Voice

I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.” – Gina Carano

Imagine, if you would, being gagged and forbidden to speak your mind. How would that feel? Imagine also being told how and when to think, speak and act. What would that do to your soul? It would be like keeping a tree in a small pot. As the tree grows, its roots branch out and unable to go deeper they begin to bunch into a mangled and tortured mass. Eventually the tree begins to stunt and whither in its growth.

Humans have an inherent and divine need to express themselves without being suppressed and stymied by others. The inner divine seeks to grow and expand. This is part of our nature to know and experience life and ultimately the Force. When we are prevented from doing so we suffer and like the tree we also become stunted in our development.

Imagine putting up barrier to a child’s physical and mental growth for a year. What would that do? How would that affect the child long-term?

Do not let what you think they think of you make you stop and question everything you are.” – Carrie Fischer

Through early childhood, school and then the military my thoughts, words and actions were highly regulated. Deep within me raged a battle between a side that needed to conform and be accepted and another side that wanted to cut the bonds, cry out and be free to be who I wanted to be. Every time I strayed from the path chosen for me I was punished or threatened with expulsion. Fear kept me in check. I had to watch what I said and did. Even thoughts had to be moderated because they can be betrayed. As the years passed I felt as if inside I was a mangled and tortured mass of suppressed emotions. My soul felt caged.

Alcohol offered me an escape. It was an alluring illusion. Within a bottle lay freedom from care and worry. I could be at peace with myself and others. There were no barriers to what I could do, say or think. I was unchained and my soul was free to fly to the heavens like some Icarus.

It was a lie.

I cried out and my prayer was answered” – Gina Carano

Alcohol provided the illusion of a temporary respite from reality but reality never gave respite. In the morning, reality came crashing down. There were consequences for wrong thought, words and actions. I found that booze did not bring out the real me, it had created some twisted and obscene persona. That person was the opposite of who I wanted to be. The real me was prevented from being realized. Eventually the truth of that became too great to bear any longer and I was either to fall in to a very dark place and never return or recover.

Recovery can be summed up in three words; admit, accept and act. Rinse and repeat. To be truly recovered one must be honest and have courage. This means admitting to yourself and others your disease and faults. Accepting a power greater than yourself in to your life. You start letting go of the need to control everything and please others. That means having the courage to think, speak and act free from fear of judgment from others. It means being an authentic human being for once in your life. That means finding your voice and using it.

The Star Wars heroes are loved because they are authentic. They all used their voices and refused to be silenced by fear. Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo never pulled any punches when it came to speaking their minds.  In real life Carrie Fischer had bigger stones than most men in Hollywood and said exactly what was on her mind. Gina Carano is not far behind her.

Authenticity means having the courage to remove the gag and chains that bind you and having the freedom to express and be who you are. Be Jedi and use your voice free of fear.

This is the way.

I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.” – Carrie Fischer

I’m in” – Cara Dune

Stillness

Be calm, at peace, passive” – Yoda

Before creation there was infinite stillness. Time, matter and energy resided as the Force waiting to be released into being. Nothing yet existed. There was only the potential for all that ever was in that stillness.

Stillness is being alert and in a state of complete awareness without action. Stillness is nature. A Lion relies on stillness to prepare for the dash which will bring down its prey. The universe is largely still and empty, a great void of potential yet to be realized. All matter is 99% emptiness. The remainder is vibrational energy that appears as matter.

To be still is to like an empty vessel waiting to be filled. The mind is clear, the body is relaxed and one is at peace. Stillness is being passive while being alert to everything happening around you. There is unrealized potential in stillness. This is the nature of the Force.

Attention!

“SILENCE!” yelled the Drill Sergeant at the top of his lungs as he entered the barracks room. In a flash everyone was on his feet standing at attention. You could not hear a pin drop as the Sergeant stood in the centre of the room and looked around. One spoken command had bought complete silence to a room that moments had been full of noise and activity. All focus was on this single imposing figure standing there, tattooed muscles bristled under a camouflage shirt, a green beret angled slightly on a clean shaven head, a slight smirk on a rugged tanned face as his gaze swept over the platoon. He moved slowly down the line of bunk beds and men at attention. Cold blue eyes pierced hard into recruits stood on a line painted on the floor. No one dared make a sound or move. We were going to lose the bad habits of a spoilt and soft civilian existence. We were going to learn stillness.

Stillness is something you are forced to learn in the Infantry. Your mental and physical health and even your life can rely on your ability to remain still and silent. If one soldier moves an arm or head in a company formation on the parade square he immediately draws attention to himself. A sniper camouflaged in a hide will give himself away through movement that is not executed carefully, with economy and precision.

Soldiers are expected to remain rigid and silent as long as is required. It take self-discipline, focus and self-control to remain perfectly still and quiet the mind screaming for activity. To not scratch that itch or speak up when silence is required can be harder than you think. Some people cannot remain still for more than a minute. In the army I was told “ears open, mouth shut” and reminded constantly “never draw attention to yourself!”, this meant being still, silent and alert.

Stand Firm

The military understands the value of stillness. The ability to remain immobile but alert is a hallmark of discipline. A soldier who can be passive and exercise self-control under pressure until an order is given is more useful in war than a mindless Berserker who cannot be controlled. In the confusion and chaos of battle the ability to remain still in mind but active in body is the trait of a true warrior.

The warrior is in complete control of his movements, actions and emotions. The weapon becomes an extension of himself driven by the power of the mind. The mind is laser focused on intent and achieving an objective. The still warrior is a weapon waiting to be unleashed.

The Jedi used stillness as a tool to remain calm and ready before battle but also for diplomacy and negotiations. They were in no rush to make a move when the best strategy was to stand firm and wait. A Jedi would wait for her opponent to make the first move and then respond accordingly. In negotiations it was necessary to remain impassive, silent and still and let others speak first.

Much can be conveyed through Stillness. Stillness can be intimidating for some. It can confuse the enemy and disarm them. Often the best tactic is to stay still. When Yoda said “be calm, at peace, passive”, he was reminding Luke that the true power of the Force resides in the stillness.

Calm, at Peace, Passive

Being alcoholic I was unable to be still. I had to always be on the go. My mind was always active and could never relax. I needed alcohol to calm my thoughts. I was ill disciplined. Irrational thoughts, emotions and impulses constantly pulled at me and directed my decisions. In order to embrace recovery I had to tap into my inner source. A stillness resides within ourselves that is immutable and beyond time and space. The stillness connects us to the Divine of which only an illusion of separation exists. I had to come to believe in a power greater than myself and let go. Through surrender I was able to find that stillness and walk free from alcohol. Those in the 12 step community will recognise this as Steps 2 and 3.

Being still does not mean being inactive or unassertive. Recovery is an active process but it is requires one to seek to be “calm, at peace, passive” through mindful action. The act of surrender requires letting go while also accepting responsibility for ourselves. We can no longer be like a marionette pulled mindlessly from one extreme to the other by the strings of impulses and emotions.

Being still allows us to gather our thoughts and process emotions in a way that benefits us and causes no harm to others. Thoughts and ideas can pass in and out of the mind through the day without requiring us to act until we are ready. Emotions can stir and then dissipate without needing to be energized by our attachments to them. Different impulses rise up through the day but It does not mean we need to respond to any of them. Thoughts, emotions and impulses do not have any power over you unless you choose so. The choice is yours.

Be still.

Order 66

(Source: zedge.net)

The time has come. Execute Order Sixty-Six.” – Darth Sidious

Order 66 was one of the most infamous days of the entire history of the Republic. Darth Sidious as Chancellor Palpatine saw his chance at last to seize power and finally destroy the Jedi Order. Every single Trooper in the Clone Army had been bio-engineered with a xenobot “chip” at birth. The Inhibitor chips were programmed to follow the Palpatine’s orders no matter how obscene or insane they might be once activated. When the order came, the Clone Army immediately carried out Order 66 to kill every Jedi to the last without question or hesitation.

In Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker was tasked with murdering the Younglings at the Jedi Temple. An act which would give Darth Sidious much pleasure and cement Anakin to the Dark Side. Anakin did not have a biochip engineered in to his brain. Unlike the Clone Troopers who indifferently and in cold blood gunned down the Jedi, Anakin only had his fear, anger and hate driving him to kill children. The Clone Troopers had no choice given that the biochip enforced compliance with Order 66. They acted like automatons in carrying it out. Anakin had a choice and still followed through with his actions with callous impunity.

Order 66 also marked the end of the Republic and ushered in the Empire with Darth Sidious placing himself as Emperor. Democracy had been dismantled with deafening applause. Now the the Republic would die and a long cold dark winter would descend on the galaxy. Where there had been celebration that the war with the Separatist Confederation there was now despair. Where the ascendancy of Palpatine had bought hope there was now  only the boot of the empire. The terror that was Darth Vader and the Death Star would soon follow.

I guess the new galactic order must’ve seemed promising to everyone on Coruscant until they woke up one morning and found all of their freedoms revoked. A fascist state had been imposed from the citadel that was once the Jedi Temple. Any choice the galactic demos had was now gone. Democracy and liberty was gone. Hope was gone.

Drinking is like that. You have a choice until you decide to abrogate it to alcohol. Then you don’t have a choice anymore. It seemed like a good idea at the time, obviously it wasn’t, not sure why I did it or why I will do it again and again, without end. That is insanity.

Sometimes I wonder if, like a Clone Trooper, I have a biochip in my head that was activated the day I took my fist drink. I was damned from the beginning to become what I became, an alcoholic. Only through recovery was I able to deactivate the chip and stop the drinking and the insane behavior that cascaded from it. What would happen if I took a drink now? Would the biochip be reactivated and would I once again descend in to the insanity? Would I walk back in to a long cold dark winter?

That’s a question I ask myself every time I peer in to my Shadow and the Dark Side tempts me to a drink. It grins and it waits.

Grace

Grace

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

Grace is a term that brings up many religious connotations. Raised as a catholic I was confused by the term. Grace was a word that was used by the clergy to describe communion. In boarding school we were told that one had to achieve grace in order to ascend to heaven. We were also told that children such as us were beyond redemption and could never acquire grace. One of the Priests would state that it was only by his good grace that I receive six strokes of the cane and not a dozen. A visiting Bishop was called “your Grace” and many years later I heard that he had been arrested for turning a blind eye to the abuse of fostered and orphaned children in his care.

I could never get the word grace and for me it always held dark connotations. It reminded me of the dark halls of the orphanage, shivering in cold dark mornings at early prayers, the scolding of a priest hidden behind a curtain for not understanding the rites of confession and the leer of a drunken Brother who spoke with a thick Irish accent and smelt of beer and cabbage. There are memories of the taste of cold porridge, fights in the school yard, the kick from a nun and the sting of a cane on my fingers. I was glad when it ended. Grace never found me again and I wanted no part of it until I found what it meant many years later.

My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us.” – Yoda

Don’t confuse Grace with religion. Neither is it a virtue. Grace is a spiritual state of being that approaches enlightenment. To arrive at Grace is to realize the Force within your life.

Grace is genuine and selfless humility and compassion for others.  not when they have fallen on hard times but when you have. Grace is putting the concerns of others above your own without seeking recognition. It is to feel one’s own loss while also feeling the suffering of another and accepting it as one’s own. To have grace is to endure the suffering caused by others and to not only forgive them but to love them at the same time. The passion of the crucifixion is a symbol of grace. Jesus chose to accept suffering and death for the sake of others, especially those that were not deserving. Suffering terribly Jesus asked God to forgive those who had betrayed, punished and tortured him. Through grace, Jesus arrived at enlightenment and overcame duality.

You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda

Is grace the path to enlightenment? I think so. The Buddha lived a life of Grace, as did Guru Nanak and Zarathustra. Their example of a life lived in grace inspires their followers and seekers of truth. Perhaps they came so close to the realizing idea of God while mortal men made of flesh that they achieved a state of perpetual grace.

We are reminded of the power of Grace in the Star Wars mythology. Yoda lived in harmony with others and acquired grace over a lifetime and became “one with the Force”. Obi-wan Kenobi, through a lifetime of pain and sacrifice and years of solitude in the desert found grace in realizing his purpose to protect the “chosen one” from harm. Anakin believed that power and control was his path to salvation but found true redemption and grace by sacrificing his life to save his son. Through the grace of forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love Luke  also saved his Father and found Grace.  Decades later, Luke chose to forsake his purpose and abandon his destiny but fate forced him to confront it and through grace find the living Force. Han Solo, a scoundrel, found Grace by giving up his life in a failed attempt to redeem his son. Ben Solo found grace in surrendering his life to save Rey. United with his mother, Leia Organa and Ben were united in the Force.

What do you know about the Force?” – Luke (to Rey)

I have never reached a state of Grace. My life could be best described as having been lived in “sin” and “excess” of alcoholism. I got a glimpse of Grace at the bottom of the dark pit called “rock bottom” but it was from a place beyond space and time. Perhaps I was touched by God. Whatever it was, it led me out of that place and I never drunk again. When I first saw the words “But by the Grace of God” framed on a wall at my first AA meeting it hit me and I finally got the idea of Grace.

Grace  is a word rarely heard or written but it still has a place in this world and it is in desperate short supply. One rarely witnesses the losing side in sports or politics accept their defeat with Grace. There are recriminations, protests and harsh words. The winning side also demonstrates arrogance and claims the spoils of victory and a moral superiority over the vanquished rather than seeking to offer a hand of peace and conciliation. Right now the world could use a good measure of grace.

Be gracious to others, stop fighting, put down your Lightsaber.

Daily Jedi Journal

The Daily Jedi journal is finally complete in time for the new year. The Journal has a page to enter your daily gratitude and morning and evening reflections for 366 days. Each week discusses an aspect of Jedi Philosophy and every day begins with a quote from Star Wars to reflect on. Life is a journey and the central theme of the Journal is the Hero’s Journey.

The first day is Day 1. You may start any day of the year. The journal progresses through weekly cycles. You can also complete the book at your own pace or read sections at your leisure. You may wish to add additional notes and pages to expand on your writings. You may use this book as a primer for a more in-depth personal journal.

This is a practical journal to help those who wish to practice the tenets of Jedi Philosophy in daily living. Each day presents its own challenges and often all that is needed is a compass to help guide us on the path to being Jedi. This book has been developed to help you accomplish your goals in living a more mindful and fulfilling life through personal reflection.

Whether you consider yourself a Real-World Jedi or someone who is only seeking to improve every day I hope this book can serve you in some small way. One does not need to be a Star Wars fan to benefit from Jedi Philosophy.

The benefits of Journaling are well documented in psychology. Journaling is an excellent way to track your progress on the path to self improvement and self discovery. Keeping a journal also allows you to express your ideas, thoughts and hopes.

The hyperlinks download a pdf document which can then be printed out and used or saved to a computer.

Please go to http://www.dailyjedi.com/daily-journal/

The full pdf version of the Daily Jedi Journal can be downloaded here

I do not accept payment for this work. If you would like to make a donation to one of my favorite charities please go to http://www.dailyjedi.com/donate/

Victimhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image property of Lucas Films, Disney Ltd.

The Middle Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masks

Luke help me take this mask off” – Anakin

But you’ll die” – Luke Skywalker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Service

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

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

Not as a Jedi?” – Yoda

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

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

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

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

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

I only wanted to do my duty” – Fives

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

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

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

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

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