Victimhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image property of Lucas Films, Disney Ltd.

The Middle Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masks

Luke help me take this mask off” – Anakin

But you’ll die” – Luke Skywalker

Nothing can stop that now. Just for once let me look on you with my own eyes.” – Anakin

George Orwell wrote “He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it”. Today most of us will be wearing a mask, literally, figuratively or both. In the figurative sense we wear a mask to conceal who we are. Vulnerabilities are seldom put on display. Inner secrets and intentions are kept hidden. Character flaws and shortcoming are concealed, buried and denied. We want people to see the person we want them to see. We do not even want to face ourselves. Eventually we learn to fit the mask we wear. We become that person. It becomes a suit of armor but it also becomes a prison preventing us from being who we are meant to be.

Darth Vader wore a mask to function physically as his injuries suffered on the lava flows of Mustafar were so severe that he required it to breath and speak. The mask also  concealed his horrific disfigurement  while it became a symbol of tyranny and oppression across the galaxy. Darth Vader all but extinguished the man that once existed but he could not destroy the memory of who he once was. The mask helped conceal his own agony from others. The mask also reinforced his enslavement to the Dark Side.

Kylo Ren wore a mask to hide his true self. Behind that mask was a man who was weak and vulnerable and deeply flawed. Barely a man, Kylo Ren was a child suffering from betrayal and neglect. From a dark place he cast off his former self and taking inspiration from his grandfather, Darth Vader, sought to be like him. Ben Solo had none of the passion, conviction and real suffering that Anakin had had. Kylo Ren was a façade. The mask he wore was a prop used to intimidate others and it failed. Not even a mask could conceal Kylo’s character that had neither virtue or substance.

The Mandalorian warrior was required to wear a helmet to conceal his identity. Their code forbid them from ever removing it in front of others. With the fall of the Mandalore to the Empire, the survivors of the Mandalorian Death Watch scattered across the galaxy and many ended up in the outer rim as Bounty Hunters and Mercenaries. They were self-reliant loners who rarely took bounties alive where it was easier to choose the dead from “dead or alive”. They were ruthless but also disciplined warriors and loyal to one and another and above all to the Mandalorian Code.

“Mando” is the man with no name. A Star Wars gun slinger. The mask gives him a deeper layer of anonymity in a profession where it was best to be on guard, trust few and anonymous. We may not see the Mandalorians face but his actions reveal his true character despite the mask he wears. The mask does not hide Mando as he truly is.

For decades I wore masks. Alcoholics are experts in switching from one persona to the next depending on the situation. Each is a mask that hides true intentions, motivations and character. I could be nice, charming and amicable when it suited me and quickly turn morose, obstinate or belligerent when it didn’t. I would be your best friend if you bought me a drink and then walk past you in the street with barely a glance the next day. In an evening I would convince myself and others that I was somebody who had and would do great things. I would pretend to be anyone but who I was and would lie even when there was no need of it. My alcoholic personality served as a disguise and eventually I came to fit the masks I wore. The masks we make for ourselves and hide behind conceal our pain and the dark truth of who and what we are.

In recovery I learned to remove the masks. I started to drop them. Through inventory and amends the layers of deceit and lies begin to wash away and masks fell as I revealed myself to others and to a Higher Power. I found I no longer had need of a mask. Without any fear of loss or death,  the need for masks falls away. You cannot hide who you are from the Divine.


These days I meet people wearing masks when I go out. Their masks are literal and figurative. Masks are not mandatory where I live in these strange times but some people choose to wear them. Whether they are protecting themselves from others, or trying to protect others from themselves or wear the mask for comfort from fear or because of social pressure, I am unsure. People seem to act differently around others when they wear them. Not long ago seeing people wearing surgical masks would’ve seemed strange. Now it is seems completely normal. Yet people have always worn masks and it would seem strange if they didn’t. Imagine if they didn’t…

People wear masks and their faces grow to fit them. Eventually they become who they are pretending to be. The mask can still come off. Anakin removed his mask as he lay dying and revealed in his last moments his true self. His scarred face betrayed love and final redemption to his son. Kylo Ren desperate to become more powerful cast aside his mask revealing a fragile and deeply conflicted child that could only be pitied. The Bounty Hunter Mando removed his mask and revealed just Mando.

I do not wear a mask either literal or figurative. I see no point in wearing them. Recovery has taught me to be true to my principles whether they agree with others or not. This includes being authentic in every way. Removing your mask means revealing yourself and putting character and your vulnerabilities on display. It is being honest with yourself and others. Unless you are a Mandalorian true to the code, cast aside your mask and show your face. This is who you are. This is the way.

Service

A great service to the republic, you have done.”– Yoda

I did my duty as a citizen.” – Ahsoka Tano

Not as a Jedi?” – Yoda

The purpose of the Jedi was to serve the Republic. The Jedi cannot be compared to real world services such as the military, the diplomatic corps or law enforcement but they had elements of each. The goal of each is to serve the government which may or may not act on behalf of the people. The Jedi were no different however they were sworn to serve and protect the Republic which had been built on the precepts of democracy and rule of law. Each Jedi existed to that end. Without a Republic to serve there was no reason for the Jedi to exist.

“Fame, recognition—a Jedi does not seek these things. It was enough to serve and have good come from that.” – Plo Koon

Adopting Jedi philosophy carries with it an of expectation of service and a sincere desire to serve others. To be Jedi is by nature to avoid selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-serving behavior. Jedi take the focus off themselves and place it on others. This requires a degree of selflessness and self-sacrifice.

In active abuse we were selfish and did not think of others. If we served in some way it was often insincere. We were motivated to serve ourselves through the guise of helping others. Many serve only for thanks, recognition and reward.

Selfless service is a cornerstone of 12 Step Recovery. We only get to keep what we are willing to pass on. We expect nothing in return because we already have enough. The flow of healing energy must continue from one to the next, growing and expanding as it does. By helping others we help ourselves. We get out of self by focusing on others.

I only wanted to do my duty” – Fives

Most people think of service as being employed directly in the military, police, or in emergency. Service may also be voluntary and unpaid by giving time to worthy causes and charities. It might be providing support and aid to those in need through disaster or crisis relief. Donating clothes, blankets, money and blood is also an important form of service.

Many people also find it hard to dedicate themselves to service to others. Finding the time and opportunity to commit to worthy causes may not be for everyone. This should not preclude anyone from finding ways to be of service to others. Small everyday acts of kindness to others can be as important as dedicated service. Holding open a door, offering to help someone carry a heavy load or complete a difficult task, checking in on a friend, bringing groceries to those who are unable to leave their home are services in themselves. Doing your job to the best of your ability is also an act of service.

The benefits of service to others are obvious. By helping other you help yourself. Research shows that people who volunteer in worthy causes are generally happier and more satisfied with life. Volunteers feel a sense of purpose and community as well as a deeper sense of gratitude for what they have. If you are in a 12 Step group you will discover the joy of service to others simply by providing support by listening to others and being there.

Service was a duty of the Jedi. Even those who failed in their Jedi training went on to serve the Republic in the Jedi Service Corps. The work was hard, demanding at times dangerous and always thankless. Being Jedi is not providing service for the thanks, recognition, or reward but because it is what is done. It’s our duty as a citizen.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” – Howard Zinn

Courage

Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” –Yoda

The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart “cor”. Courage was one of the cardinal virtues of the Stoics. A Roman was measured by not only his courage in the face of combat but also in his response to everyday adversity. A Stoic approached suffering with equanimity and acceptance. The courage shown in the face of uncertainty, pain and death were the only things that truly mattered.

The Jedi also had courage. The rigours of Jedi training, the trial of courage required it in abundance. Without courage a Jedi could not hope to survive the many ordeals that would confront her in a lifetime.

“Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – Moral

Face Fear

I lacked the courage to accept my alcoholism and the damage it had bought to my life and the life of others. Alcoholism made a coward out of me. It removed any willingness and heart to face mistakes and own up to them. I lacked the honesty and courage to accept accountability for my actions. It forced me to avoid or run from my responsibilities. Through the three steps I came to admit my problems, accept responsibility and believe that a Higher Power could restore my sanity and give me all the courage and strength I needed to recover.

Life is suffering. Every day is to face a degree of uncertainty in life. With experience we come to understand that plans and expectations rarely match outcomes. What we hope will transpire is often dashed by reality. We have all heard of “Murphy’s Law”. Expect the unexpected and always at the worst possible time. Life is fraught with unknowns, adversity, trials and challenges not to mention disappointments, failures and tragedies.

It is in the act of getting out of bed and facing the world that we demonstrate a measure of courage. With every heart break and loss that we endure, each disappointment that we accept and all the challenges that we face and overcome we show courage.

He certainly has courage.” – Princess Leia

Finding Courage

Courage cannot exist without fear. It is perfectly normal to feel fear. Some people are terrified of public speaking. Others find the challenge of leaving the house with trepidation. Many of us will feel fear for reasons we cannot articulate or do not understand. For example, the world is in a state of turmoil. The media bombards us with a constant stream of bad news and despair. Humanity seems to be in a state of chronic fear. The fear is not a tangible thing. It does not exist outside of our mind.

Fear is a normal human response; it is necessary to our survival. Courage is not the absence of fear but being able to act despite those fears. Courage is the person terrified of public speaking who stands in front of a crowd and delivers their speech. It is the person who walks out of their home to face a hostile world. Courage is choosing to face yours fears despite every fibre in your being that screams at you to turn back. Courage is the very essence of being human because without it, humanity could not have survived in a world that was constantly trying to kill it. Fear and courage are brothers.

Ironically Fear has much to do with my recovery as does Faith. Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it. I fear a return to alcoholism and suffering but know that faith and courage provides the safe harbour from the storm that rages around me.

“This battle is inevitable. You can stand by your beliefs but let us stand by ours.” – Anakin Skywalker

Courageous

Star Wars is a saga of trials, tragedy, loss, hope, struggle, and redemption. The virtue that pervades the story is courage. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are idolised as morally virtuous characters because they repeatedly showed courage in the face of fear and evil . Han Solo despite his faults and shortcomings showed amazing courage and was willing to sacrifice his own safety for the ones he cared for. Each of these characters had their own fears and doubts but they overcame them and did what was needed despite every reason to seek safety and refuge.

What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station is not my idea of courage. It’s more like, suicide.” – Han Solo

The “Heroes Journey” is an act of courage. Courage is what differentiates the mere traveller to the hero on the journey of life. One simply follows the path and arriving at challenges and obstacles chooses to turn back, stay put or go around because of fear. The traveller is not necessarily a coward, he simply lacks courage and will stick to what is familiar, safe, and expedient. The Hero on the other hand overcomes his fear by confronting the challenge head on at the expense of what is safe, secure, and expedient. Through that act the Hero is elevated from one level to another.

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

Rising Above

To show courage:

  • Choose to act, despite the fear. Answer the call to adventure whatever it might be.
  • Follow your heart despite the risks and the naysayers who tell you to abandon your dreams.
  • Persevere in the face of adversity, keeping your eye on the prize. Keep going and never give up.
  • Stand up for what is right to you. Speak up!
  • Face the unknown. Embrace the suck. Eschew comfort and familiarity. Welcome adversity as an opportunity.
  • Face suffering with acceptance and equanimity. Say “This too shall pass”. Mean it whatever your concept of Faith.

Through the catharsis of suffering the Hero has gained where the traveler has not.  By falling, failing, and then persevering through one challenge after another the Hero lives the virtue of courage. It is through these efforts that the Hero achieves her goals and returns home transformed.

Over the next seven days explore your fears and how you can use courage to overcome them. Remember that reality is divided into the things that we can control versus those that we have partial or no control over. In life you have very little control over the things that are external to you. You do control how you perceive those things which harm you. This is an invitation for you to ask your fears to come out and play.

You know why you are here and why you are here. Your mountain is there in front of you waiting to be conquered. Only fear holds you back. The challenge is on you. Only you can muster the courage to go out and get what you want. Have courage and send your fears packing.

Independence Day

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

“We shall not go in to the night” – William Shakespeare “Henry V”

Every person shines their own light. The goodness within them, the eternal love that exists resides within like a flame. That inner flame is life, truth and redemption with who we truly are.

At times the light burns brightly and at other times it flickers. Some times the flame is buffeted by the winds of life but still it burns. It may be reduced to the tiniest of flames in our darkest times but it still burns waiting to be kindled with new Faith and Hope.

Recovery is also that flame. It is fed by the daily acts that we do to ensure our sobriety, our thoughts and our words. Evert choice we make either feeds or stifles that flame. As it burns brightly with our spiritual condition the shadow of addiction retreats. Our path forward is guided by that Light. We can share it with others.

To give up all hope and to lose all faith is to surrender to the darkness, to accept the final fall and to go in to the night.

Never give in to the Dark Side.

Who can forget Bill Pullman as the President in the movie “Independence Day”?

The Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night!”

This was probably the most memorable moment in the movie. Against all odds the President rallies the nation and the world to fight. At that moment the story turns to hope and resolve. The flame burns bright and refuses to go out.

So it is with recovery. Keep the flame alive, hold the light and share it. Celebrate this Fourth of July. For unity and for recovery.

Happy Independence Day

 

Statues

The Statue of Jedha (Copyright and all rights reserved by Lucas Films Ltd)

 

If you believe in the Jedi and you believe in the Force, it feels like Jedha is somewhere you should visit in your lifetime.“―Gareth Edwards

 

The great Jedi statue lay fallen in the desert. A symbol of a forgotten time. All memory of the Jedi had been erased. It was safer not to speak of the legends that mentioned them. It was treason and punishable by death to do so. Those that still held on to the hope of a better future looked to the past and the stories to give them strength.

 

Statues can be works of art, they are symbols of the past, present and future. To some they represent a memory of life in different time. They may be seen as reminders of past glories, victories and success. Erecting statues has been a form of human reverence and celebration since early antiquity. Yet while they are admired as symbols of the past good and bad by some their existence is reviled by others. Statues that stand eventually come down.

 

The Colossus of Rhodes stood 100 feet high and was toppled by an earthquake. The  great statues of Rome stood for centuries until they were toppled when the city was sacked. The greatest of the Roman statues, the Colossus of Constantine stood 40 feet tall. The great statue of Zeus in the Temple of Olympia survived for almost a millennia until it was destroyed in the fifth century. Hundreds of statues glorifying the founders of the Soviet Union were removed following the fall of the Berlin Wall. More recently the great Buddha statue at Bamyam was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

 

Removing monuments and statues has now become a form of cultural cleansing designed to rewrite history and expunge the memory of past injustices. The act is a cultural and political one. Statues are made of stone and bronze and are silent yet they tell a different story to different people. Statues themselves are indifferent. They do not care if they remain standing or are broken in to pieces. Statues cause no injury or offence. The harm that they are perceived to cause resides only in the minds of the offended. Whether a statue stands or is removed from existence makes no difference to past glories, tragedies or injustices.

 

Sometimes I visit a war memorial. I look at the statues that are there. For me the inner experience of seeing the monument to a distant past and reading the names of the fallen is personal. It is different to everyone. When I was drinking I had beliefs and attitudes that were as tall and solid as statues of marble. They were my monuments to an ego run riot. In time I learned to no longer look to these pillars and statues. I no longer revered them. My choice is not to forget the past but to remind myself daily what it was like, what changed and how it is now. I need those reminders because they tell a story that I cannot forget if I mean to remain sober.

 

If we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it.

 

When the Jedi Order fell and the survivors of Order 66 fled in to exile the Empire moved to erase all memory of the Jedi. Jedi Temples were destroyed. Statues of the great Jedi Masters were pulled down. New statues and monuments that exalted the glory of the Empire were built on the ruins of those that had been ground to dust. The Great Jedi Temple of Coruscant was ransacked, the library destroyed but the building preserved for the enjoyment of Darth Sidious. It became the the Imperial Palace. Where reason, inquiry, learning and light had filled the corridors and halls now only fear, intimidation and darkness resided.

 

Hope still survives in the galaxy. On a distant planet on the outer rim an old hermit peers out across the desert as if gazing in to the past and the future at the same time. The old man has seen many things and he remembers them all.

 

Now ask, ‘Where is the Force of Others?’ and one answer becomes inevitable: the kind and cold moon of Jedha. For a thousand faiths see the truth in Jedha’s mysteries, no matter that their stories differ; no matter that not one history of the Temple of the Kyber can explain each brick in its foundation, or that our legends entwine and part in paradox.―”Faith and the Force of Others”: An excerpt from the archives of the Order of the Esoteric Pulsar.

 

Star Wars Actor John Boyega Shares Yoda's Message Of Support For ...

Gratitude

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

Imagine coming home to find your home has been looted and burned to the ground. You see the devastation and walk in mute shock through the ruins. Disbelief, anger, and grief kick in. Then you remember that everyone close to you is OK, that you are alive, and you still have two hands and a will to rebuild. Property was lost but the things that truly matter remain.

 

Momento Mori

When Seneca the Roman Stoic philosopher was ordered to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero he beseeched his grieving family to be grateful for the time they had enjoyed together, to be grateful for what they still had. The Stoics were grateful for each day. They contemplated the inevitability of death daily and it taught them to live more fully and with gratitude.

In every grave situation we find ourselves there is cause for sorrow but there is also cause for gratitude. It is often not until we are faced with calamity and loss that we realise this fact. When you pause and count your blessings despite your losses you experience nothing less than a divine sense of gratitude.

 

I Owe You One

Star Wars is full of acts of gratitude. The heroes in the story suffer defeat and loss yet are always able to count their blessings in the presence of their friends.

In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations.  In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends. Han needed to express gratitude for their friendship.

In “Attack of the Clones” Cleig Lars and Anakin Skywalker attend the grave site of Shmi Skywalker. They pay homage in gratitude to mother and wife. The scene is heart wrenching and shows that gratitude is an expression of love.

Being in recovery has taught me to remember what it was like and how things could be if I had not sought and won sobriety. The end of the road was certain to lead to despair, insanity and death. I am reminded to be grateful and to remember that I could lose it all at a moments notice.

 

A Daily Ritual

A daily practice should include a period of self-reflection and gratitude. You can do this as part of a morning meditation or as part of a daily journal. It could be that you are enjoying success or have landed a new opportunity that you worked hard to get. You may have finished a project or completed a test. Having a job, earning an income, having food on the table, a roof over your head, being healthy and alive in the moment are all things we often take for granted.

Being grateful in the face of loss and adversity does not mean resigned acceptance of the situation. It should never leave you feeling impotent, helpless and playing the victim. You are responsible for getting active your own recovery. Whether it is recovery from addiction, financial loss, sudden unemployment, a broken down relationship, loss of property or the loss of a loved one.

 

Call to Action

You can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough. Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?

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

Once we have accepted our problems, we need to commit to doing something about them now, later, or never. Decide and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out. Act to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.

 

Gratitude is the Attitude

List five things to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there are always five things you can name which you can be grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.

The ancient Stoics would rise early in the morning and greet the rising sun. It was an act of self-discipline to get out of a warm bed when others were still asleep. The majesty of the sunrise and the fresh air more than compensated for it. As the sun rose in all its splendour the Stoics would contemplate their own mortality and insignificance in the universe and experience nothing less than gratitude for being alive and being able to witness the birth of a new day.

Today is a gift. Use it.

Suffering

Police use smoke grenades, pepper balls during Baltimore protest ...

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

 

The AA 12 Steps are a path to recovery and peace. The program takes an alcoholic who is at war with herself and others and redeems them. Recovery is arrived at by committing to action. Action changes thinking and ultimately beliefs.

In my experience the 12 steps are transformative at a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. Taking the first three steps bought me out of my personal “rock bottom”. The journey has since led to sustained sobriety and a measure of serenity I had never known before.

I was able to make peace with the past, myself, others and my Higher Power. It was a new beginning. A second chance. A way out of suffering.

 

I fear by the time you have control of the bureaucrats, Senator, there will be nothing left of our cities, our people, our way of life…” – Padme Amidala

 

The world is sick. Suffering is everywhere. A pandemic rages across the world, the global economy is sinking, starvation and famine is likely in many countries. The United States is burning as years of fear, anger, frustration, hate and division explodes into violence and looting. Media pumps out more fear which only feeds on itself.

There are no easy solutions. Each person has a duty to act in accordance with what is right. To first, be a good human being. To act on the things that they can control. This includes one’s own emotions and actions. Fear is an illusion, anger is a choice and hate is a grave fault.

 

Revenge is a confession of pain.” – The Clone Wars

 

Perhaps the spirit of the 12 Steps provide a model path to heal not just the individual but also the community and ultimately the planet. What the world needs right now is not more fear and anger but hope, compassion and forgiveness. Whether we like it or not we really are connected and in this together.

Here are 12 suggested steps:

  • First admitting a problem exists, is systemic, is causing harm and needs to change.
  • Being willing to accept a vision for change that provides hope.
  • Committing to that vision.
  • Being honest about the injustices that have been done.
  • Being committed to not allowing those injustices to repeat.
  • Questioning ones beliefs and seeking to change individual behaviour and attitudes at a personal level.
  • Demonstrating that change comes through ones actions and words.
  • Seeking to address injustices of the past and present.
  • Taking meaningful action to right those wrongs and provide justice for all.
  • Being open, honest and transparent about mistakes as they arise. Resolving to fix them.
  • Taking time to be grateful, reflecting on achievements and celebrating success.
  • Learning constantly and striving for continuous improvement.

How we conduct ourselves during these times will ultimately determine where we end up. The choices we face could never have been more stark than now.

Make the right choices. That’s all you have to do.