Father

Father
“Dad”

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker

Carl Jung wrote that the archetype of the Father was in constant struggle with the son. That struggle exists because the son is born to outlive and surpass the Father. The Father places himself between the child man and the mother, rendering the sacred bond. The son in his presence also threatens the Fathers position, he makes him redundant and replaces him. The son is the symbol of the new. The power of the Father reaches its zenith and begins to wane as he ages. The Father is the past. The old is replaced by the new and the circle continues. The story continues to be written, wisdom is passed down and the son eventually becomes the Father. The passing of the mantle from Father to son has continued since the dawn of humans and continues to this day.

In the “The Hero with a thousand faces” by Joseph Campbell, the son on his perilous quest must come to an atonement with the Father. Through his struggles the boy becomes the man that he is meant to be. To complete the journey of becoming fully integrated the man must confront and overcome the Father or reconcile with him. Atonement with the Father is necessary for individuation to occur.

Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t say that Master… You’re the closest thing I have to a father… I love you. I don’t want to cause you pain.” – Anakin

Star Wars is a fictional portrayal of the Heroes Journey which follows the same stages of all great myths. The archetype of the Father and the conflict with the son looms large in the mythology both in the canon and in the expanded universe stories. The story is played out between Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Anakin and finally Han Solo and his estranged son, Ben.

Anakin was the divine child in the Star Wars mythology. A child with no Father. Anakin was a product of the Force and he was said to be the chosen one. The coming of the chosen one was prophesized since ancient times and promised a return of balance to the Force. Without a biological Father, Anakin found a surrogate in Ob-wan Kenobi. Over the years that Obi-wan trained Anakin and mentored him on missions the Padawan and then the Jedi felt a need to better his Master and challenge him at every turn. The relationship soured as Anakin fell under the influence of Palpatine and this led to confrontation. Obi-wan Kenobi prevailed against Anakin on Mustafar condemning him to a life of regret and Anakin a life of hell. Decades later on the Death Star, Obi-wan surrendered to his fate and became atoned.

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

Luke Skywalker never knew his father. The identity was only revealed to him after he had already embraced the call to adventure. The second half of the original trilogy was the unfolding of the conflict between Father and son and the eventual redeeming of Anakin by his son on the second Death Star. Love reconciled and reunited them.

Luke, I am your Father” – Darth Vader

Ben Solo had a troubled life. He was the child of two of the most famous people in the galaxy and watched his mother and father fight and go separate ways. Luke taking Ben as his apprentice also failed and betrayed his nephew. In his confusion and anger he eventually turned to the dark side believing that it bought him closer to his Great Uncle while not understanding that Anakin had been atoned and returned to the light side of the Force. Han Solo sought to reconcile with his son and return him to the mother and in doing so gave up his life. Much later Ben was atoned and reunited with his Father and the Force through self-sacrifice. The prodigal son returned forgiven to the Father with one word he had never uttered before “Dad”.

Your Son Is Gone. He Was Weak, And Foolish Like His Father.” – Kylo Ren

I walked out of home days after finishing High School and made my way to an Army Recruiters office where I took the first steps in to the life of an adult. I never saw or spoke to my father again. Our relationship had been difficult. I wanted to have a good father-son relationship but I despised him for the harm he had done over the years. I also feared him and could never hope to confront him to resolve the conflict that existed. It was easier to run and never have to deal with it. To this day I still dream of a meeting between us where we can reconcile and atone for the past.

My Father was from a remote place in the Balkans. That region had suffered centuries of war and occupation by foreign powers. It had experienced ethnic and religious conflict and genocide before the oppression of communism. The mountains were soaked with blood and tears. Fleeing that country he sought a better life in the west as a refugee and married, settled in a new country and became alcoholic.

Then there were the years I remember of turmoil, grief, anxiety and fear living in poverty with a man who had no control of his behaviours or emotions. Always the ever present alcoholism that bought utter despair. I moved out as soon as I could and went as far away as I could. 

Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware anger, fear, and aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke… do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor or suffer your father’s fate you will.” – Yoda

A decade ago I awoke one night and had the strangest sense that my Father had passed away. I could feel his essence passing from this world to the next. Awake with that I felt nothing but a twinge of regret that whatever I had to say to him would now never be said in person. I also realised that my journey would never be really completed because I was unable to meet my Father again before he passed away.

Not long after I learned through an anonymous phone call that he had indeed passed away as a destitute alcoholic on the other side of the country. I still have no idea how I was tracked down. After the call things got worse. I felt as if I had failed in an important endeavour. Regret of a missed reconciliation turned to bitterness. I felt creeping anxiety of my own mortality and the passing of time. Shadows seemed to crowd in. I became bitter and resentful. This of course fed the final year of my drinking which became uncontrollable. I no longer enjoyed it. The taste of alcohol was revolting and my hangovers grew worse and worse. Soon I could barely support a single drink but it did not matter. I had no choice but to drink.

One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Yoda

The figure of my Father loomed large with every drunk. At times I felt as if I was becoming him. I feared to become the man that he was but I looked in the mirror and saw him looking back. The spiral downwards continued and so did the despair. The shadows grew darker and enclosed around me. I felt my insanity beginning to slip. Thoughts of suicide pervaded my drunken thoughts and haunted me during hangovers and short periods of sobriety.

I will never forget seeing my Father when he visited I and my brother in a state orphanage. The state had intervened and removed us from his care when I was 10. My mother had died partly from his ineptitude and was in the grave three years already. He arrived at the orphanage in a dishevelled state and very drunk. I and my brother were kept indoors, away from him. Outside my father stumbled and fell while a few boys poked fun at him and threw stones, one of the boys tried to steal his bottle as the others distracted him. It was pathetic and sad to watch. I was beyond ashamed. My father was a shadow of the man he had once been and was extremely thin and pale. A counsellor from the orphanage called the police and they came and took him away. The authorities placed him in an asylum. The memory burned itself in my mind. Decades later I could see myself becoming that person.

Dad” – Kylo Ren’s (Ben Solo) last words in the Star Wars saga.

In recovery we seek to make amends where possible. Admitting our faults, making inventory and amends brings us atonement. This often includes seeking to make amends and reconciling with family members. Parents reconcile with children. Sons and daughters reconcile with parents. It is not possible to make amends with the dead in person like Ben Solo did with Han Solo. We know that there is no way we can turn the clock back and we accept that the person is beyond our reach and amends in the physical sense are impossible. Despite that we cannot fall into self-condemnation and remorse. Amends are made daily by living in virtue and practicing principles. You can make peace with the departed through your actions. You can speak to them through prayer if you want. I eventually forgave my Father and asked for his forgiveness in return.

One of the greatest responsibilities and roles is to be a Father. Sadly we see the absence of Fathers emotionally and physically in many families. Despite what many social commentators say, a child needs the presence of the Father. Boys especially need their Father, or at the very least a male role model who can guide and mentor them into life and help them reach their potential. To those in recovery that are estranged from their parents and especially men who are estranged from their sons or fathers, seek to make amends and reconcile. Atone for the past. As hard and painful as that may be do not leave it until it is too late.

Go with the Force, always it will give you strength.

Powerless

Power! Unlimited power!” – Darth Sidious

Darth Sidious epitomizes a character who is intoxicated with power and is consumed by his lust for it. That lust allowed Palpatine to spend decades plotting and planning his revenge against the Jedi. The lust for power led to his supremacy. Palpatine’s addiction to power grew until it consumed the galaxy. That unlimited power disfigured Palpatine such was its corruption on the body and mind. All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The Emperor ruled over the galaxy with a cruel intent masquerading as benevolent but firm order. The worlds controlled by the Empire were kept under the boot of the Imperial Troops commanded by Darth Vader. Nothing less than total obedience and complete submission was tolerated. Any resistance was met with brutal force. The power of the Empire was relentless and ever expanding, omniscient and omnipresent, consuming everything in its reach.

Darth Sidious was able to rise at the height of the Republic because the Jedi had become obsessed with power. The Jedi had become a political and military apparatus that accumulated influence, prestige and power. In their hubris, Palpatine was able to blind the senate and the Jedi and lead Anakin into his confidence.

At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out.” – Luke Skywalker

Anakin was the chosen one destined to become the most powerful Jedi who had ever lived. Anakin was meant to bring order to the Force, not leave it in darkness but that is exactly what happened. The promise of redemption through the Dark Side of the Force offered by Palpatine led Anakin down a path of no return. Palpatine had told him “I have the power to save the one you love”. It was a lie but in the desire of that power to overcome death, Anakin destroyed everything that was dear to him.

Power is the ultimate drug. Those that seek and wield power are reluctant to let it go once it is obtained and harnessed. Even the allure of vast wealth pales in comparison to the intoxication of power. Being able to control the lives of others and direct the course of events leads to a desire for power that is addictive. Power yields a high far more intoxicating than any drug. Those that become drunk with power will seek absolute power the same way a junkie seeks the ultimate hit. Absolute power knows no limits. The goal of unlimited power is to usurp and replace God.

He won’t give up his power. I’ve just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.” – Anakin

We often hear of politicians and public figures who let hubris and power lead them to over reach their limits and abuse their authority and become corrupt. Without any fetters to control them they spiral out of control and fall to their demise. Dictators, autocrats, corrupt politicians and crooked businessmen eventually fail because they can no longer hold the power they have amassed. The power they have is coveted by others. It attracts the deceit, disloyalty and betrayal of others who desire it. Eventually the powerful fall but they never go easily. They are finally replaced and the cycle repeats.

All who gain power are afraid to lose it. Even the Jedi.” – Palpatine

Alcohol held me in the grip of its power for decades. I imagined that power was transferred to me. My ego was so inflated that it was intoxicated with a overwhelming sense of self. My immediate needs and desires far outweighed any others. Every decision made was done to benefit the addiction. Anyone or anything that I perceived as an obstacle to that desire was a threat. Any opinions or ideas contrary to my own and the people who made them, were dismissed with contempt. I was smarter than everyone else and could not see beyond the narrow view of a sick ego.

Intoxicated, I was literally drunk on power when in fact I was just drunk and powerless to alcohol. Drunk, I had no control over my thoughts, words or actions. They were erratic and chaotic. My inhibitions were dismantled and any behaviour no matter how deviant, perverse or salacious was possible.

I was stuck on a hedonistic merry-go round until it became a cage and the pleasure was long gone. The line between pleasure and pain was blurred. People were friend, then foe, then friend again. People were to be used and discarded and then used again. I had no control of my emotions, responses or body. I was powerless, not powerful.

Deep within I knew it but I was afraid to lose the illusion of power. I was afraid to confront my own fear.

Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.” – Yoda

True power resides in recognizing that we are powerless over alcohol. The illusion of power in addiction reveals itself to be false. Alcohol is a subtle, cunning and powerful foe, much like the Dark Side of the Sith. It brings you into its confidence, seduces and then overwhelms and corrupts you. The idea of power comes from addiction. Alcohol dulls the higher centers of the brain and removes inhibitions replacing them with a feeling of confidence, superiority and power.

True power resides in sanity. In recovery we say that our sobriety is a daily reprieve from the insanity of alcoholism contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Everyday it behoves us to:

  1. Recognize that we are powerless over alcohol but not in our own recovery.
  2. Affirm a faith in a personal Higher Power. Surrender to that Higher Power by letting go of a need to control everything.
  3. Be active in our own recovery by being active not passive. By seeking to become powerfully recovered.

To answer power with power, the Jedi way, this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.” – Yoda

Obi-wan Kenobi showed Darth Vader that raw power is a mere illusion and one that often turns in on itself. Darth Vader cut Obi-wan Kenobi down with one fell stroke of a Lightsaber. In that act of submission and self-sacrifice, Obi-wan showed Darth Vader he had the true power. Kenobi found power in surrender to the Force. There was no need to fight, dominate or impose his will on another. Kenobi simply let go of his attachments and gave himself up completely to the Force and became more powerful.

In “Return of the Jedi”, Luke Skywalker refused to fight Darth Vader on the second Death Star. Victory over the Dark Side could not be won through the exercise of raw power. Darth Sidious could not be defeated in combat. Darth Vader could not be redeemed through force. To wield a Lightsaber in anger would have only played in to the hands of Sidious. Luke recognized that non-violence and surrender was the only way. Luke was not powerless without a Lightsaber and armed with only his faith and a love for a Father he never knew, he had become more powerful than Darth Sidious.

The Force is not a power you have. It’s not about lifting rocks. It’s the energy between all things, a tension, a balance, that binds the universe together.” – Luke Skywalker

Decades later on Ach-To, Luke reflected on his life and failures. In his own hubris and desire for power Luke had made terrible and tragic mistakes with consequences he could not fathom or control. The old Jedi Master had betrayed the man who had once stepped in to the liar of Darth Sidious and casting aside his Lightsaber had bought his father back from the darkness. Now alone on an island far removed from danger he at last saw that he still had a chance to once again answer power with an empty hand. Luke surrendered to the power of the living Force.

We say we are powerless against alcohol because it is the truth. There is no shame in that. But we are not powerless in recovery. We find power in admitting it and in surrender to a higher power. By working the steps we learn that we are empowered in our own recovery. The ego is deflated. Anger, fear, hate, dishonesty, hubris, selfishness and resentment are overcome through temperance, courage, honesty, humility, compassion, faith and sacrifice. An inner power is found that was always there, it was only hidden behind the illusion of self and the layers of the false ego.

Voice

I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.” – Gina Carano

Imagine, if you would, being gagged and forbidden to speak your mind. How would that feel? Imagine also being told how and when to think, speak and act. What would that do to your soul? It would be like keeping a tree in a small pot. As the tree grows, its roots branch out and unable to go deeper they begin to bunch into a mangled and tortured mass. Eventually the tree begins to stunt and whither in its growth.

Humans have an inherent and divine need to express themselves without being suppressed and stymied by others. The inner divine seeks to grow and expand. This is part of our nature to know and experience life and ultimately the Force. When we are prevented from doing so we suffer and like the tree we also become stunted in our development.

Imagine putting up barrier to a child’s physical and mental growth for a year. What would that do? How would that affect the child long-term?

Do not let what you think they think of you make you stop and question everything you are.” – Carrie Fischer

Through early childhood, school and then the military my thoughts, words and actions were highly regulated. Deep within me raged a battle between a side that needed to conform and be accepted and another side that wanted to cut the bonds, cry out and be free to be who I wanted to be. Every time I strayed from the path chosen for me I was punished or threatened with expulsion. Fear kept me in check. I had to watch what I said and did. Even thoughts had to be moderated because they can be betrayed. As the years passed I felt as if inside I was a mangled and tortured mass of suppressed emotions. My soul felt caged.

Alcohol offered me an escape. It was an alluring illusion. Within a bottle lay freedom from care and worry. I could be at peace with myself and others. There were no barriers to what I could do, say or think. I was unchained and my soul was free to fly to the heavens like some Icarus.

It was a lie.

I cried out and my prayer was answered” – Gina Carano

Alcohol provided the illusion of a temporary respite from reality but reality never gave respite. In the morning, reality came crashing down. There were consequences for wrong thought, words and actions. I found that booze did not bring out the real me, it had created some twisted and obscene persona. That person was the opposite of who I wanted to be. The real me was prevented from being realized. Eventually the truth of that became too great to bear any longer and I was either to fall in to a very dark place and never return or recover.

Recovery can be summed up in three words; admit, accept and act. Rinse and repeat. To be truly recovered one must be honest and have courage. This means admitting to yourself and others your disease and faults. Accepting a power greater than yourself in to your life. You start letting go of the need to control everything and please others. That means having the courage to think, speak and act free from fear of judgment from others. It means being an authentic human being for once in your life. That means finding your voice and using it.

The Star Wars heroes are loved because they are authentic. They all used their voices and refused to be silenced by fear. Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo never pulled any punches when it came to speaking their minds.  In real life Carrie Fischer had bigger stones than most men in Hollywood and said exactly what was on her mind. Gina Carano is not far behind her.

Authenticity means having the courage to remove the gag and chains that bind you and having the freedom to express and be who you are. Be Jedi and use your voice free of fear.

This is the way.

I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.” – Carrie Fischer

I’m in” – Cara Dune

Stillness

Be calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

Before creation there was infinite stillness. Time, matter and energy resided as the Force waiting to be released into being. Nothing yet existed. There was only the potential for all that ever was in that stillness.

Stillness is being alert and in a state of complete awareness without action. Stillness is nature. A Lion relies on stillness to prepare for the dash which will bring down its prey. The universe is largely still and empty, a great void of potential yet to be realized. All matter is 99% emptiness. The remainder is vibrational energy that appears as matter.

To be still is to like an empty vessel waiting to be filled. The mind is clear, the body is relaxed and one is at peace. Stillness is being passive while being alert to everything happening around you. There is unrealized potential in stillness. This is the nature of the Force.

Attention!

“SILENCE!” yelled the Drill Sergeant at the top of his lungs as he entered the barracks room. In a flash everyone was on his feet standing at attention. You could not hear a pin drop as the Sergeant stood in the centre of the room and looked around. One spoken command had bought complete silence to a room that moments had been full of noise and activity. All focus was on this single imposing figure standing there, tattooed muscles bristled under a camouflage shirt, a green beret angled slightly on a clean shaven head, a slight smirk on a rugged tanned face as his gaze swept over the platoon. He moved slowly down the line of bunk beds and men at attention. Cold blue eyes pierced hard into recruits stood on a line painted on the floor. No one dared make a sound or move. We were going to lose the bad habits of a spoilt and soft civilian existence. We were going to learn stillness.

Stillness is something you are forced to learn in the Infantry. Your mental and physical health and even your life can rely on your ability to remain still and silent. If one soldier moves an arm or head in a company formation on the parade square he immediately draws attention to himself. A sniper camouflaged in a hide will give himself away through movement that is not executed carefully, with economy and precision.

Soldiers are expected to remain rigid and silent as long as is required. It take self-discipline, focus and self-control to remain perfectly still and quiet the mind screaming for activity. To not scratch that itch or speak up when silence is required can be harder than you think. Some people cannot remain still for more than a minute. In the army I was told “ears open, mouth shut” and reminded constantly “never draw attention to yourself!”, this meant being still, silent and alert.

Stand Firm

The military understands the value of stillness. The ability to remain immobile but alert is a hallmark of discipline. A soldier who can be passive and exercise self-control under pressure until an order is given is more useful in war than a mindless Berserker who cannot be controlled. In the confusion and chaos of battle the ability to remain still in mind but active in body is the trait of a true warrior.

The warrior is in complete control of his movements, actions and emotions. The weapon becomes an extension of himself driven by the power of the mind. The mind is laser focused on intent and achieving an objective. The still warrior is a weapon waiting to be unleashed.

The Jedi used stillness as a tool to remain calm and ready before battle but also for diplomacy and negotiations. They were in no rush to make a move when the best strategy was to stand firm and wait. A Jedi would wait for her opponent to make the first move and then respond accordingly. In negotiations it was necessary to remain impassive, silent and still and let others speak first.

Much can be conveyed through Stillness. Stillness can be intimidating for some. It can confuse the enemy and disarm them. Often the best tactic is to stay still. When Yoda said “be calm, at peace, passive”, he was reminding Luke that the true power of the Force resides in the stillness.

Calm, at Peace, Passive

Being alcoholic I was unable to be still. I had to always be on the go. My mind was always active and could never relax. I needed alcohol to calm my thoughts. I was ill disciplined. Irrational thoughts, emotions and impulses constantly pulled at me and directed my decisions. In order to embrace recovery I had to tap into my inner source. A stillness resides within ourselves that is immutable and beyond time and space. The stillness connects us to the Divine of which only an illusion of separation exists. I had to come to believe in a power greater than myself and let go. Through surrender I was able to find that stillness and walk free from alcohol. Those in the 12 step community will recognise this as Steps 2 and 3.

Being still does not mean being inactive or unassertive. Recovery is an active process but it is requires one to seek to be “calm, at peace, passive” through mindful action. The act of surrender requires letting go while also accepting responsibility for ourselves. We can no longer be like a marionette pulled mindlessly from one extreme to the other by the strings of impulses and emotions.

Being still allows us to gather our thoughts and process emotions in a way that benefits us and causes no harm to others. Thoughts and ideas can pass in and out of the mind through the day without requiring us to act until we are ready. Emotions can stir and then dissipate without needing to be energized by our attachments to them. Different impulses rise up through the day but It does not mean we need to respond to any of them. Thoughts, emotions and impulses do not have any power over you unless you choose so. The choice is yours.

Be still.

Order 66

(Source: zedge.net)

The time has come. Execute Order Sixty-Six.” – Darth Sidious

Order 66 was one of the most infamous days of the entire history of the Republic. Darth Sidious as Chancellor Palpatine saw his chance at last to seize power and finally destroy the Jedi Order. Every single Trooper in the Clone Army had been bio-engineered with a xenobot “chip” at birth. The Inhibitor chips were programmed to follow the Palpatine’s orders no matter how obscene or insane they might be once activated. When the order came, the Clone Army immediately carried out Order 66 to kill every Jedi to the last without question or hesitation.

In Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker was tasked with murdering the Younglings at the Jedi Temple. An act which would give Darth Sidious much pleasure and cement Anakin to the Dark Side. Anakin did not have a biochip engineered in to his brain. Unlike the Clone Troopers who indifferently and in cold blood gunned down the Jedi, Anakin only had his fear, anger and hate driving him to kill children. The Clone Troopers had no choice given that the biochip enforced compliance with Order 66. They acted like automatons in carrying it out. Anakin had a choice and still followed through with his actions with callous impunity.

Order 66 also marked the end of the Republic and ushered in the Empire with Darth Sidious placing himself as Emperor. Democracy had been dismantled with deafening applause. Now the the Republic would die and a long cold dark winter would descend on the galaxy. Where there had been celebration that the war with the Separatist Confederation there was now despair. Where the ascendancy of Palpatine had bought hope there was now  only the boot of the empire. The terror that was Darth Vader and the Death Star would soon follow.

I guess the new galactic order must’ve seemed promising to everyone on Coruscant until they woke up one morning and found all of their freedoms revoked. A fascist state had been imposed from the citadel that was once the Jedi Temple. Any choice the galactic demos had was now gone. Democracy and liberty was gone. Hope was gone.

Drinking is like that. You have a choice until you decide to abrogate it to alcohol. Then you don’t have a choice anymore. It seemed like a good idea at the time, obviously it wasn’t, not sure why I did it or why I will do it again and again, without end. That is insanity.

Sometimes I wonder if, like a Clone Trooper, I have a biochip in my head that was activated the day I took my fist drink. I was damned from the beginning to become what I became, an alcoholic. Only through recovery was I able to deactivate the chip and stop the drinking and the insane behavior that cascaded from it. What would happen if I took a drink now? Would the biochip be reactivated and would I once again descend in to the insanity? Would I walk back in to a long cold dark winter?

That’s a question I ask myself every time I peer in to my Shadow and the Dark Side tempts me to a drink. It grins and it waits.

Grace

Grace

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” – Yoda

Grace is a term that brings up many religious connotations. Raised as a catholic I was confused by the term. Grace was a word that was used by the clergy to describe communion. In boarding school we were told that one had to achieve grace in order to ascend to heaven. We were also told that children such as us were beyond redemption and could never acquire grace. One of the Priests would state that it was only by his good grace that I receive six strokes of the cane and not a dozen. A visiting Bishop was called “your Grace” and many years later I heard that he had been arrested for turning a blind eye to the abuse of fostered and orphaned children in his care.

I could never get the word grace and for me it always held dark connotations. It reminded me of the dark halls of the orphanage, shivering in cold dark mornings at early prayers, the scolding of a priest hidden behind a curtain for not understanding the rites of confession and the leer of a drunken Brother who spoke with a thick Irish accent and smelt of beer and cabbage. There are memories of the taste of cold porridge, fights in the school yard, the kick from a nun and the sting of a cane on my fingers. I was glad when it ended. Grace never found me again and I wanted no part of it until I found what it meant many years later.

My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us.” – Yoda

Don’t confuse Grace with religion. Neither is it a virtue. Grace is a spiritual state of being that approaches enlightenment. To arrive at Grace is to realize the Force within your life.

Grace is genuine and selfless humility and compassion for others.  not when they have fallen on hard times but when you have. Grace is putting the concerns of others above your own without seeking recognition. It is to feel one’s own loss while also feeling the suffering of another and accepting it as one’s own. To have grace is to endure the suffering caused by others and to not only forgive them but to love them at the same time. The passion of the crucifixion is a symbol of grace. Jesus chose to accept suffering and death for the sake of others, especially those that were not deserving. Suffering terribly Jesus asked God to forgive those who had betrayed, punished and tortured him. Through grace, Jesus arrived at enlightenment and overcame duality.

You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda

Is grace the path to enlightenment? I think so. The Buddha lived a life of Grace, as did Guru Nanak and Zarathustra. Their example of a life lived in grace inspires their followers and seekers of truth. Perhaps they came so close to the realizing idea of God while mortal men made of flesh that they achieved a state of perpetual grace.

We are reminded of the power of Grace in the Star Wars mythology. Yoda lived in harmony with others and acquired grace over a lifetime and became “one with the Force”. Obi-wan Kenobi, through a lifetime of pain and sacrifice and years of solitude in the desert found grace in realizing his purpose to protect the “chosen one” from harm. Anakin believed that power and control was his path to salvation but found true redemption and grace by sacrificing his life to save his son. Through the grace of forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love Luke  also saved his Father and found Grace.  Decades later, Luke chose to forsake his purpose and abandon his destiny but fate forced him to confront it and through grace find the living Force. Han Solo, a scoundrel, found Grace by giving up his life in a failed attempt to redeem his son. Ben Solo found grace in surrendering his life to save Rey. United with his mother, Leia Organa and Ben were united in the Force.

What do you know about the Force?” – Luke (to Rey)

I have never reached a state of Grace. My life could be best described as having been lived in “sin” and “excess” of alcoholism. I got a glimpse of Grace at the bottom of the dark pit called “rock bottom” but it was from a place beyond space and time. Perhaps I was touched by God. Whatever it was, it led me out of that place and I never drunk again. When I first saw the words “But by the Grace of God” framed on a wall at my first AA meeting it hit me and I finally got the idea of Grace.

Grace  is a word rarely heard or written but it still has a place in this world and it is in desperate short supply. One rarely witnesses the losing side in sports or politics accept their defeat with Grace. There are recriminations, protests and harsh words. The winning side also demonstrates arrogance and claims the spoils of victory and a moral superiority over the vanquished rather than seeking to offer a hand of peace and conciliation. Right now the world could use a good measure of grace.

Be gracious to others, stop fighting, put down your Lightsaber.

Daily Jedi Journal

The Daily Jedi journal is finally complete in time for the new year. The Journal has a page to enter your daily gratitude and morning and evening reflections for 366 days. Each week discusses an aspect of Jedi Philosophy and every day begins with a quote from Star Wars to reflect on. Life is a journey and the central theme of the Journal is the Hero’s Journey.

The first day is Day 1. You may start any day of the year. The journal progresses through weekly cycles. You can also complete the book at your own pace or read sections at your leisure. You may wish to add additional notes and pages to expand on your writings. You may use this book as a primer for a more in-depth personal journal.

This is a practical journal to help those who wish to practice the tenets of Jedi Philosophy in daily living. Each day presents its own challenges and often all that is needed is a compass to help guide us on the path to being Jedi. This book has been developed to help you accomplish your goals in living a more mindful and fulfilling life through personal reflection.

Whether you consider yourself a Real-World Jedi or someone who is only seeking to improve every day I hope this book can serve you in some small way. One does not need to be a Star Wars fan to benefit from Jedi Philosophy.

The benefits of Journaling are well documented in psychology. Journaling is an excellent way to track your progress on the path to self improvement and self discovery. Keeping a journal also allows you to express your ideas, thoughts and hopes.

The hyperlinks download a pdf document which can then be printed out and used or saved to a computer.

Please go to http://www.dailyjedi.com/daily-journal/

The full pdf version of the Daily Jedi Journal can be downloaded here

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Victimhood

It’s all Obi-Wan’s fault. He’s jealous. He’s holding me back!” – Anakin

Anakin Skywalker was a victim. Born a slave to a slave on a desolate and lawless planet, Anakin did not have a childhood. The absence of a father figure ensured that he would forever seek out a role model that met his expectation of what a father should be. Anakin sought a surrogate family in Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padme Amidala. The Jedi became his extended family as he grew but it was not enough. There was always something missing, something that troubled the young man. A darkness would grow in him filling that void.

Anakin craved recognition and acceptance. The Jedi Order would not make him a Jedi Master though he felt he deserved it. The Jedi were a meritocracy and did not award rank based on perceived entitlement gained from disadvantage. Jedi earned their place through merit not equity of outcome. Obi-Wan Kenobi did not treat Anakin with high enough regard which caused frustration and resentment. Anakin demanded respect not realizing that respect is earned. Anakin demanded love not understanding that love is not taken but offered freely by another. The darkness in Anakin grew and Palpatine took advantage and manipulated it. Unable to control himself Anakin sought to control others and failing that he desired to control the Force. The Victim then became the oppressor.

One of the things that kept me in addiction and prevented any chance of meaningful and long-term recovery and growth was a conviction that I was a victim. I felt I was deserving of special treatment. Life had let me down. I had drawn the short straw in genetics and destiny. My parents were working class immigrants. I was short and skinny. My English was accented. We moved around a lot and I was not particularly good at school or sports. I was introverted and awkward around my peers and especially around girls. My moods were “troublesome” and I would often be in trouble for fighting at school or being inattentive or disruptive in the class room. For my troubles I was often beaten at home by an alcoholic father. My mother suffered terribly and died broken.

These things I carried in to adult hood and still carry today. They are an important part of who I became and why I did the things I did. My alcoholism was a product of a desperate childhood and a deep need to fit in and be accepted. There was also a spiritual hole that needed to be filled. I’d always felt abandoned by God. The God taught to me in religious schools was despotic and callous, not the Higher Power I know today.

My greatest burden was a feeling of victimhood. I always felt as a second class citizen, an outcast and misfit. My response was to swing between forced attempts to integrate at one end and anger and resentment at a world that seemed to reject me at every turn. I was constantly drawing people in to push them away. Always there was the feeling of being the victim.

Alcohol was the answer to all of my problems. It granted me access where previously I had been denied entry. I could be outgoing, funny and talk to anyone. Women no longer seemed a problem to attract and I had no lack of friends everywhere I went. The world seemed like it had infinite possibilities. In the sober light of day I awoke to another reality. I was lonely, anxious and depressed. Gradually I became dependent on alcohol. Fear set in and as it did so did anger and hate.

There comes a point when drinking was no longer fun. The illusion eventually gives way to reality. How things are imagined soon prove to be false. I was fooled and the feeling of being the victim descended heavily on me. Fear, loathing and self-pity were my constant companions. I was now a victim of alcoholism. As I attempted to gain my sobriety I played the victim. I felt I was entitled to be treated differently. It never occurred to me that I was the maker of my misfortune and I alone had the power to make it right.

Recovery requires that we reject a victim mentality and stop playing the victim. No one owes us anything. Self-pity, resentment and a feelings of entitlement are major stumbling blocks on the path to sobriety and sanity. To be granted preferential treatment on the basis of perceived injustices and past suffering is not congruent with a philosophy of self-improvement. Being higher on the hierarchy of victimhood does not confer a higher moral status.  By claiming victimhood we only stay victims.

Anakin had a victim mentality. One of the most powerful Jedi that every lived, the chosen one, could not get past the mental hurdle that he was an orphan and a slave. Anakin was unable to recognize that those close to him loved him, despite their flaws, they saw great hope in him. Anakin was blind to his fear, anger and hate that grew in him. The slave sought to be the master and finally he became a mere slave to the Dark Side.

Do you claim to be victim or do you claim victory over victimhood? Do you claim equal treatment and rely on your own merits or do you need to be carried and given free pass?

Image property of Lucas Films, Disney Ltd.

The Middle Path

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.” – The Jedi Code

One of my biggest concerns around the COVID19 is not the disease itself. My greatest fear is being locked down and being unable to function normally in society. The fear that many share is being socially cut off from people and being unable to work and participate in life. I believe that many recovering  alcoholics out there are suffering under lock-down and many have chosen to return to drinking and substance abuse deciding that life has no meaning and that they are doomed anyway.

The disease has a high rate of infection but it has a low lethality. The survival rate among persons aged 75 years or older is 95% which is comparative to other respiratory infectious diseases such as influenzas. Survival rates among younger people are staggeringly high and above 99.9%. The vast majority of people affected are those with comorbidities, suppressed immunity and advanced age. Those people can be protected and sheltered. People can be educated to take reasonable precautions such as basic hand hygiene, staying at home when feeling unwell and avoiding large crowded areas where possible. Masks can be optional rather than mandated and people can learn to cough in their elbows.

When I was a child I was taught the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. A healthy diet, exercise outdoors and a positive outlook help build the immune system and armour us from illness. As a child I was encouraged to play outside and explore nature. As a result I was often covered in dirt and mud and encountering insects, dead animals and all sorts of hazards. I survived and my immune system was fortified at the same time. Unless bed ridden and unable to move because of a cold, flu or the measles there was no lock down or isolation. We were cared for in a way that made sure we got better and were able to fight off future episodes. What happened to this way? Where did the common sense go?

Dr David Nabarro, a Special Envoy of the World Health Organization Director-General on COVID-19 suggested that the coronavirus is here to stay*. No amount of lock down will eradicate the risk. A vaccine would be unlikely to eliminate the virus from our lives. Dr Nabarro reasons that we should adopt a Middle Path. We should learn to to live with the virus instead of trying to fight it by harming the very people we are trying to protect through draconian laws. A Middle Path means taking reasonable measures that are proportionate to the risk. A reasoned and pragmatic solution can be found that saves lives and avoids the social and economic devastation of lock-downs especially among the disadvantaged and in poorer countries.

I understand taking extreme measures. Being alcoholic my behaviour was out of control. I had an attitude of “all or nothing”. Stopping at two or three drinks was out of the question, I had to keep drinking till either the booze ran out or I fell on my face. This distorted and extreme view of reality translated in to every aspect of my life. An insult or harsh words from a friend meant a fight and a ruined relationship. A reprimand from a boss meant the end of a job. I was convinced that a life without alcohol and selfish entitlement was not a life at all. Everything had to be forced and fit into my world view. I could not accept disagreement or contradiction.

In recovery I started with the same mindset. I tried to control and force everything. This is of course backfired. Recovery cannot be forced. Alcoholics learn that in order to recover they must first surrender self will and let go of the idea that they control everything. I wanted instant contented sobriety and spiritual enlightenment without putting in the time and work. As my progress faltered and slid back I doubled down and found myself even more frustrated with life, people, recovery and God.

I learned to take it easy and let go. Along the way I found the Middle Path. I knew that an inflexible and intolerant approach that forced a solution was not going to work. I also found there is no easy and soft way. Commitment, work, application, practice and discipline was necessary. The Middle Path meant doing it but doing it easy. I had to accept that things were going to be less than perfect. The goal was progress not perfection.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda lived the Middle Path and avoided excesses or extremes. Jedi were pragmatic in approach. Emotions were valued and acknowledged but rarely played a part in decision making where reason, balance and objectivity were required.

In our reality today, listening to scientists is important but we should not blindly follow their guidelines as gospel. Application takes careful consideration of potential unwanted consequences. The Jedi Method would reject lock-downs as excessive and unnecessary and question the need for mandated masks. The virus can only be managed, not eradicated, at least not without causing untold suffering on humanity which we seek to avoid. The cure cannot be worse than cause whether we are talking about a virus or recovery.

Democracy

I love democracy. I love the Republic.” – Chancellor Sheev Palpatine

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln

Chancellor Sheev Palpatine was a political genius, influencer and diplomat with a career that spanned decades. Sheev Palpatine was first introduced in the Phantom Menace as the influential senator from Naboo. Charming, articulate, intelligent and even caring, Palpatine quickly gained the trust of Padmé Amidala and the confidence of the  Jedi. The politician had wit, intelligence, wisdom and a caring nature that was the essence of the Republic.

Palpatine was also master schemer, manipulator, liar and had all the traits of a narcissist and a psychopath. Through deception and manipulation he rose to the rank of Chancellor in the intergalactic senate. Over the ensuing years Palpatine was able to fool very capable and intelligent beings. He convinced all that he stood on the side of justice, truth and liberty. Behind that mask was the manifestation of pure evil; the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious.

We know the story. Chancellor Palpatine led a double life. In the senate he advocated for peace and order while in the shadows he orchestrated war and chaos. In public he spoke highly of the principles of democracy and justice while he exploited loop holes in the constitution to remain in power past his elected term. Advocating fairness and ethics, Palpatine used bribery and coercion to sway the Trade Federation and keep allies and foes in check. Count Dooku was used as a pretense to start war and seed chaos in the galaxy. Through deception Palpatine was granted emergency executive powers allowing him to build the greatest army the galaxy had ever seen. Through manipulation by fear and rage he convinced the Republic to enter a long and brutal war with the Separatist confederacy.

Palpatine played mentor and benefactor to Anakin Skywalker and manipulated his emotions and love for Padmé Amidala. He exploited that love to twist Anakin to the Dark Side. As his dictatorial powers in the senate increased, Palpatine was able to exploit weaknesses in the Jedi Order and sow division. Through Palpatine’s persuasion and manipulation, Anakin was gradually  alienated further from the Jedi Order. Palpatine exploited Anakin’s pain, fear and anger by promising to grant him the power to save Padmé from a prophesied death. In return Anakin submitted himself to the unmasked Dark Lord and became Darth Vader.

So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.” – Padmé Amidala

Order 66 was issued. The Jedi Temple was ransacked and the Jedi were slaughtered almost to the last.  Some Jedi managed to escape to exile. The remnants of the Republic fled and started a fledgling rebellion. The Republic Fell and Palpatine with Darth Vader beside him declared the rise of the Empire. Darth Sidious became Emperor Palpatine and democracy died with thunderous applause.

The story is reminiscent of the fall of the Roman Republic with the rise of the dictator Julius Caesar. Cato the Younger, a celebrated Roman Stoic, resisted Caesar and is remembered for his courage, tenacity, stubbornness and dedication to principal. Leading a resistance against Caesar, first in the Senate and then on the battlefield, Cato fought to preserve the Republic but to no avail. His army was eventually defeated and Cato chose to take his own life than bending a knee to Caesar.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away Obi-wan Kenobi faced his former friend and pupil and also chose death over submission. Raising his Lightsaber to open his defense he was cut down by Darth Vader. The act freed Kenobi to unite with the Force and pushed Luke Skywalker to his ultimate destiny. One day the Empire would be toppled and the Republic would be restored. The Force would find balance.

In the real world there is no absolute good or evil, only shades of. No one but the worst psychopaths intend to do evil. The vast majority of people in this world simply make decisions everyday on how to live their lives. People choose to act in ways that are beneficial to their lives and the lives of others or they do not. Most people in most cases act in accordance with nature, which is to act in their own best interests without compromising or harming others. When we are asked to choose between political parties in an election we are exercising our democratic right to choose between individuals that are sworn to act in the best interests of the nation. We decide who best serves that ideal.

When I chose to drink I had no choice. By choosing to remain sober I keep the darkness at bay. I can continue to choose. Addiction, any addiction whether to power, love, prestige, fame or substance robs us of our choice. Eventually what we crave, owns us.

Lincoln once said that in every man there resides two conflicting sides. As an alcoholic I was at war with myself for decades and eventually one side emerged. Sometimes the better angel does not always prevail but eventually they do come out, if we let them. Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom or at least get a glimpse of it before we do. Remember that, especially in these times. We still have our democracy and we still have our freedom to choose what is right.