Hate

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

“Strike me in anger and I will always be with you” – Luke Skywalker

 

Hatred is a powerful emotion. Unlike anger which is a transitory emotion eventually burning out, hatred will endure the test of time and be as potent as the day it rose. I have personally seen and felt the results of ethnic and religious hatred that had lay buried beneath the surface for generations simmering but never extinguished finally exploding into life. Entire communities wiped out, former neighbors and friends turned enemies ready to slaughter each other with impunity.

Hatred flows in the blood. Hate is a living thing; it is passed on like a curse from one generation to the next. Endless wars and bloodshed are fueled by Hatred.

More than a quarter of a century ago I went to my Father’s homeland it was tearing itself apart in an orgy of ethnic and religious hatred that shocked the world. In that beautiful country I was surrounded by people who hated “them” and wanted to see “them” suffer a cruel fate. I belonged to an ethnic group that had a historic vendetta against another group who shared the same language, history and culture but had been at war for centuries.

Standing there none of it made sense to me. It seemed insane. I began to question the war and my own motives. Rather than take up arms I decided not to add to the insanity seeking instead to work with Aid groups. I could not find any animosity or hatred in me for an entire people based on their ethnicity.

 

Affliction

People do cruel and obscene things to each other out of Hate. Sometimes these acts are done without a hint of anger or pride. Hatred is justification enough for torture, murder, rape, genocide. The very emotion removes all humanity and commonality with the object of ones hatred. To Hate is to separate.

Wrath, the ultimate manifestation of Hatred is considered a deadly sin because of its raw and total destructiveness that eventually and utterly consumes itself to oblivion.

Hatred is a uniquely human emotion. There is no other creature in existence that knows hate. Animals will display anger, aversion, fear and aggression but never deep rooted hate waiting to spring in to acts. Why is that? What is the possible evolutionary advantage of being capable of and having the potential for Hate?

Why do I still feel resentment, righteous indignation and  sometimes even hate towards others?

 

You have hate, you have anger, but you don’t use them.” – Count Dooku

 

 

With Extreme Prejudice

In the Army they taught us to “Hate” the enemy, whoever they decided it was at the time. The reason was simple. Killing another human being is much easier if you hate them. You will no longer see the enemy as a fellow human being who shares the same hopes, fears and dreams as you through the lens of hate.

In the course of the training the Hate grows. You learn to hate the cadres and senior ranks because they treat you with cruelty and contempt. In turn you turn that Hate on others. Eventually war gives you an outlet and a target for that hate. Aggression and a willingness to do violence are multiplied through hate.

People are not naturally primed to kill. Killing is not in our nature. The mental and spiritual barriers that prevents a human from killing another is broken down by Hate. A person might kill out of the pure instinctual drive to survive or in a fit of rage where all sense and reason is momentarily lost. Hatred, on the other hand, provides the “sense” and the “reason” for committing the worst of atrocities.

I Hate You!” – Anakin

I Loved You!” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

 

Consumed

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

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

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

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” – Martin Luther King

 

 

The Insanity

Alcoholism leads to Hatred. An alcoholic not only feels regret, remorse and disgust at their behaviour but also deep seated Hate. The Hate can be all consuming. Our disease, other people and especially the self are all objects of our Hate. Refusing to take blame for our condition we lay it on others and our resentment turns to Hate. I wanted to hurt others when my hate grew so big but most of all I wanted to hurt myself. There is absolutely no logic or reason to it, but to the alcoholic is makes perfect sense.

In short it’s a form of insanity.

A man can feel both love and hate in his heart and still function. Alcohol distorts everything. The sufferer will love and hate more passionately but in a way that seems unreal. The disease afflicts our view of the world and twists emotions in such a way that we no longer resemble the person we once were. Nothing is normal and everything is to excess.

 

“Darkness is a lower energy than light, and when you bring light to the presence of darkness you don’t have to warn it, you don’t have to tell it that it has to get away. It can’t survive. Light dissolves darkness. And so does love dissolve hate and so does joy dissolve sadness and so does faith dissolve doubt and so on” – Wayne Dyer

 

 

Water

Recently a friend told me about the “memory of water”. The controversial theory is that water retains a memory of what resided within it. Water will also store the vibrational energy of emotions directed towards it. The idea sounds fanciful and experiments which have attempted to demonstrate the theory have been unable to be replicated using scientific method.

As a believer in the Force I have to agree that every action, word, thought and emotion carries potential energy. Hate and Love each carry energy. One is dark and the other is light. Love fosters and upholds life while Hate brings war and destruction. Both emotions have consequences.

I attempted to replicate the experiment at home to test the memory of water. Every morning for the first week I woke up and filled my mind with negative thoughts. Suitably wrapped in a foul mood I approached a glass of water on my desk and said the following words; “I hate you! Die! Kill! War!”. I poured all of my malice and anger in to the glass and walked away. Strangely enough the rest of the day did not go well for me. I repeated this every day for a week. By the end of it I was tired and edgy.

I allowed two weeks to pass and poured a new glass of water. This time I paused on awakening to fill my mind with positive thoughts. I approached the glass of water brimming with optimism and said to it “Love, Peace, Calm”. This I repeated every day for a week and sure enough my week went better than during the previous experiment.

What was the final outcome of the experiment? The first glass of water seemed discolored and tasted tepid and stale at the end of the week. It was unpleasant to drink and I felt slightly nauseous afterwards. The second glass of water exposed to loving emotions was fresh and tasted good. I felt no ill effects. As compelling as it seemed it was also inconclusive.

Obviously my experiment was not undertaken using scientific rigor. Any number of variables could have affected the outcome. The fact remain however that if we go through life carrying negative emotions such as Hate it does affects our mental and physical health. In turn Hate cascades in to every aspect of our lives, affecting our relationships and our potential. Hate literally poisons life.

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” – Martin Luther King

 

Power of Love

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

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

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

 

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule” – Buddha

 

I’m done with Hate and you should be too. Hate begets hate. Love begets love. Meditate on that.

Hope

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” – Opening crawl 1981 Theatrical re-release of Star Wars

He who surrenders hope, surrenders life.”  – “Altar of Mortis, the Clone Wars”

 

March heralds the return of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Trees begin to put out new shoots. Flowers begin to emerge. The sun seems to rise from a place of exile. Snow starts to melt and the days grow steadily longer and warmer.

Since our Pagan ancestors the return of spring has been celebrated and is the most holy time in the cycle of the seasons. The sun has risen, reborn and is ascending to beat back the darkness of winter.

Spring was a celebration of renewed hope and rebirth. The vernal equinox heralded a new year in the ancient Roman calendar and still does in many cultures. Epitaphs of the Goddess of winter were burned to purge the darkness and welcome the return of the life giving Sun. People dedicated themselves to cleaning and purification, a tradition that persists to the day.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is a symbol of victory of life over death and eternal hope. It is no accident that the Early Christian Romans chose spring to celebrate Easter as a time of renewal. Ostara, the ancient festival is still celebrated as the renewed promise of spring.

 

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring” – Bernard Williams

 

The Eternal Cycle

Life is an endless cycle that never ends. Birth eventually leads to death which is followed again by birth. Trees sprout leaves which crown the tree. Eventually the leaves brown and fall to the ground. In time so does the tree and another grows in its place. In the same way we are born, grow from children to adult, age and eventually succumb and return to the Force.

Everything is a cycle. Our planet turns on its axis as does the Galaxy. Stars explode in to life and eventually burn out. The cosmos turns in an endless arc to whatever end. One day our Universe will end and another will emerge to replace it. So is the nature of creation.

 

One should count each day a separate life.” – Seneca

 

 

A Daily Reprieve

Recovery is like a perennial spring day. Every day is a reprieve from a nightmare. Each morning we rise to greet the new day. We put our lives in to the hands of a Higher Power and commit to another sober day.

In the day and throughout our lives we will experience hope and fear, gain and loss, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, fame and dishonor. We wake up every morning and renew ourselves.

By surrendering our problems to a Higher Power we are reborn. In the beginning it felt as if the clouds had finally parted and the sun shone through in all its splendor. My soul seemed to be bathed in a golden light. The gloom which hung over my life seemed to lift. I was filled with a sense of hope. I felt as if I could see the end of the day without a drink. Everything would be OK. Just for today and tomorrow would look after its self. Everything was going to be fine.

Every day we have the opportunity to start fresh. Yesterday is done and there is no recall on the things we said or did. Tomorrow is no guarantee. All we have is today, this now, a new day. Recovery happens in 24 hour increments then so does life if we choose to live in the Now. We can still hope for a better tomorrow if we live right by whatever Higher Power we put our faith in.

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams

 

 

A New Hope

From within the Star Wars mythology springs a tale of hope for the future against all odds. When it was originally released in the 1977 the movie was simply called “Star Wars”. George Lucas could not foresee the unbridled success of the film and had it renamed “Star Wars: A New Hope” for it’s re-release in 1981. The reason was marketing for the trilogy but the title was fitting.

“A New Hope” was chosen because the leading character, Luke Skywalker, was chosen for a greater destiny. Luke didn’t know what his purpose was and neither did audiences.

The hope for the future had been passed on to a new generation. A new star has risen and hope was renewed that the darkness which had befallen the Galaxy would be beaten back. When I saw it in 1977 as a 10 year old it also gave me hope.

In Star Wars, our heroes go through one trial after the other on their journeys. Eventually they reach redemption and where there was confusion, clarity, where there was despair, hope and where there was darkness, light. Anakin, Yoda, Kenobi, Luke and Leia all found the Force in the end. They found their perennial and eternal spring.

 

“Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive” – Pablo Neruda

 

 

A Promise of spring

Every new day is a promise. Each day is a check waiting to be honored. It is up to you how you spend it.

Every March is a reminder that light follows darkness and spring follows winter. The sun will always rise again renewing hope. All things are reborn and death is never final. Our Ancestors knew this inherently; they were part of nature and belonged to the Earth. We have lost conscious connection to the natural Force but it remains deep within us. Accept each day as a gift. Push your reset button and renew yourself. What better time to start than in the spring.

 

Look at this day,

For it is life,

The very life of life.

The realities and verities of existence, The bliss of growth, The splendour of action, The glory of Power.

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision,

But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore to this day.

Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

– Kalidasa

Changed

You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting” – Shmi Skywalker, The Phantom Menace.

 

Do people truly change? I was once told a leopard never changes its spots. Do we then remain essentially the same person our entire lives only modifying our behaviors and ideas? Is permanent and complete transformation even possible? Despite walking the Jedi Path and being sober, have I changed?

I used to think a certain way. My actions conformed to my thoughts. Today I think a different way and my actions still conform to my thoughts. What changed?

I used to be a practicing alcoholic now I’m just an alcoholic. I removed the booze and opened myself up to change. . I’m still the same man but I have changed. People can change.

 

Who we are never changes, who we think we are does.” – The Clone Wars “Bounty”

 

Saul of Tarsus said “we are changed by the renewing of our minds”. You also hear people say “people don’t change”. Which actually means people can but won’t change. Mohammed Ali said “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” This is true.  Fear, complacency and rigidity are the things that prevent change and stifle growth.

Change can be hard. For some it’s almost an impossible proposition. We all want to change for the better but find the effort too great. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with what we know and stay in our comfort zone. For an alcoholic seeking a way out, change is the only proposition. We are compelled to reflect, learn, modify, adapt and change.

 

None of the stories people tell about me can change who I really am.” – Luke Skywalker

 

Has the last six years of sobriety taught me much? Am I better person? Are things really different now? Have I really changed? Can I be pleased with that progress? Has the effort paid off?

I’m sober now. Seven years ago I wasn’t. Does this make me a better person? I’m not really sure. Perhaps in certain ways I am a better man. In other ways perhaps I have replaced one obsession for another, one fault for another. Sometimes we are blind to our own faults especially when we believe our lives are virtuous.

At times I catch myself falling into old habits and patterns of thought. I still feel resentment, anger and fear. They are echoes of the past. Shades of the person I once was are still there in the background. I look in the mirror and see the same eyes I’ve always seen. My hands bear the same scars. They are the same hands that have carried a rifle, held a new born baby, treated wounds, loved and grasped at a bottle. Only now my hands are steady and my eyes do not betray the fear that once gripped at my soul.

So perhaps I am the same person today but different. I’m just someone trying to stay sober. Thinking about change and doing life in your head does not lead to change, changed thinking and behavior does.

 

Obi-Wan. Now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long, long time. A long time” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Obi-wan Kenobi is the eternal archetype in the Star Wars mythology. Kenobi is compelling because while he changes over the years from a young Padawan to an aged Jedi Master he remains essentially the same character. Despite a lifetime of war, tragedy, loss, defeat, exile and isolation Kenobi remains the same man. Kenobi had a dry sense of humor and a sarcastic wit yet he was also humble and sensitive. At times audacious, headstrong and defiant Kenobi was the calm in the storm and rarely lost his cool or moral compass. While Anakin could show outbursts of emotion and impulsiveness, Kenobi was patient, objective and cautious in his approach. The Jedi Master developed tact and a measured countenance seeking diplomacy before the Lightsaber as the preferred solution.

Kenobi could be described as Stoic but not stoic. He was bold and cunning yet conservative and reliable. Wiley yet honest. The affection he felt for others was real yet it did not blind him to his duty. Duty also did not excuse him from doing what he knew was right. Kenobi was sworn to the Jedi Order but did not blindly and rigidly follow orders. Remaining true to self, Kenobi never compromised on his principles but was prepared to bend the rules when necessary.

When we first met Obi-wan Kenobi in a “New Hope” he was the mysterious Hermit living in the harsh and hostile wilderness of Tatooine. The “crazy old Ben” was seen as an eccentric loner, a wizard who avoided others. This old man survived on his own and seemed to be tolerated and feared by the “Sand People” who lived in the desert preying off travelers and settlers. Obi-wan Kenobi was older but remained the same Jedi with the same character we met in the prequels. Still there was something different; Kenobi was a deeply changed man. Kenobi was scarred by the past but he was also at peace with the past and his destiny. A life of pain, loss and suffering had bought him to final acceptance and a place of peace and serenity.

 

 

Disobedience is a demand for change.” – The Clone Wars “Tipping Points”

 

Change is constant. When I arise tomorrow I will not be the same person as the man who went to bed the night before. A man never steps in to the same river twice. Leopards do change though their spots remain the same. So change is inevitable and we only guide that change to an extent. The world also changes us. Life changes you. Your thinking changes you.

The neural pathways in your brain are constantly reorganizing themselves in response to change. A “renewing of the mind” can lead to a healthy life, spiritually, physically and mentally. How you go about changing your thinking and thus your inner world is up to you. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, meditation, mindfulness based therapies and counselling are all different paths. They won’t change your outer world but they will change how you think. As your inner world changes so gradually will your circumstances change.

 

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

 

Real change happens inwardly. We literally renew ourselves by the changing of our minds. We are made to change and adapt and continuously learn. How we perceive the world and frame our reality is everything. That perception will change with time. The way we saw things then are not how we see them tomorrow.

Change is inevitable. You can submissively go with the flow or you can swim against it screaming and be dragged. The third option is to direct how you change despite the changes around you. Have the courage to change what you can, the serenity to accept what you cannot and the wisdom to know the difference. You steer your own path. You become the change you want to see in the world. This starts by caring for yourself.

 

Further Reading: Change

Fate

Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker. Obi-Wan knew this to be true.” – Darth Vader

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

 

Do you believe in Fate? Is your life predetermined? Does Karma ultimately decide your existence and ultimate destination? Is life completely random? Does self will and chance ultimately decide the winds of fortune? Are we like leaves blowing in the wind with no predetermined outcome? Is our mere presence the random and accidental products of evolution and the sum effect of all events from the big bang to the beat of a butterfly’s wings?

 

What of the universe? Is there purpose in the order and chaos of the cosmos? Does the universe rush aimlessly to nowhere or is it a tapestry of design and destiny? Is all that is a divine cosmic symphony of the spheres in perfect order, purpose and fate? Or is creation a mad spontaneous event taking billions of years to run its course before finally reaching a state of complete entropy.

 

“God Grant me the Serenity”

 

 

Fated

Christian doctrine tells us that God created all things in perfect order. Our fate is decided by our actions in this life. God gave us free will. The price of free will was separation from the divine (God’s Grace) and an existence in sin. We are free but cursed at the same time. Despite this we are assured of God’s merciful providence.

Eastern religions and philosophies take a slightly different view. We are not born sinners but inherit a Karmic destiny from previous existence. Life is suffering. Every thought and action we have at this moment has a Karmic consequence potentially keeping us in Saṃsāra longer. We are condemned to live out an eternity of lives until we can sow enough good Karma and finally achieve “nothingness” through enlightenment. The goal is freedom from this cycle of mundane and painful physical existence.

Some pagans believed in neither good nor evil. All that is was created by the Gods who reveal themselves through the Forces of nature, in the plants and animals and in our very being. Being creations of the Gods we were thus fated to them and their whims and desires. We could try to please the Gods for favor to make our lives easier and to reward us in the hereafter but ultimately our fate was decided from the moment we were born. If a warrior died on the battlefield it was Fate. Providence decided who won and whether the dead made it to Valhalla.

 

“To accept the things I cannot change”

 

 

The Chosen One

To be Jedi is to believe in the existence of some omnipresent Force. Faith supposes that The Force transcends space and time. It takes no form yet it permeates everything and gives life. All belongs to the Force, all is the Force. We can’t prove it exists yet we have faith that it does.

Star Wars makes frequent use of prophecy in the mythology. There was the “one who would bring balance to the Force” prophecy of the “Chosen One”. To fulfill prophecy one must believe in Fate. No matter what happens a prophecy must be fulfilled in order to exist. One cannot make a prophecy and then retract it. Does this mean that Jedi believed in Fate?

In the Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker used free will when he followed his destiny and made the decision to follow Obi-wan Kenobi. When Luke landed on Dagobah he had a sense of familiarity and destiny, fate. Later he dreams his friends are in trouble and uses his free will to leave against Yoda’s advice.  Confronting Vader Luke is presented with a glimpse of his fate and offered a new destiny. All Luke had to do was accept it or jump. He chose the later. Fate is not fated entirely.

 

“The Courage to change the things I can”

 

 

Cursed

To an alcoholic who has descended to the deepest levels of despair it must feel like fate. I know it did for me at times. My childhood had been miserable. Father was an alcoholic. Depression, suicide and tragedy seemed to run in the family. Why should my fate be any different? I was condemned to a life of misery and alcoholic despair and no amount of hope could change that. For a long time I had no desire to bring anyone in to that circle, in to what seemed like a curse.

Fate need not be our end. We have more power over our lives than we know. To surrender to a concept of Fate is to deny ourselves the opportunity and responsibility to take charge of our lives.

Fate does exist; we are all fated to die. Some of us will die sooner than others. There is no escaping illness, the death of loved one’s, grave disappointments and loss. No amount of money, power, fame, youth, good looks, intelligence and physical prowess will change that. All these things are transient and impermanent. They will all eventually fade to non-existence. This does not mean we do not have free will or power over our destiny.

 

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

 

 

 

No Fate

You still have self will while you live. Your reasoned choices are your own. No one can control your mind unless you allow them. The Fate that awaits you is not decided. The end game is the sum of everything and the complex interplay of all that touches life known and unknown. Through that rich tapestry runs the golden thread of self will.

I cannot say if a Higher Power, providence, has a hand in any of this. But I do believe that faith has more power in my life than fate. Faith puts me in the driver’s seat because faith without work is dead. There is no waiting around for fate to happen. Being Jedi means taking control and using reason and free will with faith in an outcome. You can choose to drink, to drug, or you can choose to stay clean and sober. One decision, one act can change everything, forever. Make your choice and leave the rest to providence.

Don’t surrender to fate, have faith. Never forget that.

Pride

 

Sometimes we must let go of our pride and do what is requested of us.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Heart of the Sith

Pride it is said belongs to the “Sith”. Pride is a fault, a flaw and a vice to be avoided by the Jedi. In the real world the word “Pride” is often maligned by society. People say to have pride is to not have humility.

We are warned about the perils of pride from childhood and throughout life. Often times the consequences of pride are laid bare as a warning to others. Pride has led to the decline and fall of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars in recent times. Empires throughout history have risen and fallen, built and then laid desolate by pride.

 

Hubris

Hubris is excessive Pride. In Greek Mythology an act of hubris was for a mere mortal to defy the Gods or assume one’s self better than they. This would ultimately lead to the fall of the perpetrator of hubris. Odysseus was guilty of hubris on many occasions. The hero was waylaid by the God Poseidon for his hubris. Icarus in his hubris forged wings from wax and fell to his death for flying too close to the sun.

The story of the Arch Angel Lucifer and his fall from Heaven is the greatest reminder in mythology of the consequence of hubris. The Bible and the Koran are full of warnings against angering God through hubris. Star Wars is another mythology where hubris is the ruin of many.

 

Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” – Darth Vader

 

Sweet Poison

Pride is poison to the Alcoholic. I know it kept me in strife for decades and almost ruined me completely. Pride keeps us in denial and chained to addiction. Without surrendering pride and embracing humility there is little chance of recovery. We are best advised to avoid pride at all costs. Pride after all is a manifestation of the Ego and leads to despair.

Somewhere along the line the words “pride” and “hubris” have become conflated. Pride is the worst of the seven deadly sins and the root of all others. Let us not forget that pride can be both a balm and a bane. Pride can be both good and bad. Pride has a Dark Side and a Light Side.

 

There is no hubris, there is pride” – Author (acknowledgments to the Jedi Code)

 

Pride by Nature

At the same time we admonish pride as a personal trait we also see it as a virtue behind causes. Pride is the word that has been used widely by the LBGTQ community in their efforts to seek tolerance and acceptance. Minority and disadvantaged groups in the United States and many other countries rise them selves up behind a banner of pride. Black Pride remains a driving force behind the civil rights movement. People of all types are encouraged to be proud of their heritage, their culture and identity.

Pride is at the heart of human nature. Pride serves an evolutionary purpose and is a part of the human make up. The emotion is uniquely human. Humans are motivated by pride to compete, climb the hierarchy, develop, reproduce and succeed. In evolutionary terms, pride carries a clear advantage.

Children develop a sense of pride before they can crawl. Have you ever seen the pure joy and raw pride in a baby who has taken her first step? Try taking a spoon from her when she’s trying to feed herself.

Pride is therefore necessary for human growth. Without pride a person cannot expect to achieve self sufficiency, self reliance and resilience. Pride is essential for learning.  I would argue that the sentiment “before the fall comes pride” may be correct some of the time but it is not an absolute. We all need the right amount (and the right type) of pride.

 

 Original image property of Lucas Films

Proud

In the book “Pride: the secret of success” by Jessica Tracey (2016). The author claims that research in psychology makes a strong case that pride is at the heart of success. The greatest artists, inventors, discoverers and innovators have been driven by a sense of pride in their ability to overcome a challenge and achieve their dreams. Steve Jobs, Sir Edmund Hilary, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, ML King, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and Charles Darwin were all driven by pride.

People may dispute that pride had anything to do with the worlds greatest figures and their accomplishments. Principal and a yearning for justice were at play, not pride. But what if Rosa Parks had swallowed her pride and surrendered her seat on that bus in Alabama? What if Darwin had listened to his critics and abandoned or renounced his work? Pride fuels the emotions that govern principle and justice. Civilization and society was built by pride.

Having pride means you care about how others see and how you see yourself. Pride confers that you want the respect that you deserve and seek to be admired. We are motivated to work harder and to strive for excellence through pride.

 

The path to the Dark Side is paved with good intentions” – L. Christopher Bird

 

Pride and Prejudice

In Star Wars a young Luke Skywalker and Rey both share the same character traits of impatience and determination. Each has pride and a good measure of it. Where pride leads to accomplishment, hubris leading from impatience, cocksureness and overconfidence has the opposite effect. Hubris led Luke to depart Dagobah against the advice of Yoda. Perhaps hubris led Rey to attack Luke and hurriedly leave Ahch-To after she had learned the truth of Skywalker’s dark secret.

Luke Skywalker tells a shocked Rey in “The Last Jedi” that arrogance and hubris led to the fall of the first Jedi Order. Rey cannot believe it yet soon after her own pride forces her to make rash decisions that almost end in disaster.

Alone on his Island, Luke has grown older but seemingly not much wiser. A sort of hubris clouds his willingness to see things as they are. Luke has become obstinate, cantankerous and arrogant. False pride disguised as crippling guilt keeps Luke from claiming his destiny and transforming tragedy in to victory. It was also hubris that drove Anakin throughout his career as a Jedi Knight. Once that excessive pride was expressed as hatred and a desire to control others Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side was assured.

Pride was also used for good in Star Wars. The Jedi Order served the Republic with pride. The Clone Army prided itself on discipline, teamwork and courage; all facets of pride. The Rebellion was sparked by a desire for freedom and justice. Pride kept the Rebels in the fight despite many setbacks. Luke Skywalker rebuilt the Jedi Temple out of pride of its former glory. The Jedi Order was restored because of pride.

 

And in my hubris, I thought I could train him (Ben Solo); I could pass on my strengths” – Luke Skywalker

 

 

Conquer Pride

So the Jedi tenet that pride is to be avoided as a vice of the “Sith” is partially misguided. The “Sith” bask in hubris. Their hubris was the feeling of arrogance over others and the contempt that they felt for those they considered “inferior”. The “Sith” sought only to control and dominate. Power feeds pride. This is not the type of pride we want.

Jedi Philosophy suggests that we should “conquer pride”. The precept encourages us to assess our motives continuously. Are our intentions sincere? Do our actions lead to positive outcomes? Right action follows right intent.

We are not asked to reject pride as a useful emotion but to not let it rule us. We use pride to serve us and others only. Pride should never control our motives or control our actions alone. Pride should be used to improve, build and create never to denigrate, destroy and harm. There should always be a stop check on our pride to avoid it becoming hubris.

Pride can push us to cheat, lie, to be disingenuous and take advantage of others. We can be motivated to climb the ladder through pride but also to climb over others. Pride can cause us to be boastful, gloating, obstinate, inflexible, conceited and arrogant. In alcoholics it manifests as rampant self will, self seeking and selfishness. We should seek to conquer pride.

 

My powers have doubled since the last time we fought, Dooku!” – Anakin Skywalker

Good! Twice the pride, double the fall!” – Count Dooku

 

 

Red Flags

Pride is most harmful when it clouds our judgement and directs our actions in a way that fails to consider primary and secondary consequences. For example, during an argument your pride may be dented and as a result you resort to anger and lash out. Feeling foolish and resentful you may decide to further take matters in your own hand by getting drunk. This leads to more problems and arguments. The cycle continues. This is a typical pattern of behaviour I displayed in alcoholism. Where my pride had been hurt I reacted in ways that only made things worse, not better.

We are warned in recovery of the dangers of pride. Pride taken in the accomplishment of sobriety can back fire. Hubris caused my Father to relapse in to final and fatal active alcoholism. Hubris can be the rug that is pulled from under us. We cannot take credit for being sober. The credit goes to whatever Higher Power we chose. At the same time there is nothing wrong in feeling pride in the fruits of our labor and the progress we have made in our lives. They key is to temper our pride with a sense of humility and gratitude.

 

Great Kid! Don’t get cocky” – Han Solo

 

 

Get over yourself

Bill W in his essay on emotional sobriety confesses that hubris led him to feeling intense resentments and bouts of depression. The new lease on life and a renewed sense of purpose recovery gave him had the side effect of inflating his own pride. With growing fame in the movement his pride soon turned to hubris and then he was in trouble. When he realized that he could not control others it came as a shock and resentment set in sending him on a downward slide. By realizing and admitting this fault Bill W was able to “Let Go” of the need to control others and focus on what he could control; his own reasoned choices.

Recovery is not possible without pride. Pride is an essential ingredient in staying sober and clean. We can stay humble but also have pride in the knowledge that we have recovered. Whether a Higher Power, the Force or God gave us the strength to stay on the path or not does not mean we cannot be proud of where we have come. As long as we “don’t get cocky” we can have pride in that.

 

If you strip away the myth and look at their deeds, the legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy, hubris.” – Luke Skywalker

 

 

A Paradox

Recovery is a journey that often presents paradoxes that confound at first but then explain themselves with time. The way to salvation is through surrender, giving away means we get to keep, the greatest conquerors conquer only themselves, humility leads to pride are examples. Virtues such as courage, wisdom, justice and moderation all require a measure of pride.

Pride is the root of all sins but it is also the root of all virtues. Pride is behind the self reassurance and confidence that we need to find our purpose, chase dreams and find success. Without a measure of pride the self belief  needed to see success and the self discipline required to carry out the work to the end is less likely to flourish. When people say “take pride in your self and in your work” they are not telling us to show hubris, but care. Ultimately how you use pride and whether it uses you is a choice.

There is nothing wrong in having pride if you can resist hubris. Use pride to inspire, drive and motivate you to success. Do not be ashamed if you are proud of your accomplishments, identity, character and virtues. If these things matter to you having pride in them will only add their value and give you greater purpose in life.

Be Proud, Be Jedi.

The 12 Step Jedi

This New Year I decided to review how far I have come on the Jedi Path and was struck with an inspiration to rewrite the 12 Steps as it may have served the Jedi. In doing so I realized that the 12 Steps can be a azimuth, a sign post that guides us on the Jedi Path leading to realization of the Jedi Code in our lives. Here are the 12 Steps of the Jedi Path to recovery as I see them. I hope this can serve others in their own journey. The 12 Step Jedi.

 

 The 12 Steps 

 

 

Step 1: Became aware that we suffer and have fallen prey to the insanity of the Dark Side through alcoholism and addiction.

 

Darth Vader was never completely lost to the Dark Side. No one ever really is. Shards of the past, brief glimpses of who and what he was reminded Darth Vader that deep within him still resided Anakin Skywalker. In the fan film “Shards of the Past” Darth Vader still dreams of his former life and his love. Without that thin reed of love that still shone like a feeble light in the darkness there would never have been final redemption for Anakin.

The first stage of recovery is admission that we have a major problem. As humans we all suffer. The cause of all suffering is grasping attachment. Alcoholism is a form of unbridled attachment and ego run riot. To a sane and healthy person, the alcoholic appears quite insane.  Through admission we see it too. Only through admission can we learn to let go of our attachments and start a process of ego deflation. Recovery starts with accepting that there is a problem but there is also still a way out.

 

 

Step 2: Came to believe in the Force. We realized that the Light Side is the Jedi Path to redemption and recovery.

 

Step 2 calls for us to become willing to believe that a Higher Power can restore us to sanity. It is up to each individual to decide their own Higher Power. As Jedi we reject the Dark Side and turn to the Force. Being luminous beings in human form there is still the spark of the divine within us. It can never be completely extinguished. We come from the Force and ultimately return to it as we belong to it. No matter how deep we sunk in depravity or despair we are never gone beyond all hope. The Force is always within reach if we are willing to come back to the Light.

 

 

Step 3: Became willing to accept the Jedi Path and surrendered our lives to the Force.

 

Obi-wan Kenobi asked Luke to trust in the Force, to use it. Yoda also reminded Luke that our lives ultimately belong to the Force. Our lives are granted by the Force in trust. The act of surrender to the Force empowers. All we have to do is surrender ourselves to the Force and put our trust there. We turn over our problems to that Higher Power and stop trying to run the show.

The Force is a life line. We accept the thin reed that is offered and we pull out selves out of the hell we have made for ourselves. The problems that we had are no longer ours, we have turned them over. They now belong to that Higher Power, we call the Force. Liberated of the burden we can walk free at last. On dry ground we have landed on the Jedi Path and only need to take one step after the other in our new life.

 

 

 Step 4: Willing to confront our inner Dark Side we entered our personal Dark Side Cave without fear or hesitation.

 

The “Dark Side Cave” on Dagobah in “The Empire” was a metaphor for the unspoken Demons that reside within. Our fears, anxieties, resentments, grief and anger reside within that. The “Cave” hides our secrets and the darker recesses of our psyche. In order to conquer our Dark Side and start healing we need to confront it. As Luke entered the Gnarled Tree and encountered his Dark Side, so must we. Failing to do so allows our fears and failings to persist dragging us down. Our previous self remains hidden only, covered over by a thin veneer. In time it will emerge stronger than ever unless it is exposed and dragged in to the Light. This we do by looking squarely in to the mirror. We bare open our soul. By making a full, searching and honest inventory of all of our wrongs and faults we invite our Dark Side out to play. Nothing is left out. We must be brutal in our self honesty and pull back the curtains to see what we truly were.

 

 

Step 5: Emerging from the Dark Side Cave anew we admitting our past wrongs and faults to ourselves, to another and to the Force.

 

Luke Skywalker confronted his Dark Side in the Cave on Dagobah. Anakin also came face to face with his Dark Side in the “Clone Wars: Ghosts of Mortis”. Yoda was tested by his Dark Side in the “Clone Wars: Destiny”. In all of these confrontations good ultimately prevailed. Each of the Jedi was able to overcome the “darker sides of their nature”. It is unlikely that we will have a psychic battle with our own Dark Side as depicted in Star Wars however we can begin to grapple with it by taking full responsibility for every action we ever committed through confession and disclosure. It is not enough for us to admit it to ourselves and the Force only. We must also admit our past and our faults to another. Someone we can confide and trust in who is willing to listen to our story in a non-judgmental way will allow us to be free of the guilt and shame at last. We can at last become right with the Force and start to bring balance and peace in to our lives.

 

 

Step 6: We then became willing to let go of our past wrongs and faults.

 

The “Dark Side Cave” showed Luke his manifested darkest fears. The Cave acted as a reflection of the mind only. Luke came out of the Cave still ignorant of his legacy and his own attachments. Only our attachments to our faults prevent us from moving forward. We must be willing to let go of them. If we know we have an anger problem we start by deciding “I’m no longer going to be angry”. Where Fear of change is holding us back we decide “I’m not going to be scared anymore”. Our lives have been a dishonest facade so we make the decision to be honest.

The serenity prayer asks that we have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to change the things that we can. Understanding the dichotomy of control is important. There are things outside of our control and other things to which we have partial control. These “externals” demand our attention and energy but frustrate us when they fail to conform to our view. What truly matters is what resides within us; our reasoned choice. We can control how we act and what we say. It is within our reasoned choice to “let go” of our past wrongs, our faults and failings as we perceive them.

The decision to do so remains with us. No one can change us only we can decide to change ourselves. As the saying goes “Be the change you want to see”.

 

 

Step 7: We finally let go of our past wrongs and faults leaving them behind.

 

In “The Empire” Luke Skywalker struggles with his identity and purpose. Luke wants to be a Jedi and is impatient, obstinate and angry. There is much he needs to learn. In between the time he is rescued on Cloud City to the opening scenes in “Return of the Jedi” something has changed in Luke. Gone is the reckless and impulsive youth. The boy has become a Jedi.

Step 7 is acting out our new lives. There is no miracle. Change is simply the product of intent and action. If we struggle with change “we fake it till we make it”. Being Jedi is a verb. A Jedi is measured by their actions and the virtues they demonstrate every day. Being sober is not only abstaining from alcohol but exercising principles in our lives. We stop being the person we were and start being the person we want to be. In order to be that person we must let go of the behaviors and thinking that used to define us and start applying principles and virtues in to our lives.

 

 

Step 8: We made a list of those we had harmed in the past and became willing to make amends.

 

Star Wars is replete with examples where the past has caught up with its characters. Darth Maul finally confronted Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine after decades of hunting him down to extract the revenge he demanded. Obi-Wan spent years in hiding until his past caught up with him again in “A New Hope” and he was finally ready to meet his destiny on the Death Star. Darth Vader, a twisted and tortured slave of the Emperor, finally found redemption and reconciled with his son. Luke Skywalker alone on Ahch-To with his painful memories, hiding a dark secret, finally finds the will to meet the evil he has helped create and find his own final redemption. By digging in to our past we not only confront our faults and failings we also find the courage to face those we have harmed so that we may at once set matters right and also find redemption.

Our past lives made a huge impact on others as well as ourselves. If we are honest we have to admit that there are more people who were harmed by our behaviours than we know. We cannot make amends for every wrong ever done but we can try to make things right where we can. In making a list we must once again be honest and thorough. Our list may include those who we have grievances with. By adding them to the list we accept that we have to ignore the fault that others carry, we are only interested in making things right as far as we are concerned. To that extent we must be willing to forgive others and especially ourselves.

 

 

Step 9: We made amends to those we had harmed except when to do so would injure them or others. Where we have been harmed by others, we forgive. We also make self amends and forgive ourselves.

 

Dealing with amends in real life is a little different and may not be as drastic as these events in Star Wars. Sometimes it is not possible to find all those we have harmed. Making amends for past actions known and unknown may also cause greater harm than good. A person we have harmed may no longer be alive. They may not be interested in our amends. Sound judgement is required when deciding to approach someone with amends. The key is to act with sincere intent and reason. Where we have been harmed we must be prepared to forgive and let go of the pain and resentment. In doing so we walk away with a clear conscience. We should not forgot that the person on the top of our amends list is ourselves.

Never forget that the best way to make amends for the past, is not to try to change it. Nothing can change the past. Amends are best served by living our new life with principle and purpose. In doing so we can avoid the need to make amends in the future by living right today.

 

 

Step 10: Training daily we sought to always improve ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. When we made mistakes we admitted them immediately and made amends if possible.

 

Being Jedi is a process of continuous improvement. We do not compare ourselves to others to make ourselves feel lesser or better. Our goal is only to improve daily to become better versions of ourselves. Training requires a concerted and ongoing process with a goal of progress not perfection. In order to develop physically, mentally and spiritually we must be prepared to apply right effort. A Jedi will seek to train body, heart, mind and soul. The “How” is left to the individual.

On the journey we must accept that mistakes will be made. There is no perfect path and errors provide lessons if we are honest about them. Every mistake should be seen as an opportunity to learn. Expect to stumble but be prepared to quickly rectify and make amends and keep moving forward. Never stop growing.

 

 

Step 11: Meditating daily we sought to increase our Knowledge of the Force so that it might lead to realization of Peace, Harmony and Serenity in our lives and in the lives of others.

 

The Jedi Code is an ideal. Perfect practice is a myth. Achieving enlightenment is not what we are after. The goal is to progress one day at a time, one moment at a time. Through little steps and incremental gains we begin to realize our goals. Through self-betterment we in turn make the world a better place. Daily meditation should be an integral part of Jedi practice. Through meditation we come to greater  self-realization and knowledge. The benefits of meditation flow into all aspects of our lives.

 

 

Step 12: Having learned to live as a Jedi as a result of these Steps we continued to apply the Jedi Code in all aspects of our lives putting our own life and home in order first. Seeking world betterment through self betterment we continued to walk the Path. On our journey we supported others and helped those who sought our aid where we could.

 

The focus of our efforts should always be centered on ourselves in the beginning. As we recover we being to extend our focus outward to others. We get our own home in order first and look after those close to us. In time we can extend our focus out further in to the community, nation and world.

Ultimately we are in a better position to help those in need being always mindful that to render aid and provide support can come with intended and unintended consequences. Where help is sought we do only what we are capable of doing and aim to help others to help themselves.

As we walk the Jedi Path we grow stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The changes come gradually and we may not notice them but others will. When we come to full understanding we are living the 12 Steps and reflect the Jedi Code in every word, thought and action. Then we can truly call ourselves Jedi.

 

 

The Jedi Code

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force

 

 

Note:

Alcoholics Anonymous (3rd Edition) suggests that the 12 Steps be a guide only. The founders of the 12 Step movement promised that those who practiced the Steps could achieve “contended sobriety” if they were honest with themselves and others. Without honest work and rigorous honesty the chances of success were mediocre at best; “half measures avail us nothing”. The 12 Steps were never intended to be dogma that needed to be followed religiously in order to be considered “on the beam” with any chance of staying sober.

Many in the movement contend that the original 12 Steps are perfect in their form and should not be changed or amended in any way. Several forms have emerged over the years depending on the groups that have branched off AA (NA, CA, OLGA etc.)  as well as versions that reflect the religiosity or secularism of the group.

Therefore I wish to apologize to anyone reading this modified 12 Steps who may be offended. I treat this as no joke. My intent is not to suggest a change to the 12 Steps but to present them in a way that may service the Jedi Community and perhaps others. The 12 Steps can be used to help us better understand and then realize the Jedi Code.

 

Happy New Year and MTFBWY

 

Sage

“You will know good from bad when you are calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?…What do I mean by who am I?” – Meditations of a Sperm Whale called in to spontaneous existence by the Infinite Improbability Drive moments before falling to its death on an alien planet. ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of Rome. Historians call him one of the five “Good” Emperors who ruled for the benefit of his people and not the other way round. Marcus Aurelius is also notable in that his personal reflections are preserved to this day in the book “Meditations”. Being a Stoic, journaling was something that he practiced. More than 1800 years later after his death we still have a remarkable insight in to the mind of a man who saw every day as an opportunity to continuously practice virtues and improve himself. Marcus was no Sage, he was fallible and had faults like any human being. Despite his status he embraced his weaknesses and strived to be a good man. To this day “Meditations” continues to inspire and teach. I would argue that Marcus Aurelius, while no Stoic Sage, could have easily been a Jedi Master.

 

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

 

A Verb

The Jedi are fiction. We all know that. There are no Jedi in existence. Someone may call themselves Jedi but they are not an “actual” Jedi. Jedi exist in the Star Wars Universe, those of us who identify as Jedi are only using that label to define who we consider ourselves to be. The “trick” is in being Jedi. Living as how you perceive a Jedi should live.

The Stoic Sage is also fiction. None exist. It is likely that they never existed. If a Stoic Sage has come along there is no record. The Sage is a rare as the Enlightened one of which we also have no proof. If you have met someone who claims to be enlightened it is highly likely they aren’t. A person can profess to be Stoic and practice the philosophy but not seriously claim to be an actual Stoic. If someone meets you and introduces themselves as a Stoic Sage you can immediately dismiss it as false.

 

Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Heart of Gold

The Stoics passed in to history with the conversion of Rome to Christianity. Only about 1% of the works of the classical Stoics exists therefore we only know a small part of the philosophy pieced together by what has survived. The writings that remain are significant but are only a tiny fragment. Almost nothing remains of the original Greek philosophers. There are no Stoa today where students of the philosophy receive instruction. When someone says they practice Stoicism or call themselves a Stoic it is akin to calling themselves a Jedi. We know less about what the Stoics believed than even the Jedi.

If String Theorists are correct and there are infinite Universes it would be logical to assume that there are also infinite possibilities. Meeting a Jedi is therefore within the realms of possibility. There could in fact exist a Universe that is a parallel of the one created by George Lucas replete with Jedi and Sith. Just as possible, but also highly unlikely, there could also be Universe out there where Stoics exist, a carbon copy of the original. Within the realms of what Douglas Adam’s penned “infinite improbability” would this reality exist. If you meet a real Jedi or Stoic on the street you are probably having a lucid dream.

 

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

 

Aspirational

None of this means that we cannot aspire to be what we imagine a Jedi Master to be. As I stated above, Marcus Aurelius could easily have been a Jedi Master in another Universe. My guess he was not trying to be anything other than a man of virtue. Being taught in the philosophy, Stoicism formed his ideas and character. More importantly, Marcus was taught to apply what he had learned and avoid using philosophy only for rhetoric, speculation and contemplation. Marcus Aurelius practiced and lived in accordance with his principles and demonstrated the merits of his chosen philosophy throughout his life. The concept of a Sage may have been nothing more than an impossible ideal to aspire to. The Stoics would accept that it can never be reached in one short life time.

The Jedi Master can also be seen as a model of perfection to aspire to but impossible to reach in reality. I’ve met no one who can wield Force Powers for example. The Jedi Code however provides a clear goal that the Jedi must work on in order to achieve “Mastery of Self”. Serenity, Peace, Harmony, Knowledge and the Force are the outcomes of perfect Jedi practice. The reality is that no matter how hard a Jedi trains here on Earth, there is no reaching a perfect state. Serenity and peace are never permanent, harmony can be unbalanced, knowledge is never complete and the Force is unknowable.

My greatest mistake in early recovery was seeking perfection. My goal was perfect practice and spiritual transcendence. I demanded perfection from myself and others. When I and others failed to meet that benchmark I was angry, resentful and frustrated. My sanity started to slip. The only solution was to start accepting that perfection is for fools. Change happens if we work for it. A degree of serenity is attainable, happiness is in reach, contended sobriety is possible. These goals are attainable, but perfection is not. Everything is fleeting and there will be bad days as well as good.

 

Let each things that you would do, say or intend be like that of a dying person” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Pursuit

The end goal is not what we should be after. The journey is what is important. If the destination is perfection we come to accept that perfection can never be reached by we can still try for it. A Buddhist Monk may aspire to become a Bodhisattva and spend his entire life reaching an ideal to arrive at the end of life well short of that goal. Even if he does, it may not lead to enlightenment. A Stoic did not seek  the perfect state of a Sage for its own sake. A Sage is the end result of a life of perfect practice which is impossible in one life time.

In recovery we are often warned to avoid seeking perfection. The pursuit of perfection is a path laden with disappointment and frustration. Instead of perfection we are encouraged to seek progress and work hard. In the beginning we only seek to stop the slide to oblivion. As we built a solid foundation and started to apply simple principles in our lives we start to develop character and demonstrate virtue. In time we begin to see change in our lives inwardly and externally. The longer we walk the path the stronger our sobriety.

 

The the mark of perfection of character – to spend each day as if it were your last” – Marcus Aurelius

 

All that Remains

All we have now is what exists. The Stoics Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus,  Seneca and Epictetus were mortal and are now mere atoms. All that survives of them are remnants of their writings. Modern day Stoics take from that and have a practical philosophy which works many centuries after the last classical Stoic died. Real World Jedi are left with random quotes from movies and books to use as inspiration for a philosophy. Yoda, Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker never existed. Strangely enough Jedi Philosophy still works for many.

In recovery we also take what we need and leave the rest. The example of those who have come before inspire and teach us. A personal philosophy is built from the ground up. We live it every day and recover.

 

Think of the whole universe of matter and how small your share. Think about the expanse of time and how brief, almost momentary the part marked for you. Think of the workings of fate and how infinitesimal your role” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Sage

Always pause to consider what you are chasing. Are you chasing perfection? Do you wish to reach enlightenment, to become a Sage? Is your goal to transcend to the Force while you still live? Is progress the goal? Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of the greatest Empire that ever existed. To many Romans, the Emperors were divine and therefore perfect. Marcus Aurelius did not see himself as perfect or seek perfection at all but only to be good. “Meditations” reveals a personality that displayed all of the traits of a Jedi Master. The goal of “Meditations” was daily progress.

A perfect job, partner, home or life do not exist. They are ideals we desire only and are largely out of our control. They are as attainable as enlightenment. We can come to a state where we are happy with what we have and grateful for it or we can continue to pursue perfection and then arrive at frustration and disappointment. You can only seek to better yourself. Aim to be a better version of the person you were yesterday. Be happy with progress. Be Good.

 

Soon you will die, and still you aren’t sincere, undisturbed, or free from suspicion that external things can harm you” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Further Reading

 

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Ghosts

 

You have grown strong and powerful, just as I imagined.” – Qui-Gon Jinn’s Force Ghost appearing to Anakin (“Ghosts of Mortis”, The Clone Wars)

 

Ah, Skywalker. Missed you, have I” – Yoda’s Force Ghost appearing to Luke (The Last Jedi).

 

Ghosts exist. I believe they do because I’ve seen them. There was an apparition I saw as a child when I was kept at a Catholic Home for boys. I saw another in a home for wards of the state when I was twelve. On both occasions the figures seemed to pass completely oblivious to my presence. I was wide awake when I saw these apparitions and remember how the room was cold before and during. The first was a Nun in an old habit; she stood as if in prayer, her face was down, I blinked and she was gone. The second was a shadow of a man who seemed to drift like grey smoke across the room before vanishing.

I don’t remember being scared when I saw them. I was upset and deeply sad. The figures seemed to imbue a deep sense of melancholy. Perhaps they were real maybe they weren’t. In the orphanage we also played with Ouija boards and scared ourselves silly with our imaginations. The region in which the old children’s home was built had many Ghost stories. In such an environment it was easy to imagine what was not there.

 

 

Sensitive

Many years later I learned that my sister was sensitive and told me she had seen Ghosts her entire life. They didn’t scare her at all and never had.  To this day she practices as a psychic medium and has investigated Ghosts, Poltergeists and other phenomenon. Some of her “cases” have turned out to have a rational explanation. Others have been very strange. I’ve seen her bring a sense of relief to people who thought they were losing their minds. It’s amazing what a few words and some burning sage can do for a family’s sense of sanity.

When my daughter turned eight she began reporting that there were “others” in our house. I had to admit at the time I did find a few things odd. There were smells such as old pipe tobacco. Batteries would go flat in devices soon after being replaced. Objects would go missing and then reappear in odd places or not at all. Doors would open and curtains would move although there was not the slightest breeze. There were cold patches and sometimes the house just felt cold. I thought I saw shadows.

According to our daughter there was a boy she spoke to, a sad lady and a tall angry man whom were both silent. I asked her to draw them and she drew a boy with a white shirt, black trousers held up with braces. She drew a large happy smile on a wide face. In the bubble and stick fashion, she drew a thin woman with a long black dress that went to her neck. The man had a vest, a long mustache, a pipe and a large hat. The man had an angry face.

Of course I was skeptical. I had been trained to be. A degree in science demanded empirical evidence. I wanted to believe that such things were not really possible. The supernatural might be fanciful or hypothetical, but not indisputable. Without empirical evidence based on quantifiable data derived from replicable experimentation one could entertain that Ghosts might exist but still hold a healthy amount of skepticism.

 

 

Voices

We went to see a psychic medium that has a reputation of being anything but a charlatan. I was impressed the moment I saw him. For a start the man looked extremely fit and well groomed. Wearing smart jeans, a shirt and leather jacket he met us cordially. I was expecting some sort of facade and a bit of melodrama but this medium was just an every day guy. The sort of guy who barbecues on the weekend, goes to football matches and drinks beer.

Our Medium explained that he had been able to see Ghosts since he was a child and could get impressions from them sometime faint, sometime strong. Our visit would allow him to determine if there was anything attached to us “psychically”. Whether we were haunted or not.

We were instructed to keep our answers to questions as yes or no in order to reduce any suspicion of mentalism or “fishing for answers”. He also warned us we could go home empty handed if he failed to “channel” anything.

Without much effort he gave me a run down on my personal history, my dead parents, my fears and he pretty well told me without saying it aloud that I was alcoholic and headed for a fall. He told me that I was perched on a wall waiting to either topple to oblivion or fall in to the arms of safety and sanity. I could feel panic and denial welling inside of me. He sensed that and moved on.

Touching the right side of his head he told me that I had had a major operation and had actually been pushed “from the other side” to seek help when I’d started noticing symptoms instead of ignoring them. This floored me. It was true that I had had a tumor growing in my head. It was quite large and the specialist had told me if I had left it another month I would have probably suffered a stroke and died. The Medium said “second chance” with a blank face as if he was remembering something. I looked at him strangely, indeed I had seen the experience as a “second chance” at the time. The problem of course is that I had not embraced it and was soon drinking heavily again after a short pause.

 

 

Glimpses

The conversation turned to our house. The Medium would pause and sort of look up or to one side. Once or twice he seemed to not even to be there but in some sort of trance. We had not mentioned we had children but he told us that we had “entities” in our house and that our young daughter could see them and had interacted with a “child spirit”. Sensing our alarm he told us not to worry. The spirits were harmless and tied to the house or rather the land. The way we view time is not how time is. Reality is an illusion and sometimes, depending on things we don’t understand, our dimension touches the next.

This didn’t reassure us much and we asked about a cleansing to which he replied it could be done but not by him. He went on to say that the spirit who was “looking over me” when I was sick was my mother. He said that she was also “watching over” our children. Soon after a subtle change came over his face as if a curtain had come down and the Medium announced that the meeting was over.

It’s an understatement to say that I had trouble seeing the world the same way after that brief visit. Was it all real? Had I been played and fleeced out of my money? If it were true then everything I thought about reality was up for debate. My mind reeled and everywhere I looked I saw Ghosts hiding in shadows. I needed a stiff drink.

 

 

Smudging

A couple of weeks later I called my sister and she came over. I explained some of the events that had taken place but omitted our meeting with the Medium or any specific details. It was the middle of the day and she walked though the house pausing in our daughter’s room a little longer. Finally she reported that there was family tied to the house. The land the house sat on had been a farm. The farmer had been cruel to his family and had died in an accident. The woman and child had lived out their lives.

With sage in hand she walked from room to room, trailing smoke, inviting the entities to “go to the light”. I watched with fascination. Sure enough a peace seemed to fall over the house. It felt completely different. From that day there were no further “disturbances”. Whatever had been there was gone and I had to admit I was sort of sad about it. The house was clear but a dark shadow fell over me. I responded with alcohol.

 

 

“Second Chances”

As the Medium predicted my “second chance” soon ran out and I hit rock bottom. I realized when it happened what it meant. Ghosts of the past held me down. I felt myself sink in to a dark place and was utterly haunted. I could take my real “second chance” now and climb out to safety or I could fall to oblivion and never emerge. Doing so required a type of Faith and belief in something that cannot be proved through empirical science. By that stage, I already knew that. If anything the last few years had taught me was to keep an open mind, even if it meant accepting there is more than we can see and measure.

 

“No live organism can continue to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

The Red Door

Recently I decided to watch the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I’ve always been a fan of psychological supernatural movies. There are few that rank as truly great. The Haunting (1963) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) are both timeless classics.

I have to admit that the new Netflix release of a retelling of Shirley Jackson’s Hill House story was excellent. The experience was not unlike jumping into some Rabbit Hole. Over ten episodes the series explores the dark inner psyche of a family haunted by events that occurred a quarter of a century earlier. Against the brooding backdrop of Hill House, a short and terrifying childhood summer is played out. There are secrets and the house  is calling them home.

The series was compelling and terrifying not so much for the Ghosts, which there are many, but because it was a reminder that people suffer the Ghosts of their pasts and fears. Eventually one must return to face them. Doors that are locked and contain sinister and dark secrets must be opened. Sometimes we must peer in to the dark recesses of our soul. In order to be free we must confront our darkest and most terrifying fears.

 

A ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

Force Ghosts

Why is it that the “Force Ghosts” of Star Wars aren’t scary? Even Casper the Friendly Ghost was a little creepy. The story goes that when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after the resurrection they were terrified to see him returned from the grave and walking among the living. Any manifestation of the dead is naturally disconcerting. Cultures demand that the dead stay dead. Ghosts are not welcome.

I’ve learned that Ghosts are not scary (unless we want them to be) but they are definitely not something you want to turn a corner and see standing there. So why is no one concerned with “Force Ghosts”? After all they have all the trade mark features of a Ghost. They shimmer, glow pale and appear out of nowhere and start dispensing practical philosophy, yet they comfort those they appear to. If Socrates were to appear again in Athens and start approaching people the city would lose its mind and try to evict him.

 

Dreams they’re like an ocean and the big dreams can spill out sometimes” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

Visions

“Force Ghosts” are a product of fiction obviously. The religious equivalent would be called “Visions”. Most people who have claimed to have had visions of Mary, Jesus, Saints or departed relatives reported feeling an overwhelming sense of love and peace. What causes these experiences is a matter for debate however there is no disputing the fact that visions have a lasting and often life changing effect on those who witness them.

“Force Ghosts” are the heavenly visitations to the Jedi. The “Force Ghosts” are the spiritual experiences that guide the Jedi from the edge of the Dark Side and back to the Light. The “Force Ghosts” appear because they are summoned in some way by those that need them and they change those they visit in profound ways.

 

Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns…” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

“White Light”

Occasionally I run into people I haven’t seen since I got sober. They give me strange look. The comment I get is that I have changed and somehow different. They remark how fit and healthy I look but there is something else they can’t quite name, something intangible.

When people learn that I no longer drink they ask what bought it on. It’s very hard to explain “what happened” to anyone who has not hit rock bottom and had a spiritual experience. To try is to risk being labelled a religious nut. Its also hard to articulate to those that have had a similar experience. Words can’t really describe it. Whether it’s a “burning white light” experience or something that happens at a deeper level the end result is that there is no seeing the world the same way ever again. Everything changes.

The only way to describe what happened to is that in a flash I felt I was catapulted to an elevated level of consciousness. It felt as if I were inside of me but at the same time outside of me and looking down at me. I was had a clear vision of who I was at that moment and a vision of what I could become. I sat perched on a wall between heaven and hell. There was no doubt in my mind I could topple either way. At some deeper level I reached out to whatever spiritual source there was and grabbed the flimsy reed that was offered. I knew at that moment the ultimate truth; there is nothing to fear but fear itself and the fear was gone. So were the Ghosts.

 

“…But so, it seems, is love. Love is the relinquishment of logic the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it. But we cannot meet it halfway…” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

Impressions

I’ve learned that it is rarely the “Ghosts” of departed souls that haunt us. Certainly the memory of those who have passed will linger in mind and subconsciousness. It is not unusual for people to speak to the dearly departed, it’s normal. We can find solace and comfort feeling that not even death can separate us from those that we love.  More often it is an impression, a word, a thought or a memory that materializes like a phantom in our mind. We can see it clearly as if it were there in front of us. For a moment we are projected through time and place to that moment. Like a Ghost it begins to fade and then vanish. We are left with the feeling like you get when you come out of a dream. There was a truth, clarity and enlightenment in that moment and then it is gone beyond recall.

Perhaps that is what the “Force Ghosts” of Star Wars represent. They symbolize the resolving of inner conflict and the realization of a deeper truth or a moment of joy. At the moment when Luke feels the most vulnerable and has the greatest doubts born of fear and anguish he is centered and given courage and guidance by the vision and words of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In his happiness Luke also see’s his Father and his former mentors smiling down on him approvingly on Endor.

 

…Without it (Love), we cannot continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality” – The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

Believe or Not

Whether you believe in Ghosts or not and care for Ghost stories or not, all people are visited by Ghosts of some form. The very act of living allows them to permeate our lives in every way. I’m still visited by the Ghosts of my past but I don’t let them affect me. They serve as reminders of where I have come from. I acknowledge them and let them go. They appear and fade away and I know they are impressions. I sometimes speak to my dead relatives and ancestors. Perhaps they hear me, maybe they don’t. It comforts me the same way the apparition of Yoda and disembodied voice of Obi-wan Kenobi comforted Luke.

I also believe in Ghosts, the “active” type that stare out of windows in darkened houses, the “residual” Ghosts that play out their lives and deaths like some old movie reel on a constant loop. The “phenomena” Ghost Hunters seek out in cold and desolate places at the dead of night. Ghosts do exist, in our minds and in the world. I don’t doubt it for a second.

 

“Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And those who walk there walk together.” – Steven Crain “The Haunting of Hill House”

Victim

“It’s not my fault!” – Han Solo

 

The famous line “It’s not my fault” was said four times in the original trilogy of Star Wars. The quote is used by Han Solo and Lando Calrissian to dismiss any blame for screwing up at precisely the wrong moment. For example when being chased by Imperial Star Destroyers or making excuses to Jabba the Hutt. Rogues and smugglers do not easily admit their mistakes even when the odds are that everyone is about to be killed because of them.

 

Pulling Hair and Eating Dirt*

Growing up I always felt the victim. It felt as if I was born to suffer injustices. The blame for every problem that I ever had could be placed squarely at the feet of others. With the years that attitude solidified. I was arrested for shop lifting as a child and blamed those who were with me, my home and an alcoholic Father. My troubles at school were due to a broken home, a dead mother and being taken into state care.

I fought a lot because other kids provoked me. I was the “same old backside again” for the Head Masters cane. I didn’t do well in School because of a disruptive home. My grades were poor because we had moved around a lot. We were poor migrant working class. None of it was my fault. I was a Victim.

Being a skinny and awkward kid who lacked confidence I was never popular with girls. I was one of those kids that sat on the sidelines at school dances waiting and wanting someone to ask me but dreading it at the same time. Being like that, the sullen pale skinny kid, inevitably attracting bullies and trouble at the same time. I was miserable and for every slight, insult, slap across the head and wedgie my self-pity and indignation grew. Every screw up that happened seemed to be blamed on me. I hated the world and wanted to fight everyone and everything.

 

Baseless victimhood is usually the last stage before outright aggression.” ― Stefan Molyneux

 

Baggy Trousers, Dirty Shirt

I was shocked when the Captain signed a document committing me to five years in the Army. I barely notice he did so with a perceptible sigh of resignation as if he had suffered a slow day and needed to fill a quota before he could leave for the Officers mess. The Captain passed over a contract which I signed. I thanked him for the opportunity and he looked at me with mix of humor and pity and said with a grin “Good Luck Son”! My lack of self-confidence and self-esteem was obvious. Perhaps he thought the military might save me from something worse than death.

Getting in to the army felt like I had finally been accepted in to a family that mattered something. Even as my scalp still burned from being roughly shaved clean and I stood shorter than everyone else in my over-sized new fatigues, I felt like a man at last. A Corporal said I looked like a “bag of shit tied in the middle”.

They called me “Sprog”, “Grommet” and “Cluster”. For the first year I was the guy who got the worst jobs and suffered the most offerings of Punishment. My Team harangued me for every fault in barracks, field or range. They were also getting “beasted” for my mistakes. I could do nothing right and when I tried my best it was rejected and ridiculed. Soon on overseas on deployment I sometimes contemplated deserting in to the night or turning my rifle on myself. None of this was my fault. This is not what I wanted. Why couldn’t I fit in?

 

Stop validating your victim mentality. Shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli

 

Bend not Break the Rules

Propped up at a bar nursing a whiskey and chasing that with beer I suddenly felt like I belonged. My “Muckers” were around me buying rounds of tequila. I slammed a few and staggered outside to throw up. Everyone howled with laughter but I came back for more. At last I could do something right! A face blurred came in to view. I smelt perfume and felt a hand between my thighs. She whispered something in my ear and I nodded. Next a cab ride to a hotel with a prostitute.

Waking up with a hangover and realizing that I had missed parade and was officially AWOL. Still drunk stopping at a bar for a drink to steady nerves before grabbing a cab ride to Base. My gut churning from booze, lack of food and fear I face the OC. There is the mandatory reprimand and smack broadside across the head from the CSM then a week in the guard house. In jail there are slaps, yelling, drill and ruck runs and digging holes under a burning sun. It’s a chance to sober up a bit. I’ll do it again, probably next week.

Rinse and repeat many times as my career went down the toilet. Each time it gets easier, not caring because it was never my fault. I started enjoying the Army. My attitude stunk.

They throw me out saying I’d had too many chances. I can’t accept its anything I did. The years pass by. I wander from place to place and job to job. I can’t hold down a job for long. Relationships never last more than a few days or weeks. But none of that was my fault. I’m the victim in that story, right?

 

Self-pity is spiritual suicide. It is an indefensible self-mutilation of the soul.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

 

Dark Legacies

Anakin fell to the dark side because he was primed for the fall not by Palpatine but by his own set of beliefs. Anakin believed that he was a victim of circumstance. Born in to slavery, never knowing his Father. Taken from his mother to become a Jedi. Finding his mother years later on her death bed. The horror of war and losing friends and allies. Building anger and hatred over the years. Anakin never learned to accept things as they are. None of it was his fault but he did have a choice in how he allowed these events to shape his character and destiny. The choices he made and the suffering they bought to him and others were on him. Becoming Darth Vader was his fault not Obi-wan’s, Yoda’s or Padme’s.

Ben Solo is another complex character who wallows in the self pity and aggression of the victim. Being force sensitive from his mother Leia, Ben also had the darker traits of his grandfather Anakin. Eventually it was Ben’s feelings of abandonment that made him ripe for grooming to the Dark Side by Snoke. Both of Ben’s parents failed to provide him with the attention he needed as a child.

Han Solo was unable to settle and be a good Father. Leia had enormous responsibilities as a civil and military leader and was often absent. The marital problems and clashes between his parents left Ben Solo feeling further abandoned. As an adult Ben was finally told of the truth of his grandfather Anakin and it affected him deeply. In the end it was his revered Uncle, Luke Skywalker, betrayal of his trust that finally pushed Ben Solo to the Dark Side. As a servant to Snoke he became Kylo Ren. Blaming his parents, the Jedi and the New Republic for his pain, Kylo Ren set out to destroy them all.

A Victim Mentality seems to span generations of the same family. While a victim mentality is a learned and acquired behavior It seemed to run in the Skywalker family like some mental illness. As children we learn from the example of our parents and peers and form beliefs. Later we surround ourselves with like minded people which reinforces those beliefs. If we allow ourselves to fall to the narrative and act out we become Victims. The only way to break free of it is to reject the narrative as false and retrain the mind to let go of the negative mind set that Victimhood perpetuates.

 

Wet the Bed

Alcoholics act the perennial victim. So it was with me. We have a tendency to make a mess of our lives and blame others. We wet the bed and blame the sheets. Alcohol blinds us to the truth that most of our problems are of our own making. We blame our parents, teachers, friends, partners, the system, the government or “God” for our problems. Ultimately we fail to take responsibility and do what is within our power to make things right.

My own set of beliefs kept me in denial and victimhood for decades. It’s easier that way, to blame others for our problems. Blaming others absolves us of responsibility to take action. If anyone should take action, we believe, it should be others. After all it is not our fault.

 

“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.” – Joseph Campbell

 

The Victim

Victimhood culture is a scourge of the modern era. So many people today embrace the idea that being the victim gives them the justification to blame their misery on others. “Victims” carry an attitude that life is against them and that society is somehow bent on pushing them down and holding them there. They and only they have a monopoly on injustice. Believing they are being denied the tools to help themselves they refuse to take steps to analyse their beliefs or change in any positive way. Without realizing it they hold themselves down and attack others for it. Even when things do improve it is never enough. There is always fault to be found and someone to blame.

Victims will always complain, criticize, blame, gossip. They can’t take a joke and find attitudes or opinions that differ from theirs offensive. Victims are easily triggered and emotionally incontinent. Society and its institutions seem to encourage and facilitate this perpetual sense of entitlement and victimhood. Victims tend to draw upon each other in order to validate their status as victims. This culture creates a mindset of powerlessness. Rather than being empowered to create the change needed the victim is disarmed by a sense of self-pity, frustration, anger and unfulfilled entitlement and potential.

 

I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become” – Carl Jung

“I can fix this” – Poe Damerone

 

Victim to Victor in 12 Steps

In the 12 Steps, the first step addresses the mental chains of a “Victim Mentality”. While Victimhood taught me I was powerless in all aspects of my life, Step 1 showed me I was only powerless where alcohol was concerned. I had the power and only needed to claim it fully to overcome my addiction and become the person I wanted to be. Instead of being a Victim I could be a Victor by committing to some principles and practices;

  1. Turning problems over to a Higher Power I call the “Force”;
  2. Framing “obstacles” in a rational manner rather than with emotions such as anger and fear. Learning that it is only our perceptions that matter to us, not the thing itself.
  3. Identifying those things that are in my control and those that are outside of it. Focusing energy on those that reside within my locus of control without investing emotional energy to the outcomes.
  4. Using “negative visualization” and “voluntary discomfort” to remind me that things can always be worse and to be prepared physically, mentally and spiritually.
  5. Having the courage and resolve to make amends where appropriate.
  6. Accepting that mistakes will be made and being prepared to admit them and make amends.
  7. Accepting that things do not always turn out as planned. Being grateful for what does.
  8. Entertaining thoughts, feelings and impressions but choose which to accept as valid and useful.
  9. Using mindfulness to remain in the present while avoiding projecting in to the future or ruminating on the past needlessly.
  10. Removing focus from self by helping others within means and where that help is welcome.
  11. Daily review. Identifying what went well and where improvements can be made.
  12. Striving for continuous self-improvement and learning.

Han Solo loved to deny fault especially at the worst possible times. Blaming a failed Hyperdrive systems error on someone else while an Imperial Star Destroyer is bearing down is not going to fix the situation. Han knew that. In the end Han does what Han does best, he takes decisive action and gets out of his predicament by the skin of his teeth and with panache. Han was a Rogue but also a Victor after all, not a Victim. Be like Han…

 

Leia –

What did you have in mind for

your next move?

Han –

Well, if they follow standard

Imperial procedure, they’ll dump

their garbage before they go to

light-speed, then we just float

away.

Leia –

With the rest of the garbage.

Then what?

 

*Acknowledgement to “Baggy Trousers” by Madness – the anthem of my childhood.

The Master

… for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.”  – Darth Bane

 

The Sith were the antithesis of the Jedi. Serving the Dark side of the Force the Sith were diametrically opposed to the Jedi. The Sith sought to dominate the galaxy and impose their will on all life. The story is one of the struggles between the dualistic nature of the Force. The conflict between the Sith and Jedi is a struggle were the Light Side attempts to negate the Dark Side and the Darkness seeks to extinguish the Light. One must dominate the other. One must be Master.

Within each person it can be argued is a similar struggle. What Lincoln called the better angel of our natures does not always prevail against the dark side. Within all of us lurks the shadow of the Dark Side, our own inner “Sith”. Throughout our life we face an internal struggle with that duality of our nature. We are torn between virtues and vice. Virtue does not always take precedence. Good does not always prevail.

 

Remember, the first and only reality of the Sith… there can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced.

―Darth Sidious, to Darth Maul

 

The Headmaster

Believe it or not, our personal Dark Side is a teacher. I refer to it as my inner “Sith Lord”. I attribute selfishness, belligerence, arrogance, self-will and a rampant or an over inflated ego to my inner “Sith Master”. Emotions such as anger, resentment, hatred and especially fear are the outcomes of an effective education in the Dark Side of the Force. For more than two decades, alcohol was my Master and I was its willing apprentice.

Among the Sith there was a constant struggle for supremacy between the Master and Apprentice called the “Rule of Two”. The Master sought to keep the Apprentice in servitude. The Apprentice served the will of the Master and at the same time learnt from him through the suffering of training. Through pain, fear and loathing the Master kept the Apprentice in check and bent him further to his will.

 

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

 

Rule of Two

The Master also knew that the Apprentice sought the power to eventually usurp him and become the Master. While the Apprentice continued to learn and submit to the Master and serve him, he was of use. The Apprentice sought to learn all he could from the Master. Once the Apprentice was ready to overthrow the Master, he was killed and replaced. The Apprentice however demonstrated his superiority by killing his Master and assuming the role and seeking out a new Apprentice. Thus the Sith grew stronger and stronger with every generation through the natural selection of the “Rule of Two”.

Darth Sidious served Darth Plageuis and killed him. Darth Sidious at first drafted Darth Maul as a servant and then betrayed him choosing Count Dooku as a suitable Apprentice. Dooku became Darth Tyranus until the Sith Lord in the guise of Palpatine recognised Anakin as his chosen disciple. Once he had corrupted the Jedi Anakin to the Dark Side, Palpatine had his new protégé kill Count Dooku in cold blood. Anakin soon became Darth Vader and served Darth Sidious until the Sith line was ended in the Return of the Jedi. The history of the Sith was one of domination, submission, betrayal and death.

 

“(Darth Plagueis)  became so powerful … the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. never saw it coming. It’s ironic he could save others from death but not himself.” – Palpatine (Darth Sidious) to Anakin

 

Natural Selection

The analogy of the relationship between Sith Master and Apprentice accurately describes the alcoholic’s relationship with booze. The relationship is far deeper than shallow desire. It is a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual “craving” to something which is at once endearing, warm and inviting while at the same time cunning, devious, cruel and unforgiving. Alcohol becomes the unwavering and unforgiving Master that dominates every aspect of life, even to the grave.

Alcohol embodies the power and the Alcoholic craves it. A “Rule of Two” resides within that relationship. The only thing that matters is the relationship between the Addict and the substance of Addiction. There is nothing else. A struggle evolves over time in which the Addict attempts to seek control in the relationship. Through resistance and failure the Addict is constantly reminded of the futility of her attempts to overpower her addiction by self will alone. Every attempt leaves her weaker.  Only one victor can emerge from the throes of that struggle. There can be only one Master.

In time the Master takes everything and leaves nothing but despair, anger and fear.

 

The Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me. Once, I had power — now I have nothing.” — Maul (Clone Wars: “Twilight of the Apprentice”)

 

 

Harsh Lessons

In my early recovery I imagined my addiction to be some dark beast that dwelt within me. That beast had me on a short leash. Attempts to leave were cruelly punished. My confidence was shaken with every failed attempt to escape. As I fell deeper in to despair my addiction mocked and tormented me and I grew more dependent on it. The Dark Side closed in all around. I found the harder I fought the deeper was the decent in to the Dark Side and ultimately my personal Rock Bottom.

Finding a Higher Power and rejecting my addiction by turning it over was the act of overthrowing that insidious Master. In the end there could only be one. Alcohol would take me to the grave or I would usurp it somehow and reclaim life. In the end all it took was a willingness to believe and the act of surrender. In order to over throw the Master I had to face myself and stop fighting. I came to realize that when I looked at the face of the beast I stared squarely at myself. I and the Master that I feared and reviled were one and the same. We were two sides of the Force that Lincoln described; the better angel facing the dark side. By ending that struggle I was able to walk free again.

 

When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

The Apprentice

I never forget that every person has a dark side although not all are slave to it. That is the Tao, the duality residing within the whole. My Dark Side remains but I choose not to give it license. I can’t afford to. I never forget that once it was the Master and it seeks to return. Like a prisoner condemned to a dark and deep cell it hides in the shadows brooding. It patiently waits. It believes the day may come when it will kill its old Apprentice. And when I peer deep in to my soul I see that Dark Side it is watching and it waits.

Keep fear at bay and be touched by Better Angels.