Duty

Impossible to see … The Dark Side clouds everything. But this I am sure of…Do their duty the Jedi will” – Yoda

 

Duty is a word that is synonymous with the Jedi. The purpose of the Jedi was to serve the Republic. Duty was at the forefront of Jedi training and conduct. Even as the Jedi Order collapsed and only Luke Skywalker remained alone on the ancient Jedi Refuge of Ach-To the call to Duty was strong and could not be denied. Luke finally answered the call to action because he was Jedi and bound to do his Duty.

 

We are born for cooperation, as are the feet, the hands, eyelids, and the upper and lower jaws” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Call of Duty

Whether we know or not, each of us has a duty to perform. As human beings our first duty is to live in cooperation and collaboration with others. We are social animals and it is in our nature to depend upon each other. In fact our survival as a species relies on it.  No person is entirely an Island by nature.

We also have a duty to ourselves.  As competent adults each of us has a responsibility to safeguard and maintain our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. This is necessary for us to function in our roles within society.

Our final duty is that which society accords us in our role. People who earn a living have a duty to their employer. Businesses have a duty to their customers. Teachers a duty to their students and school. Doctors to their patients. Parent a duty to raise their children. All of us interact within the relationship obligations and expectations of duty. We all have a role to play whether we like it or not.

 

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Do your Duty!

When I was a Soldier I understood the concept of Duty. Through school I had been instructed in the merits of being a dutiful student. We were taught to respect the flag and honor country and God. Duty it was explained was the most honorable virtue bestowed on Man. Without it we were less than savages and had no honor or belonging. We owed it to our families, school, community, country and the church to be dutiful.  I thought that to be a good person one was duty bound to serve.

The Army reinforced this concept. To shirk one’s duty was seen as a crime. The worst offence was to abandon one’s duty through desertion or “by refusing to soldier”. Insubordination was one thing but conscientious objection or “abandoning one’s weapon” while in uniform was seen as the worst betrayal of duty. There were those who felt it was their personal moral and ethical duty to object to orders by “refusing to soldier”. Some expressed that through desertion.  Either way was punished by imprisonment.

 

Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.” – Yoda

 

Dereliction of Duty

I was not one of those men who saw duty to personal values as being more important than following insane orders. My constant insubordination and eventual desertion was driven by alcohol and a selfish and destructive attitude. As I got deeper in  to the mess of alcoholism I faced one charge for dereliction of duty after another. I found more ways to infuriate the system even more. Eventually I learned that I could not beat the system. Full of anger and resentment I went AWOL.  With little ceremony I was discharged on return and unceremoniously cast out back in to the world. I had failed in my duty. The rejection was a deep blow.

The years after my dishonorable discharge followed a similar pattern. I seldom remained in one place for long. With little warning I would leave. My loyalties were near non-existent or they lasted as long as the booze did. I could swear a blood oath to complete strangers in a Bar but not recognize them the next day. I could not hold down relationships unless they benefited my drinking and gratified my desires. None lasted long. Duty seemed like a foreign word. In the end I despised the notion of duty as it evoked control, obligation and restriction to my freedom.  Duty did not go with drinking.

 

Happiness is the natural flower of duty” – Phillips Brooks

 

Deon

Deon is the Greek word for binding moral and spiritual duty. It is also means “Of Zeus”. The Ancients placed great importance on personal duty marking it as almost holy. Coming in to recovery I had to embrace a new kind of Duty. This was a spiritual duty I owed to myself and others. Unlike the Duty that I had known in the past there was no need for self-sacrifice or submission to others. I was not compelled to do anything I did not want to do. I only had to follow my heart and act in accordance with my own principles and values.

What was required was a willingness to change and putting faith in a Higher Power I call the Force. I had the freedom to think for myself. My Duty was to not pick up that first drink and to follow some simple principles like self-honesty, humility and gratitude. Others showed me that they had a duty to help me stay sober because it also helped them. In time I could also help others and it would help me stay sober. Duty in that sense made complete sense to me.

 

The reward of doing one duty is the power to do another” – Rabbi Ben Azai

 

 

Duty of Care

These days we sometime hear the word “Duty” thrown about. People use it to remind society that it owes them a duty around their personal security, health, welfare and education. The Police, Military, Emergency Services, Hospitals, Teachers and Public Servants are there to provide us with a “Duty”. We live in a hedonistic and individualistic society where personal pursuits are valued more than the collective good. Many people seldom consider what Duty they owe to others and to the community.

Over the recent decades society has seen a decline in personal responsibility and accountability. Self-Discipline is becoming a rare commodity as is faith. Virtues are increasingly considered less importance than entitlement, celebrating diversity, political correctness, instant gratification, fame and physical appearance over character. We can still care about all of these things if they are important to us but we should find a sense of duty and purpose in our lives.

 

Do your duty and a little more than the future will take care of itself” – Andrew Carnegie

 

Ancient Wisdom

The Stoic and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote a lot about finding one’s Duty in life. Forgoing a life of luxury and pomp in Rome he sought instead to make his contribution in the defense of the Empire in the wilderness of the northern frontiers. In his works “Meditations”, the Emperor records his doubts and anxieties at the enormity of the task.  A sense of moral duty re-calibrates his resolve.

Luke Skywalker consumed by self-pity on Ach-To finally came to his senses and sought to fulfill his Duty as a Jedi. The Last Jedi only had to remember his purpose and his purpose was service.

Luke Skywalker and Marcus Aurelius shared common traits of responsibility, self-discipline, faith in a Higher Power and belief in a cause greater than themselves. That’s all we need. When you know what it is go out and do your duty.  In that pursuit you will achieve the greatest gift; the feeling that you have fulfilled a purpose and lived life well.

 

It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Forgiveness

Image: We can Forgive Lucas for Jar Jar too.

 

The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am” – Darth Vader

 

In the last post we explored the “Abundance Mindset” and how it is drawn from gratitude, acceptance and surrender. By having an “abundance mindset” we come to realize an abundant life. Our attachments to people, places and things loosen. We readily consider new ideas and refuse to be tied down by dogma. Life becomes fluid. Rather than focusing on life’s scarcity we focus on what we have. People who have arrived at a contended state of sobriety will often have an ‘abundance mindset’ that pervades their life rather than a “scarcity mentality”.

However an “abundance mindset” is sometimes not enough. Despite a solid mental and spiritual foundation the past can revisit and turn our lives upside down. Many of us live on the edge of a dark place. We believe our past is behind us yet at times we are haunted by it. Old habits and resentments threaten to ambush us and drag us back in to a pit of self pity, depression and anger. We still blame ourselves and others for past transgressions. This is when we need to forgive most. Forgiveness is the key to our salvation.

 

Scar Tissue

I have an introverted character that is often mistaken for being cold and insensitive. In fact the opposite is true, I am a sensitive person and wounds cut deep. Scars take a long time to heal, if they heal at all. I tend to carry the weight of my history on my back. I don’t forget old injuries and insults. In fact I can clearly recall what was said and done years and decades ago. Old memories of feelings and fear come flooding back. With that hurt and fear comes anger.

 

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

 

 

Digging up the Past

Recently I was at a conference where I saw some familiar faces. The last time I had seen many of them was a decade or more ago. When we had last met I was a different person. Alcohol had dominated my life and my relationships. I treated people in a certain way and they responded accordingly. As a result I was shamed or hurt. I reacted with anger and resentment. This of course made matters worse. Ten years or more later I see these people and can’t bring myself to speak with them. I avoided them and did my best to fade in to the background.

Later I considered my behaviour and realized my actions were driven by false impressions and self imposed fears. People generally don’t hold grudges for decades. They don’t have a catalogue of hurts like I do. Whatever had passed between I and these people was in a different life and they (being normal human beings) had long forgotten our petty disagreements of the past. People get over stuff and move on.

I realized that I was largely isolating myself out of shame. I knew the person I had been and did not want to be seen that way. This of course is ego based on fear. Why should we care what others think of us? Should we be paralyzed by the opinions of others? Do those opinions really matter so much that they keep us in doors?

 

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

Isolating

It suddenly occurred to me that I had not acted like a person stable in his sobriety. I was avoiding people, places and situations because I was afraid of how I  would be seen and treated and mostly how I would react. The fear of being “triggered” by a remark or a memory and possibly doing or saying something that I would later regret paralyzed me and forced me to isolate. Had I hung around and engaged the very people I had crossed in the past perhaps I would have made friends. But I chose to flee, hide and stoke my ego.

The problem of course lies in the failure to forgive. This has held me back for much of my life. As an alcoholic I was reluctant to forgive as it meant dismantling my defenses and leaving me open to attack. I also could not believe that others were capable of forgiveness. How could they be if I was not? If people said sorry it was only words. My cynical and paranoid outlook on life kept me incapable of forgiving or being forgiven. As a result I suffered and hid in the shadows. People were treated with suspicion.

 

 

Making Amends

Step 9 of AA suggests that we go out and seek to make amends to those we have harmed where it does not injure them or others. It is a selfless act. Through amends we right the past, forgive others and seek to be forgiven, if that is possible. We cannot force people to accept our amends. Their response, positive or negative, is accepted with grace and equanimity. Our task is only to do what we have in our control.

In Step 10 we are reminded to appraise ourselves on a daily basis, admit mistakes and make amends where required. The goal is constant and continuous self improvement.

Amends are not just for others. We must also never forget to forgive ourselves. Our lives cannot be held hostage by the mistakes of the past. We acknowledge the past and resolve to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. The past is neither shunned nor ruminated upon. We look at the past as one glances in the rear view mirror. Regarding it mindfully and occasionally.

Never let the past hold you as hostage in the present.

 

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley “Redemption Song”.

 

 

Emancipate Yourself

Star Wars is a tale of personal redemption based on Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. The theme of redemption is repeated throughout the mythology. We see it in the tale of Anakin, the trials of Luke Skywalker, the adventures of Han Solo and in the tragedy Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos. Through forgiveness each of the characters is able to reconcile the pain of their pasts and find redemption and final peace.

Our lives are no different. We are all on our own “Heroes Journey” of redemption. Learn to forgive yourself and others. The path will clear and we can live in the Now.

Abundance

 

“The Force may not have a Light or Dark Side, but we do… and we must choose.” – Luke Skywalker

 

That Crait Scene

Over the last year of writing “The Daily Jedi” the concepts of acceptance, gratitude and surrender have been recurring themes.  In the Star Wars mythology we often see all three played out in the same scene.

Obi-wan Kenobi raising his lightsabre in a final move which had him cut down by Darth Vader was not an act of defiance or suicide but an enlightened gesture of acceptance, gratitude and surrender to the Force.

When Luke Skywalker appeared in “The Last Jedi” as a Force projection on the salt flat of Crait and challenged his former Padawan in a game of “Cat and Mouse” it was not a just a ruse to delay the First Order and give the Resistance a chance to escape it was an enlightened act using non-violence over brute force.  Luke Skywalker was emulating the philosophy of Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Luke accepted his fate without struggle and with gratitude and surrendered to the Force with complete trust. Meditating far away on Ahch-To, Luke was then able to transcend in to the Force and leave the physical realm behind. One can only imagine the implications of his transcendence in the coming final struggle. A great paradox was proven, there is great power in acceptance, gratitude and surrender and that power is called Abundance.

Luke said “The Force is neither Light or Dark”. The Force simply is. The Dark and Light that exists resides within us. We have a choice. You can also call it a choice between scarcity or abundance.

 

Pause

Look around you. What do you see? Are you surrounded by the trappings of modern living? Does your work and making money take priority in your life? Do you often stop to reflect that the days and months are flying past and the years growing shorter? Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” type of person? Do you regret the lack or scarcity in your life or do you appreciate and enjoy what you have? One type of person has a “Scarcity Mentality”, the other person has an “Abundance Mindset”.

 

Glass Half Empty

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is the person you meet who is always complaining. There is never enough or things are just not good enough. They bemoan the lack of opportunity in their life and recite one regret after the other. Blame is seldom placed on themselves but on others. The World and life seems to have played them a rough hand and let them down. They always have excuses to explain their misfortune. Rather than seek opportunity they wait for it to come beating down their door.

The “Scarcity Mentality” type is never happy, even in the midst of abundance. They may be financially well off, even wealthy and own all the material possessions most could only dream of. It’s never enough. They may have a nice house, several cars, a great career and a loving circle of friends and family around them but they see fault and lack. We see example of it all the time. The glossy tabloids are full of the “rich and famous” miserable in their existence. No amount of material possessions or money can fill the vast spiritual hole in their life. We shake our heads in disbelief and wonder how someone who is so rich, so famous and popular could be so unhappy. The person with a “Scarcity Mentality” has a “glass half empty” view on life.

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Buddha

 

Glass Half Full

“Abundance Mindset” is the opposite to a “Scarcity Mentality”. The person who has claimed an “Abundance Mindset” is willing to accept the fortunes of life with gratitude but also accepts with equanimity that everything may be taken away in an instant.  As a result this person is perpetually grateful for what she has and will spend more time appreciating her blessings rather than focusing on the scarcity in her life. These people do not worry so much about what they don’t own.

The person with an “Abundance Mindset” accepts that all things are transient and by nature impermanent. We do not get to keep our possessions, our family and friends for ever. Our health will fade and eventually everyone will surrender to nature and the Force. This is the natural cycle of life and death. Rather than waste life regretting the things that were lost or opportunities missed or squandered focus is placed on being grateful for what was given and making the most out of what is on offer. Abundance Mentality people don’t mind sharing or giving credit to others and see opportunity everywhere.

Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance. – Epicuros

 

Peering in to the Glass

Alcoholism, like any addiction is a form of “grasping attachment” gone mad. All people grasp at things and seek attachment. It is the nature of suffering to do so. The human condition. Few learn to truly surrender themselves and let go of all of their attachments and in particular in life itself. Addicts are an extreme example because personal health, security and mental and spiritual well-being, relationships, career and money are all dispensable when it comes to getting the next drink, fix or hit. We Alcoholics did not care who we hurt or what we did to get drunk and keep drinking.

The “Scarcity Mentality” of the Alcoholic dictates that there is never enough. The old adage “one drink too many and a thousand not enough” comes to mind. Our dissatisfaction also extends to other areas of our lives. We see scarcity everywhere. Our jobs are not good enough, we don’t make enough money. All the people in our lives have glaring faults while we have none. People are not to be trusted and only used. There is fault in everything. Eventually we see the glaring truth in ourselves and rather than confront it we commit ourselves to the abyss.

 

“The Fall”

Think “Sith” and you have a good example of the “Scarcity Mentality”. The “Sith” sought only power and were addicted to it. They craved it above all else. The complete domination of others was an exercise in power. Having the power of life and death over entire planetary systems was ultimate power. Absolute power is addictive. Ascendancy was the ultimate objective to the Sith. A Sith apprentice would serve his Master and then at the right opportunity would seek to usurp him. If the Master was wise he would kill his Apprentice before his Apprentice killed him.  The Sith played a cyclical Zero Sum game where only one could assume ultimate power at the expense of all others.

The fall of Anakin was the tale of a man with a “Scarcity Mentality”. The desire to excel as a Jedi and bring order to the Galaxy and balance to the Force dominated Anakin’s life. Anakin only wanted to do good but Inwardly Anakin was a mess. There was a gaping hole within him. The tragedy of his childhood and the death of his Mother affected him deeply. The Clone Wars also left deep scars, not all of them visible. Many of his friends had been killed in the fighting or betrayed by the Republic. The Jedi Order had evolved in to something that was no longer true to itself. Fear and anger began to consume Anakin. Obsessed by visions of the death of his forbidden love and wife Padme he sought ways to control the Force. Driven by hate he was finally driven to the Dark Side and became a Sith. The Fall led him to nowhere but a life of suffering and servitude to an unforgiving Master.

You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life – for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won’t ask for more” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Abundance Mindset”

The Jedi Path is one where an “Abundance Mindset” is necessary to succeed as a Jedi. Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda and finally Anakin and later Luke Skywalker learned to deal with life and tragedy with acceptance, gratitude and surrender. Through pain and suffering they found a way out and the door led them to enlightenment and unity with the Force. As Sages they learned that life is a gift to live and finally surrender with equanimity and complete acceptance.

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

Being a real world Jedi does not mean we will achieve enlightenment in our life time. Some of us may have the potential but few will ever reach the spiritual, mental and physical level of a Jedi Master let alone a Sage. We can try however and having an “Abundance Mindset” of acceptance, gratitude and surrender is a start.

An “Abundance Mentality” is also a virtue and an asset in recovery. In fact it is necessary for our sustained sobriety as it throws a light on the fear, regret  and anger inherent in a “Scarcity Mentality”.  Our goal is to find no use for these destructive emotions. Psychology Today lists a number of ways we can cultivate an “Abundance Mindset”:

  • Every blessing is a gift. We can take them for granted but small acts such as walking the dog, playing with the kids, spending time with family and friends, helping someone out are all moments that will never be repeated the same way. Each of these moments is a gift so give them the mindfulness they deserve.
  • Practice equanimity. Being mindful also mean practicing equanimity. With self-awareness it is possible to remain composed and calm even in the midst of chaos. This means keeping an even keel and not getting carried with emotional impulses whether “positive” or “negative”. This does not mean forcing control, shutting down emotionally or turning in to a Robot. The goal is to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and body on a moment to moment basis. This can be achieved by simply observing ourselves and by asking “What am I thinking and feeling right now”. Acknowledge, accept and let go of those thoughts, emotions and feelings that do not serve. By casting a light on runaway thoughts and emotions we can calm the inner storm and be measured in our responses.
  • Be prepared to share. Sharing allows life as energy to flow like a river instead of becoming stagnant. Whether it is food, time or something else that is scarce be prepared to share. Sharing is an important part of the 12 Steps. By sharing our stories we are helping the person who is struggling and helping ourselves at the same time. It sounds counterintuitive but you get to keep what you give away.
  • Try reframing a situation. Instead of saying “there is not enough” try “there is enough to get by”. You will surprise yourself with what you can achieve even with far less than you thought you would need. Avoid comparing yourself to others, only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  • Turn obstacles in to opportunities. The Stoics say “The obstacle is the way”. They sought adversity and challenge to better themselves. If life was easy and presented no challenges we would barely be able to learn, progress and improve. Use obstacles and problems as an opportunity to practice principles that overcome them.
  • Show gratitude. Thankyou is a word seldom heard these days. It costs nothing and can make all the difference in a person’s day. If a Waitress did a good job getting you coffee, thank her and leave a tip if appropriate. Show those around you that you value their contributions. Offer words of encouragement. Politeness even to rude and obnoxious people is a virtue worth having.
  • Choose your company wisely. “Scarcity Mentality” people rub off on others as do those with an “Abundance Mindset”. Surround yourself with the latter and avoid people who have a toxic view on life.
  • Letting Go. Sometimes life does not go the way we planned. We can find ourselves out of work, or a relationship in an instant. Bad things happen. Fortunes will turn suddenly. How we respond to these events is important. We can wallow in self-pity or take the time to grieve the loss mindfully and then move on with life. Surrendering to the flow of life and letting go keeps us moving forward.
  • Reflect and Meditate. Daily reflection is important as is daily meditation. Try a meditations of gratitude or loving kindness. This opens the heart to the beauty of existence and abundance. It connect us to the Force. Journaling (or Blogging) is a great way to put your thoughts down and make sense of life. Consider how far you have come on your journey. Rather than ruminate on mistakes, resolve to correct them and improve on a daily basis. Never stop learning.

 

You Choose

Remember that people with a “Scarcity Mentality” have a Zero-Sum view of life. They are like the Sith. In Star Wars we see Anakin and Luke Skywalker both grappled with attachments and emotions to their detriment. They wanted to control and possess. As an alcoholic I suffered the same way. An abundance mindset based on gratitude, acceptance and surrender means ridding yourself of the grasping attachment of a “Scarcity Mindset” and setting yourself free. Choose now. Will your glass (of a non-alcoholic beverage) be “half full” or “half empty”?

Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.– Wayne Dyer

May the Fourth

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May the Fourth is celebrated every year by Star Wars Fans as “Star Wars Day”. The movie “A New Hope” was released in 1977 on May the 25th however May the Fourth has long been considered an unofficial annual holiday for Star Wars fans around the world. On the day fans offer each other each other the greeting “May the Fourth be with you”.  This play on “May the Force be with you” reminds Star Wars fans of the immense impact that the saga has had on people’s lives over the last 41 years.

As a ten year old I was captivated by the heroic deeds of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in “A New Hope”in 1977. The enigmatic Obi-wan Kenobi and the mysterious Jedi Order inspired me. Darth Vader was terrifying yet compelling. Leia was a new kind of Princess. She was resourceful,  independent and strong instead of the helpless and weak sort that needed rescuing by a White Knight.

The special effects, while primitive by today’s standards were completely mind blowing at the time. The Droids added a new whole dimension to the saga. Instead of being menacing robots, they had characters that were cute, comical, innocent and loyal. Droids were human but better, like dogs. Everyone wanted a pet R2D2.

Four decades later I see old school friends, middle aged Fans, who still get excited over Star Wars merchandise and eagerly await the next instalment of movies and books. The Fandom is a global phenomenon and always will be. The Star Wars legacy is for young and old, male and female and every race and nation on Earth. No other work of fantasy unites us more than Star Wars.

Star Wars is made for our times. The Star Wars universe may be set in a “Galaxy far far away” yet it as human a story as the myths and epic tales which define our species throughout history. Star Wars defines the human story as much as the legends of Ulysses, Gilgamesh, King Arthur and Robin Hood through their archetypes and meanings.

Star Wars also offers a philosophy through the fictional Jedi. The Jedi Code is a starting point on the journey to peace, serenity, knowledge, harmony and living in the Force. As a philosophy it is meant to be lived on a daily basis. In our universe one may not be recognized as a Jedi by society but we can still be Jedi. Every day we can commit to improving ourselves by being Jedi.

For some of us it runs even deeper. Years ago as I met my personal “Dark Side”, it was the 12 Steps that pulled me out of the pit of “Rock Bottom”. The Steps led me to the Jedi Path. The Jedi Path has kept me working the Steps and sober.

May the Fourth is another day on the calendar. It is one day where the global Fandom of Star Wars celebrate the creative genius of George Lucas and show their appreciation. For anyone who has taken Star Wars to influence their life at a deeper and more spiritual level, the day is a simple reminder of our inspiration. We pause to celebrate the fictional creation of Lucas. It inspired us to be Jedi. At the same time we keep our feet on the ground while our heads may reside for a time in the clouds.  Philosophy is for life and living in the real world one day at a time. Being Jedi is a real world task.

 

So May the Fourth be with you.

May you have Peace

May you find Serenity

May your Knowledge grow

May your life know Harmony

May the Force be with You.

Fives

Source: Lucas Films

Look around! We’re the one and the same; same heart, same blood. Your training is in your blood. And my blood’s boiling for a fight!” – Fives

In doing nothing men learn to do evil” – Cato the Younger

There are many tragic themes in the Star Wars saga. The Fall of Anakin Skywalker is one and the death of Obi-wan Kenobi is another. The betrayal of Ahsoka Tano is also tragic lesson. The death of Padmé Amidala and the separation of Luke and Leia as orphans unaware of their past and common destiny is a sad and tragic story.

The death of the Clone Arc Trooper Fives towards the end of the Clone Wars is particularly tragic as he died trying to prevent a terrible conspiracy from being realized. What made it more poignant was that Fives was a Clone Trooper that was thrust in to a destiny he had no control over. One that would ultimately lead to the fall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Empire. The story is also similar to that of Cato the Younger, who sacrificed his own life trying to save the Roman Republic from descent in to dictatorship.

 

The Clones

Thanks CT-27-5555. That was close.”

It’s Fives. The name is Fives!” – Echo and Fives

Fives was a Clone ARC Trooper and a loyal member of the 501st Legion. He was called “Fives” because of his number (CT-5555). Surviving multiple battles and demonstrating uncommon bravery Fives quickly became promoted and accepted in to the elite Advanced Recon Commandos (ARC). The Kaminoans had engineered and manufactured the Grand Army of the Republic to fight without pity or remorse and to die without hesitation in service to the Republic.

The Clone Army was a military asset purchased by the Galactic Senate to be used against the military might of the Separatist Alliance, the Droid Army. Being Clones with one purpose they were expendable and the Kaminoans took pride in the precision  of their creation.  They had created the ultimate fighting Force. The Clone Fives was a shining example of the Kaminoan product line. Each Clone was a number, however there was a problem; Fives was more than a number, he was different.

Clones were made to be the same in every way; the model soldier. The Kaminoans designed them to display little variability in behaviour and to follow orders without question or hesitation. Any differences were the result of inevitable genetic drift and personality development during training. These were considered defects. Variations that could be tempered through discipline and control biochips.

The Clones also held a secret which only the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, his apprentice Darth Tyranus and the highest ranks of the Kaminoans knew. Each Clone carried an inhibitor bio-chip which contained the orders for Protocol 66.  When that order was eventually given, every Clone that still carried the biochip in his head suddenly turned his weapon on any Jedi in the area and executed them without hesitation and without pity. They were programmed to become Galactic Storm Troopers once that switch was thrown. Only the Clones who had removed their biochips refused to carry out the orders. Some joined the rebellion.

 

No Ordinary Soldier

Fives was no ordinary Clone. Throughout his career he had questioned the morality and sanity of orders. The Clones were connected by a common genome and considered each and every Clone to be his brother. For Fives it was more than that, he truly cared for his comrades and was willing to risk his life for them.  Fives also had a deep respect and admiration for his Jedi superiors and made it a personal mission to protect them. The sentiment was reciprocated by those Jedi closest to him. Anakin Skywalker, Obiwan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano were amongst those he called friends.

 

Where is the honor in marching to our deaths?” – Fives

 

As Fives saw more and more of his comrades die and many for pointless reasons he began to question his identity and purpose. Fives believed that Clone were not expendable tools but living, breathing, sentients worthy of dignity, respect, free will and above all life. It was Five’s discovery of Protocol 66 which ultimately led to his demise as he sought to warn the Jedi of the plot to kill them. Fives had stumbled on an unspeakable truth and for that he could not be allowed to live.

 

The Last Roman

In much the same way Cato was betrayed by the corrupt Roman Senate.  The Rebel Army surrendered but was ordered slaughtered by Caesar. Cato had almost stopped Julius Caesar from becoming Dictator of Rome. Cato committed suicide rather than seek pardon from Caesar. The rebellion against Caesar  was defeated. This final defiant act was in line with his principles. Cato preferred to die than lose his liberty.

Had Cato succeeded the Republic would have survived. Caesar would never have taken power from the Senate and abolished the Republic.

 

In doing what we ought we deserve no praise, because it is our duty” – Cato (Joseph Addison Play “Cato”)

 

In the same way a single, solitary soldier who was meant to be programmed not to think exposed the greatest conspiracy in the Galaxy. The Jedi were blind to the truth and the Senate was easily manipulated. Only Fives saw it and he was a tragic figure when none believed him. If Fives had succeeded in his quest to unveil the truth, Protocol 66 may have never happened.  The Old Republic would have survived and Chancellor Palpatine would have been exposed for what he was, a Sith Lord.

 

I am not just another number! None of us are!” – Fives

 

The Power of One

Fives was the last known survivor of his Rookie Squad, “Domino”. Each of the Clones were genetically identical but also had unique personalities. When these personalities worked in tandem they were formidable warriors. Like Cato, Fives was the epitome of the Stoic and it carried him through the war.

Cato and Fives were both stubborn and tenacious, loyal and dutiful to their superiors and subordinates. Both soldiers displayed high moral integrity, resolve, strong leadership and led by example. Above all they distrusted corrupt politicians and incompetent leaders who only sought to serve themselves. Cato and Fives were sworn to protect the Republic. Living by principles was not an option but a duty. They both failed in their duties for reasons far outside of their control. The forces united against them were too great to overcome.

 

I know not what treason is, if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason.” – Cato the Younger

 

I’ve compared my own mental defect, the one where if I’m exposed to alcohol my personality undergoes a sweeping change, a sort of Protocol 66. With booze I am driven to do and say things that I have no control over. It’s like a switch is thrown in my head. I have to remember that alcohol was more powerful than me for most of my life and that only working the Steps and applying spiritual principle overcame it. Ultimately the only thing preventing me from another fall is reasoned choice and reliance on the Force.

Nations and Empires can rise and fall over night with or without our consent but one’s own mind is his own. It is the only thing we truly own. Every day we battle a cunning foe and that foe is our very self. Our better nature holds the high ground as long as reason prevails.

 

Do not expect good from another’s death.” – Cato the Younger

 

The Point

The point of mythology is to provide us with lessons through storytelling. The stories entertain us but they also provide a message. Sometimes that message is a warning. Star Wars serves that purpose and we take from it what we want. The fictional realm can hold a mirror to reality. We can also apply Philosophy to make sense of life. The tragedy of Fives teaches me that even someone who is just a number can still make a difference in the world. Even the most powerful can know the name of a humble soldier. No person is a number and freedom is a choice.

Star Wars is fiction but the story of the collapse of the Old Republic and the purge of the Jedi resembles the beginning of the death of the Roman Republic and rise of the Empire. Whether Lucas was aware of this historical similarity is irrelevant. The point is that it is in our power to change our own lives for the better, to seek truth and to challenge injustices like Cato and Fives did.

 

“Rex….this…it’s…bigger than any of us…than anything…I could’ve imagined….I never meant to…I only wanted to do my duty. The mission…the nightmares…they’re…finally…over….” – Fives

 

https://www.amazon.com/Romes-Last-Citizen-Legacy-Mortal/dp/0312681232

Amathia

 

There is no Ignorance there is Knowledge” – Jedi Code

There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance” – Socrates

Amathia

People do stupid things. We can all admit to behaviour that in retrospection and on reflection seems illogical, irrational, self-destructive and just plain stupid. Being alcoholic I am qualified to attest to this. Looking at my past I could easily write the book “On Stupidity”. I still remind myself that people are not purposely stupid any more than I was. People just do stupid things. To quote Forrest Gump “Stupid is as stupid does”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and Anti-Nazi dissident, wrote that while the reasoned may protest against “Evil” and be inoculated against it there is no such defense against the person who does stupid. Even the person who does “evil” feels a unease with their acts (unless of course the person is a psychopath). “Evil” is however a result of stupidity and ignorance.

The Greeks called such “Stupidity” Amathia, a sort of preventable intelligent “Stupidity”. Amathia is different to the “dull witted” who lacks the mental capacity to know virtue from vice. Socrates considered Amathia the root of evil acts in people. Epictetus described Amathia as anti-wisdom. A spiritual malady that afflicts those that could know and should know better.  Worse than ignorance, Amathia is choosing not to know, the worst type of stupidity.

 

A Stain

Stupidity never receives a clinical description or medical diagnosis. As an affliction it resides outside the realm of psychology. In the Army, “Stupid” or variations of was the worst label one could suffer. Being labelled “Stupid” was like a stain. It marked the unfortunate as “incompetent, unreliable, a liability and a bullet magnet”. “Stupid” was someone who could not be taught because he was incapable. Unable to learn not because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of willingness. Such was a lost cause, a “Cluster”, a “Gomer Pyle”.

Reading Bonhoeffer’s description of stupidity I am stunned by the familiarity to my own behaviour around alcohol. I never considered myself “Stupid” however I did stupid things and refused to learn from them. I was a “Cluster” in the true sense of the word. This flaw was a stain and it touched everyone who came close to me.

 

Defenseless

Bonhoeffer wrote a letter while awaiting his fate in a Nazi prison. I will quote extensively from it as it serves as a wake up call. Bonhoeffer writes “against stupidity we are defenceless” and goes on; “Neither protest nor the use of Force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on death ears

Most alcoholics are defenseless against the power of alcohol. They are hopeless when it comes to being convinced by others of their condition. Loved one’s and friends try to intervene without success. Employers, work mates and medical professionals try to reason with them. All efforts avail nothing.

Not only addicts are affected. People in general tend to grasp on to their system of beliefs and tightly held opinions that an alternate view cannot and will not be entertained. Extremists come in many shades but all share a common refusal to budge on their beliefs even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Some are even prepared to die for them.

 

“facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.”

 

Ignoring Evidence

Even in the face of declining health, lost employment, repossessed house, broken family and destitution an alcoholic will continue to insist that the source of his problems is the fault of others. She will refuse to admit fault or accept being alcoholic. Despite the inevitable cognitive dissonance suffered the person will reject all evidence. This denial and reinforcement of enabling behaviour counteracts any impetus for change.

We call this person sick. Indeed they have a mental, physical and spiritual illness rooted in Amathia.

How often in other areas of life do we put our blinkers on and cherry pick the truth believing only what we want to hear and rejecting opposing views and contradictory evidence as “false”, “fake” or “baseless”? We would rather ignore and reject out of hand ideas or evidence that challenges our perceptions than give them a moment’s thought.

 

The Belligerent

“In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

 

When we are pushed to consider a view point that challenges our sense of self and potentially destroys everything we believe we can become extremely defensive. Pushed hard enough we may defend our beliefs to the point of violence. It happens with addicts who are forced in to a corner.

Violence is also used by  people who have inflexible and dogmatic views on religion, politics and other contentious issues. Are our valued ideas and concepts worth defending or advancing to the point we need to attack others who challenge us? Do we have the right to smother dissenting views and criticism?

 

A Contagion

Somehow people “become stupid” over time. Progressively they adopt attitudes and beliefs that eventually translate in to habits and character. The element of “Stupidity” is demonstrated in the traits described above. The outcome for an alcoholic is gradual loss of control of their lives and eventual descent to a personal hell. I know this because I lived it.

Stupidity is contagious. Bonhoeffer believed that those that felt a strong need to belong  to a group whether social, political or religious tended to be more willing to accept ideas than those who are happier to find their own path. Ideas and attitudes are fueled by people who share similar mind-sets and views.  As a drinker I sought out Drinkers to socialize and associate with and avoided people who did not drink. People tend to seek out the company of those that validate their character and values and avoid those who don’t.

In many ways recovery is a “Solo” mission. We can get advice and direction from people and seek what fits our own individual needs. There is no “one size fits all”. Most spiritual paths and philosophies are similar. There is a community but we are free and encouraged to go out and find our own way. There is nothing wrong with embracing an ideology however never grasp it so tight that it becomes a tether to the mind and soul. Be free to explore and seek new ideas and thoughts.

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.”

 

A Modern Affliction

Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for many years by the Nazis. Despite his long incarceration Bonhoeffer believed that “stupidity” more than “evil” attracted many people to the Nazi doctrine. The rise of populism, “identity politics”, the “social justice warrior”, nationalism, religious extremism and “alt-left” and “alt-right” movements are all facets of the same thing when observed impartially from above. “Right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad” are subjective.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant and “stupid”.  The argument for reasoned discourse has been drowned out by the noise of divisiveness. People are being conditioned not to think, not to question. At the same time supporters of opposing views claim the moral high ground and possession of the truth. In truth the lack self ownership and independence of thought.

 

it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.”

Independence

Alcoholism like any type of dependence is a complete loss of self-autonomy and independence. It is also attachment and ego run riot. We forget how to think critically and with reason. Our actions are guided by something stronger than our own free will. Our inner world no longer belongs to us.

Ask yourself what are you dependent on? People, places, things, ideas and beliefs can all be our sources of attachment and dependence. Despite ourselves we find our own values and ideas are no longer our own, we are simply reciting the ideas and values of others as our own and “preaching to the converted”.

In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.”

 

Self Wisdom

A person who is self-reliant, independent and emotionally intelligent and capable of critical analysis is unlikely to follow a “false prophet”. Our ego and fears seems to push as that way. Most people want to be part of the crowd. No one wants to be a contrarian. People want to be able to give themselves a label which expresses who they are and what they value. I was no different. Being alcoholic I made many claims and had an inflated sense of self-importance. My disease and the problems it presented defined me.

Recovery has taught me how to be self-reliant and independent. I can differentiate between what is in my control and what it outside of it. My inner world belongs to me. I have command over my proper faculties, my thoughts, perceptions and responses. The tone and attitude I bring in the day is up to me. Opinions and beliefs are mine alone. My spirituality is unique and my own. I choose my values and the principles I live by.

I have little control over people and circumstances. There may be some influence but the world is largely out of my control. Even my body is not entirely under my control. I can choose what to eat and drink from what is before me. My health may fail despite best efforts to be healthy and fit. Cancer or heart disease may still cut my years short. I am my own being and belong to no one but myself.

 

“Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings”

 

Evil is a Symptom

Bonhoeffer witnessed with dismay the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Being an opponent of Hitler he was imprisoned and persecuted. Accused of association in the plot to kill Hitler he was interned in a concentration camp and executed during the closing days of the war. Bonhoeffer would not have justified killing, even Hitler. Violence was not in his philosophy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that the nature of the “Stupid” person is not an “intellectual” deficit but a “human” one. People are not born “stupid” any more than they are born “evil”. Some people are less intelligent than others, even “dull”, but are less “Stupid” in their nature than those with high intellect. History has shown some remarkably talented and brilliant minds who were ultimately betrayed by their own “Stupidity”.

People believe “Evil” is an independent and a tangible concept. That it has a life of its own. “Evil” is what most people perceive to as the really bad things that people do.  No one considers themselves to be inherently “evil”. Bonhoeffer  believed that people were not evil but only capable of doing evil because of their ignorance. Evil is a symptom of Socrates’s Amathia. Bonhoeffer also believed people could change for the better.

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity

 

Liberation

In many ways Bonhoeffer was a real world Jedi Master. Bonhoeffer challenged the Lutheran church with his ideas of spirituality and religiosity but did not alienate himself from it. His views and philosophy of non-violent resistance influenced Martin Luther King, anti-communism in East Europe and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. In his letter from prison Bonhoeffer offered his friends some advice; “Liberation can overcome stupidity“.

More than 2200 years before Bonhoeffer, Socrates suggested  the same thing. Salvation from the worst flaw, the real human evil, Amathia is through the spiritual and psychological liberation that self knowledge brings.

Each of us has the key to our own liberation. Our own reasoned choices determine who we are. We can submit to our own vices or we can embrace virtue. Do we choose to abide by the will of others or make up our own minds? Do we walk the path we want for ourselves or do we follow others blindly? At the same time we can be understanding and compassionate with others, even the “Stupid” that we meet everyday.

In the week the world remembers the Holocaust it is perhaps timely that we reacquaint ourselves with the word Amathia.

 

Make Bed Change World

Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem” – The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”

 

Making the Bed

US Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McRaven delivered a commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Texas on May 17, 2014. In that speech the Admiral  McRaven told his audience “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”.

 

The video of the speech was posted on YouTube and went viral with over 10 million views worldwide. McRaven shared ten simple principles he had learned as a Special Forces Operator and Naval Officer. Those principles can be applied in everyday life and recovery as they can in the meat grinder of Navy Seal Hell Week.

In simple terms they boil down to the principles of humility, courage, perseverance, patience, knowledge, simplicity, self-control, self-belief, selflessness, team work and a healthy sense of humor. We never ring the bell and quit. “Embrace the Suck”. Through principle and actions you can change not only yourself but the world as well. The first step is making the bed.

 

 

The transcript is here: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/05/22/10_lessons_to_help_change_the_world.html

 

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”.  – Admiral William H. McRaven

 

The video is a timely reminder of the power of small daily rituals in our lives. Making a bed may seem like a fairly trivial thing to do. I for one don’t feel right not making the bed in the morning. Decades of habit since childhood reinforced in the crucible of the military ensures that the bed is made as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning.

Not only is the bed made but the top sheet is folded over and the corners are tucked in and the cover smoothed over. This is a conscious act I do every morning no matter what.  Even if I achieve nothing else that day at least I have made the bed. I start the day with purpose. This purpose hopefully carries on in to other tasks.

 

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” – Admiral William H. McRaven

 

Ritual

Being Jedi is about having daily rituals as well as the discipline to carry them out. In time these rituals become habits. We are conscious that  meditation, exercise and being aware and mindful in our daily activities and interactions with others are all constructive and healthy habits. These are called disciplines for a reason. Like rolling out of bed every morning and taking a minute to make the bed, it takes conscious application, effort and purpose. No trivial or mundane feat.

 

Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” –  – Admiral William H. McRaven

 

 

Bad Habits

Negative habits also become ritual. Going for a drink was part of a ritual. It started off small but soon took over.  If I had had a good day, a bad day or a mediocre day it was all good enough reason for a drink. Bitter disappointments and sorrows were dispelled with alcohol. Celebrations, victories and wins were all good reasons to get drunk. There was no excuse, no ritual and no reason not to have a drink. If I drank, I got drunk and reasoned that those times were justified even when I knew they weren’t.

After living like that for years and decades you begin to realize that your ideas and beliefs may be flawed. Addiction over rides rational thought and reasoning. Soon you discover that most of the rituals, routines and habits you have come to develop have become part of your character. You discover that your character has evolved over time to tolerate, normalize and then defend some very nasty attributes.

What we might have once been considered unacceptable in our selves soon becomes the new normal. We soon find ourselves on a downward spiral trajectory to rock bottom unless we change direction.

 

Break the Chain

Breaking the addiction cycle is an exercise in forming new habits. I found that it is easier to form new habits than break old ones. The new habits will simply over time phase out and replace the old ones. Knowing what your thought patterns are, being aware of triggers as well as the rituals that lead to abuse and knowing how to avoid them or respond effectively is the key to breaking free. We have to train ourselves in to a new way of thinking and acting. Embracing new habits and rituals that replace old destructive habits is the key.

Addiction is a habit, so is a healthy and sober life. Replacing one with the other is simply about choosing and taking action. Action is repeated. In time action becomes habit and habit becomes character. In time changes happen that in hindsight seem nothing less than miraculous.

Here are ten ways that change may manifest if we extend the principle of making the bed every morning to other areas in our lives as well:

  • Instead of blaming others we start to look at what role we had played in our problems;
  • Rather than insisting others apologize we begin to forgive and let go of resentment;
  • Instead of being focussed on the harm others did to us we start to consider the harm we have done to others;
  • We seek to make amends to others rather than expect special treatment;
  • An attitude of entitlement is replaced with simple acceptance and gratitude;
  • Words such as honesty, humility, patience, temperance and respect became personal principles and strengths;
  • People become more important than things;
  • Spirituality instead of our attachments begin to define us as human beings;
  • We begin to see ourselves as part of the whole rather than separated from it;
  • We begin to feel a conscious connection to the Living Force.

 

Start by making the bed today and every day. Eventually other tasks will become easier to do. Quitting even when things seem hopeless is no longer an option.

 

Embrace the Suck, Change the World

Some of us start to make the bed every morning, some of us just continue to make the bed as we had always done. In a way I’m glad now that I kept making my bed even during the darkest days. Perhaps while I still did there was a glimmer of hope that I would one day accomplish much more.

Every morning some people roll out of bed to face the day. They stumble to the bathroom, get dressed and have breakfast before immersing themselves in  the noise and distraction of the day. They stare at the mirror blankly as they brush their teeth, mind preoccupied with mental chatter. Food is shoved in to mouths while scrolling through the news feed on phones or staring at the morning show on the Television. Some people lurch outside of the door and barely notice the world around them as they head off to work. They rinse and repeat every day. Those are some people, not Jedi.

Some of us wake up, pause and then put our feet on the floor. We turn and make the bed and begin our morning routine. Same routine as ever. The day begins with a simple and mindful act. A task is completed. We take that moment in to the day no matter what it has in store for us and complete more tasks. To quote the Navy Seals we “Embrace the Suck” and in doing so we change the world.

 

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” – Admiral William H. McRaven

https://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Bed-Little-Things/dp/1455570249

Animus

Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – The Clone Wars

 

An Expression

In France people often the use the word “Courage” or “Bonne Courage” to encourage a friend or an acquaintance that is facing a challenge large or small. It is not a word which is used in the English language as an informal expression of one’s hope that another will succeed or prevail. We will rarely hear someone say to another “Be Brave” or “Have Courage” as if we were saying “Good Luck” or “Have a nice Day”. In France it is used often and is meant to remind one of the virtues of courage and its universal application in all aspects of life. It is a reminder that self trust is the root of courage.

 

A Virtue

Courage was considered by the Stoics as one of the most important virtues that a person could attain. Along with wisdom, justice and temperance (self-control), courage was considered essential to living a good life. Perhaps with the adoption of the Stoic philosophy by the Romans and its eventual influence on Christianity the virtue of courage became embedded in the Romantic languages such as French.

 

Heart

The Latin word for courage is “cor” which roughly translates to “heart”. When people say, “He had the heart of a Lion” they mean he had courage which was exemplary. More than courage, the person had “heart”. “Heart” often refers to the inner resolve and spirit of a person which courage is a part of. A person may have the courage to face a fight and enter a ring to face an adversary but “heart” keeps him in the fight even when the odds are stacked against him. The person is not being reckless or suicidal; the person has the self trust to carry on past any fears and doubts.

 

Nihil tam acerbum est in quo non æquus animus solatium inveniat”

“There is nothing so disagreeable, that a patient mind can not find some solace for it”. – Seneca the Younger

 

Animus

The Latin word “Animus” was used to describe something more than “heart”. Animus roughly translated to the virtues of spirit, mind and courage. Animus entails the development of human mind, body and spirit and the transcendence of the human consciousness to higher levels.

Carl Jung believed that the masculine Animus and the feminine Anima are part of the collective unconscious in humans, transcending the personal psyche. Jung believed that humans evolved along a trajectory which culminates at transcendence, the expression of the rational soul. Seneca also described Animus to mean the rational soul expressed as the reasoned mind.

 

Anti-Ego

At the highest level Animus is the antithesis of the ego. The Ancient Greeks and Romans recognized that the ego was the greatest challenge that people faced. The root of all fears and doubts stem from the ego. The ego overrides reason and better judgement.

Cor (Heart) is needed to overcome that fear and arrive at a state of Animus which breaks us free from the grip of the ego. By finding Animus we overcome the barriers that we have built to stop us getting where we want to go.

 

Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it” – Mark Twain

 

Warrior Spirit

The Ancient Greeks and Romans considered Animus to be exemplified by the “warrior spirit” of duty, sacrifice, loyalty, honor and courage. When a warrior died in battle they had achieved the greatest feat for their nation. The Ancients believed that a warrior slain on the battlefield held an esteemed place in the underworld of the dead.

Even today we revere and honor our fallen heroes and use words such as courage, bravery and selflessness to describe them. Soldiers still use the slogan “Until Valhalla” in reference to the glory assigned to fighting with spirit and dying with honor. They are not fanatics, they trust themselves and their comrades beside them.

 

The Seeker

The purpose of the “Heroes Journey” is for the one “called to adventure” to find their internal Animus by overcoming the trials and challenges that stand before them. By venturing in to the dark and the unknown one arrives at light and knowledge. By sinking in to despair one finds hope. Through defeats and disappointments one finds the strength to overcome and the will to continue on to victory. The story has been told and retold through the myths and stories of the ages. We see it clearly in the saga of Star Wars. These stories inspire us.

 

“Bonus animus in mala re, dimidium est mali”

Courage in danger is half the battle.” – Plautus

 

Resolve

You do not need to be a hero on a life and death mission to discover your own Animus. I once thought the only way to truly test myself and find honor was by going to war. One does not need to do either to live a good and meaningful life. Life will test our courage and strength in many ways. It may be as simple as practicing principles even when others push the boundaries and provoke us. Staying sober is a daily and sometimes hourly test of resolve. We can express Animus in everything we do.

 

Bonne Courage

The French regularly say “Bonne Courage” as an offering of support to someone who is facing a challenge or difficult time. It is an odd expression to the English ear but it makes perfect sense. What the French are saying is much more than “Bonne Chance – Good Luck”. “Courage” is a reminder that everyone has an inner and sacred Animus that resides within. If one has the self trust to find heart and dig deep enough they will find it there and it will give them all the strength they need to prevail.

 

Gratus animus est una virtus non solum maxima, sed etiam mater virtutum onmium reliquarum

A courageous heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Appearances

“Size matters not.  Look at me.  Judge me by my size, do you?” Yoda

Who am I?

Image is important. People spend a lot of time trying to define who they are to the rest of the world. People seek identity through the clothes and symbols that they wear and the appearance that they keep. Like-minded individuals are drawn to each other and reaffirm their identity through the validation of others. Individuals will carefully choose and calibrate their appearances, their possessions and who they associate with to reflect their own sense of identity. Hair styles, body image, jewelry , tattoos are chosen to clearly state what is important to the person and how they want to be perceived. However are we really all of these things? Do external appearances really define who we are?

 

Trust not too much to appearances” – Virgil

 

The Ideal

Imagine two stereotypes. Firstly imagine a Jedi. What do you imagine a Jedi to look like? A Jedi might appear in your mind as Obi-wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker. They wore Jedi robes or a black tunic of the type that Luke wore in “Return of the Jedi”. At the belt or in hand is a Light saber. Ignited the Light saber glows blue or brilliant white. The Jedi appears in excellent physical condition and radiates quiet confidence and purpose. Because of the Star Wars fiction we have come to expect Jedi to appear in a certain form and act in a certain way. When they don’t our perceptions are challenged and we either reject that image or explore and then accept the new “ideal” of what a Jedi should look like on the big screen.

 

You don’t have to look tough to be tough”. – Ahsoka Tano

 

Ahsoka Tano had a hard time convincing many of her abilities and worth when she first appeared in the Clone Wars ready for battle. She did not fit the Jedi stereotype with her small stature and young appearance. Neither did the enigmatic Jedi Master Quinlan Vos with his irreverence and laid back disregard for dress code and protocol.

 

Well, Quinlan Vos has that effect” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

It is not the uniform or the Light saber that makes the Jedi. These are symbols that belong in the fictional realm. What makes the Jedi is being, not appearance. Being Jedi comes from within. Intent, commitment, discipline and action are words that define a Jedi in the Real World.

 

Terminally Unique

What does an alcoholic look like? Some people would describe a skid-row drunk character taken out of a photo from the Great Depression. A lean body with a gaunt face. Thread bare clothes and old worn out shoes. Hand clutching a bottle in a brown paper bag.

A man down on his luck and living on the street. Another stereotype might be the high functioning type with an office job. Deep lines mark his face. There is worn out look in his eyes and a two day growth. A perceptible tremor in his hands. It might also be the harried housewife dropping her kids off at school barely able to control her nerves. Her make-up hurriedly applied is unbecoming and her voice is raw from drinking. It could just as well be The Teacher that welcomes the Mothers child into the classroom or the Doctor she visits to talk about the pain in her side. Each is terminally unique. Each is also the same at a deeper level.

 

Appearances are often deceiving” – Aesop

 

Deception

I certainly never fit the stereotype of an alcoholic but that didn’t change the truth. Typical of many alcoholics I hid it from others and functioned well enough in day to day life. I made an effort with my appearance. Appearances are deceptive. On the inside I was torn and laid waste. The house of cards was crumbling. It’s no wonder people were surprised when I later admitted my addiction to them. Habits and character traits like obstinacy, dishonesty, belligerency, arrogance, impatience, intolerance and stubbornness did not come across as alcoholic behavior. People look for external signs like a disheveled appearance, alcoholic breath, shaking hands and inexplicable absences or accidents before they draw conclusions.

 

Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.” – Bonnie Raitt

 

 

Recovered

What does recovery look like? It is different for everyone. I can meet a dozen other alcoholics in recovery and note that they look like people I might encounter anywhere. There are men and women, young and old with all body types. Some may identify as gay, straight or neither. Religious and political beliefs vary. Some wear casual clothes, others are more formal while some appear alternative. There are professionals, semi-professionals and the unqualified. Wealthy and poor. All races. There is no stereotype of what a person in recovery looks like. There is something common between us however, something that’s tangible and real. The feeling of a shared experience of survival from despair and addiction.

When I imagine a person in recovery I see someone who is calm, at ease with themselves, humble in their demeanor, attentive to others, honest and forthcoming and less self-centered but also self caring. I see someone who is in some way “spiritual”.  This might fit as a stereotype. Regardless, it is not how many days, weeks, months or years a person goes without a drink but the choices they make every minute and hour of the day which defines recovery. It is not in external appearances but one’s own internal world which defines contented sobriety.

 

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Buddha

 

Life as You

You are not the clothes you wear, your hair style or the symbols that you carry. These things may be important to who you are but they do not define who you are. Politics, religious beliefs and philosophies can guide our lives but they are also not who we are. Status, career, profession, qualifications are all labels we value as a society but they do not mark a person as either a good or bad person. You are not your body, hair, image, possessions or ego. All of these things are transitory.  Our own choices and the common flame that burns within us is what makes us who we are.

 

You are not your body and hairstyle, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” – Epictetus

Self Assessment

Trials

In Star Wars the Jedi Trials were used by Jedi Masters to test and assess Jedi Padawans on their journey to becoming Jedi Knights. There were five trials “Skill”, “Courage”, “Spirit”, “Flesh”, and “Insight”. The Padawan was closely assessed by the Jedi Master overseeing the trials but the Padawan was also expected to be self critical throughout.  A Padawan had to dig deep within and determine if she had passed the trials as intended. A Padawan could get through a trial. But did the Padawan achieve the goals of the trial by gaining the insights and breakthroughs that the test was intended to bring out in her? Only through honest and thorough self assessment could a Padawan hope to fully become a Jedi.

Ahsoka Tano was an example of a Padawan who critically reviewed her beliefs, ideals and performance often.  Ahsoka was able to moderate Anakin’s behaviour through her strong principles and tireless devotion to her Master. Anakin would often criticize her but Ahsoka was by far her own strongest critic. More on Ahsoka later.

 

Free Pass

One of the things we are rarely encouraged to do is to critically assess our own performance as individuals. Usually someone else is the first to provide us with feed back on our performance or progress.

Whether it is at work, in a relationship, training for an event or plowing through a course, we usually don’t take the time to critically review ourselves. We usually rely on someone else to do it for us. Sometimes we are told things we didn’t want to hear and we act surprised. But should we be? Should we not critically assess ourselves everyday and know ourselves better? Most of us would rather give ourselves a Free Pass.

 

This is to be a test of your knighthood. You and your companions must make your own way through the difficulties you will encounter.” – Jedi Master Arca Jeth

 

The Corporate Slap

I’ve worked for a number of companies that had six monthly performance reviews built in to their human resource management program. Every six months you walked into an office to face your line Manager and a member of HR. They would deliver an appraisal and score you on your performance. The performance review would determine whether you received a bonus or part bonus or nothing at all. Promotions and continued employment was also determined in the review. There was a general rule that anyone who fell in the bottom 10-25% of the company would find themselves on notice and given a “probationary improvement plan”. Anyone in the bottom 10% was usually fired that day. This was how they got rid of undesirables.

The performance review required the individual to give themselves a score for performance against company “pillars” such as “courage”, “integrity”, “safety”, “productivity” and “respect”. Employees had to write a short justification of their score against each of these items. Most people wanted a high score because no one wants to be in the bottom quartile and face dismissal or shame. Everyone wants a bonus. Generally self assessments were scored high and 5 star performances was not uncommon for people who were clearly “under performers”. Why would someone be so dishonest with themselves? They either truly believed they deserved a high score or they were being dishonest.

 

The Truth Hurts

I have seen many people walk out of these performance review meetings clutching tissues as they dabbed tears in their eyes. Strangely some of these people would enter the room expecting a glowing report only to have their expectation dashed by a frosty reception and a dismal review. They had self scored high and seen it decimated from 5 stars to two or three. A reality check had been delivered.

What surprised me is why some of them were so shocked or hurt when they were given an honest assessment of their performance. Could they not see it themselves? Had they not taken the time to be honest with themselves and consider that perhaps people noticed their day to day performance and behaviors? The truth can hurt but it’s worth the pain.

 

 Brutally Honest

For some reason I could always guess how my performance review was going to go. In the military you knew if you were liked or disliked by the chain of command. They told us everyday and were brutally honest about their feelings towards us. Performance review was everyday. Feedback could swing from high praise to vitriolic condemnation reinforced with punishment push-ups and corporal punishment in a single hour.

In civilian life I grew wary of people because unlike the military you did not have such transparency and blatant honesty from your bosses. In the “real world” a person at work who was nice to you and pretended to be your friend might well be putting you down behind your back in order to look better. A supervisor might be blaming all of her failings on her subordinates and taking credit for all their hard work. In the Army this sort of “backstabbing” was unacceptable and was usually dealt with through “old school” methods. Being wary and realistic allowed me to walk in to a performance reviews hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

 

Whistling in the Dark

One of the things that surprised me is how line Managers at some companies only ever bother to speak to their subordinates about performance once or twice a year. Unless there is a glaring problem with behavior you are left alone and allowed to reinforce whatever flaws or habits are letting you down. No one is around to pull you back in to line. Most people don’t take the time to self assess themselves honestly and continue to “whistle in the dark” everyday completely unaware they have a target on their back.

Being alcoholic I knew my obstinacy, belligerency, complacency, dishonesty and hangovers were noticed in the workplace. The stories I made up to cover for absences from work were flimsy at best. I was rude and direct with people and I didn’t like them. The difference for me was I didn’t care. No one ever pulled me aside either. No surprises were ever had on performance review day.

 

High Functioning

Alcoholics can be exceptional people and many are highly talented over achievers. This is often called “High Functioning Alcoholic”. Unfortunately we tend to eventually torpedo ourselves because the ruse takes too much effort to sustain indefinitely. We give our bosses, bank managers and friends and loved ones the rope to hang us with. At the beginning everything runs well and we outperform expectations. Eventually, the cracks start to show but we recover and make up for it in spades. The house of cards starts to wobble and then finally collapses. We are left standing amidst the wreckage of our lives. Those around us stare at the mess and are baffled. We can’t explain why we do the things we do. They say they never saw it coming.

Despite my disease I knew when I had messed up and I tried to hide or deny it. Failing that I could try blaming others. It was only in recovery was I willing to inventory every fault, flaw and misdeed on paper and admit them to myself, another and my Higher Power. Once done I only had to try to make amends where I could and resolve to improve on a daily basis.

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” – Step 10, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

 

Daily Inventory

Daily self assessment is used to self monitor our own progress. We readily admit mistakes when we make them. This takes vigilance, discipline and self honesty. Every day we face challenges that test our emotional, spiritual and mental strength. Without the presence of mind and firm principles life can erode the foundation of our recovery and weaken us.

By taking daily inventory we manage life “one day at a time”.  This daily practice approach allows us to immediately appraise ourselves and adjust our behavior when we admit fault. We orientate ourselves back on to the path, make amends where necessary and continue forward. The goal is progress, not perfection. Mistakes will be made. We will falter. If life did not throw curve balls at us occasionally how would we ever grow?

Stoicism, like the 12 Steps encourages a daily self appraisal through an evening review. The evening review is used to identify what went well and where things can be improved. Personal conduct and interactions throughout the day are assessed and measured against personal values and principles. Did we demonstrate virtues in our interactions with others? Were we polite, patient, calm and civil in our dealings with difficult situations and people? Were there instances where we were angered and said or did something that we later regretted?

 

A Jedi Ritual

The Jedi were also encouraged to constantly undertake personal self assessment and review. This was a daily ritual. By connecting with the Force through meditation they could observe their actions as if looking from the outside in. Over time the Jedi could achieve a constant state of mindfulness where every thought, word and action was assessed before it was given power through release. The Jedi were self sufficient and were self honest enough to be their own best critic.

When the Jedi Council admitted to Padawan Ahsoka Tano that they had wrongly accused her of terrorism and sabotage she was promoted to Jedi Knight. The promotion was based on the premise that the ordeal had served as her final trial. Firm in her convictions Ahsoka Tano rejected the promotion and left the Jedi Order. In her mind she had suffered a great betrayal and had the presence of mind to be honest with herself.

The Jedi ritual can be used as a tool to identify problems and solutions. If something went well, we determine why and resolve to repeat or improve on that in future. If there was a shortcoming or failure we figure out why it happened and find a solution. We do not condemn or berate ourselves needlessly. Everyone makes mistakes and some days go better than others. Each and every day is an opportunity to put our principles in to action and learn something new.

 

 Avoid Complacency

Getting sober and staying that way, going on a diet to lose excess weight, exercising, studying for a qualification, becoming a Jedi and creating a successful relationship are difficult but rewarding. Self improvement is by nature hard because it demands we make real and meaningful changes in our life. It can be easy to get complacent and lose our way without taking the time to pause and assess our progress.

Regularly check in on how you are traveling on the path. Ask yourself “how am I doing right now?” Explore your feelings. If your mind is in turmoil or your emotions are raw take a moment to simply pause and observe impartially and then let go. There are some days when you will need to pause more than once to center yourself. At the end of the day, take the time to review your performance. Do this as part of your meditation practice if you like. That quiet time of contemplation and self assessment will, if you allow it, keep you focused on your goals.

 

The trials are difficult. Many try and fail, so I advise you not to be complacent.” – Jedi Master Satele Shan