Hero

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

I started this blog 5 years ago on May 4, 2017. It was four year, six months since I had had my last drink and chosen the path of sobriety. In May 2014 I had rediscovered the Jedi Path through the Jedi Academy Online website and started my journey as a practitioner of Jedi philosophy. That was eight years ago, and a lot has happened. The Jedi Academy has become Jedi Living and entered a period of hiatus. My Jedi practice has become “normal living”. The goal of any philosophy is to live it so that eventually it becomes you.

After a while effort becomes unconscious habit. That is not to say that practice is perfect, there is no such thing as perfection and life is more complicated than that. Over the last two years there has been a pandemic, before that there was social and political upheaval, now economy falters, and the drums of war beat. Life throws up its challenges. Nothing is for certain; nothing is permanent but after all this time I am still on the path and still sober. I am a traveler who has taken his first steps into a larger world on the “Hero’s Journey”.

Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future…” – Yoda

Today is May 4th and I thought it timely to post the page from Week 52 of the “Daily Jedi Journal”, the Hero’s Journey. I write this stuck in isolation after testing positive for COVID19. Being triple vaccinated has not spared me from the disease as I expected, a surprise given this is the first time I have been bed ridden with cold and flu symptoms in 10 years. I take that as one of life’s experiences because after all this is a journey and what is that unless the path is strewn with challenges and struggles to overcome as well as gifts to enjoy. To celebrate Star Wars is in essence to celebrate and pay homage to the Hero that resides in everyone. Being Jedi is allowing that Hero archetype to come forth to better your life and the lives of others. So today, as everyday, MTFBWY.

That’s good you have taken your first step into a larger world.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

Life is a journey. To be Jedi is to seek to live the Hero’s Journey. Over the last year you have taken your first steps into a wider world and began to walk the Jedi Path. The Jedi Path has no ending unless you choose to leave it. This means that being Jedi is a mindset as well as a philosophy for life. It is something that you may pick up and put aside after months, years or decades or continue for the rest of your life. If being Jedi adds value to your life, provides a useful and beneficial framework for solving problems and leads to continuous improvement then is it not worth holding on to? If you find something better, take it.

Marcus Aurelius, possibly the closest example of a Jedi Master to be found in history, wrote “If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, truth, self-control, courage—it must be an extraordinary thing indeed”. Even today 1700 years later, those words are applicable. What could be better than having virtues such as courage, self-discipline and doing what you know to be right. Philosophy is not a book on a shelf to be pulled down to memorize quotes for reciting to friends in a café. Philosophy is expressed through virtues, principles, and practices that are demonstrated daily. A philosophy that has no practical application is useless because it is meant to be a moral compass with which you navigate life.

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

Carl Jung’s archetype of the Hero in analytical psychology led Joseph Campbell to the monomyth and the Hero’s Journey. Symbols, myths, and archetypes are present in every culture throughout history. All of humanity share a common experience that we all recognize intuitively. George Lucas took the monomyth and created Star Wars capturing the Hero’s Journey in a way that broke into popular culture like never before.

Luke Skywalker was the Hero in Star Wars. He is a young farmer who dreams of adventure. The plans to the Death Star come to him through R2D2 which had also been the Droid belonging to his father, Anakin. Fate leads him to Obi-wan Kenobi who becomes his guide. Through tragedy he accepts the call to adventure when his uncle and aunt are slaughtered by Imperial Troops. Luke experiences many challenges and finally arrives on Dagobah where Yoda trains and mentors Luke in becoming a Jedi. On Dagobah he is forced to confront his shadow and integrate it.

Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future… the past. Old friends long gone.” – Yoda

Luke enjoys victories and suffers setbacks learning from them. On Cloud City he confronts his nemesis and discovers that Darth Vader is his father plunging him into a dark existential crisis, hitting rock bottom, from which he is reborn and returns stronger. In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke finds atonement by redeeming his father and defeating the Dark Lord. The Force finds balance and Luke completes his journey reuniting with his friends and returning home carrying the prize of his adventures.

The Hero’s Journey is the process by which the Hero archetype achieves individuation, the overcoming of the ego persona and the full realization of the self. Luke Skywalker arrived at his destiny by embarking on an adventure into the great unknown. This required sacrifice and suffering. To arrive at the destination and become completely whole, one must embrace both the light and dark sides of the self. This brings the Force in to balance.

You think Yoda stops teaching, just because his student does not want to hear? A teacher Yoda is. Yoda teaches like drunkards drink, like killers kill.” – Yoda

Within every person is a need to grow, to learn and expand. In each there is a desire to enter the unknown and find themselves there. Humans are driven to seek, explore and work to arrive at a place of self-knowledge and self-actualization. When they are prevented from doing so, they struggle and suffer. Every person deserves to strive to reach their potential in life. This is the Force.

It is unlikely you will ever reach enlightenment. Perfection is neither realistic nor possible. To practice the Jedi Code for 24 hours is hard enough. But each 24 hours is a chance to build on the previous day. The journey is to know thyself. No one knows how much time they have. Your job is to use that time wisely.

Luminous beings are we… not this crude matter.” – Yoda

Dark Side

“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.” – Yoda

Everyone has a Dark Side. To never encounter your own Shadow and come to know it is to never become fully integrated as a human being. Most people are too afraid to peer into the dark recesses of their psyche. They do not want to know what dark secrets exist there. They remain strangers to themselves as a result.

When the Dark Side does come out in force it is overwhelming. You can find yourself doing things you could never imagine doing before. Horrors that you thought were beyond the pale now no longer seem deplorable, they also become desirable. The Dark Side becomes you and it consumes you utterly.

No one is entirely light or dark, we are all of us shades of grey. Humans are without exception full of fears, doubts, and flaws. All of us have biases which shape out thoughts and judgements on things. We surrender to base emotions and act on them when confronted with monsters only to become monsters ourselves. This is when we surrender to the Dark Side.

Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” – Yoda

The policemen in Nazi occupied Poland, Ukraine and France who arrested Jews and Gypsies for deportation to the concentration camps were only following orders. Perhaps many were fathers with young children and were merely trying to survive. Were they evil? They did evil deeds which seemed justified at the time but otherwise they may have lived virtuous lives. Even the Confederate soldiers who fought to keep separated from the union and perpetuate a system of late slavery were men only doing their duty as they understood it. A quick browse of the internet and you will be bombarded with images of people of all kinds doing horrific things and condoning atrocity while justifying them or deflecting blame to others.

We are each responsible for our own actions. If I am capable of evil deeds, then so are you. The question is what would push you to the Dark Side to make that choice? What perceived horrors and injustices would compel you? How much force would need to be exerted on you to abandon reason and commit a crime against your soul? That’s a question only you can answer if you dare to know the truth.

Through alcoholism I lived in the twilight of the Dark Side for many years. The “Cave of Dagobah” yawned before me, threatening to swallow my soul. I dared to stare into it my Dark Side and it grinned back. Eventually I had to invite the Dark Side out to play, to look deep within it and stare it down. I had a choice. That was the path to salvation. Not any other way, that way.

The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see, the future is.” – Yoda

What has this to do with Star Wars?

Star Wars is a saga of Heroes and Villains. There is conflict, struggles to overcome and the ever-present tension between the opposing sides of the Force. There are those that follow the Dark side who oppose those on the Light side of the Force. The story of epic struggle between light and darkness, good and evil is as old as time. The Epic Gilgamesh was the earliest tale of where a man embarks on an adventure where in the end, he finds peace and redemption by overcoming his darker side.

The Greek legends, Beowulf, Nordic sagas, and the Indian Vedas all share the same theme of the struggle of the hero to not only overcome the monster, tyrant or evil before him but also the darkness in his own heart. Overcoming his struggle, the Hero returns home redeemed and reborn. In the ancient world the Gods played out the eternal saga of birth, death and rebirth as the sun bought life and hope with Spring, rose to fully glory in Summer and then was dragged to the underworld to battle with dark forces through Winter only to arise anew in the following Spring to allow the sowing and the Harvest.

Always the struggle between light and dark. Darkness tries to snuff out the light and eclipse it from existence. Fear and despair prevail. Light shines forth and beats back the darkness bringing hope and salvation. A cycle, until, like Ragnarok or the Kali Yuga, the end of days comes and brings with it a harvest of blood.

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.” – Yoda

The Star Wars prequels presented the fall of the Divine Child, the promised one, into darkness. The original trilogy introduced a New Hope. This time the dim flicker of light would prevail against the darkness and not falter. The Darks Side would be beaten back into the shadows. Darth Sidious would be cast down, Anakin redeemed, and Luke Skywalker would bring balance to the Force…for a time. Every story end is a new beginning.

Like the seasons the story repeats in the sequel trilogy. The light has dimmed, the Hero has grown old. The sky darkens and hope struggles against despair. A new Hero steps forward and holds a candle to the darkness once again. The forces of Light always prevail in myth. They must. The myth gives hope to the living that the darkness can be beaten back, that life can prevail over death.

To be Jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle or the night.”– Yoda

Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”. Despite his warnings Anakin succumbed to the Dark Side. Luke overcame the temptation to join his Father and submit to the Dark Side however in an alternative ending to “Return of the Jedi” by Lucas, Luke does take up the helmet of Darth Vader and surrenders to the Dark Side. Many years later in a moment of folly and rage Luke fails his nephew Ben Solo who turns to the Knights of Ren embracing the Dark Side. Luke later redeems himself as does Kylo Ren in the final chapter.

Were Dath Vader and Kylo Ren evil? No. Did they suffer? Yes. The Sith claimed that the Dark Side gave them freedom and power to control natural laws and life. The Sith did not claim to be evil but believed that the means justified the ends. Morality was relative and open to debate. Is nature not cruel and indifferent to suffering? Is evolution not evidence that the weak must perish and the strong prevail for the benefit of life? The Sith offered the Galaxy safety and security in exchange for liberty and justice. No surprise they were met with resistance. No one wants to be a slave to darkness.

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda

What is your Dark Side? Have you faced it? Do you recognize your Shadow? Are you willing to accept that it exists, that you are capable of horrible and dark things? Life is a struggle between the Dark and Light sides of your nature. Which side prevails is the question you must resolve in your own personal Hero’s Journey. Remember that what you sow you shall harvest later. Whatever you decide, choose never to forsake your humanity in that quest.

Hatred

The boy you trained, gone he is. Consumed by Darth Vader.” – Yoda

Hatred is a powerful emotion and uniquely human. No other animal displays hatred. Unlike anger, which is a transitory emotion eventually burning out, hate will endure the test of time and be as potent as the day it rose. Hate is a disease that eats away at the soul and spreads far and wide covering everything in darkness.

Hatred flows in the blood. Hate is a living thing; it is passed on like a curse from one generation to the next. Wars, ethnic genocide, religious violence, terrorism, and oppression are all forms of Hate. In its purest form hate is devoid of emotion or passion. There is no anger or pride. The very emotion removes all humanity and commonality with the object of one’s hatred. Hate is the complete absence of love. There is no chance of mutual respect, cooperation, and trust where hatred exists. Redemption is impossible. To Hate is to separate.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

In the last month all I have seen is war and hate. It is pervasive and the world is awash with it. Where before I saw fear in people’s eyes as they contended with wave after wave of media hysteria related to the ongoing pandemic, I now see hate. At the same time the drums of war are beating as angry voices clamor for action and retribution. Fuel is being thrown on the Fire and it threatens to consume us all.

I know what Hate is. It is suffering. I lived in a household where the memory of ethnic and fraternal bloodshed was deep rooted, “the other” was the eternal enemy that had to be destroyed. The hatred of “the other” was fuelled by alcohol. A fire needs its fuel even if it burns the house down. In 1991 I saw that hatred explode into a horrific war that turned neighbour against neighbour and pitted brother against brother. Thirty years later I wonder has the world learned anything as it slides once again toward the heart of darkness.

Yoda saw Hate as the final descent into the Dark Side. Hate eclipsed any flicker of hope. The door has been slammed closed to the divine nature of the Force. There is no light, only darkness.

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

Anakin was driven to the Dark Side through the hatred that grew within him like some insidious tumor. The fire of Mustafa ravaged his body, but hatred utterly consumed his soul.

Anakin’s Grandson, Kylo Ren, suffered the same affliction. Ren’s hatred was so deep that he became a psychopath. Hatred had driven Luke to almost kill his nephew Ben Solo. Believing himself entitled to Justice Kylo Ren derived sadistic pleasure and satisfaction in hunting and murdering those who had been close to him, who had hurt him. Hatred spurned him on but as it grew deeper it consumed him.

Anakin driven to insanity and complete loss of identity with his transformation to Vader suffered deeply. Vader was tortured physically, mentally, and spiritually with every breath. The Hatred was complete and transformed itself into raw power. The Shadow Form, the Dark Side dominated him. Vader no longer hated anyone or anything other than himself and his Master. In Vader lay no festering ordinary hatred. There was only a will to dominate and control all that is within a closed fist of absolute power. All of Vader’s will and intent was directed there.

Oh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great..” – Yoda

Children learn to Love before they learn to Hate. Within our true self resides unbounded Love. That is why when we carry Hate we know that it is not who we are. It feels unnatural and heavy like a sickness within us. The feeling of “righteous indignation” and anger it gives us is shallow and leaves us feeling hollow and in conflict with who we truly are.

As an alcoholic I was prone to hate. I hated others, my life and God. Fear became, anger became hate. Surrendering my life to a Higher Power meant letting go of Hate. Although at times I get scared, resentful, or angry I find it impossible to Hate like I did in active abuse. The emotion is draining and like drinking alcohol it no longer brings pleasure or satisfaction, only a feeling of revulsion and regret. Now when I go online and see the Hate that pervades social media and news comments, I feel repulsed at the realisation that people feel empowered by their “righteous hatred” more than the vitriol they spew forth. Hatred is an illusion and a sickness of perception.

Then came war. In our arrogance, join the conflict swiftly we did. Fear, anger, hate. Consumed by the dark side, the Jedi were.” – Yoda

When we open our eyes to the illusion of Hate, it becomes exposed for what it is. Hate is a wall that separates us completely from our inner divine more than any other emotion. Hate separates us from our true nature and from other people. Like a cancer it grows and ultimately it destroys us from the inside out. If you strike with hatred in your heart it will stay with you forever like a dark stain.

Love conquers Hate. It was an act of Love that redeemed and saved Anakin from his living hell. Love stayed Luke’s hand from inflicting a fatal blow on Ben Solo. Luke invited Kylo Ren to strike him down but warned him to do so with Hate would afflict him forever. Love was the final act which finally saved Kylo Ren and brought order to the Force.

There is enough Hate in the world. Do not add to it. Conquer Hate and never give in to it. Give Peace a Chance.

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

War

This post was published on 27 July 2017. As the clouds of war gather in Europe and the world one again faces the real threat of nuclear conflict I thought to repost now. MTFBWY.

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“Wars not make one great.” – Yoda

A Zero Sum Affair

No matter what our politicians and leaders tell us, wars do not solve problems and they certainly do not make people or nations great. The killing of another human being no matter what the justification is never easy, we are not programmed to take life. Yes, there are heroes in war, acts of bravery under fire that are celebrated and remembered. War can bring out the best and worst in people but it should never be glorified. Very few veterans will relish war and only a fool brazenly seeks it. Speak to someone who has seen war up close and they will tell you it is never pretty and it is a waste of life an d treasure. For this reason it should always be a last resort and one that is never taken lightly by those that send others to fight.

As a society we seem to have become increasingly conditioned to war. It seems we are in a perpetual state of war while preparing for future conflicts. Today the United States is directly involved in conflict in no less than 15 countries on five continents. We have 300 bases in over 70 countries. A dangerous military build-up is also occurring between historic Cold War foes that is devoid of any of the mutual respect and constructive dialogue that existed forty years ago. Distrust, division and accusation prevails. Our world is headed to a precipice and indeed the Doomsday Clock overseen by a panel of international Atomic Scientists was recently adjusted to 2½ minutes to midnight, the closest to the point of Armageddon since 1953.

Last Resort

What can we do about any of this? Unfortunately not much. The Stoics suggested that in life there will be many things that disturb us of which we have no control. We can emote on a subject, we can commiserate on how terrible the loss of life in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine is due to conflict or bemoan the degradation of the global environment. Worrying or emoting about events that we have no control over does not alleviate the suffering or change a thing. If we can act, we do what can be done otherwise we focus on our place in the world and those that rely on us. We attend to our own battles at home and strive to make a better life.

The Fictional Jedi were keepers of the Peace but were sworn to protect the Republic and defend it. Being a real world Jedi means knowing which battles to pick and only ever accepting violence as a last resort and primarily in self defence, never attack. A Jedi abhors violence.

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda

 Soul Wars

Carrie Fisher once compared her battle with mental illness as akin to being in a war. The analogy was not intended to belittle the sacrifice of veterans who had fought in Afghanistan but to highlight the nature of the struggle she endured for years. Many of us fight our own inner battles, the prize of victory is survival and defeat ultimately means death. The courage needed to survive addiction and recover should never be understated it also takes a tremendous amount of balls.

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside).” – Carrie Fisher

Alcoholics are not facing an enemy on a battleground or the threat of IEDS, they are confronting their own darker side. In recovery we change our lives utterly and in ways we could never have imagined.

A Crowded Hour

Soldiers are given medals for acts of heroism in the face of danger. Storming a machine gun nest, pulling a wounded comrade to safety while taking fire, jumping in to a burning vehicle to pull out unconscious casualties all take a tremendous amount of guts. The ordeal will last from seconds to hours. The “crowded hour” that Soldiers who have experienced in battle will know as the euphoria mixed with terror that is as addictive as a drug.

“Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!

Throughout the sensual world proclaim,

One crowded hour of glorious life

Is worth an age without a name.”

Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809)

When the dust settles and the adrenaline wears off the Hero Soldier will be unable to explain his actions, he will simply state that his training and instincts kicked in, there was no time to think, just act. A true Warrior will never claim that war has made him “great”.

Uncommon Valor

We Alcoholics also faces a momentous challenge in overcoming our addiction and starting the long road to recovery. In Step 1 we must admit our powerlessness to alcohol and accept that a spiritual solution is the only path. For many this can require rejecting a life time of prejudice and accepting something that before was completely unfathomable. We must dig deep and inventory our history all of our faults and all of the harm we have done others. Having admitted our faults to ourselves we must admit them to our Higher Power and another person. With our past clearly laid bare we must be willing to put it behind us and resolve to change and become who we want to be.

Our actions must agree with that resolve; we seek out those we have harmed and we make amends. We forgive others and we finally forgive ourselves. Living one day at a time we seek to improve ourselves and grow spiritually as well as mentally and emotionally. Our attention moves outwards and we seek to serve others, helping where we can.  The journey can be terrifying but we find a type of courage and inner strength that endures and we change. It takes uncommon valor.

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

Whoever answers the call of duty should never be condemned and those that make the ultimate sacrifice should never be forgotten but always honoured. War should always be regretted and never glorified. Never forget too that we as alcoholics face our own battles on a daily basis, often alone and without support. Our effort is worthy and honourable. We may not think it “great” but your recovery is a small light in a dark world, you are making the world a better place.

World betterment through self-betterment” – The Jedi Circle

Fears

(Source: Wall Paper Flare)

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” – Yoda

Fear is one of the strongest emotions a human can experience. Fear is as primordial as life on Earth and ingrained in our biology. An element of fear underpins much of what we do and motivates us into action that ensures survival and well-being.  Without Fear you would not be motivated to care for your health, seek out food and shelter or defend yourself against attack. You could not survive without the “Fight and Flight” response which fear elicits when it ignites the adrenal gland and fills the body and brain with adrenaline. Fear can be beneficial, but it can also be devastating.

Fear can make us do things that we would not normally do. Fears, imagined and real will convince us to accept treatments we would otherwise never consent to. It compels us to acquiesce to rules, mandates and restrictions no matter how severe or oppressive, without question. Fear is the the leverage others will use to deny us of our freedoms and liberties and do so with our full willingness. Until you have lived in Fear every day of your life you cannot begin to understand how powerful it is in shaping who you are. You cannot understand the power Fear has over your life.

“If you make decisions out of fear you are more likely to be wrong.” – Ahsoka Tano

Imagine being at the mercy of another human being. You live under constant fear of being punished and abused physically and mentally any time. Your loved ones are held in ransom and routinely abused in a similar way. You have no idea of what will happen and have no control over your life. Imagine being a slave living in Fear. It would be terrifying and soul destroying.

The child Anakin was a slave and grew up in an environment that was brutal and cruel. Anakin was not allowed to have a childhood and had to work to earn his keep and avoid punishment. Fortunately for the young Human he was intelligent beyond his years and already a skilled pilot before he was ten. Anakin’s owner, Watto, was able to profit from the boy which bought Anakin a measure of freedom that other slaves did not enjoy.

When Yoda met Anakin, he sensed the Fear and an emerging darkness in the boy. The Force was strong in Anakin but so was the fear he had grown up with. Fear can reside deep within for decades. With time it grows and shapes like a cancer. Life becomes haunted by fears both real and imagined. Fear manifests itself in poor choices, anger, resentments, aggression, ignorance, and hate. It did so with Anakin, as Yoda feared it would and Fear consumed him utterly.

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

Myths and legends remind humanity of the consequences of giving in to Fear. Most of the fears that are experienced are imagined. You fear an idea, an illusion, a nightmare, or a thing not yet realized rather than reality. People are terrified to leave their homes convinced that they may fall victim to crime or terrorism. The constant bombardment of the exaggerated dangers of a virus in the news and social media has led to a mass formation of social psychosis that has created a traumatised generation. People no longer consider the actual risks in their lives, they are willing to accept anything that may take the perceived danger away. They suffer in their minds more than in reality, in anticipation of something that will likely only ever occur in their imagination.

Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” – Yoda

The Hero overcomes her fear by confronting it. She will throw open the door on which fear beats and find nothing there. The Hero will stop running from fear and turn to face it. What was tangible, insurmountable and undefeatable turns out to be a harmless illusion that quickly fades away. The Hero realizes at the end that the greatest challenge is overcoming one’s own fears. True courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to continue on despite it. The Hero’s Journey is all about overcoming your fears.

Being alcoholic and a survivor of an abusive childhood I know what it is to live in Fear. I also know that Fear kept me back from doing so much in life. Every day lived in Fear is a day wasted. Living in Faith of a Higher Power has dulled that Fear by turning it over. I no longer have to be afraid of things that I do not control. My own Fear is a choice that I can control. I can take action and make decisions based on reason, not on Fear.

I used to be afraid, all the time. Then I realized that a decision based on fear is usually the wrong one.Ahsoka Tano

Fear is a natural response to a threat. Sometimes that threat is real and sometimes it is exaggerated or imagined. Fear is sometimes the correct and appropriate response. More often it is an unnecessary mental burden which creates unnecessary barriers to progress. Fear will prevent you from taking risks worth taking, from making the changes needed to live a better life. Fear more than any other emotion will stop you being the person you were meant to be. The only choice you have is to “Do. Or do not”.

Hmm. In the end, cowards are those who follow the dark side.” – Yoda

There is no shame in being afraid. Cowards are those who are unwilling or unable to face up to their fears. They choose to give in to fear and allow it to control them without concern for others. Anakin gave in to his fears by betraying everything dear to him for the illusion of security and control. To be Jedi is to acknowledge the presence of fear but train the mind to let go of everything you fear to lose. Never be a slave to fear. Be brave.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”Yoda

Taken from Week 48 of the Daily Jedi Journal

Reflect

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way” – Yoda

Why are you here? What do you want from life? Where do you want to go? How do you plan to get there? These are often the questions we ask ourselves as we face a New Year. We reflect upon the last year. Some of us take time to count our blessings and successes as well as failures. We assess what went well and identify where improvements can be made. We take inventory.

What will I find?” – Luke Skywalker

As you begin to start the new year the chances are you are seeking to change. That change may be specific to your relationships, career, health, or finances. You may be unhappy where your life is currently at and you want to make broad and sweeping changes. Perhaps things are generally going well but you want to do better in some or all areas of your life.

Only what you take with you” – Yoda

Self-reflection and introspection are a powerful act which can guide us on a path to enlightenment. The exercise is not meant to be self-absorption. We are not using it to think of ourselves only in a selfish or self-centred way. The goal is not to garner a spirit of self will or to blame others. Self-reflection is to realize our goals and understand where we are in relation to those goals. This leads to self-knowledge. With self-knowledge comes the freedom to change once we decide to act.

It’s a chance for you to make a fresh start.” – Mon Mothma

Take some time to reflect on your life. Consider the past year and go back as far as you want to. List your achievements for the last 12 months. Highlight your successes. Now do the same for the last 5 years and if you dare go back as far as a decade.

The milestones of your life may be anything you consider significant. It may include finishing school and university, academic achievements, career highlights, military or community service, business achievements and financial growth. List the things that make you proud. Include your family milestones and relationships with partners, family, friends, and associates.

Search your Feelings” – Luke Skywalker

List all your key attributes that you feel describe you in a positive way. Words might include trustworthy, humble, funny, determined, intelligent, kind, considerate and compassionate.

Now list where things have not gone so well in your life. List the areas you regret, or wish could be improved. Inventory your faults to others as well as your flaws and failures. Be honest but do not self-deprecate yourself in the process. Confronting our mistakes and failures are essential if we want to move on and improve our lives.

“To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose” – Yoda

List your character flaws and faults which you identify as negative or unproductive. These might be impatient, compulsive, obsessive, aggressive, resentful, demanding, inflexible, bigoted, and dishonest.

Take the time to meditate on this exercise. Self-reflection can be a confronting as well as a rewarding experience. Unless we know who, we are and come to terms with it, we cannot hope to move forward.

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defence, never for attack” – Yoda

Self-reflection requires a lot of honesty and introspection. We must be completely honest with ourselves and realistic in the way we look at ourselves. A mirror must be held up and we must confront who we are and where we have come from. We must face the good with the bad to make the change we want to be. This can be hard but persevere we must.

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

Trials

I have been thinking a lot about the Jedi Trials. I am at that part of the Daily Jedi Journal where I have had to take a hard look in the mirror and recognise my failings and faults and try to overcome them.

In your training how do you put yourself through trials to test your training as Jedi?

The last two months have been difficult due to things going on in my life. On looking back I realized that I handled them pretty well considering and managed to apply Jedi philosophy, simply put the Jedi Code, in dealing with each of them.

This is what has been happening:

In late October my younger sister was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer out of the blue. It was identified during treatment for an infection. It turned out to be Stage 4, multisystem and aggressive and she was given a very poor prognosis and told perhaps 6 weeks to 3 months to live. This was a bit of a shock. To add to the pain, the public health system in this country is not great and the bureaucracy is insane. Her treatment (chemo) was delayed by a month and with Stage 4 cancer it is vital that you act quickly and aggressively.

On the same day I visited the hospital to learn of the diagnosis my car was stolen from the parking lot outside…

A few days later I returned to work at a mining concern . I found in my absence some people had undertaken work without authority and broken several environmental and safety requirements. There was a massive investigation, finger pointing, blame game and anger. People were fired, lawyers were called in. Statements were read. People lied and betrayed others to keep their jobs. I was not even there when it happened, and I got mauled. It was a bad experience and left me to question my loyalty to the company I have worked for 10 years.

Soon after there was a restructuring, and I was moved from operations to corporate services within the company. The trouble of course is that my boss, the corporate general manager, is located 2000km away, is a micromanager and reminds me of Sheev Palpatine.

The difference between I and Anakin is I recognise the corporate general manager for what he is; an incompetent bureaucrat and power seeker that takes credit for other peoples work while undermining them and manipulating the hierarchy to elevate his power and position. Naturally I have clashed with this “Palpatine” character more than twice. Not a wise career move apparently.

The implication of course is that as my new boss he would find a way to restructure me out and now he has. On Christmas Eve I was told that after 10 years service my position was no longer required and was being purged. They have another person, a friend of the general manager, waiting to take my office. Rather than get angry I thanked the company COO and HR manager for my service and left without regret.

To paraphrase Jocko Willink “Good“.

After all that, here I sit at home on Christmas Day, and I am a happy Jedi. I asked, “what trials can I put myself through to test my training”? I thought about things like running and hiking for miles, fasting for days, cold showers and various self-inflicted discomforts. In the end the Force answered and gave me a string of trials to navigate and use my Jedi training. It reminded me the real point of Jedi philosophy is not to create a fictional Jedi with physical and mental super powers but someone with the emotional intelligence and mental resilience to deal with life’s struggles and come away helping others. Its about training the mind, body and spirit to live as everyday people.

My sister’s treatment is going OK and she is responding well and feeling better. Living with cancer is a day to day thing. I realized I did not need a car and gave the insurance pay-out to my wife to spend on Christmas. The government sent a letter back to the company about the incident and said it was no big deal, so a lot of people got upset over nothing. I have come to accept my severance as an opportunity. I am better off working elsewhere and new opportunities have started coming in. I am still sober and did not think about drinking once.

The moral of the story is life is a training ground. We all go through our own personal Dagobah. We all go through our own trials in life. The difference is, we are never told necessarily when that will happen, the Force decides, and we answer the call.

Merry Christmas, MTFBWY.

Mandate

In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society, which I assure you will last for ten thousand years” – Supreme Chancellor Palpatine

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

The fall of the Republic did not happen overnight. The decline started years before Chancellor Palpatine declared emergency powers and dissolved the senate. Changes were incremental and subtle. The Clone Wars started as the result of a number of planetary systems demanding greater independence from the Republic. The war then justified new mandates and laws to be imposed by both the Republic and the Confederation.

The slow creep of authoritarianism began to spread like a cancer corrupting people and institutions as it advanced. Changes were accepted universally. The Jedi Order was not immune to the rot. Eventually it was the steady slide into authoritarianism that led to the collapse of the Republic, the demise of the Jedi Order and the rise of Darth Vader.

The Emperor believed in absolutes. Mandates and lies were the tools he used to enforce his will. Let that be a warning.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

There is only one requirement for entry into a 12 step program of recovery. We are told that all are welcome and require only a desire to stop drinking. The 12 Steps are a recommended guide that promises contented and sustained sobriety for those that work the program honestly and with effort. No dogma exists, there are no rules, there are only steps and traditions that each person is expected, not mandated, to follow. There are no absolutes. The individual chooses either way and takes ownership of that choice and accepts the outcomes it brings them.

There is a line in 12 step literature which reads “we have true democracy and true brotherhood”. The founders of the 12 steps believed in the freedom and rights of the individual while placing great value on the strength of the group to support the individual in his or her recovery. The attraction of the 12 Steps was its appeal to the individual. An alcoholic saw that hope resided for him if he was honest enough to admit his disease and flaws. The alcoholic gained purpose by being willing to surrender their lives to the idea of a Higher Power as they understood it. No one could help the alcoholic but himself. While others could share in their struggles and support them they were not responsible for the recovery of anyone but their own.

That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.” – Benjamin Franklin

Unlike many recovery programs that require a strict adherence to rules and requirement though reward and punishment incentives, the 12 Steps brings about recovery only through commitment and hard work. There is no punishment for not following the program. There is no segregation from the group, no expulsion or removal of rights. The desire to stay sober and avoid the return to the hell of active alcoholism is incentive enough. No one is forcing you to make that choice. It is your choice alone.

Recovery gives us freedom and the sovereignty to decide what goes into our bodies. We decide how to respond to the world using reasoned and rational thought. When we were in abuse, we had no choice. If we pick up again, we lose that choice and once again become victims to the absolutism and nihilism of alcoholism. Without choice we are at the mercy of the Dark Side and subject to its will.

Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

The Jedi Path is a choice not a mandate. The Jedi did not believe in absolutes. They believed in free choice and individual rights. Those that walk the Jedi Path do so at their own volition. They can step off the path at any time. There is no dogma or rules which a Jedi must follow. A Jedi is not mandated to do anything and is free to act in accordance with the Jedi Code. The Jedi has ownership of their physical self, spiritual beliefs, principles and whatever value system they embrace.

Being Jedi is accepting the diversity and uniqueness of each individual and allowing them the choice to live as they will. It means respecting the decisions of others. While you may not agree with the choices of others, it is their right. You do not have moral superiority over others through the choices you make. No one has the right to enforce their will on others. Mandates and forced compliance are the tools by which tyrants gradually increase their power and enforce it upon others. Being Jedi is protecting individual rights as well as the community. We do not deal in absolutes.

I ‘am the Senate” – Chancellor Palpatine

The fictional Jedi were Free Thinkers. The Jedi opposed authoritarianism and advocated for democracy and individual rights. They avoided dogma and did not like mandates that were pushed through for the “collective good” at the expense of individual liberty. They followed a code and accepted vows but they did so freely. A Jedi was free to leave the order anytime. Jedi used reason and objective rational thought in making their own decisions. It was for this reason that the Jedi and Sith were diametrically and ideologically opposed.

Do you rely on authority to make decisions for you? Do undemocratic mandates truly keep you safe and secure? Can you think freely and stand as an individual with reasoned choice?

Do you deal in absolutes?

Forsaken

I will not forsake all I have honoured and worked for and betray the Republic.” – Padmé Amidala

War is intolerable. We have been deceived into thinking that we must be a part of it. I say the moment we committed to fighting, we already lost.” ― Duchess Satine Kryze

New Mandalore was a world of hope and prosperity. The planet had cast off the violent and extremist past of the Old Mandalorians and embraced change. The planet had become a centre of learning. Peace and reconciliation were at the centre of its neutral stance on interplanetary diplomacy. Tolerance, pacifism, neutrality, and democracy were its pillars. The Duchess Satine Kryze was a popular leader who sacrificed her life for her people and for peace. She was loved by her people but also by Obi-wan Kenobi, who came to regret choosing the Jedi Order over her.

The fall of Mandalore was a story of betrayal. For years, the Mandalorians had engaged in a civil war between the warriors of the extremist terrorist group, the Death Watch. The group wanted a return to the old warrior ways of the Mandalorians. Their leader of the group Pre Vizsla sought to overthrow the legitimate democratically elected government of New Mandalore through terrorism and targeted assassinations. They appealed to Count Dooku to drag Mandalore into the Clone Wars while at the same time planning to betray the separatists. Members of Satines’s government were corrupted through promises of power in the new regime as well as wealth.

The cost of maintaining neutrality came at a price for Mandalore during their civil war. The Republic would not support the Mandalorians. The Trade Federation manipulated and restricted trade with Mandalore favouring the Separatists while creating a black market and encouraging further corruption within the government lead by the Prime Minister Almec.

Our combined strength will be rewarded. Mandalore will be yours, and Kenobi, this Sith pretender Dooku and all our enemies… will fall.” ― Maul, to Pre Vizsla

The entry of Darth Maul into the fray sealed the fate of Mandalore. Darth Maul knew his path to revenge against Ob-wan Kenobi lay in holding Satine as a hostage. Mandalore was the key. The former Sith gone rogue had taken his brother Savage Oppress as an apprentice and allied himself with the Death Watch combining his small army of mercenaries and criminal thugs into the Shadow Collective. Renewed terror attacks and false flags were launched on the capital city Sundari. The defence forces crumbled in the face of the attack. The Death Watch leader convinced the terrorised population to support him and in fear they did. Wresting control of the government Pre Vizsla arrested Satine and turned on his new ally, Darth Maul placing him in prison.

Further betrayal allowed Maul to form an alliance with the disgraced former Prime Minister in prison and escape. Once free he confronted Pre Vizsla and defeated him in Lightsaber combat. The victory placed Maul in charge of loyal members of the Death Watch. Darth Maul now at the position of power appointed Almec as a puppet to impose his decrees.

Listen, Duchess. Do you hear the people? They cry out for change. Your weak-minded rule of Mandalore is at an end. The resurrection of our warrior past is about to begin!” ― Pre Vizsla to Satine Kryze

 News of the fall of Mandalore reached Coruscant but the senate and the Jedi Council refused to intervene despite the desperate pleas of the Duchess. The senate was prevented by politics and the influence of Palpatine. Those on Mandalore who could resist fled into exile and formed a resistance. Mandalore awoke to a new ruler and a new way of life.

Obi-wan Kenobi ignored the Jedi Council and travelled to Mandalore in secret to rescue Satine. Maul had laid his trap and capturing Kenobi forced the Jedi Master to watch Satine be tortured and then murdered. Anguish and despair overcame Kenobi as she died in his arms professing her love for him. Through the efforts of the resistance, Kenobi was able to escape.

The betrayal did not end there. Darth Sidious furious at the meddling of Darth Maul in the affairs of Mandalore personally visited the planet to punish Maul for daring to challenge the rule of two. Sidious easily killed Maul’s apprentice and imprisoned Maul before forcing Almec to swear his allegiance. Even when the Republic returned to depose Maul who had returned, Order 66 proved the effort futile as the planet quickly fell to the Empire as the Jedi were purged.

The following years bought further war and tragedy to Mandalore as the world constantly changed hands. The Empire could not control it and found a final solution in the “Great Purge” which led to the mass genocide of the Mandalorian people and their expulsion from the planet.

That planet is cursed. Anyone who goes there dies. Once the Empire knew they couldn’t control it, they made sure no one else could either.” – Din Djarin

The story of Mandalore sounds depressingly familiar to the recent history of Afghanistan. That country has suffered a continuous civil war which has all the conspiracy, intrigue, and tragedy of the Mandalorians. They call Afghanistan the “Graveyard of Empires” for a reason. The mountainous country is soaked in blood and tears. 

As I watch on the news the last plane depart Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul I feel sad for the people abandoned to endure an unknown fate in Afghanistan. I remember the promises that were made to those that laid their hopes in peace and a fledgling democracy, the young women who dreamed of having choices previously denied them, artists and intellectuals that were free to express themselves, students who could openly mix and enjoy the freedoms we so take for granted in the west. I fear for the life and safety of the US citizens, green card holders and Afghans who worked with the US and her allies.

The New Afghanistan is gone now. The old Afghanistan of the Taliban is back. Al Qaeda and other terror groups have returned in strength. The people of Afghanistan were betrayed and abandoned by their allies in the west as much as the New Mandalorians were betrayed and abandoned by the Republic. Left to the mercy of people who are as despotic as the Sith. Worst of all is the citizens of the US left stranded in a hostile land as remote now as if it were a distant planet. The civil war will continue as the opposing factions turn on each other slowly drawing outside powers back in to the abyss of the endless war.

An act of betrayal not only harms the betrayed but also the betrayer. The act of abandonment hurts both. The moral injury that remains far outlasts the act itself. The consequences of betrayal and abandonment can last for decades if not for life. I have a personal experience with both. One parent died when I was seven and the other, an alcoholic, soon abandoned his responsibilities. I felt as if I had been betrayed by both and abandoned by God. Later I also, betrayed those close to me and abandoned those that deserve better. Some I have made amends with, and others died before I had the chance to. Most of all I betrayed myself and abandoned my own principles. I now make amends through my actions.

Remember those betrayed, abandoned and stranded in Afghanistan. Remember the dead and the wounded. Never forget those that sacrificed their lives for a greater good and those that still carry the wounds and scars be they physical, mental or spiritual. They too were betrayed and abandoned by their leaders. Never forget the victims of 9/11, an event that changed everything for us that remember, twenty years ago. Many brave souls answered the call then to answer the atrocity. Obi-wan Kenobi answered the call and returned to Mandalore when no one else would. Who will answer the call of the Afghan people now?

Recovery has taught me to never betray those that rely on you and to ever abandon responsibilities that you have taken upon yourself to see to the end, no matter how painful that end might be. This is the way.

Four Horsemen

(Credit: goodbadennui)

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

Fear, anger, hate, and suffering were the Four Horsemen of the Dark Side that lead Anakin to his fate. They followed him like a shadow growing in strength with the years. Yoda’s prophetic warning to the child Anakin in “The Phantom Menace” was one of the most iconic lines in the Star Wars saga. In a few words Yoda revealed not only the path to the Dark Side but also the way out of suffering.

Yoda saw much fear in the young Anakin and saw the potential for that fear to transmute itself in to anger and hate. The raw untapped Force that resided in Anakin was obvious to Yoda and it troubled him because the Force has a light side and a dark side. The one who wields the Force decides which of the two sides to wield. Yoda’s misgivings were justified and for that reason he entrusted the training and care of Anakin to Qui Gon-Jinn and then Obi-wan Kenobi.

Fear, resentment, and anger is poison for the alcoholic in recovery leading to confusion, frustration, and despair. All stem from grasping attachment. What are they?

  • Resentment is when you don’t get your way yesterday.
  • Anger is when you don’t get your way today.
  • Fear is that you won’t get your way tomorrow. 

Hate is an extreme expression of resentment, anger and fear stemming from a perceived injustice or threat. Alcoholics know hate. They start by hating the limits imposed on their drinking, that hate extends to all around them and finally they hate themselves and alcohol. The irony is that hate always does more harm on the vessel that contains it than on which it is poured. It can only lead to suffering.

(Credit: Disney Lucas Films)

The child Anakin had been born into slavery and raised in Fear. The adolescent took that fear and turned it in to anger over the death his mother. Death and injustice became the subject of his hate. Now a Jedi, Anakin practiced controlled anger in war but he learned to hate the Separatists. War showed him the failings of democracy and the hypocrisy of the Jedi Order and it made him angry and resentful. Anakin believed his destiny was to rule the galaxy with Padmé at his side, not for power but for the sake of he and his beloved. Given power over mortality Anakin could defeat death and bring “peace, justice, freedom and security” to all.

Anakin was a victim of the Four Horsemen. Any modern psychologist would say he was suffering from mild paranoid schizophrenia and borderline psychosis stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder, an understandable outcome of slavery and then decades of service as a “Janissary” in the Jedi Order. A lifetime of unresolved inner conflict and emotional baggage built up and climaxed into hate when he perceived that Padmé and Obiwan-Kenobi had betrayed his love and trust. Anakin succumbed to rage and fell to the suffering of the Dark Side. The Horseman carried him away like a bride to the grave.

It need not be for us like that. We who have suffered for years and decades under fear and allowed it to breed resentment, anger and even hate come to realize that these things are merely the ego trying to keep us in the illusion of separation from our true selves, which is the Force. The ego wants us to be subject to its control and if that means alcoholism and lifetime of suffering, even at the risk of ego death, it is better than self-realization. Once we realize that we are above the base emotions of fear, anger and hate we can rise above them and in doing so completely overcome the ego and exorcise the Four Horsemen from our lives, for good.