Right View

First comes the day Then comes the night. After the darkness Shines through the light. The difference, they say, Is only made right by the resolving of gray through refined Jedi sight” – Journal of the Whills, 7:477

 

Noble Truths

In the practice of Buddhism it is vital that a person come to know and accept the fundamental truths of life. Without the knowledge of these truths and the attainment of wisdom a person will surely continue to live in an existence of delusion and grasping attachment of things impermanent leading to suffering.

Buddhism teaches the four noble truths. Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by our own delusions and liberation from suffering can only come about by releasing our attachment to delusions. The final truth is that the path to freedom from suffering lies in the Eight-fold path. Right View is wisdom and understanding of the four noble truths. Right View is the point of depart on the long path to enlightenment.

 

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

 

According to Buddhism the root cause of all suffering (Dukkha) are the mental, emotional and behavioral states that lead to greed, ignorance and hatred. Right View is the wisdom to resolve this imbalance. Wisdom leads to freedom from suffering and the attainment of nirvana through the Eight-fold Noble Path.

 

Teaching View

The fictional Jedi follow a similar journey as the Eight-fold path in their lifelong training. The point of depart is the Jedi Code and knowledge of self and the Force. Without an understanding of this wisdom there is no becoming a Jedi. One cannot apply what one does not understand. In the original trilogy Luke Skywalker grapples with his understanding of the Force under the tutelage of Obi-wan Kenobi and then Yoda. The Jedi Masters tried to instruct Luke in “Right View”.

 

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda “The Empire Strikes Back”.

 

In “The Last Jedi” Luke Skywalker in turn tries to explain the Force to Rey. Rey misconceives of the Force although it is strong in her. She believes that the Force is merely some sort of tool used to “control people and make things float”. Luke senses this and is reluctant to teach her the ways of the Jedi as Rey lacks wisdom and he willingness.

 

Learning the Force

The Force can barely be described in words but it can be sensed and felt. Luke tries to show the Force to Rey by teaching her to let go of preconceived notions and to simply allow her self to fully sense the Force through the natural energy of the Island refuge.  The Force is the energy that resides and flows through and between all things and all life. But it is more than that.

Knowledge of the Force as it is rather than what one would judge it to be is crucial in the training of the Jedi. Without real experience and mentoring, Right View is difficult to attain. Skywalker was taught by Yoda but failed to properly instruct Rey on Ahch-To. Rey must rely solely on her self to fulfil her destiny without the guidance of a teacher.  What Rey lacks in Right View she makes up for with an indomitable spirit. It may not be enough however.

 

The Real World

Real world Jedi have divergent view of what the Force is as much as the Fandom has on Rey. Unlike Buddhism we do not have the Four Noble Truths or the Eight-fold Noble Path but we do have the Jedi Code. Buddhists also have the shared community of wisdom (Sangha). The Jedi have an online community.  The parallels in the recovery community are the 12 Steps and a global support fellowship. Each is a path to a form of enlightenment through wisdom.

In my recovery, Right View was paramount. Facing the truth was life and death. I had to wake up to my addiction and admit it to myself and others. Self Knowledge was essential as was honesty. I had to accept that I was powerless over alcohol and that I could never drink again if I wanted to survive. As harsh as the truth was, the reality was that it fit into the paradigm of the Four Noble Truths. Acceptance and letting go of attachment was the only way forward. The 12 Steps the path to freedom from suffering.

 

Jedi View

The Jedi Code provides a mantra for living based on Right View. The Jedi Code teaches that emotions exist and are part of being human. We choose how to respond to our emotions and should not allow ourselves to be ruled by them.

We should always seek knowledge and accept that we will never have full knowledge. Our ignorance should not be ignored. We should strive to learn.

Being human we care. However we should not allow ourselves to become so passionate about what we care for that we suffer for its sake. We should avoid clinging attachment and be prepared to let go of what we fear to lose. Serenity is the outcome of non-attachment.

In the midst of the storm we can find shelter. We can be the source of calm and equanimity when everyone else is losing their minds. In the chaos we can find harmony.

We do not fear death and accept it as part of the circle of life. All things must return to the Force.

 

Emotion, yet peace.

Ignorance, yet knowledge.

Passion, yet serenity.

Chaos, yet harmony.

Death, yet the Force.

 

Right View is Freedom

No endeavor worth pursuing can be achieved, no meaningful change in our lives possible unless we are willing to accept things as they are; the truth. This is the essence of Right View.

To fail to seek the truth is to surrender to a live of illusion. With an illusionary view of life comes unhealthy attachments and ultimately suffering. We are swimming against the flow of life and we will struggle.

As we learn more about who we truly are the falsehoods we came to accept as real start to fall away. We start to see things clearly and we stop fighting the world. On that high road is the path to freedom.

 

“When this exists, that comes to be:
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this does not exist that does not come to be,
With the cessation of this, that ceases.”
– Buddha

Resolutions

“Do. Or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

If you want to be successful in a particular field, perseverance is one of the key qualities.” – George Lucas

Resolutions

Every year without fail I make New Years Resolutions which never stick. This is a tradition of a mine along with millions of other people. Some of my resolutions include goals such as “learn a new language” or “learn to play the guitar” or “train for and run a marathon this year”. These are defaults which always false start. I set the bar higher; exercise more, eat better, cut out sugar, train more rigorously and the list goes on.

Last year I wrote a list of goals and set targets around them. By the second week, as usual, I’ve slipped or not even started on my resolutions. One year later I went back to that list and realized that I had only met one of five personal goals I had set for myself. Perhaps I had set the bar too high.

I could say there were other noteworthy achievements which I had achieved but which were not on the list. Life still happens and goals change are all excuses. Having resolve is also important if we want resolutions to stick.

 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Clean Slate

We are not alone if we tend to view the New Year as a clean slate with which to start a new beginning. Ever wonder why we are bombarded with advertising from companies trying to sell diets, nicotine gum, personal training and gym equipment? Ever wonder why the local gym puts on early starter membership deals to entice people to sign up? Marketing people are not stupid. People grab at a new lease of life in the New Year.

Some of us want to change how we look and feel. We decide we want to improve ourselves through study or training. On reflection we decide we want to spend more time with our family and friends. Things that matter to us stick out. Some of us decide to change our jobs or start a new career. We all seek change.

The trouble is that most of these resolutions falter before the first steps are taken and we abandon them. Why do most people fail to stick to their resolutions? They fail within days or weeks because any meaningful change worth making requires effort.

Did you make a resolution on 31 December? Where is it now?

 

Momentum

The inescapable fact of New Years resolutions is that they rely on momentum, desire and self efficacy to achieve. People generally only stick to goals that are easy to accomplish or derive a quick and pleasurable outcome. Goals that propagate themselves work best.

Resolutions that require dropping a pleasurable habit tend to be less successful. This includes pleasures that may cause harm such as smoking or drinking. Resolutions that also require a substantial investment of time, money and energy in to something challenging but potentially rewarding in the long term also tend to slip. We also suffer from cognitive dissonance. Our intent is noble but “it’s just too damn hard”.  A tug of war rages in our minds between what we ought to do and what we want to do.

One of my recurring resolutions used to be “No more drinking after tonight” and “quit smoking”. I would see in the New Year with beer or champagne (or both) in hand and call in the New Year. Being that I had resolved not to drink ever again after that night I would take it to excess. Why not? It was one last big bender to see out the year and herald in a new and sober one. Naturally my resolution would not last. Within a few days I was off the wagon. Along would come the caveats and the exceptions before long the resolution was forgotten and I would decide to try again at a later date.

 

There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen” – Wayne Dyer

 

 

Effort and Excuses

I was missing two important points every new year. Firstly, one does not need a particular day to do anything that they can do now. Picking New Year to do something is somewhat of a cliché and not only that we secretly know it. Most people are cynical of the merits of New Years resolutions let alone resolutions at any other time.

Secondly, making a decision to change is not a passive exercise. If we decide to quit drinking or cigarettes we act that out by refusing to drink alcohol or smoke. A decision to start exercising means exercise, not more procrastinating and waiting for the right opportunity. Points one and two are excuses and if honest we know that they are poor ones.

When I eventually did quit smoking it was on receiving the news that I was going to be a Father. I could no longer reason a justification for indulging in a habit like smoking if I were to be responsible for another life. I got patches and went on a program to quit and never lit up again.

Alcohol however is a “cunning and subtle foe”. We can easily reason that moderation in drinking is reasonable and possibly even healthy, certainly socially acceptable. The problem of course is that moderate alcoholism is an oxymoron. Controlled drinking is a concept that works for some but not for all. A fact most of us readily deny.

 

His resolve is not to seem the bravest, but to be.” – Aeschylus

 

The First Step

It finally took hitting “rock bottom” for me to finally come to the realization of my problem. Surrendering my will to a Higher Power broke the delusion completely. There were no resolutions, no specific start date and no “taking an oath” or “swearing off”. I simply turned over my problems to the Force and let it go. All I had to do was surrender control and admit I had made my life a mess.

By turning my life over I was given the power to start living a new life “one day at a time”.  Action started that moment on a day in September. It continued every day.  I saw the New Year in sober and have since seen five more. God willing this tradition will continue till I die. I found my Resolve.

 

Wise to resolve, and patient to perform” – Homer

 

 

Jedi Resolve

Being sober on a daily basis is a conscious decision. I get up in the morning and resolve not to drink that day. I also resolve to be Jedi as I define it. “Jedi Resolve” extends to everything I do. Once a decision is made steps are put in place to lay the foundations for the practice. Making a decision to do or be something is not a once a year exercise, it is conscious and daily process. Done often enough it becomes automatic and a part of us. Habits form. We feel better for it and eventually we miss it if we stop for any reason.

Want to learn a new language? Start today. Want to play the guitar? Pick one up. Resolve to eat better? Start making healthy choices. Decided to start exercising? Put on your shoes and start moving. It’s as easy as that. Just keep doing it until it becomes a priority over the alternative. With the right intent and the right effort, you have Jedi Resolve. Outcomes are largely out of our control. What is in our control is our resolve.

 

On Day at a Time

Facilitating and forcing new behaviors helps in forming habits. Plan, set and commit to a routine, involve other people and set daily goals. Take a one day at a time approach but resolve to do it. Alter your environment if needed to facilitate the change. Remember to reward your efforts and celebrate your milestones.

One study found that 71% of people who succeeded in achieving their resolutions slipped in the first month. Lack of self control, discipline and will power led to the early slip. The good news is that the respondents did not quit and realized their goals. They absorbed the slip and kept going until their efforts paid off. If we fall off the bike while learning to ride, we brush ourselves off and get back on.

This year I made no New Years Resolutions. I’ve realized that if we want change in our lives that is worth having we must simply do the work to make that change. Why wait until the New Year if we can do it anytime? And what better time is there than now.

 

“You have to find something that you love enough to jump over hurdles and break through the brick walls.” – George Lucas

Self Reflect

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

Reflect

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 enter in to a New Year. We reflect upon the last 12 months. 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.

If you are finding yourself in a period of introspection and soul seeking 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.

 

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

 

Self Knowledge is Freedom

Self reflection and introspection is 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 centered 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.

Having worked the 12 Steps for the last five years I have learned the importance of constant self reflection in my practice. When I was drinking I did not want to face the truth of who I was. It seemed easier to coast through life and see how long I could get away with it.

 

“Searching and Fearless”

Only through being self honest and taking inventory of my character faults did I begin to move forward with the transformation needed for sustained sobriety. I had to take a hard look at myself and wipe away the delusions I had created around my ego. Ignorance, dishonesty, anger and a delusional sense of omnipotence and grandiosity had to be removed. I had to stop acting like a self inflated, narcissistic big shot. The relief came in admitting my faults to myself and to another person and to my Higher Power. I asked that my faults be removed and became willing to start living free of them.

 

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” – Step 4 (Alcoholics Anonymous)

 

The 12 Steps are not for everyone. One does not need to be in Alcoholics Anonymous to use self reflection to make positive changes to their lives. The ancient traditions of the East all use practices which lead to self reflection. Meditation is one such exercise. The Abrahamic faiths also use introspection to lead followers to a better life free of transgression. Yom Kippur an example.

Philosophy and Psychology extend self reflection to self knowledge and self improvement. No less the fictional Jedi were encouraged to continuously appraise their own performance and progress through self reflection.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

 

Inventory

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.

List all of 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.

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.

 

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”- Aristotle

 

Meditate and Persevere

Self reflection requires a lot of honesty and introspection. We have to 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 in order to make the changes we want to be. This can be hard but persevere we must.

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 can not hope to move forward. Self reflection is the first step to action.

 

“My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves”– Socrates

Carrie

WARNING: This article contains Spoilers to “The Last Jedi”

 

You know what’s funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You’d think we could remember finding out we weren’t immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing airports and I think, “Aww. They’ve just been told.”
― Carrie Fisher, “Wishful Drinking”

Shakespearean

Star Wars has been called a classic Hero’s Journey and a Shakespearean Tragedy. The Story of Luke Skywalker in the first trilogy was based on Joseph Campbell’s a “Hero’s Journey”. Anakin’s story in the prequels was essentially a Shakespearean Tragedy.

So many people hated the prequels. I loved them. It was a tragic story with a warning. Anakin was driven to madness and eventually to the dark side. The noble Jedi Order became a shadow of its glorious and chivalrous self as it was dragged in to the final fall of the Republic and destroyed. There is revenge and murder and in the tradition of a Shakespearean Play everyone dies or is lost.

Anakin becomes Darth Vader, Padmé Amidala dies of a broken heart. Palpatine gives Order 66 and the Clone Legions massacre every Jedi they can find. The temple is destroyed and all in it are slaughtered. What is left of the Republic submits to Emperor Palpatine or flee in to exile. Some join the Rebellion. The Jedi and the Force become mere Legends.The memory of them is suppressed in the Galaxy.

 

New Hopes

Luke was an ordinary boy who was unexpectedly and reluctantly thrust in to the “Hero’s Journey” at the beginning of  “A New Hope”.  Obiwan “Ben” Kenobi is the mentor who initially guides Luke on the journey. Luke gains confidence and courage and the will to destroy the Death Star.

In “Empire Strikes Back”, Luke is trained further by Yoda as he stumbles along on the path always learning. Luke goes on to confront his fears and his foes throwing himself in to peril. At first Luke fails but in “Return of the Jedi”, he has become a Jedi Knight and through wisdom and love defeats the Sith Lord and redeems Darth Vader. This was Luke’s final test on his journey.

At the end of the adventure Luke has reconciled with the truth of his past and has helped restore balance to the Force. With knowledge Luke goes on to rebuild the Jedi Temple and resurrect the order.

The third trilogy breaks from this tradition. I did not know what to make of “The Force Awakens”.  The movie bought back the old characters. It was a love letter to the original fans while introducing the future of the franchise. I recently watched “The Last Jedi” and after the initial shock and confusion I realized that the movie is a Tragicomedy. If you know anything about Carrie Fisher you would agree that  the dedication of “The Last Jedi” to her was entirely appropriate. Carrie Fisher’s life was a Tragicomedy after all as was Leia Organa’s.

She wondered if she was in the midst of an anecdote that, for reasons of proximity, she was not yet able to perceive.” – Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge

The Raddus

There is a scene in the Last Jedi which is pivotal to the movie. For me it is possibly one of the most compelling scenes in the entire Star Wars saga. The act comes after The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), has been tracked through hyperspace by a battle fleet of the First Order. The Resistance had jumped after they had mounted a successful attack destroying an enemy Dreadnought. The remnants of the Rebel Force had evacuated the base planet of D’Qar and were able to narrowly avoid being destroyed. Now after coming out of hyperspace they find themselves facing a vastly superior enemy force led by Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren is leading a Fighter attack on the Resistance command ship Raddus but is conflicted when an opportunity arises to fire laser missiles in to the command bridge. Kylo Ren was once Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. At this moment Kylo Ren knows that his mother is on board the Raddus and he hesitates. Kylo recently killed his Father and seems unsure of himself once again. A moment later Kylo Ren’s wingmen fires on the Bridge.

The movie cuts to the bridge where General Leia and much of the commanding officers of the Resistance are present. An explosion fills the screen and we see Leia and what is left of the Bridge sucked in to the void of space. The scene is dramatic and shocking. We have just witnessed General Organa killed in the most unexpected way; blasted in to the space in a violent and final act.

 

Leia’s Near Death Experience

I stared in stunned disbelief at the screen and almost applauded. The scene was pure genius as devastating and heart wrenching as it was. Soon after General Leia’s body appears floating in space as a battle rages behind her. The face of Leia fills the screen and she looks serene and at peace. She is beautiful and compelling. Ice has begun to form on her face and we know she will be preserved forever like that in the void. It is a touching and heartfelt moment. Final. I knew I would carry this moment in my heart for the rest of my days. This is the way I would remember the Princess. It is a good ending to a magnificent and treasured character and a beloved actress…then something unexpected happens which is truly comical…

The slightest movement ripples across Leia’s face and she opens her eyes! My mind is utterly confused. What the hell is going on? How can anyone survive such an ordeal Force or no Force? General Leia then orientates herself and begins to fly through space back towards the gaping hole in the Bridge of the Raddus. Like some haunting scene out of Mary Poppins she floats through the destroyed remains of the Bridge to a vacuum lock. There is pandemonium on the Raddus as the crew realize what is happening and they manage to open the air lock and bring Leia on to the safety of the ship. Soon she is on a stretcher being taken to the Infirmary.

 

The Problem

I shook myself out of stunned disbelief as someone a few seats away guffawed loudly. There was laughter in the theater and I found myself laughing at the absurdity of the scene.  At this point the movie seemed to get worse and worse. I could no longer take it seriously and viewed the entire experience as some sort of bizarre joke.

It suddenly occurred to me that the Director Rian Johnson had created a completely unexpected Star Wars movie. No one saw this coming. He had also inadvertently blown away a chance for a serendipitous ending to Princess Leia and had kept her alive presumably for the next film. Ironically Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away soon after filming the scenes in “The Last Jedi”, exactly one year ago on 27 December, 2016. I wonder if the producers at Disney secretly kicked themselves afterwards. The death of Fisher leaves them with a plot predicament. Its almost funny an a tragicomic way.

 

Life is a cruel, horrible joke and I am the punch line.” – Carrie Fisher “Postcards from the Edge

 

Retrospection and Punch lines

Retrospection is a wonderful thing as is a good punch line. Carrie Fisher did a lot of both in real life. Some say her real career was storytelling, comedy and critiquing her own life. Despite a life filled with heart break, tragedy, drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness, Carrie Fisher never felt sorry for her self or sought out public sympathy. If anything she made light of her trials.

In her books Fisher often uses wit and humor to highlight her character flaws and lighten the tragedy around much of her life. Reading some of the hundreds of obituaries written for her I am reminded how was she was an incredibly talented and intelligent person with a sharp wit, beaming personality and a sometimes dark humor. Without a doubt she was much loved but also respected as a strong woman and a tough character who always stuck to her guns. Carrie Fisher was very much like her Princess Leia.

 

I think I am Princess Leia and Princess Leia is me, It’s like a Mobius striptease” – Carrie Fisher

 

“Wishful Drinking”

Carrie Fisher had her demons. She had been abusing drugs and alcohol since her teens. Despite her addictions, Carrie Fisher never self-destructed or wound up dead at a young age. She kept her humanity in an industry where people lose their soul and prey easily on others. It is a wonder Hollywood did not grind her down utterly. She was small in stature but had the heart of a giant.

Carrie Fisher was irreverent and extremely funny. She was described as the person you would most want to sit next to at a wedding or a funeral. Is it any wonder? Many people who have gone through the wringer of alcoholism and drug addiction find a dark but refreshing humor in recovery. We who have survived learn to laugh at ourselves most of all.

Carrie Fisher could raise a laugh in any situation. In her book “Wishful Drinking” she describes how George Lucas insisted she not wear a bra under her dress during a scene as “there is no underwear in space”. On this Carrie Fisher asserts that while bodies in space expand, bras do not, therefore one could be strangled by their own bra in outer space. Carrie goes on to say that she would like her obituary to be thus:

 

Now I think that this would make a fantastic obit- so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” – Carrie Fisher “Wishful Drinking”.

 

The Last Laugh

For that reason I find the “Mary Poppins” scene and the many faults of “The Last Jedi” almost a cheeky nod and wink to Carrie and her fans. She would have loved the comedy of it. The irreverence towards the original movies and the ridiculous plot holes which have divided the fans like no other Star Wars movie would have delighted her. Carrie Fisher would have laughed her head off if she had lived to have seen the final cut.

The “Mary Poppins” scene would have become a central piece to her comedy shows. For a start there is no way she could have been wearing a bra as she floated in space. Wearing brassiere would have certainly killed her even if she could survive in a freezing vacuum. At the very least it would have made the entire experience of Force  flying back to the Raddus extremely uncomfortable.  I wonder if the scene was Carrie Fisher’s idea for a bit of fun and whether George Lucas was in on the joke.

 

“From here on out, there’s just reality. I think that’s what maturity is: a stoic response to endless reality. But then, what do I know?” – Carrie Fisher “Postcards from the Edge”

 

Thanks for the Laughs

“The Last Jedi” closes the coffin lid on the original trilogy and passes the baton on to the next generation. The movie heralds an end to a story that has endured for 40 years. To paraphrase Carrie Fisher I feel like the child at the airport who is weeping inconsolably after being told the unthinkable; Luke, Han and Leia are all dead and the Star Wars as we knew it is no more.

I’m not sure I will ever like the movie “The Last Jedi”. Perhaps it will grow on me now that I can view it as a Tragicomedy. I can’t hate Disney or the movie, which would be un-Jedi like. Jedi do not hate after all. We can still lament George Lucas sold the rights.

Kylo Ren says in the film “It’s time to let old things die”. Luke Skywalker exclaims to a confused Rey “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” As hard as it is to let go of the things we treasure and move on, we ultimately must. Change is essential and keeps things vital. Change is also inevitable.

I’m wondering if Carrie wanted to add the line “I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra” in to the movie. That would’ve been her style. Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher, Princess.

 

No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”
― Carrie Fisher, “Wishful Drinking

 

Twilight

Twilight is upon me, and soon, night must fall. That is the way of things. The way of the Force.” Yoda

 

If you know someone close who is given weeks or months to live because of an illness like cancer the pain and helplessness you feel is like no other. Your view of life can be altered drastically. You will put on a brave face and carry on with your day. At times you will dare to imagine that the Doctors have it wrong but deep inside you know they are right. All of the sudden trivial concerns no longer seem to matter. Our desire is to spend us much time with our loved one as possible. We dread the day that we know will come.

 

While we are tearing up inside and inwardly grieving the very person we grieve will surprise us with their dignity and humor. They seem accept their fate more than we do. Rather than feel sorry for themselves they only regret that they cannot be here for us. They think only of others and apologize to their loved ones with tear felt sincerity as if their own mortality was somehow their fault.

 

I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Death is not something we like to think about. When we are confronted by death and reminded of the impermanence and fragility of life we must also consider our own mortality.  We know that we cannot live forever but put the thought of our physical demise out of our minds. Out ego needs a body and functioning brain to exist. The inner pilot, our higher self does not. Regardless we fear death and prefer to bury our head in the sand. We work hard at extending the time we have on this plane knowing full well that we can only cheat death for so long.

 

“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever. What’s fated hangs over you. As long as you live and while you can, become good now” – Marcus Aurelius

 

I have been privileged to be at the sacred moments of birth and death. Each of us is born into this world with a right to live and a right to die well. Being alive carries a precondition that life must some day end. We all come from the same place and we all meet the same fate. We belong to the Force and must ultimately return to it.

 

“Both Alexander the Great and his mule keeper were both brought to the same place by death” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Accepting the fate of others and accepting our own fate need not be morbid. The circle of life touches all living things. Death does not discriminate between the poor or the rich and powerful. All Emperors and mortal Gods die and eventually all they created and built withers to dust until the memory of them and all who knew them is utterly gone. In the end all of us go to the same end. Our fates are united.

 

“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Time and choice is all we have. To regret the past, fear the future and neglect the present is a waste of life. To deny the natural cycle of life and death is to live in delusion.

We must only decide how to spend our days as long as we live. Life can be lived in a way that when you face the final day others may weep but you can rejoice a life well lived.

Our memory may not endure after we die but acts of love and kindness to others do extend well past our lives. The small things we do today do make a difference. Choose them well and live each moment.

 

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.” – Yoda

 

Thank you for showing me how to live and how to face the end of life, dear Friend, patient Mentor and loving Father.

The Last Jedi

Source: http://www.starwars.com

Count Down

Tomorrow at this time I will be a settling in to watch “The Last Jedi”. I’ll be honest I haven’t been to see a Star Wars movie at the cinemas since 1983 with the release of “Return of the Jedi”. The prequels and the last two offerings from Lucas / Disney I have watched at home months after they were released.

I’ve never white knuckled the count down to release date or stood in a queue with the Sci-Fi geeks wearing a Jedi robe at a midnight screening. Given that I’ve never bothered to watch a Star Wars movie on its release date, the question “why this one, what’s so different?” is a valid one. There are two reasons.

Firstly I have a movie voucher which needs to be cashed in.

Secondly, I’m intrigued by the choice of title. There has been a lot of discussion about the actual meaning of “The Last Jedi”. Is it reference to Luke Skywalker? Or is Rey the Last Jedi? Is there finality in the statement that we will see the final end of the Jedi in this episode and the emergence of something else that is more palatable to mainstream opinions?

 

Disclaimer

I know next to nothing about the actual plot of the movie. I never got invited to the Premier or exclusive early screenings. I don’t even known anyone who knows someone who did.  Disney has also closely guarded details about the actual story.

I can’t offer spoilers, only guesses and a bit of philosophy. If you are reading this after having seen the movie you may say “Ha! You got it completely wrong!” If so, that’s fine. I have some questions for you.

 

Questions

During a recent interview Mark Hamill was very cryptic about the movie plot. Many pundits online wondered whether there was a hint of disillusionment or antipathy about the movie coming from Hamill.

It is no secret that the current trilogy brings an end to the original Star Wars line up. Han Solo is dead and Harrison Ford is out of the picture. Carrie Fisher as General Leia will make her last appearance in this movie on the eve of the first anniversary of her untimely passing. Does this episode also see the demise of Luke Skywalker?

Is that the whole story though? Is something else afoot? What is Disney’s intent with the Jedi Order? Is there a deeper reason to Hamill’s apparent non nonchalance and rumored misgivings about the plot than a possible final retirement from the franchise to make way for newer and fresher blood? Are the fans of the original trilogy going to be walking out disappointed or will we be begging for more?

Since 1977 I’ve been asking questions about the plot and direction of Star Wars. The franchise has become very successful at keeping us guessing.

 

Populist

I read this statement in a LA Times review:

 “The Last Jedi is so beautifully human, populist, funny, and surprising. I cried when one POC heroine got her moment because films like these leave their mark on entire generations – and representation matters.”

 

Two words jump out at me; “populist” and “representation”. Both words suggest a carefully calculated social agenda built in to the plot. Hollywood is an epicenter for the assimilation of popular thought in to mass consumption through movies.

If we go back in time we can see how the views and attitudes of the day are reflected in the story lines and movies characters of the day. Movies have always been an effective way to communicate change to generations and to hold a mirror to the face of society. Star Wars is certainly no exception.

 

Mythology

Stars Wars is a mythology that was born at a different time. When Episode 4 “A New Hope” was released in 1977 America had recently been defeated in a long and bloody war in Vietnam. The counter culture was winding down in America. Hippies that had not found responsibilities, careers and suits were getting high and spiritual in places like the Hindu Kush and Himalayas. The Jesus revival was in full swing in America.

The nation at the time was finding itself and trying to determine its identity after the turbulent post-war period. George Lucas was a product of these times and had cultivated a personal philosophy which resonated within the movie through the mystical and enigmatic Jedi. As a 10 year old I identified immediately with what the Jedi had to offer.

 

 

Representation

Things have changed in the last forty years. The buzzwords of the current times are “political correctness and representation matters” among other hashtags.

There is nothing wrong with ensuring that gender and race are given fair hearing in Hollywood Blockbusters. No producer in Hollywood wants to release a movie that may come across as misogynist, racist, patriarchal or homophobic.

The fallout however is that the Star Wars Universe may be reinvented to conform with ideology rather than remaining true to the fictional premise of the story.  Jedi may no longer be welcome in the modern era. The Jedi Order after all was a pseudo monastic religious order that was by nature patriarchal and full of “old male” stereotypes at the helm. Not exactly diverse or representative.

There were female Jedi and Jedi Masters but no females existed in the Jedi Council at the fall of the Republic in Episode 6 “Revenge of the Sith”. With the exception of Princess Leia and to some extent Padme Amidala all of the hero archetypes in the Star Wars original and prequel line up were male. The only person of color who could be called a hero was the scheming smooth-talking smuggler, Lando Calrissian. Jedi Master Mace Windu had a minor role in the prequels but he was more “Realpolitik” than progressive.

 

Screen Rant

In a recent article on “Screen Rant” a compelling case was made maligning the Jedi Order for a series of bad decision throughout its history. The Jedi Order were not perfect in fiction but they were nothing like the Sith. The faults that ran through the Jedi Order ultimately led to the rise of the Empire and its ultimate betrayal and destruction. The whole cannot be blamed for the errors of the few.

Is a type of revisionism in Star Wars really appropriate? Do we now need to ensure that the story fits snugly in to a politically correct agenda in order to avoid offending someone at the Oscars? Should the fictional Jedi be relegated to the dust bin of history? Are we ready for a feminist Star Wars with a secular, sexy-strong and independent light sabre wielding Grey Jedi out to rid the galaxy of the oppressive patriarchy in all its forms? Does Star Wars need its own Wonder Woman? I guess the Box Office sales and reviews will answer that question in good time.

 

After Tomorrow

Whatever happens in this movie, after tomorrow I’ll keep being Jedi regardless. None of it really matters in the end. No matter what happens in my life I’ll likewise keep being sober. What happens outside of my control is outside of my control. The real reason I want to rush out and see this movie boils down to one question; is this really the final end of the Jedi on the big screen? Will Luke really “die”? If so, I want to see Luke Skywalker  transcend to the Force like Yoda in “Empire”.

 

May you enjoy the movie.

The Gathering

He who faces himself, finds himself.” – The Clone Wars “The Gathering” Series 5 Episode 7

Ilum

In the Clone Wars (Series 5, Episode 7 “The Gathering” ) a group of Jedi Younglings are taken to a the planet of Ilum where they will complete a challenge called the Gathering. The Gathering is a rite of passage in the journey to becoming a Knight. The purpose of the challenge is to unite the young Jedi with the crystals that will form the heart of the light sabres they are expected to fashion on completion of the challenge. Each of the sacred Kyber crystals found within the protected Jedi caverns of Ilum amplify the Force and are tied spiritually to the essence of the Jedi it chooses to wield it. The Light Sabre becomes part of the Jedi as it contains their crystal and harnesses the energy of the Force. This is one of the reasons a personal light sabre is such an important part of a Jedi.

As the six Younglings arrived with Ahsoka Tano they are greeted by Yoda who explains the purpose of their mission. They are to enter the caves and each find the crystal which is matched to them. Yoda does not only want the young Jedi to find their crystals and fashion light sabres. The hidden purpose of The Gathering is to test each individual and push them to face and overcome their weaknesses by working as a team but ultimately each facing the ordeal alone. Like the cave on Dagobah where Luke was tested, the caves of Ilum can sense and manifest the fears and weaknesses of those that enter it. Each Jedi is being judged by his or her actions during the challenge. How they conduct themselves determines whether they pass or fail the test in the next step to becoming a Jedi Knight.

As the Youngling Jedi watched on, Yoda uses the Force to turn the ice wall in to water as the sun rises illuminating the cavernous chamber. The entrance to the Jedi cave opened Yoda warns the Younglings to use their skills and the Force to locate their Kyber Crystals. This they have to do as quickly as possible. As the sun begins to lower the ice wall will form over the entrance closing them in the cave for a full rotation of the planet. Facing their doubts and fears the Younglings enter in to the cave.

 

The March

Twenty of us were gathered in the early morning chill shivering in the dark. There was a hint of the sunrise on the horizon and birds had began to call in anticipation of a new day. The men around  me spoke  in hushed tones. There was a sense of anticipation, dread, fear and hope mixed with bravado. A few smoked last cigarettes and told jokes. Water was guzzled from canteens and a ration energy bar eaten hurriedly. Packs and weapons were propped up nearby having been checked and weighed by the instructors.

This was the final week of Basic Training. There had been thirty two at the start and now we were half of the original Platoon. Recruits had dropped off along the way from injury or failing tests and had been back squadded to Platoons farther back in training. A few had decided to leave the Army completely and requested to cancel their contracts and with some pulling teeth had been granted a dismissal. One had gone AWOL one night and had never returned. Three of the men in our final platoon had been back squadded from earlier platoons. One had been trying to reach graduation for almost a year.

Today was the last test of nearly six months of Basic Training. Over the last few days we had done route marches over 100km of terrain, completed physical fitness tests, completed navigation exercises, run obstacle courses and expended thousands of rounds of ammunition on the range. We had been tested on field craft, first aid, military history and tradition, weapons handling, basic infantry skills and radio communications. Today we had to speed march over 42 kilometers of trails and roads through farmland, heath and forest to a destination where we would be given our corps badges and welcomed in to the family.

We had less than 7 hours to do walk the distance carrying 40 pounds of kit and every one had to cross the finish line as a unit. It was explained that we were being assessed as a team and as individuals. We were to leave no man behind and carry or drag anyone that could not keep up or who fell aside. The pace was going to be brutal because the Officer leading the march was a fitness freak who did these just for the fun of it. Given that none of us had slept that night it was a tall order. It was emphasized, there would be no quitting.

A short safety brief done, the platoon sergeant ordered us to shoulder our packs. I groaned under the weight and cursed as I felt an item stick in to my kidney. Jumping up and down I managed to get it sitting comfortably. I knew within a few kilometers the straps of the pack and webbing would be cutting in to my shoulder stemming circulation. The pouches on my belt would rub at my hips and I’d be feeling heat sores and blisters forming on my feet and crotch. I had tapped up raw patches and was prepared physically and mentally. But I was still anxious and doubted myself.

Over the next few hours there would be nothing but the sound of feet stamping the ground and labored breathing. There would be the urging on by the instructors which would alternate between gentle pressure and frustrated yelling. I would be alone with my thoughts, my self-doubt and fears and would have to push through one pain barrier after the next. This was the final test and the key was to focus on the prize at the end. As light rose above the horizon we set off, silhouettes on the road. I settled in to the pace my eyes locked on the figure in front of me and I started to day dream.

 

The Crystal Hunt

During the hunt for crystals inside the Jedi Cave on Ilum, the young Jedi face their weaknesses one by one and overcome them individually but also as a group. Petro is selfish and impatient and in his haste to find a crystal almost fails the task and also abandons Katooni trapped behind in chamber behind an ice wall. It is only at the last moment that he becomes selfless and rescues Katooni. Petro then works through his task mindfully. He finds wins his crystal and frees himself from the cave. Katooni was at the beginning full of self doubt but her courage and determination sees her overcome her fears. Hesitant at first she scales a sheer rock face to claim her crystal and also finds her self confidence. When Petro abandons her she realizes her fate is sealed and accepts it with equanimity.

Meanwhile the Rodian, Ganodi is despondent in being unable to find a crystal. Her lack of Faith in the Force and her own ability leads her to search aimlessly. It is by finally being present in the moment and turning over the process to the Force that she  is able to identify her crystal and claim it. Ganodi finds Faith and allows the crystal to find her.

Zatt, a Nautolian Youngling also seeks aimlessly and is distracted by technology during his search. Rather than using his intuition he was relying solely on a device to help him find his crystal. Zatt has failed to understand that technology may help but it does not complete missions alone or win wars. His senses and intuition cannot be replaced by a computer. It is only by destroying his personal computer that Zatt is able to open himself to the Force and find his crystal. By doing so Zatt finds his inner intuition and begins to sense with his feelings, not only his thoughts.

The Wookiee Gungi soon finds his crystal in the middle of a frozen subterranean lake partially bathed in sunlight. Attempting to cross the lake Gungi almost falls through the ice. It is apparent that he must wait for the sunlight to recede off the lake allowing it to freeze solid. The Wookie is impatient by nature and forces himself to settle in to meditation and resist the urge to act. As he waits the sunlight recedes from the lake and it freezes over. At last he is able to claim his crystal. Gungi also claims patience as his prize.

Byph, the Ithorian encounters his crystal guarded in a cavern that appears to burn with some malign presence. The Ithorian is terrified of monsters and must muster all of his courage to enter the chamber and take the crystal. When he does he realizes the imagery he had encountered was nothing but the product of his own fears. It was his imagination, the irrational fear of the dark.  Failure is often the product of fear and fear is more often than not completely unjustified. The best way to overcome fear is to face it up close. The “monsters of our imagination” vanish in  to thin air if we refuse to give them power through our mind. Byph does exactly that and also finds his courage.

 

The Last Mile

The platoon was now moving at a canter. My reverie had long been replaced with pain and mental anguish.  Everything was burning. My lungs, legs and back begged for the pace to slow or stop. The last short rest break had been over an hour before and we were now pushing the pace to make up time. A soft rain drizzled down which was a blessing and a curse because it cooled down bodies but made everything wet and heavier. Everyone wheezed around me, coughed and spat as we labored forward. No one had fallen out yet. I knew from the road and passing country we were coming towards the end. We rounded a corner and there it was, two trucks and an ambulance about 400 meters ahead. The finish line! Hearts soared and a cheer went up from the platoon. We sped up in to a run.

We drew closer and the vehicles suddenly roared in to life and drove away disappearing in a cloud of smoke. I stared in disbelief and horror. Someone groaned and swore loudly. Everyone’s hopes were dashed. I wanted to fall to the side and collapse in to a road side drain and cry like a baby. One of the instructor yelled at us “keep Effin moving, this is it, this is why you have been working!”. Soon enough the vehicles reappeared further down the road and we ran up to them gasping for air. Our Platoon leader directed us to drop our packs and form up. We had finished and passed the test.

 

The Tally

In the space of 6 hours and 20 minutes  to complete the march every emotion had swept over my consciousness. I felt as if I had to grapple with every dark and negative thought that visited to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My mind tormented me constantly, egging me to quit. During moments that seemed like hours I hated myself and the men around me and wanted to be anywhere else but there. Self pity filled my senses and I wallowed in the mud of a personal misery. Someone started to falter and fell behind and the instructors fell on him like hyenas, yelling and cursing him to move it as he begged that he couldn’t go on. My heart filled with rage and hate as we were halted, did a 180 degree turn and ran back to him so he could find his place back in the pack before we turned around and resumed the march. Fantasies started to fill my mind, some pleasant and others terrifying and disturbing. My mind screamed through the pain. We were barely at the 20 kilometer mark.

As the march progressed past that half way mark and we came closer to the finish line the mental burden started to ease a bit and I started to get numb to the pain. The time we were making was encouraging and everyone was keeping up the brutal pace. As the mental fog started to lift a ray of sunshine started to filter through. I felt renewed confidence and self belief. Doubt and self pity was replaced with a sense of hope, courage and determination. “I can do this” I thought. We started to encourage each other and those that were suffering more than others. With words of encouragement came a renewed drive to push through the mental and physical barriers of the march. We were working as a cohesive team that cared for each other and wanted each other to succeed.

 

The Will to Succeed

All of the Younglings had made it outside of the Cave except Petro and Katooni. The four Younglings wanted to re-enter the cave but Yoda told them to not to move. There is a time to act and this was not one of them. The Younglings in the cave had to face their peril alone as Jedi often must. Katooni appeared as the ice wall was closing and manages to slip through with inches to spare. Petro was not with her. By rescuing Katooni, Petro had lost precious seconds and was now trapped behind by the ice wall. The cave entrance was sealed. The Younglings stared at the wall in realization of the loss of their friend who would certainly freeze to death in the cave. Yoda and Ahsoka did not seem concerned. A moment later, Petro smashes his way through the ice wall and presents his crystal to Yoda. The ice wall could be broken. It was only impenetrable if the mind allowed it to be.

After the March and back in Barracks, one of the Instructors said that the final march was a mental challenge more than a physical one. The march was intended to test character as much as fitness and force each recruit to face their weaknesses and overcome them. They had no doubt that after six months of training most of us were fit enough to have been able to turn around and march back to the start line if we had been ordered to do so. That was our job. In war time under horrific conditions, wounded and exhausted soldiers are force marched over far worse terrain for days, not hours.

The Sergeant revealed that Recruits did not quit because they physically could not handle training, they quit because they lost the mental game. They quit because they built walls in their minds and sabotaged themselves along the way with self defeating talk and attitudes. The vehicles had been parked a kilometer short of the finish line on purpose. They had been instructed to move on as we approached. The reason for this was simple, a person’s character is revealed when you give them hope and then snatch it away. Spirits that were soaring had now hit rock bottom. This is the moment when most will give up and quit, at the very end of the road. The Sergeant asked us all; “What were you going to do? Keeping going or lay down and die?”. The Instructors wanted to know if they were sending Lambs or Lions to a unit that could go to war.

No Limits

The limits we imagine that we have only exist in our mind. We are actually capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for. Most of the time we are only fighting ourselves and the internal dialogue that says “I can’t do it”, “I’m not good enough” and “This is too hard”. Like the ice wall in the Jedi cave our obstacles only appear impenetrable because we convince ourselves that they are. We can smash through the barriers that we think block our way.  The march was a final test because it revealed to the Instructors and to each recruit their true nature. It tested the mental, emotional  and physical boundaries and exposed weaknesses within the individual. Over a few hours we learned more about ourselves than most of us had in our short lives.

 

Easy to break (the wall) if you have the will” – Yoda (The Gathering)

 

The end of Basic Training was not the end but only the beginning of our journey. Each of us graduated and went on to our units where we faced greater challenges as individuals but also in our teams. Likewise the Gathering on Ilum ultimately led the Youngling Jedi to further trials on their journey to Knighthood. As Jedi each of the Younglings would grow and face their own challenges. The ordeal in the caves of Ilum was but the first.  Each Jedi proved they could go past their self imposed limits.

 

The Gathering

My Platoon was also a Gathering of young men who wanted to be warriors and do greater things. We all wanted to test ourselves. Together we faced a challenge that most would find daunting if not impossible. For many of us it was the hardest and most important challenge we had ever faced. By digging deep and finding the power within we found the key to success. As individuals we fought our own internal battles during the march but we made sure that everyone of us got over the finish line and we finished  as one.   We each won the coveted brevet, our own personal Kyber crystal.

The Jedi Path is a journey in spiritual, mental and physical development and growth. The challenges are increased in intensity and difficulty with one level to the next in order to push the Jedi to the limits of their capability. The intent is not to break the Jedi or push them to quit but to show the Jedi what they can do if they have confidence in themselves and in their training. Fantasy often reflects reality in many ways. The march, the Army and the decades of stumbling through life and my eventual recovery from alcoholism has taught me that life is a similar journey. Along the way we face challenges some hard and some seemingly impossible. Somehow we find a way and even failure carries lessons that we can use. Every day is an opportunity to learn and practice the values we hold dear and the virtues that we value.

The virtues which Yoda offered to the Younglings in the “The Gathering” are the same virtues I aspired to in the Army. They were the values that our Instructors tried to drum in to us during Training and the fuel which got us over the line during the final march. The virtues of patience, quiet determination, fearlessness, confidence, courage, faith, humility, team work, responsibility and selflessness won the Jedi their crystals. These same virtues can help us daily meet our own personal challenges in life if we embrace them. We also recognize that most of the barriers and walls we encounter are only in our minds. We can chose to breakthrough them if we really want to.

Evil

 

The Face of Evil

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine or better known as Darth Sidious is portrayed as an evil character in the Star Wars saga. The very essence of the Dark Lord brings a dark and sinister air to the story. Darth Vader is also depicted as menacing and evil. The musical score which announces the entrance of Vader in “A New Hope” and more recently in “Rogue One” leaves one with little doubt that this is a figure of some dark and diabolical evil.

As children we are taught to fear. Evil is defined as something real and tangible. Our childhood religions personified it in the image of the “Devil” and blamed him for human errors. Evil is given names and made into a label we can assign to almost anything. We are never asked to question whether our impression of what appears Evil is valid or false. Indeed few of us are ever told that we might also be considered evil by others whom stare at us across a social, racial, ethnic or political divide. Should we be surprised? It is human nature. Our perceptions do not make us or anyone else “evil” in reality.

 

Evil by Name only

What is evil? Is it some metaphysical embodiment that exist like some dark mass existing in the ephemeral plane ? Is it something real and tangible which can be identified through empirical science and a dichotomous key? We need not think too hard. Society, our teachers, parents and friends give us plenty of examples to consider evil.

In my childhood I was taught that certain religions and entire nations of people were to be considered evil as it is in their very nature. Communism, I was assured was the epitome of evil spawned by the Devil himself. Of course none of this was correct. I have since learned that a person’s religion, political views and race does not make them either “good” or “evil” by definition. There are preferred and non-preferred indifferences but people are just people. What makes a person “good” is no more set in stone as to what makes them “evil”.

A matter of Opinion

Emperor Palpatine in the true form of Darth Sidious, did not believe that he was evil. The Dark Lord could justify his actions plainly and convincingly. Whether it was a delusion on his part or a blatant lie the (then) Supreme Chancellor Palpatine suggested to Anakin that the Sith were misunderstood and that the polar opposite of the Force is needed to ensure balance in the cosmos. According to Palpatine, the Jedi also could not be considered a true “Good” as the Sith could not be considered a manifestation of evil. Both descriptions were he argued were too simplistic and misleading;

ANAKIN: The Jedi use their power for good.

PALPATINE: Good is a point of view, Anakin. And the Jedi point of view is not the only valid one. The Dark Lords of the Sith believe in security and justice also, yet they are considered by the Jedi to be—

ANAKIN: Evil.

PALPATINE: From a Jedi’s point of view. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power. The difference between the two is the Sith are not afraid of the dark side of the Force. That is why they are more powerful.

ANAKIN: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.

PALPATINE: And the Jedi don’t?

 

Devil’s Advocate

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had a point which struck a chord with Anakin. Skywalker had long questioned the apparent inconsistencies and hypocrisy he had experienced in the Jedi Order and had grown disillusioned.  Palpatine recognized this slither of doubt and used it to his advantage widening the apparent cognitive dissonance which Anakin grappled with constantly.

Palpatine was not indoctrinating Anakin in to “Evil”, he was making him look at things from a different angle. Anakin was led to question everything he believed. The end result was that he abandoned the Jedi Order and became Sith. At no point did Anakin declare “I want to be Evil”. It did not enter in to his decision. Anakin was angry and upset and hateful but that did not make him “evil”. Anakin felt he was doing what was “right” at the time. He picked his side and acted out.

PALPATINE: Or so you’ve been trained to believe. Why is it, then, that they have asked you to do something you feel is wrong?

ANAKIN: I’m not sure it’s wrong.

PALPATINE: Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code? The constitution? A friendship? Your own values? Think. Consider their motives. Keep your mind clear of assumptions. The fear of losing power is a weakness of both the Jedi and the Sith.

 

Source: http://swfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_Sidious_(KHS)

Uncomfortable Truths

A concept of good and evil does not belong in a discourse on the conflict between Sith and Jedi as neither concepts exist in reality. Good and Evil is simply a construct that is arbitrarily defined by society at a given point in time. Those that accuse another of “Evil” are often guilty of the same crimes. History often fails to record this fact.

Obi-wan Kenobi also believed that the belief in “good” and “evil” was ultimately a matter of perception and not entirely based on knowledge. In reality the polar opposites of the Force “Light” and “Dark” exist in harmony with each other. A Jedi does not (or should not) believe in “Good” and “Evil” as absolutes or intrinsic elements within a system.

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

 

 

Horrors

Emperor Palpatine went on to commit horrific crimes with his ascension to supreme executive power and dissolution of the Senate. Order 66 was given resulting in the complete purge and eradication of the Jedi Order without mercy. Force sensitive children in the temple were massacred without pity.

The Death Star was later created to impose Imperial rule on the galaxy. Entire planets with billions of lives were destroyed without warning as leverage or in punishment. The Death Star destroyed worlds to test the weapon. A brutal war of attrition raged between the Empire and the Rebel alliance for decades at an immeasurable cost in sentient life and treasure.

We can argue that the Empire was evil beyond any doubt. Who perpetrates such horrors? The Empire under Darth Sidious was also simply doing what it felt was necessary in war time to impose its will over its dominion and enforce its authority. The Rebel alliance were viewed as terrorists and the Jedi an extinct brand of religious fanatics that preached some fantasy and brainwashed children to their cause. The Republic and later the Rebels also saw their cause as noble and just. If we are objective we can conclude that neither side was inherently “Good” or “Evil”. Such is often the case in war here on Earth. Atrocities and mistakes are committed by all sides.

 

“I’m not a terrorist. I’m a patriot. And resistance is not terrorism.” – Saw Gerrera (The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episode 4)

 

Manifest Destiny

Hitler believed that his philosophy of racial purity and a manifest destiny for the Germanic-Aryan people was “good”. Millions of people embraced that ideology and as a result genocide and horrid atrocities were justified. Today there are few people who would not agree that the Nazi doctrine was evil. Likewise Stalinism is widely considered evil but is still practiced in some countries which are likewise labelled “Evil” by our Governments.

Saddam Hussein gassed Kurdish civilians as the world watched on in 1988. Up to one million Iraqi civilians subsequently died in the two punitive wars against the Saddam regime and the economic sanctions imposed during the intervening years. Again the Saddam regime was blamed for these deaths, making him even more evil in the eyes of the west. More recently atrocities are being committed by both sides in the Syrian conflict.

We decry these acts as “evil” and indeed they are by our definition. Yet if we seek an explanation from a prominent Nazi, a senior member of the Iraqi Baath party or current players in the Syrian conflict we will be assured that the acts committed seemed reasonable and justified to them at the time. At the war crimes tribunal in the Hague most of the perpetrators of ethnic genocide in former Yugoslavia were unrepentant and without remorse because they believed they were in the right. We rarely consider how different our own statesmen and politicians are in their motives for going to war. Evil is something the other side does, we don’t back that team. Do we?

Master or Slave

George Washington kept slaves yet he freed a nation from colonial rule and eventually his own slaves. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves and may have even raped a few. Jefferson was also an advocate for emancipation. It does not change the fact both men profited off slavery. We all agree that slavery is vile and evil however two hundred years ago the practice was common and accepted in the very countries that strongly advocate for human rights and social justice today. Washington and Jefferson unlike many other landowners of the time, suffered a degree of cognitive dissonance about keeping slaves. That much is certain. They preached that all are “created equal” yet had people in bondage. Both still accepted that change had to come and dared to rise above the common view of the time and take action to reduce that internal dissonance.

Views changed over time and the emancipation movement grew until slavery was abolished in the United States. Modern day views do not change the past or excuse them. We can only learn from history and avoid judgment using the standards of our day over times and people we will never entirely understand. By our standards that Washington and Jefferson were slave owners is clearly objectionable today but few would dare call the revered founding fathers “Evil”. In their day, both would have been considered remiss by their associates and peers not to have carried slaves. Let us not forget that the Native Americans like indigenous populations everywhere also suffered terribly under a doctrine of racial supremacy and industrialization “at all costs”.

 

For if one shows this, a man will retire from his error of himself; but as long as you do not succeed in showing this, you need not wonder if he persists in his error, for he acts because he has an impression that he is right” – Epictetus. (Discourses, II.26)

 

Framing Reality

Psychologist use the word reification to describe the apparent human need to embody inexact human traits in to an independent and metaphysical symbol. “Evil” is seen as “out there” when actually it is just people doing really bad things they rationalize as “right”. Failure to recognize wrong or to justify actions that could be deemed morally wrong or even “evil” is sometimes called rationalization. It is not that people are blind to wrong but they can frame it differently and convince them selves that what others might consider to be  wrong or “Evil” entirely justifiable if not “Good”.

Psychologists also point out that reification allows people to justify singling out groups of people, organizations, religions or entire races or countries as “Evil”. I know white people who grew up in apartheid South Africa. They recall the lessons in race they received as part of the mandatory curricula in school. Black people they were taught were a lesser race, not because they were bad people but because they were considered genetically and physiologically inferior. Black people it was argued could not help it as they are born that way.

Entire generations of white South Africans have since realized that this form of reification was completely wrong and engineered by a regime desperate to remain in power out of fear of what would happen if black people were allowed to gain majority rule. The regime rationalized that their theories on race were correct and segregationist policies justifiable. Even the most intelligent and rational human being would accept this ideology. Many Governments survive by creating an imaginary foe or enemy that threatens the common good. At the same time they use the psychology of fear to breed division. Our differences rather than our commonality are used to control us and dehumanize people who are no different to us.

 

Be Rational don’t rationalize

Rationalization diminishes the extremely uncomfortable association with cognitive dissonance. It allows us to be manipulated and to manipulate ourselves. Cognitive Dissonance is the feeling you get when you know what you are doing is wrong but you can’t or won’t stop it. Your actions or behavior are contrary to your belief system or set of personal values and principles. This creates an inner tension and conflict. People will rationalize their behavior in order to reduce that tension. For example a rapist will convince himself that women “want” to be raped and will use reification to convince himself that all women are inherently “loose”.  A Nazi will reify Jews as some sort of global cabal bent on world domination. Rationalization then further demonizes Jews to the level of subhuman and justifies the use of violence against innocent people.

Rationalization and reification can be used to create almost any paradigm the human mind desires and justify almost any means to an end. Almost anyone can be turned in to a pariah and labelled as Evil. Certainly the world has seen megalomaniacs, psychopaths and narcissists commit atrocities and horrific crimes. Are these people actually “Evil” or are they just sick? Do they fail to grasp reality as the vast majority do? Why do some of these people assume positions of power and are able to direct society toward their view and gain widespread support if not quiet acquiescence from the masses for their actions?

Dealing with the Dark Side

How do we deal with this “dark side” of human nature? Do we destroy “Evil” people only to see another rise up and take his or her place? Should we pity them and try to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society? Is forgiveness and acceptance the key or revenge and restitution? Let us not forget that all of us have a “dark side” but no one gets up in the morning and says “I’m Evil” unless they are severely afflicted with psychosis and delusional personality disorders.

As thousands of “Foreign Fighters” return home to the west from service in the ranks of terrorist organizations such as “Islamic State” in Syria it is a question we need to ponder mindfully. What do we do with these people? People are now asking the question why did this fanaticism, this “Evil” emerge and why were so many seemingly intelligent and talented people drawn to it? As ISIL draws it final agonal breaths another group rises to replace it with as hard and unforgiving a doctrine thanks once again to the actions of western powers that claim to stand behind “universal” concepts of human rights.

 

Ignorance is Hell

We have all done things that in hindsight we regret. At the time we committed the offense we probably had a justification for doing it. That justification may have been largely influenced by personal views and biases that were a product of upbringing, education, peer pressure, experience or even delusions of the mind. Despite our reservations about our actions we would reduce any cognitive dissonance by finding justification no matter how flimsy to excuse our behavior. We would seek affirmation in the world that further validated our views and in finding we would select what to take as the truth, setting aside all evidence contrary to that preferred view. Ignorance trumps knowledge.

 

“There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge” – Jedi Code

 

The Stoics argued that the concept of “Evil” is too simplistic and an easy card to draw. People are not born evil and are not evil by nature. Acts that appear “evil” are rooted in ignorance or as the Stoics believed lack of wisdom. The Stoics also believed that the only “good” were “virtues” such as justice, courage and wisdom. Evil acts are therefore the product of lack of wisdom. Ask any perpetrator of “evil” acts for a justification of their actions and they will affirm that they were right and refuse to accept an alternate view. The person may be otherwise intelligent and articulate but within them resides an impenetrable wall which refuses understanding and forgiveness and is mired in a deep rooted conviction in the righteousness of their cause. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Kaddafi and Pol Pot are among a parade of despots and dictators through history who were all highly intelligent but suffered from this mental deficiency. Is it right to call them “Evil”?

 

There is only one good, knowledge, and only one evil, ignorance.” – Diogenes Laertius

 

 

Taming the Beast

What keeps most addicts in abuse? You guessed it rationalization.  Alcoholism can lead people to do horrific things. Should we call them “Evil” or merely sick and ignorant? As an alcoholic I used reification and rationalization to justify my actions and reduce my own cognitive dissonance. The beast was given free reign. I did some bad things but do not consider myself “evil” then or now. I do not claim to be “good” either.

Consider the process of recovery is the progressive reversal of an insidious disease using a spiritual remedy. When an alcoholic or addict accepts that she is afflicted with a disease that is reversible but incurable there is a move from ignorance to knowledge. When  that addict also recognizes their faults and accepts their part in the damage their actions have caused others they move further along the trajectory from ignorance to knowledge. By taking responsibility for her actions and seeking to make amends she is proving that knowledge can be converted in to action. Those around her begin to realize that what appeared to be a “lost hope” can be saved and forgiven. People can climb out of the pit they dug themselves in to and bathe in the light of the world once more if they find a spiritual cure.

 

A spiritual solution

I take comfort in the promise that with enough practiced principle and a solid spiritual foundation a relapse into active abuse and destructive behavior is  unlikely. Cognitive dissonance is reduced. To quote someone in  a 12 step meeting, “it’s impossible to get blissfully wasted and turn in to an asshole with a head full of program”. If we adjust our mind away from the patterns of thought that we grapple with, our actions will eventually align with our beliefs. Cognitive dissonance through knowledge and honestly makes it hard for us to think one way and act another. With the Force behind us it’s even harder.

“Evil” may be nothing more than a temporary affliction requiring a spiritual cure. Remember that before judging others and condemning them as “Evil”. Like Anakin, we all have a dark side that can come out to play if we let it. If we convince ourselves enough that what is false is true we open ourselves to error and very bad decisions. Only knowledge and virtue prevents that. We should be Jedi and be forgiving of others as we are self forgiving but also accept only what is true. We should seek to understand before we judge others. By accepting ignorance we are not “Evil” but we may allow “evil” to perpetuate itself in ways we cannot foresee or imagine.

Do these things

Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

Try Hard

In the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” on Dagobah, Yoda admonishes Luke for stating that he would “try” to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp. The audience is given the impression that “trying” is not good enough and Yoda expects nothing less than a winning performance from Luke. This is not entirely the case. Yoda is teaching Luke a lesson about “right effort”.

Yoda was not admonishing or challenging Luke Skywalker. He was showing him that the Force did not require effort and anger to be harnessed. A small amount of focus and concentration could direct the Force to do anything Yoda desired including moving an X-wing out of the swamp. Luke was trying too hard and getting flustered and frustrated before giving in.

Anakin had used anger to direct the force but it was clumsy and ugly. There was no need to “force” the Force. All Anakin and Luke had to do was relax and just do it.

Yoda was not a perfectionist. Unlike Anakin and Luke he had reasonable expectations of himself and others. Yoda saw no point in forcing things. Yoda knew that slow and steady wins the race. Living by a philosophy of life is like that. It is easier than we realize. We just have to do it and do it easy.

 

Do it Easy

Having a philosophy for life need not be hard or even complicated. When we embark on a journey of self improvement we often want to change everything about ourselves. We throw ourselves in to the work and try our hardest to put in to practice the things that we have learned. It becomes difficult to keep a track of all the precepts, principles and rules that we set for ourselves. As we stumble and fail we get frustrated and start to force change, making things only worse.

“What” you say, “but I thought right effort was everything”. Right effort need not be over-effort or making earth shattering changes. Let us not forget that none of this is about trying to save the world or changing others. We are only improving ourselves so that perhaps we can in some small way make a positive difference in the lives of others. Through self betterment we lead to world betterment. There is no need to break ourselves getting there. We should apply the “easy does it” or rather the Pareto principle in our lives.

Sometimes  just doing a few things well makes all the difference. Not just in our own progress but also in positive outcomes for others. Applying the Pareto Principle often works in our favor.

 

Pareto

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output or success from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input. The idea was proposed by an Italian economist who noticed that 80% of property was owned by 20% of the population. People started to notice the same 80/20 rule appearing everywhere.

If we apply approximately 20% of the effort towards change we will get 80% of the way there. The Pareto principle works everywhere, in business, physical training, study and nature. For example:

  • 20% of clients produce 80% of a companies turnaround
  • 20% of effort produce 80% of a target output
  • 20% of exercises and habits produce 80% outcomes in physical training
  • Natural systems are efficient with energy and default along a line of “least resistance” effectively the Pareto principle demonstrated in ecology
  • Going over the key points in a subject (20% of the volume) will cover 80% of the material required to pass an exam
  • Trying too hard when attempting to attract the opposite sex ends in them losing interest resulting in a 80% strike out rate.
  • 80% of mistakes are caused by 20% errors. 80% of accidents are the result of 20% hazards.

 

Work Smart

What all this means is that we should strive to work smart not hard for change.  We can get by with little. Yes change can be difficult but we do not need to hang ourselves on a cross to get the optimal results that we seek. Instead of going over the mountain we can sometimes go around it or through it. 20% of the effort will get us 80% of the way there so there is really no excuse for not doing something. We don’t try, we do, but we do it easy not hard.

 

Low Fruit

Having a philosophy for life by definition means we want it to serve us in some tangible and practical way. Jedi philosophy like the 12 Steps is not meant to be something that we memorize and commit to in such a way that it makes our lives inflexible, difficult or complicated. It is not a book on the shelf outlining unreachable goals that we exhaust ourselves trying to reach. A practical philosophy for life can be applied without much effort if we are willing to do the work. The benefits of doing so can be immediate and significant.

The idea is to harvest the low hanging fruits. Take away the key ideas and points of our chosen philosophy that are easy to remember. Use them in such a way that they accord with your internal value system and set of personal principles. Nothing could be easier than that.

 

Take Homes

Let’s break it down. What are the few things that we should strive to do? What are the take home jewels that stem from all this talk and contemplation of philosophy? I have boiled it down to five key areas for consideration:

  1. Treat your body like a temple; it’s the only one you have and you need it to function on this plane. Science has not yet offered replacement bodies that you can trade in your old one for in order to keep living indefinitely. In practical terms this means being mindful of what you put in to your body. It also means we should exercise regularly, meditate and rest when we need to.
  2. Respect your self and others; treat others as you would want to be treated with respect and dignity. Give others the love and compassion that they deserve. Work for the common good. Strive for synergy and cooperation.
  3. Be objective and rational in all things; defer to reason where opinions differ. The truth may be a matter of opinion but accept only what is true as you believe it. Accept that the truth can change and we must change too. Don’t hold on to ideas or beliefs so tight that you can’t let them go when they are proven wrong.
  4. Embrace your full spectrum of emotions as they make you fully human; but take charge of how you respond to your emotions moment to moment. Let emotions go that do not serve you.
  5. Learn what is in your control and what is not; align your wants and needs to that. Be ready to accept the things you cannot change and learn to let go of attachments including people, things and circumstances. All things eventually return to the Force. Embrace change, do not fear it.

 

Progress not Perfection

Remember we are not here to be perfect people or perfect Jedi or to achieve a level of spiritual perfection. We want continuous and incremental progress that never ends. Aiming for perfection is likely to lead to disappointment while deciding to coast along will ultimately see us regress and slide backwards. The objective is to trudge slowly uphill but without getting worn out. There should always be enough gas in the tank and fire in the belly to keep going.

 

A Journey

Follow your heart and whatever code you call your own, be it the Jedi Code or 12 Steps or anything else. This is your journey and no one else. We all have free will and we make of our lives as we see fit. There is nothing we have to do. No one is judging you but you and if there is a God it does not mind. You are already forgiven, you were never not.

You accept the consequences of our decisions as the natural order of things determine. By learning from our mistakes, we can only resolve to do better and not repeat or regret them. The ball is in our court and it is our game till the day we die. So let’s make the most of it and enjoy this grand adventure of life. We really only do get one shot at it so don’t waste 80% of your time when 20% will do. Do not “try”, just do it but do it easy.

OODA

Your focus determines your reality” – Qui-Gon Jinn

The Loop

The OODA Loop is a handy tool. OODA is the acronym for Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act. The acronym is used by Fighter Pilots to help them instinctively assess a situation and decide on a course of action in time and space. The Pilot is fully aware of his surroundings and can plan ahead rapidly orientating themselves in a better position to defeat an opponent in an aerial combat. US Fighter pilots used the strategy effectively in the Vietnam War.

A modern fighter jet may have all the technological advantages to assist with threat detection and guidance. They may have on board weapons systems and defenses however individual skill, prowess and instinct are still a major asset to a Combat Fighter Pilot. The OODA Loop is a cycle which allows a person to constantly re-assess a changing environment and act accordingly.

 

KO by the Force

When Luke Skywalker was engaging Imperial Tie-Fighters during the Battle of Yavin he was being assisted by on-board computers, Rebel command and a Droid that was constantly feeding him information on the battle situation and threats. The combat environment was extremely volatile and fast moving. Fighters and Bombers weaved in space around the Death Star like hornets around a hive. Blaster rays from Fighters and Death Star cannons formed a web that Rebel pilots had to skillfully maneuver through as they sought to out-skill and outmaneuver Imperial Fighters. The enemy were Clones who were trained, battle hardened and supported by superior systems on the Death Star. Situational awareness and fluidity of precise movements as well as full commitment once a decision was made were key to survival. One small mistake and the X-Wing Fighter was obliterated.

 

“Use the Force Luke” – Obi-wan Kenobi

What saved the day for day for Luke was his willingness to put aside the technological tools he had been given to target the fatal flaw of the Death Star. To the final moment  as he approached his target, a combination of pluck, instinct and situational awareness and technology had kept him alive. The final enemy Fighters had been knocked out of the fight but so had all the Rebels. The Death Star was moving into a firing position with the Rebel Base, the planet of Yavin coming in to view. The Death Stars planet killer weapon was being charged and primed to fire.

There was not a second to lose. One mistake and Luke could miss his last chance to destroy the Death Star and save the Rebel alliance from final destruction. The voice of Obi-wan Kenobi came into his mind telling him to trust in the Force. With a clear mind and his aiming system put aside, Luke put trust in the Force and in his own abilities and delivered the fatal blow that destroyed the Death Star.

Was it the Force or OODA which had won the day? Perhaps both.

 

Being Aware

The OODA Loop is a combination of situational and self awareness. It is being completely aware of what is happening around us at any given time and knowing what is happening within us. OODA is also being agile and fluid enough to adapt with change. An environment can change rapidly and OODA allows us to detect the change, orientate ourselves to it, adjust our level of alertness and make the necessary adjustments based on sound judgement. Decisions are not reactive but guided by a mixture of intuition, instinct, experience and the rapid processing of information coming in. The OODA Loop relies on the user being adaptable and agile in their decision making.

 

“Remember your training, trust your instincts” – Qui-Gon Jinn

 

 

Scenarios

Consider OODA in an everyday setting. You are driving through town at night and come to a red light. The neighborhood is not a crime hot spot but you do a quick scan of your surroundings and make sure your doors are locked. At this point you are relaxed but still alert to the task at hand, driving. A car pulls alongside, you saw if approach in your rear view mirror. Slightly more aware now you glance at the driver and see nothing amiss. The light turns green and you look both ways and carry on, relaxed again.

Along the way you see a bank and decide to stop to draw money from the ATM. Before getting out of the car you do a quick scan of the area. You are now alert assessing your surroundings, looking for threats and anything out of place. It’s very quiet and there is no one on  the street. You get out of the car do another quick scan and lock the car checking the door before walking to the ATM.

On arriving at the ATM you hear laughter and raised voices and notice a small group of guys further up the street. They are walking in your direction. You don’t stare but you can tell they are drunk; you drove past a bar farther up the road and they have probably come from there. At this point your awareness is acute and your senses have heightened. The situation is delicate, alone and unarmed, at an ATM with your card, this puts you in a vulnerable position. You glance up and see a security camera looking down at you so you have that. The guys are getting closer and have got quieter as they have noticed you standing there. Making a quick getaway at this point is not appropriate. A threat has not presented itself yet, lets not over react. You reach for your phone and put it to your ear pretending to speak to someone while not losing track of the situation.

 

Fight and Flight

The guys are almost on top you now. At this point you are more aware, time seems to have slowed down, adrenaline has started to flow and you are ready to respond to any verbal or physical assault. There is no fear just a heightened awareness. All your senses are now completely engaged. You know you can outrun them if you have to, you are fit and they are drunk. They will be surprised and thrown off balance by any fast movements you make. Most people who assault soft targets don’t expect them to charge with confidence and aggression. People who train in Krav Maga use this principle to get out of a scenario involving multiple attackers. Speed and aggression is the key.

They are three guys, age you guess at late teens or early twenties, one has a tattoo on his lower arm, a rose and dagger. They have short hair cuts; soldiers or college kids on a night out maybe? You keep your guard ready and quickly take a mental picture of their faces and clothes as they pass by barely looking at you. They move on and disappear down the street. Breathing a short sigh of relief you go to the ATM and looking around once more you key in your pass code and draw out the cash you need before going back to your car. You are aware that your alertness level has fallen from hyper-alert back to alert. Congratulations you have just used the OODA loop about five times in the space of a couple of minutes. Both at the lights and at the ATM you went through the OODA Loops. Your level of alertness moved from Green, to Amber to Red seamlessly and then back to Green without losing focus.

 

Staying Alert

The scenario was innocent benign but it may not have been. It could have changed in an instant and quickly turned violent. One of the guys could have doubled back while you focused on the ATM or walked back to your car and charged you delivering a  king hit and a rain of kicks as you fell while his friend grabbed your wallet and keys. The third guy on the lookout. Could happen, how would you respond?

How often do we see people at the ATM headphones in, staring at their phones and barely aware of what is going on around them? People are often seen wandering out in to traffic as they check their phones. Some people barely look both ways as they cross the street or blindly walk out at a crossing when the Red Man is flashing. A car slams on the brakes and lays on the horn. The driver might yell “Wake up Moron!” and is thanked with an “Up Yours” and a middle finger. It’s little wonder that accident related trauma is on the rise, we have become a society that is no longer attentive to what is going on around us.

I’m not suggesting that we should be constantly in a state of high alert, no no one needs that level of stress. We should be more aware of our surroundings and others as well our physical, mental and emotional state moment to moment. If we are observing what is going on we can orientate ourselves in time and space and adjust ourselves accordingly.

In this day and age people are suffering from chronic stress because they are constantly exposed to stimuli through media which elicits fear and anger. The fight or flight response is constantly activated but never processed in a realistic or appropriate way. Out on the street we are however oblivious to the world until someone or something enters our space and comes in to our consciousness. With a jolt we wake up and react rather than respond proactively to the situation . Many of us have also been conditioned to avoid any type of conflict, confrontation or even disagreement because we don’t know how to handle it mindfully or proportionally.

 

 

Reactivity

If someone cuts us off in traffic and we lose it and lay on the horn swearing, we might feel strangely good but it hasn’t done anything. We might drive on and realize we were in the wrong and then berate ourselves. If the offending driver slams on his brakes and gets out of his car with a baseball bat and starts walking over we panic and go into the fight, flight or freeze mode. Some of us would literally soil ourselves as we sat there mute and terrified completely clueless about what to do in this situation.  Being Jedi is having self and situational awareness. We respond mindfully rather than reacting mindlessly. We are constantly applying the OODA Loop in our day.

Making the slow transition from drunk to recovered alcoholic has been a journey in raising personal self and situational awareness. It’s been a hard slog. Observe anyone who is inebriated and they are not only oblivious of their surroundings, unless it punches them in the face. They are also largely unaware of their own thoughts, words and actions in the context of their impact on self and others.

With recovery comes self honesty and a lot more mindfulness. Instead of reacting to situations, we take the time to observe what is going on and orientate ourselves fully. This means being aware of our inner,  as well as outer world and applying our principles. We can then make decisions based on mindful appreciation and good judgement rather than reacting on assumption and instinct alone. Actions become effective and justified rather than being half cocked, out of proportion and requiring explanation and justification.

 

Keep Calm and OODA

The OODA Loop can be used for more than just rapid changes in a situation like aerial combat or a possible threat to personal safety. Situations will change constantly while we are driving, working or negotiating a transaction. Relationships with people evolve and can sometimes change rapidly. Every aspect of our lives is subject to gradual or sudden change which we may or may not be ready for. By training yourself to be agile enough to respond mindfully to those changes you can reduce the chances of being caught unaware and off guard.

The OODA Loop may not resolve problems and issues but it does allow us to make timely decisions on how to act based on principle. OODA takes in to consideration all available information. Instead of going in blind and full steam or half cocked we are going in using all of our senses and if you believe, as I do, with the Force.