smuggler was sought out by the Empire and Jabba the Hutt. Han Solo had run out places to run and hide. He had a loyal ally in Chewbacca but no other friends. Over time and through many adventures Han come to know the value of friends and family that he could depend on. He had the undying loyalty and love of his closest friends around him. Solo was not so solo after all. Despite all his losses he had the greatest gift a man could wish for.

 

Today I have a purpose and meaning in my existence, I have a family to care for, a job to do, the sun is shining, more is going well in my life than not and I am sober and there is always hope for a better future.

 

Be grateful every day for what you have. Spend less time on what you don’t.

 

You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach

Hamartia

You want the impossible” – Luke

That is why you Fail” – Yoda

 

Have you ever experienced soul crushing failure? Did you learn from the experience? Were you able to take that failure and make something of it? Did you resolve to overcome the challenge or did you quit? Did you ever experience Hamartia, a failing so great that it ended you?

 

We all have faults and failings, most are not the fatal and tragic flaws of Hamartia. Our willingness to try and fail and then try again say a lot about how resilient we are. If the “Hero’s Journey” is a metaphor for life, we are all on a personal “Hero’s Journey” then we should not only expect to fail at times, we should embrace it. But we should never quit and succumb to Hamartia.

 

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” – BF Skinner

 

Hamartia

The ancient Greeks and Romans recognised that failure was essential for success. The myths described the disastrous failures as well as the triumphs of the Hero. What made the stories so compelling then and now was the way in which the Hero was able to surmount their failings and continue on towards the prize. Failure made the Hero more human yet at the same time elevated them to the status of the Gods. The legend was the success that came out of failing.

 

Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) was the Greek word that described something worse that failure. It was to reject the struggle to overcome failure, to refuse the call of the “Hero’s Journey”. Hamartia was to turn one’s back on the Gods and life itself. It was to quit and give in, to lose all Faith. A Hero who could not surmount his tragic fatal flaws and was defeated by them is said to have fallen to Hamartia. They had abandoned the Gods and the Gods had abandoned them. Hamartia is a spiritual and moral failing of the character. A tragic fate worse than death.

 

The ideal but unattainable state of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers was the achievement of the opposite of Hamartia, being free of error and failing, to be without fault, Anamartetos (αναμάρτητος). The ultimate goal of life, the “Hero’s Journey” is to arrive at this end.

 

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

 

 

The Fall and Rise of Skywalker

Luke Skywalker is the Hero Archetype of the Star Wars mythology.  In the original trilogy Luke undertakes the “Hero’s Journey”. There is the call to adventure, doubts and finally commitment. A mentor appears who guides Luke on to the path he must take. Luke makes mistakes and suffers setbacks but learns from them. On Dagobah he learns that nothing is impossible if he is willing. Through his struggles he is able to overcome his Dark Side and confront his darkest fears.

 

Luke arrives at the culmination of his journey. Through struggle, surrender, love and redemption he defeats the Sith and restores balance to the Force. The Hero is now complete. Overcoming failure and fulfilling his mission, Luke is reunited with his loved ones and lives happily ever after. Luke had overcome Hamartia.

 

We know now that the Hero’s Journey did not end for Luke at the closing scenes of “Return of the Jedi”. Luke embarked on many adventures after the Fall of the Empire.  The Journey finally ended on Ahch-To where the aged, embittered, defeated and ultimately failed Jedi Master stood at the final cross road of his life. Did the Hero’s Journey end there in ignominy or did Luke arrive at the glorious destiny intended for him? Did Luke fall in to Hamartia like his father Anakin or did he achieve Anamartetos? To rise is to achieve Anamartetos. 

 

Anakin fell to Hamartia when he surrendered to the Dark Side. The tragedy of the fall was complete in every way.  Luke could have easily fallen in the same trap but learned that while failure may be part of being Jedi, giving in to Hamartia is not. A Jedi can only be judged by how failure is dealt with and whether he or she makes something of it. A Jedi may fail but never gives in to Hamartia.

 

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

 

Stumbling Failure

The first four decades of my life seemed to be replete with failings. In many ways, looking back I was a miserable failure, but a stubborn and rebellious one. I had trouble admitting it but that fact was to some extent I had failed in almost every important aspect of my life. My character flaws and failings were too numerous to admit. Yet there I was always in the ring, ready to continue to wrestle with life.

 

There had been some successes. I had survived my troubled childhood and a come out of a short and shameful time in the Army relatively unscathed. It was a miracle that I was not been killed many times during my years of roaming the face of the Earth (Alcohol took me close to that end many times). Outside of the Army I stayed out of prison. I somehow managed to graduate with a degree and in good standing which was nothing short of miraculous considering I rarely finished anything I started.

 

Friendships formed and then floundered. Romantic relationships ignited and burned out quickly. My marriage nearly ended before it had started but persisted thanks mostly to stubborn perseverance. I was a selfish father when my kids were born. Alcohol and selfish pursuit often took precedence in that regard.  My health took turns for the worse yet I continued to drink. I seemed to make a mess of every job I took as my career faltered along. At one point I was staring down the barrel of chronic health issues, a failed marriage, career in tatters, legal issues and bankruptcy.

 

My basic flaw had always been dependence – absolute dependence – on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security and romance. Failing to get them according to my still childish dreams and specifications, I had fought for these things. And when defeat came, so did depression” – Bill W

 

 

Perfection is…..

The irony of the first half of my life was my obsession with perfection and inability to see my own flaws. It pervaded everything I did. My attitude was that if I could not achieve perfection I let the whole thing slide. In my contempt for less and complacency failure was almost always guaranteed. When I did fail it was accompanied with frustration, resentment, blame and a complete lack of self-reflection. I had abandoned the “Hero’s Journey” and had all but fallen to Hamartia. In front of me loomed the dark void.

 

Things turned around for me when I stopped fighting and surrendered my alcoholic problems to a Higher Power. By letting go I decided that failure to that point was OK. There was no changing the past and there was no forcing change. I had to pick up the pieces and with unsteady hands rebuild my life in the way I felt my Higher Power would have me.  The road to success was through a morass of failure. The issue was not whether I failed in my struggles but whether I picked myself up and continued to move forward despite those setbacks. Hamartia, giving in to my fatal flaws was not an option.

 

When success began to happen the fog lifted from my eyes. Perfection was not required, only a willingness to try and never give up mattered. I found that despite a desire to lie down and not get up, I always did. I continued to wrestle with life getting stronger with every day. Persistence and effort paid off. I began to realise the goal of  Anamartetos.

 

Thoroughly have we seen a person fail who has rarely followed our path” – Alcoholics Anonymous p.58 (The Big Book)

 

Thoroughly

Recovery is not easy. By the grace of a Higher Power I have never returned to alcohol. I often see old habits bubbling to the surface. My shadow self will come to the fore. Perfectionism, uncertainty and fear of failure will hijack attempts to try new things. I sometimes limit myself by staying with what is safe, familiar and certain. In many ways I fear that failing may undermine the foundation on which my sobriety is built.

 

By taking a daily inventory of our failings and faults and admitting to them do we begin to take action to remove them from our lives. We recognise our own inner Hamartia and we keep those fatal flaws at bay. Anger, resentment, complacency and apathy are the four horsemen of the apocalypse we avoid. We do not avoid the struggles and challenges of life. By risking failure and disappointment we open up new pathways to learn and opportunities to improve.

 

Alcoholics can be frustratingly obstinate yet remarkably dogged at the same time. When we apply the same amount of dedication to our recovery as we did to our drinking we seldom fail. Some flaws have an advantage.

 

Never Give Up” – Luke 18:1

 

Anamartetos

Experiencing Failure is a part of life. Failure is a part of the Hero’s Journey. Mistakes happen and setbacks occur. Nothing ever happens to perfection. There is no smooth sailing the entire journey. Storms will appear on the horizon and sweep in. We will be battered by waves and lashed by wind. Sometimes we will flounder on rocks and be shipwrecked and marooned. From setbacks and catastrophe the Hero emerges stronger, wiser and more resilient.  The transformation allows the Hero to move forward and complete the task and return home victorious. To reject the Hero’s Journey that is in all of us is to reject life. Like Luke we must decide what is possible or not and choose between Hamartia and Anamartetos.

 

Never Give Up!

Dreams

 

Dreams pass in time.” ― Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker

 

Jung wrote “Dreams are pure nature”. Dreams are unfettered, they are wild and reside outside our will. We have no control over our dreams yet dreams affect our lives in tangible ways. Dreams tell us a lot about ourselves if we take the time to think about them. They serve as a conduit for our imagination and serve to assist in the integration of our conscious and unconscious lives.

 

Dreams provide us with symbols that act as cardinal points that guide us on our journey. They reflect the archetypes of the human persona to which we gravitate. To dream is to express our inner desires, hopes and vulnerabilities as well as our fears and regrets. In dreaming we resolve much that happens in our inner world. To dream is to allow us to grow beyond what we are, to become whole as intended.

 

Dreams take me to places and experiences that are alluring or terrifying but always compelling. Their residue lingers through the day long after specific details have vanished from memory. Most days I forget my dreams but when I recall them in startling clarity I search deeply for meaning. Dreams are important because they are a looking glass in to our soul. They tell us more than they conceal.

 

It’s like… something out of a dream, or, I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just going crazy” – Luke Skywalker

 

 

Drunk Dreams

When I was drinking I rarely recalled my dreams. Some nights I would black out and not dream at all. If I did there would be no recollection. To be drinking and drunk was to live in a sort of a dream. My consciousness was lowered and in my drinking I searched for answers and meanings that did not exist. Illusions of myself and the world would emerge. In my drunken reverie I would imagine heroic triumphs and build myself up to something I was not.

 

My thoughts would also turn dark and loathsome. I would imagine that the world was against me, that I was not worthy. I would fall in to a dark place of self-pity, resentment and anger. In one hour I could swing from the dizzying heights of euphoria to the dark world of depression and fear and back again.  The sobering up the next day was the “waking up” to reality and the consequences of my actions. In my waking state my mind would torment me with glimpses of my drunken spree as if recalling a nightmare. I would recall things I had done and said with horror.

 

Anakin, you must break through the fog of lies the Jedi have created around you” – Palpatine

 

The Fog

After a while it seemed as if my waking time and my dreams had merged in to one. I would ponder a disturbing dream I had had the night before. Flashes of faces, voices, laughter and lights would appear in my mind and I would soon realize that the images represented a memory, not a dream. I would later recall something about a drinking spree and ask a friend about it only to learn that my recollection was the product of a dream and had never happened. Dreams and reality became confused.

 

To live in alcoholism was to live in a twilight world, a fog, that blurred dreams with reality. As time passes the connection between body, mind and soul breaks down. As the important self-regulating conduit of dreams is taken hostage by alcohol we lose grip on reality and insanity begins to creep in.

 

It was only a dream.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Oneiros

Dreams are harbingers of calamity and disaster in Mythology as well as warnings and prophecies . The Greeks personified dreams as Oneiros. Gods and other mythical creatures spoke to heroes through the Oneiros. They were warned of impending danger and guided by the benevolent Gods. In Norse mythology dreams were seen as harbingers of fate for both mortals and Gods. The Universe and all creation was said to be the dream of the Slavic God Svarog. One day Svarog will awaken from his slumber and all existence shall end.

 

In the Old Testament Joseph the son of Jacob foresaw his own future in dreams and later interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh forewarning him of impending disasters so that the Egyptians could prepare. In the New Testament angels visited Joseph in a dream and foretold that his wife Mary would bear the prophesied Messiah. Joseph was later warned in a dream to take the baby Jesus in to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the infants by King Herod.

 

I had a dream I was a Jedi.” ―Anakin Skywalker

 

I had a Dream

In Star Wars visions and dreams often appear to the characters as a warning or prophecy of danger. The Jedi took notice of their dreams. The Force interacted with the Jedi through their dreams. Ahsoka Tano dreamed of an assassination attempt on Padmé Amidala and was able to foil the plot. On the other dimension world of Mortis, Anakin was shown a vision of Darth Vader and the Death Star in a dream. The dream showed Anakin that he stood on a precipice. The vision revealed his future should he fall to the Dark Side. Yoda was forced to face his shadow in order to transcend. Through a dream induced by the Force Yoda wass confronted by visions and was able to rise above his fears, hopes and ultimately his Dark Side.

 

All Clone Troopers had nightmares. They dreamed of the horrors of war and possibly of an unknown future when the Clones would turn on the Jedi and massacre them under Order 66.

 

The Missions, the Nightmares… they’re finally…. over” – “Fives” last words

 

Nightmares

Anakin Skywalker often dreamed about loss and despair. As the years passed the dreams became darker. The dreams reflected his inner demons and fears. The potential future was manifested in Anakin’s dreams. On Naboo he dreamed of his mother’s death and the visions sent him to Tattooine where his nightmare became a reality. As Anakin began to be drawn tighter in to Palpatine’s web on Coruscant he began to dream of Padmé suffering in childbirth. She would call out to him and scream as she writhed in agony, dying. Anakin felt powerless to act to prevent these tragedies from unfolding.  Desperate to save his wife he turned to the Dark Side and his actions led to his worst nightmares being realized.

 

The fall of Anakin and his transformation in to Darth Vader was the start of a long nightmare from which there was no awakening. In his sleep, Padmé would visit him and he would fight for his soul. Darth Vader would awaken and push the memories of his past behind him. Dreams were a reminder of the dead past. Every waking moment was a nightmare of torment and pain, eased only by a lust for power and revenge. Darth Vader would have dreaded going to sleep for in his dreams lay the residue of who he really was. The desolate soul of Anakin was trapped deep within him, locked in a nightmare he could not escape.

 

Sleep, all life is a dream.” ― Jedi Master Kit Fisto

 

Waking Up

Alcoholism is a bad dream that can last for decades. There are brief moments of wakefulness  however the allure of the dream world of alcohol constantly beckons us. Reality is too painful to endure sober. We fall in to alcohols embrace and find that the fantasy we seek does not exist.

What exists is a meaningless and nihilistic realm where the body, mind and soul withers in a form of dream purgatory. We feel a sense of foreboding as if some calamity awaits. Alcohol affects REM sleep so we never get enough good sleep and our thoughts are scattered as a result. Existence soon becomes a grey netherworld that is neither fully awake or fully asleep.

 

Soon will I rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have” – Yoda

 

Sleep

Sobriety brings restful sleep and dreams I love going to sleep so much so that I look forward to the end of the day and retiring to bed. The morning comes without a hint of regret. Peaceful sleep has ended and dreams evaporate like an early morning mist. I get up to face the new day, my mind is clear and body feels rested. I can remember my dreams. Some make more sense than others. I never ignore them.

 

Mostly my dreams are good. The dreams show me aspects of the past and present, sometimes I believe there are glimpses of the future. Sometimes I dream that I am drinking again. I relive in my dreams the same comic tragedies that played out when I was drunk. Yet they are worse. When I awake I do so with a clear head. There is a sense of relief that it was only a dream. I am still sober. The drinking dreams are mere echoes of the past. They serve as a reminder of what it was like, what happened and how things changed. They also show how things might have been or could be. I keep my feet planted in reality now, my dreams are my own, I learn from them but they do not control me like they did Anakin.

Betrayed

Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code” – Palpatine

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Have you ever been betrayed? How did it make you feel? Were you angered by the actions of the person you trusted? Did you berate yourself for giving them your trust and resolved never to do it again? Did you grieve the act and the loss of trust that came from it? Were friendships and illusions of trust shattered?

Betrayal is such a terrible thing. Betrayal feels like a stab to the heart but it does not always kill but it does burns the soul and hardens the heart.

In the last ten days I have come to realize that to suffer betrayal is to suffer the five stages of grief. There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I have felt them all. The thing is, the betrayal did not happen to me. I was not betrayed. I don’t even know the people who were betrayed and have never been to the place where it happened. Their betrayal is the worst kind, because they are dying from it. It still feels as if it happened to me and to those close to me such is the insidiousness of the betrayal.

I’ll explain later.

 

“They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.” – Palpatine to Anakin

 

We have all been betrayed at one time or another. Some of us have been betrayed by our parents, lovers, friends, partners, workplace, religious leaders as well as our government. I know I’ve been betrayed at least once by all of the above. To describe it all in detail would fill a book. It should have made me bitter and unable to trust anyone. For many years it did and my grief lasted that long. I coped from the pain and anger of it with alcohol.

 

You were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them. You were supposed to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Mythology teaches many lessons. The stories may be fantastic and far from reality but they hold a mirror up to the foibles, follies, failures, tragedies and triumphs of the human condition. Betrayal is an act which has a special place in our collective mythology.

The myths are brimming with betrayal. The Norse God Odin was a God of betrayal as was Loki. The Greek God Dolos inspired betrayal. The Slavs had Czernobog and the Hindus have Vibishana in their epic myths of betrayal. People often complain being betrayed by God. Yet betrayal is a very human trait.

Jason of the Argonaughts was married to Medea and betrayed her for another. In return she did the unspeakable and slew their children. The war between Sparta and Troy started when Helen betrayed her betrothed, Menelaus for Paris.

Prometheus defied the will of Zeus and during creation gave humans the ability to make fire and use free will. This betrayal enraged Zeus, who creating Pandora gifted her to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus. Pandora carried with her a box that Zeus had filled with every evil and misfortune that she would inevitably release upon the Earth.

 

Vader betrayed and killed your Father” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

In Star Wars there are many acts of betrayal. The relationship between the Sith Master and apprentice led to eventual betrayal. Dooku betrayed Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress. Darth Sidious betrayed Darth Plagueis and killed him as he slept.

Lando Calrissian turned over his friend Han Solo to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. The Mandalorians were betrayed by their own Prime Minister who handed the seat of power to Darth Maul. Finally, Anakin betrayed the Jedi Order by turning to the Dark Side and setting a chain of events that would lead to the destruction of the Jedi, the exile of survivors, the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Sith.

Obi-Wan Kenobi betrayed Anakin on the lava flows of Mustafar leaving him for dead. Later he told Luke that Vader had betrayed and killed his father.

 

 “Their betrayal will be dealt with. After you have killed all the Jedi in the Temple, go to the Mustafar system. Wipe out Viceroy Gunray and the other Separatist leaders. Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy, and we shall have peace.” – Darth Sidious to Anakin

 

In our reality we see betrayal played out on the stage of life. Recently civilized nations, in particular America, chose to abandon and betray their true friends and staunchest allies in the Middle East, the Kurds. The ethnic and religious minorities of that place so far away are now at the mercy of a merciless invader, Turkey and its Jihadi proxies.

The reasons are purely geopolitical. The American, British and French soldiers that fought alongside their Kurdish counterparts are still devastated by the betrayal. They were there to safeguard the people from genocide. They grieve as I grieve. No one should be left behind like that especially the Kurds who sacrificed and suffered so much in the fight against ISIS. I learned this as a soldier and believe it as a Jedi.

 

You’re with him. You’ve betrayed me! You brought him here to kill me!” – Anakin to Padme

 

We can now watch the tragedy of betrayal play out in real time as if we were watching the fall of Mandalor or the purge of the Jedi by Darth Sidious and the brutal ascendancy of the Empire. Genocide and ethnic cleansing. The blood on the streets, the destruction, death and fleeing masses are real. They are the victims of betrayal. How can one not grieve? How can they ever forgive? Why did it happen?

Still the people we let down, do forgive us.

 

Forgive me, Master.” – Anakin

 

The Bible tells us that Jesus was betrayed for 12 pieces of silver by Judas. I wonder what went through the mind of Judas. How did Jesus feel? The Bible says that Jesus kissed Judas and forgave him. This drove Judas to insanity of regret and despair at his actions, so much so that he hanged himself from a tree. Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Taken to Egypt he became a friend and advisor to the Pharaoh and rose to the the rank of Vizier. Later he reunited with his brothers and forgiving them sent for his people in Canaan to live in Egypt till a famine had passed.

Forgiveness opens the door which leads to freedom from the pain of betrayal. We must be willing to let go of the past if we expect others to accept our amends. It is the path to peace and serenity. To do otherwise is to keep a deep resentment alive with us. We can never be free if we do. You can really only betray yourself.

 

I will not betray the Republic” – Anakin

 

There is a Kurdish saying “Berxwedan Jiyane” which means “Struggle is Life”. After centuries of suffering they know that the price of freedom is to struggle. I hope our friends and allies in North-East Syria forgive us for what we have done. They have been betrayed and proven once again that they have “no friends but the mountains”.

It is not the first time they have been betrayed. Each time they forgive and put renewed trust in those who cannot be trusted. My heart goes out to them. There is nothing more I can do but pray and hope for a miracle.

In betrayal there are no winners, only tears and regret. Can you betray the Jedi Code? Betray none least of all yourself.

#RiseUp4Rojava

https://riseup4rojava.org/

 

Don’t Panic

“They’ll panic? I’m about to panic!” – Ahsoka Tano

Don’t Panic” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

In a ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” Arthur Dent is mostly oblivious to the rest of the world and its troubles. One day he wakes up to find his house is about to be demolished to make way for a highway bypass. The local council had posted the plans and somehow Dent had failed to take notice. As this was unfolding a Vogon star ship had entered Earth’s orbit and declared to the world that the planet would be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass. Pandemonium ensues and everyone panics.

With the help of his enigmatic friend, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent manages to get off Earth before it blows up. Still wearing his night gown and pajamas from the morning Arthur Dent reluctantly sets off an intergalactic adventure that takes him across and to the end of the Universe and the beginning. The adventure begins with the default clause of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic!”.

 

“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The Second Arrow

Alcoholics are catastrophic thinkers. We tend to imagine the worst possible outcome in all scenarios. An argument is the end of a relationship, a reprimand at work is as good as being fired and a letter from the government or IRS is a herald of financial disaster. We are the worst for dreaming up the worst case scenarios.

The Buddha alluded to catastrophic thinking when he spoke of the “second arrow”. The first arrow was what actually happened to us, the true cause of the suffering. The second arrow was the event magnified within our own minds. The suffering is worsened by our own emotional and irrational reaction to it. The first arrow is out of our control, the second arrow is within it.

 

Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Worst Case Scenarios

When I was a child I would shake in my shoes when called to the principal’s office. I was terrified of imagined and realized punishments my Father would inflict before they happened. No matter what the reason, I still feel unease when summoned by my boss at work for a private chat in his office.

In school at the height of the cold war I was named the “Doomsday Prophet” for my dire predictions that a nuclear holocaust was about to happen. It never did.

Never one to relax I was constantly on edge in the Army believing that each new day would herald more misery, corporal punishment and probably some terrible end. I listened to rumors and digested the news with alarm and consternation. My body was a ball of nervous anxiety. Fortunately my training conditioned my reflexes. To feel fear is normal but to react with panic in combat is unforgivable. .

 

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”  – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Panic Junkie

I became drawn to calamity and chaos like a moth to fire. I was addicted to anxiety and panic. Events in the world seemed to mirror what was going on inside me. With a sense I could make a difference I set off on a global bar crawl to set things right. I traveled from the famine of East Africa to air raid sirens and religious hatred in the Middle East, the fraternal war and ethnic bloodletting in Bosnia to the tribal and racial violence in South Africa.

I washed up amidst the “colorful” poverty of the Favelas and the burning season in the Amazon in Brazil. The memories play back like the frames of a movie reel. Within that collage of noise and color I remember the haze of alcohol and an undertow of fear and self loathing.

 

The Burning Issues

Something I saw in Brazil affected me. The Amazon touched my soul. The morning mist shimmering in the early light as it hung low on a still river. I remember the call of macaws as they passed majestically over-head. The dim world of the forest was silent but for the call of birds and spider monkeys complaining in the canopy high above. The forest was vast and it had the power to utterly possess me. It had the primordial and divine peace that I yearned in my own life.

The smell of smoke and the haze hung over the forest as fires burned far away. The forest was being pushed back by ranchers and gold miners who were locked in a struggle with rubber tappers and Indians. I was told in 1994 the forest would be gone in twenty years. This alarmed me.

The forest burned. The world was being destroyed and I felt growing anger and alarm. The more I realized I was powerless to make a difference the greater my resentment grew and fed my anxiety.

 

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Did you ever hear the tragedy of Skywalker?

Irrational fear aroused within Anakin a sense of panic at a destiny he could not control. Fears were magnified in his mind and became catastrophes he could not control. The need to change and control that destiny drove him to abandon reason and allow his shadow self to dominate him.

Anakin allowed irrational fear and catastrophic thinking to bypass a life time of Jedi training. Objectivity, reason, rational decision making and sound judgement were replaced by the darker side of emotion. Emotion rather than reason owned Anakin. This ultimately led Anakin to the dark side.

 

I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

F*k Everything and Run

Sobriety has taught me that any decision based on fear and panic may help in the short term but long term the consequence often negate those positives. In the past I would panic and make rash decisions and do something I would later regret. Often I would say “F*k it” and run away from my responsibilities. I would get drunk.

In hindsight I would realize that these actions incited by fear, anger and ultimately catastrophic thinking had done nothing for me and usually it only made matters worse. Why did I put myself through that? Everything turned out fine.

After witnessing the burning season in Brazil I entered University and studied environmental science. Two decades later I work in conservation and observe with alarm how fear and panic has hijacked rational and reasoned discourse. Short sighted decisions are made with little regard to far reaching consequences. I’m pleased to see that the Amazon is still there. There are monumental problems in the world but I have faith and believe in hope.

 

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Know Faith No Fear

My life was one of reactivity, catastrophic thinking and panic. It’s strange that until you recognize it in others you don’t recognize it in your self. It took me to get sober and work on myself to realize how irrational many of my fears were and how catastrophic thinking ran my life.

Every time I feel the second arrow hit I pull it out immediately. Let the first arrow hurt for a bit but don’t make it worse by imagining something that is not real. Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic”. In other words have faith, not fear.

 

“So this is it, we’re going to die” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The House is on Fire

I don’t want you to panic. The house is not burning down. The world is not coming to an end. There is no reason to abandon reason. If things are not right, work to fix it and put it right. Do what is within your power to do and let go of the rest.

Avoid jumping to conclusions, silence the doomsayer within and never listen to doomsday prophets. Use your own judgement and think hard before deciding.

Study and be prepared to change your view when evidence suggests otherwise. Avoid falling for group-think and hysteria.

Recognize and avoid the mob fueled by dogma and anger. You were given the faculties to make up your own mind and think for yourself. In other words, be a little like Arthur Dent.

 

Don’t Panic

Panic and catastrophic thinking is not for us. Jedi are free thinkers we respect and acknowledge our emotions but we do not react to them mindlessly. We use our brains to decide what is true while remaining tolerant of the views of others. Gathering the facts as they are, we choose how best to act in a way that is applicable, beneficial, practical and positive.

Whatever you do Don’t Panic.

 

Epilogue

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Redundant

Use your time. You’ll find one day that you have too little of it.” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-wan Kenobi

Star Wars is not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.” – Joseph Campbell

 

When we set off on a journey eventually we come to a cross road. The path branches into two or several directions. Some of us choose the way forward quickly, some take their time. Others look back at the road they traveled and don’t choose at all. As we move through life we also find that doors will close behind us and others open. Some of us stare longingly at the doors that have closed and miss the infinite possibilities that life presents. It is the past that haunts us and the fear of redundancy that holds us back.

 

Individuation does not shut out one from the world, but gathers the world to itself” – Carl Jung

 

Redundant

Currently I find myself in a weird dilemma. I’m redundant but I’m still employed and getting paid. This means I get up, go to work and find very little to do. Any meaning or purpose in my job has dried up. The weird part is no one seems to mind. To keep me hanging around I even got a pay rise and a glowing performance appraisal. Naturally I feel a tension between the need for stability and an inner yearning for self-actualization.

 

I can sit back, take the free ride, get paid well, take leave and bonuses and keep my mouth shut. My basic needs are being exceeded. Wouldn’t most be happy with that? The alternative is to take a risk, get out of my comfort zone and find a job that provides purpose and meaning.

 

I was 10 years old when Star Wars first came out. By the time Lucas released “The Phantom Menace” 20 years ago I was 32 and married. Now my children are grown up and view my ailing passion with Star Wars with a mix of humor and sympathy. Despite my efforts they never embraced it past the third grade. The truth is I’m getting old and holding on to the past.

 

I’m fast becoming redundant both at work and at home. I have become a prisoner of my own design. Stuck in a job that is no longer meaningful and has an expiry date. Meeting obligations that will within a few short years no longer be required. By that time the years will have settled like the sand on Tatooine. I will be as old as “Old Ben”.

 

“Jung’s concept is that the aim of one’s life, psychologically speaking, should be not to suppress or repress, but to come to know one’s other side, and so both to enjoy and to control the whole range of one’s capacities; i.e., in the full sense, to “know oneself.”” – Joseph Campbell

 

Kenobi

I can relate to Obi-Wan Kenobi. If Star Wars was a depiction of true events I wonder how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt exiled and alone on Tatooine for years. Were there pangs of loneliness and regret as he stared toward the two suns dipping below the horizon at sunset?

 

Did Kenobi feel a sense of fear and anxiety in his advancing years and mortality? Was there a sense of unfulfilled purpose as he waited the years out for a prophecy to eventuate? Did he ruminate over past mistakes, missed opportunities and losses or ponder over how things could have been done differently? I wonder how he found meaning in that long limbo of his life. Did Obi-wan Kenobi feel redundant even as he stayed to protect Luke?

 

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” – Carl Jung

 

Doors

Alexander Graham Bell said that “as one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Every ending heralds a new beginning. As one opportunity closes another presents itself. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi believed his true purpose whatever it was meant to be would some day present itself. Obi-Wan could find meaning in the years of isolation, loneliness and danger of exile.

 

 

“Individuation’ is Jung’s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions that, even while bound to the cross of this limiting earth, one might open one’s eyes at the centre, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge”. – Joseph Campbell

 

The Monomyth

Carl Jung said that to know who we truly are we need to be complete. We must integrate all aspects of our being in order for the true self (the totality of the psyche) to emerge. The process is called individuation. Since completeness is impossible to achieve in a life time the best way to arrive at meaning is to allow ourselves to grow through life experience. One must be fully engaged in life’s journey including the struggle and suffering that comes with it. We create our own Monomyth. Each human contains within the a subconscious map of the “Heroes’ Journey”.  This “collective unconscious” is expressed in myths, including Star Wars.  They exist to help us realize our true self.

 

The ego prefers comfort and safety and resists integration. The ego will throw barriers and obstacles in our way to prevent or slow the journey. We sabotage ourselves and spend a life time looking at a closed door that we miss the doors that open for us. We stand at the cross roads immobile, rooted to the past.

 

Individuation is to divest the self of false wrappings” – Carl Jung

 

Layers

Wisdom is a product of time and experience. As wisdom accumulates we become conscious of the role of the archetypes in our lives. The archetypes are symbols that manifest themselves through the long process of individuation. In other words, we never stop evolving in to the person we are meant to be. Change is a constant and we grow in to it as the layers of our persona peel back to reveal our authentic self. The best years of our life lie ahead beyond the horizon.

 

The only choice we have is to choose and to move. In doing so we evolve.

 

I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.” – Carl Jung

 

Archetypes

Obi-Wan Kenobi evolved through the archetypes in his own “Heroes Journey” in the same way that Luke Skywalker did. Along the way Kenobi experienced joy and suffering, gain and loss, pride and shame, fame and infamy, success and failure. Exile on Tatooine completed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years the redundant Jedi Master outgrew the person he had been and was transformed spiritually in to something transcendent. All aspect of his conscious and subconscious were united through the experience of a lifetime of struggle and suffering.

 

The Apprentice who became Jedi and then Master and finally a Hermit was all and none of these archetypes when he met Luke, he was something far more. All Kenobi had left to do was step in to the open door and meet his destiny.

 

So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers.” – Carl Jung

 

Paths

Paths may end at crossroad forcing us to take another direction. Doors may close requiring us to choose other doors that open. I walk the high road sober. I can walk through open doors a free man. No need to lie in the coffin of my comfort zone. Meaning can be found in a new career or I can find ample opportunity in my “weird dilemma” to apply imagination and innovation. A parent is not one dimensional but can be mentor, guide, teacher, protector, support and friend to their children in adulthood. Kenobi dedicated decades of his life to protect the child Luke while remaining hidden in obscurity. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi I can find meaning in my own exile. Like he, I can view the storm from above even though I stand within it. Life, even a redundant existence, can still mean something.

 

 

Further Reading:

 

Luke Skywalker’s Individuation” by Steve Gronert Ellerhoff. Jung Journal Culture and Psyche, Vol 9, 2015 – Issue 3.

 

The Myth is with us: Star Wars, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Journey of the Mythic Hero” by Jacqueline Botha (M. Phil Thesis in ancient cultures at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Available:

 

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation” by Bud Harris ( A good introduction on the process of Individuation)

Failure

“Epic Fail”

 

The greatest teacher, failure is” – Yoda

 

I used to be terrified of failure. That fear would prevent me from starting or following up on many things. I would rather not try than fail. It was only when I faced that fear and found it was an illusion that I succeeded. At times I failed as well. How I dealt with that failure was mostly up to me. I needed improvement there. I had to remind myself, failure is normal. Failure is a teacher. Why do we have such a hard time with it?

 

People fail because of things which they have no control over. People also fail because of their own choices.  They let themselves down through a defeatist mindset, laziness or lack of commitment and motivation.  Whatever the reason, failure need not be a permanent set back.

 

That is why you Fail” – Yoda

 

 

Epic Fails

Pragmatists and realists accept failure as a reality of life. They realize that failure will occur to the best of people. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times in his career. Mohammed Ali was defeated in the ring 5 times. Neither are remembered for their failures but for their ability to shrug off setbacks. Mohammed Ali never talked himself into losing and every failure in and out of the ring was seen as an opportunity to get better. Babe Ruth coined the line “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way”.

 

The story of the Jedi Order  is a tale of epic failure. The failings of the Jedi had disastrous consequences. The Jedi Order also left behind valuable lessons to those who came after. On Ahch-To the Force Ghost of Yoda appears to Luke and teaches him some of those valuable lessons. Yoda reminds Luke that it is alright to accept his failures. It is also essential to learn from them and move on. This revelation allowed Luke to free himself of his struggle, find balance and unite with the Force.

 

You want to go home and rethink your life.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Reverse Clause

The Jedi used the “Mind Trick” to distort the perceptions of those they wanted to act or think in a certain way. The “Mind Trick” was used by the Jedi to avoid resorting to violence by re-framing the perceptions of their target. We can’t use the Jedi Mind Trick on people but we can use reasoning in any situation. We can use logic to persuade others to see our side. How often do we use these tools on ourselves?

 

The “Reverse Clause” is a mind hack that allows us to flip any situation on its head and look at failure from an entirely different angle. How we react to any set of circumstances is completely within our control. We can choose to react with emotion or with calm equanimity and acceptance. We can tell ourselves that a failure is a disaster or an opportunity. No given situation requires us to act one way or another but how we do is a matter of choice. This is a form of Jedi Mind Trick, there is no trick behind it. We are what we tell ourselves every day.

 

Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Jocko

What if any failure could be redefined as “Good”? What if every failure was seen as a Master Jedi who has suddenly appeared to teach a lesson? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Jedi Mind Trick?

 

The former US Navy SEAL, MMA coach, podcaster and author  Jocko Willink does exactly that. Every failure is seen as a lesson and an opportunity to do better. Rather than allow himself to dwell on the failure, he immediately frames it with the word “Good”. Jocko uses the “Reverse Clause” of the Stoics before the failure can mark him. Instead he finds the silver lining in failure and mines it like a raw material. As a result he can quickly move towards a solution that works to turn the failure in to success.

 

Indeed, no one can thwart the purposes of your mind—for they can’t be touched by fire, steel, tyranny, slander, or anything.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Get After It

 

In the face of failure take Jocko’s advice:

  1. Get Up: In other words take the hit but instead of staying down, Get Up.
  2. Dust Off: Take a moment to assess the situation. Be Humble. Avoid reacting. Be mindful in your response.
  3. Reload: Tool up “mentally”. Regroup. Decide to act or withdraw.
  4. Recalibrate: Check yourself and adjust as needed. Get Ready. Learn from your mistakes and apply. Focus.
  5. Reengage: Get back in to the fray. Do or do not.
  6. Attack: Confront the situation with purpose and intent. Get after it.

 

Failure provides an opportunity to improvise, learn and get better. That is what Yoda was telling Luke. Say “Good” and get after it.

 

Good!

“I lost my work”.

Good. Chance to start fresh and write a better paper. This time I will be sure to back it up.

 

“Got fired from my job today”.

Good. I can do better. One door closes another opens.

 

“I blew my job interview”.

Good. I’ll look for a better one and improve on my interview skills. I will be better prepared.

 

“I failed my exam”.

Good. I will study harder and pass next time.

 

“I got into an argument and said some cruel things”.

Good. An opportunity to make amends and practice humility.

 

“My performance review went terribly”

Good. Someone shared with me some shortcomings I was blind to and can now add to the list to work on.

 

“My girlfriend / boyfriend dumped me”.

Good. Was not meant to be then.  There is someone better for me.

 

“I got injured while training”.

Good. I’ll rest up, regroup, plan and start training again as soon as I can.

 

“I drank / drugged last night”.

Good. It’s not the end of the world. Now I know how bad that feels and why sobriety is a thousand times better. I will work the steps harder and help another alcoholic / addict.