Oikeiôsis

Oikeiôsis is the Ancient Greek word meaning belonging. The concept of the human need to feel belonging was first theorized by the Stoic Zeno of Citium. To the Stoics Community was everything.

Community is also important to us. As social beings we all need to belong to a community where we can contribute and be valued. No one really lives in isolation by choice. To be part of the group is in our make up as a species. We need each other to survive and to flourish and from that need civilization emerged, grew and persists.

 

One World

The importance of community in the recovery movement is expressed through the pillars of fellowship, unity and service. People come together to share and to learn from one another. By helping others we help ourselves in the process. We understand that sitting alone at home may work for some people some of the time but true progress is made when we join with others in a common purpose. Through others we come to learn that we are not unique but share common problems, hopes and fears. We begin to realize that it is our similarities that bind us together and our diversity of thought and opinion that makes the community resilient. From that we find the strength to recover.

To be Jedi is also to be part of a community. Jedi are active participants in society. They are neither cloistered Monks nor Hermits seeking perpetual solitude. At times we all seek solitude and time away from others to recharge. Once ready we are ready to take our place among others and participate, share, learn, work and contribute in our own way. This is in our nature as human beings.

 

Disconnected

Sometimes it is easy to get pessimistic about the world around us. Society can seem hostile or indifferent. People often feel disconnected and alone in the world. A person may have thousands of Face Book friends but no one they can lean on and trust. We can create an online persona and profile which attracts thousands if not millions of followers and admirers and still feel lonely. Some of us feel alienated in the real world and eventually in the online realm as the hostility and toxin that pervades it forces us to disconnect even further.

Many of us live in sterile suburban neighborhoods where we live behind locked doors and barely recognize the neighbors let alone know their names.  We commute in cars to work in a sea of traffic feeling disconnected from, if not frustrated with, the blank faces in the cars around us. We sit or stand on trains or in waiting rooms our eyes fixed on our phones, not speaking, not making eye contact.

 

Happyness

In the Netflix Documentary “Happy” (2011) we see people living in supportive communities in Calcutta and Copenhagen. Despite the enormous gap in wealth between the two cities there is an undeniable “sameness”. Both communities are close knight, supportive and non-competitive. The members of different families and generations live together communally, share responsibilities and look after each others kids. There is a strong sense of belonging and unity which is increasingly rare today in general.

These people are among the happiest alive. The normal indicators of happiness and wellbeing; gross domestic product, employment rate and housing indices do not apply to these people. The strong sense of community is what makes these people feel happy and fulfilled.

 

The Odd Ball

I would be the first person to admit that I am not and never was the most sociable person. Being a strong introvert means I can be quite happy standing alone at a party without engaging anyone. Acutely aware that I was a quiet and reserved type when I was younger I naturally wanted to be liked by others. Alcohol was the remedy which allowed me to be gregarious, outgoing, funny and friendly. Drunk, I became approachable and my awkwardness was replaced with a confidence and a cocksure attitude that won people over and made me friends. Over the years I kept going back to booze and never really learned how to just be myself and connect with people on a deeper level. By the time I hit forty I realized I had all the social skills of a man in his early twenties, if not his teens.

 

Lost Soul

Being alcoholic is to live in a delusion. To find recovery is to see the falseness for what it is. The illusion of social acceptance and community which alcohol creates becomes apparent. We think that we “fit in” but we realize that we don’t. People who we thought were friends turn out to be nothing of the sort. Our own motivations with people become clearer and we realize they were selfish and self centred. We used people and prized things.

 

Getting sober we realize the relationships we had with people outside of our sphere of drinking, professional and personal, was often dishonest and sometimes abusive. Along the way we have hurt and damaged those we care about. If we are honest with ourselves we realized that we lived on the fringes of community, never in it. We did not really belong. All of this had to change if we were to truly recover and take our place in society.

 

Place

Being in recovery and becoming sober has forced me to re-evaluate my place in society. I have come to realize how easily I could have ended up in jail, dead or in an asylum had I continued. In recovery we learn to re-enter the community and find our place and purpose. The attitude of entitlement and “special treatment” that we used to demand in abuse is gone. We realize that in life we must earn our place and make our way without expecting dispensation because we are somehow “special”.

 

The community is about the whole not the individual. By being part of that whole and contributing in some small way we start to feel belonging in a real sense.

 

Find your Place

Most of us are not in a position to move in to a commune or co-housing arrangement where strong community is fostered as in “Happy”. There are still a number of ways we can improve our connection with others and feel part of our broader community:

 

  1. Embrace your identity and what makes you unique.  Also look for the common humanity in all people. Very often we find our community is divided along ethnic, religious, racial, nationalist or social class lines. We flock to those we most identify with, those with whom we resemble and share the most in common with. There is nothing wrong with identifying with a group or ideology but we must be careful not to shut out others simply because they seem “different”. This enforces the identity mindset, victim-hood mentality and “us and them” culture which pervades society today.   We have more in common than we think.
  2. Be kind and compassionate; this extends from the previous point. We should respect and treat all people the same. Humans respond well to kindness and compassion, it is a universal language common to all. Donating to local charities and supporting local businesses is one small way we can express care for others.
  3. Be prepared to help. Offering our time and skills as volunteers brings us closer to the community. You may find a particular cause or charity which appeals to you. Organisations that deal in disaster relief and emergency aid will register people who can assist in times of crisis. Even just being willing to respond to a request for assistance, where safe, is being Jedi. Those in recovery know the benefits of being of service to others.
  4. Get active in issues that concern you; whether it is a social justice cause, the environment or a local issue such as better public amenities and services there are many ways to get active. People can organise petitions, attend public meetings, form online groups, write letters, submit public comments on projects and proposals and participate in rallies and protests. Even just participating in public surveys and voting is getting involved.
  5. Join community groups; sporting and recreational, social and cultural clubs. Finding and meeting with common minded people who enjoy similar interests builds a strong sense of community.

 

The Circle

Stoic philosophy challenges people to consider themselves not only members of their community and country but citizens of the world and cosmos. The “View from Above” exercise is used to remind us that we are part of a whole which extends far beyond ourselves and our immediate circle. The Circle of Hierocles was drawn more than 2500 years ago to depict cosmopolitanism. The ancient Stoics word for “belonging” to community was oikeiôsis. The ancients saw themselves as belonging not only to themselves but in expanding concentric circles, their family, city state, country, the world and cosmos.

 

The Circle of Hierocles  (Source: https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com )

 

We should take the time to broaden our perspective as human beings. Every action and choice that we make has a broader consequence and reach than we imagine. By understanding our place in society and our role in the community we can live more mindfully and in accordance with our nature.  We become connected with the whole.

A View from Above Meditation by Donald Robertson

 

 

Right Effort

 

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

 

Ten months ago I started Daily Jedi as a personal endeavor to progress in my training as a Jedi and to fortify my 12 Step Practice. I never imagined it would require as much effort as it has. It would be easier not to bother and use the time for something else. But where would the fun be? More importantly what would I lose? Without effort and application in action everything that came before leads to nothing. In order to be the change we must do the work. For the work to be effective there must be Right Effort.

Since I started down the Jedi and 12 Step Paths I have become acutely aware that without effort there can be no gains. We can read all the books we like, become informed and educated and have the desire and commitment to change. That only gets us so far. We can make the decision to move forward and put our plan in to action.

 

Faith without works is dead” – James 2:26

 

The Path on the Path

Right Effort is the sixth step in the Buddhist eight-fold path. Right Effort supports the practitioner through every step of the Path. Any serious practitioner of meditation will tell you that meditation takes concerted effort. Meditation is not idly sitting in the lotus position. The mind is ill disciplined and prone to constant interruption by thoughts and images that intrude. A practitioner must apply effort to ensure concentration and focus in applied. Discipline prevents the practitioner from being drawn in to reverie or falling asleep. Thoughts are allowed to pass through like clouds moving with the wind without attaching to them. There is a reason why most people falter in their meditation practice; it is not easy and it requires a lot of effort even though the ultimate goal is effortlessness and realization of the state of “nothingness”.

The one on the path to enlightenment knows that if Right Effort can be applied in meditation it can be applied everywhere else where virtue needs to be cultivated and faults of character discarded.

 

Effort is crucial in the beginning for generating a strong will.” – Dalai Lama

 

 

Starts with You

So it is with every aspect of our lives. In order to succeed in our personal and professional lives we must be willing to put the work in to achieving desired outcomes. Effort must be applied if we want our relationships to work. Our studies and careers will falter unless we dedicate ourselves with effort. We cannot expect to make gains in our physical fitness if we do not put in the hard hours on the track, the pool or in the gym.

Our preference can be to let things slide or procrastinate until our mood and fancy take us. We may not be trying to achieve enlightenment but we all want to be better. Being better takes effort.  The change starts with you and so does the effort.

There is no definitive guide that tells us how hard we should work at what we want to achieve. We can have the support, encouragement and guidance of coaches and mentors as well as friends and family on the sideline but ultimately it is up to ourselves to decide to put the effort in and how much. No one else can or should do the work for us.

As an example, it is my choice to abstain from drinking and follow the principles I have learned on this journey. I can access the help of the sober community and a sponsor, I can read books and practice virtues every day but in the end I do the work, no one else.  Each of us must ultimately decide how much effort to apply in our own lives. Others can show us the way but we do the work.

 

Moderate effort over a long period of time is important, no matter what you are trying to do. One brings failure on oneself by working extremely hard at the beginning, attempting to do too much, and then giving it all up after a short time.” – Dalai Lama

 

 

The Middle Way

We live in a world where many are choosing the easy path. For most there is no choosing the hard road which Roosevelt called “the Arena”. That way is rife with great risk, danger, hard work, self sacrifice and extraordinary effort. Very few choose to take that path but you will meet them usually serving others often to the sacrifice of their own lives. Those that choose what Buddha called the “Middle Way” of the Eight Fold Path see the benefits of effort without the hard way of self mortification or the easy path of self indulgence.

The Middle path requires discipline, commitment and a life time of effort to succeed. In our world today even that is too much for most people. They prefer the “Easy Way” which requires little effort for great return. People want something for nothing. Entitlement, free pass, medals for passive participation and mediocrity have become the standard of the day.

Mediocre effort produces mediocre results. Moderate effort over a long period brings tangible results.

 

Seek Balance but Do It

How should we achieve the “Middle Way” of effort? The secret is in balance and prioritizing. At the beginning of my recovery I was like a Zealot that devoted every waking hour to my practice. I became fanatical and a religious bore. With time I settled down and realized that I needed to relax and take it easy. I began to find balance in my life again and let my guard ease a little.

The unreasonable goal of perfection was replaced with reasonable progress over time. There were some cardinal rules, for example I chose to abide to my core values and principles, perform my daily practices, eat healthy, exercise, meditate and refuse alcohol. I still follow this regime. The fanatical zeal in which I strove to follow the path has been abandoned for something more temperate and spiritual; a “Middle Path”.

We don’t need to break records (or our neck) in our efforts. Which just get up in the morning and do the work. But we do it easy and with purpose.

 

Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.” – General Colin Powell

 

 

Jedi Way

Consider the fictional Jedi. Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda were never so intense and driven in the execution of their duties that they lost their way to destructive emotions like anger and frustration. The Jedi sought balance and harmony in all things. This meant that work was performed to a high standard but a Jedi also took time out to rest and recuperate between missions. If a mission could not be accomplished they learned from the failure and moved on. The Jedi could be playful and engage in fun but were also studious and serious in their studies and training. In my view the Jedi followed a “Middle Path”.

The Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh taught that Right Effort is meant to bring joy and interest not misery and exhaustion. The Jedi exemplified this. The Sith, in contrast, were more absolute and fanatical in their approach which bent them to the Dark Side of pain, suffering and self mortification. Suffering they also had a desire to inflict pain on others.  Choose the Middle Way and surround yourself with those that do as well and you will succeed.

 

The idea of Right Effort is to replace negative emotions with positive ones” – Larry Shapiro

 

 

Philosophy is Action

Philosophy aims for inner change which will over time be reflected in our external reality. When we talk about Right Effort it is not just training harder or greater application in meditation or any other endeavor it is about applying effort to making inner change.

Some of us find it hard to avoid getting angry, frustrated or resentful when things don’t go our way. We can lose patience with people who do not meet our expectations or have not reached our level of maturity. Despite our best intentions we can slip back in to bad habits and allow ourselves fall in to self indulgences which we later regret. In order to change we must be willing to be “on our game” and apply effort in which ever area we wish to change. We want to adopt virtues that are useful and discard unwholesome habits.

Change may require us to “fake it before we make it” for a while but by “acting out” to the best of our ability at least we are applying Effort. We will make mistakes and fall short many times but the important thing is we get back up and keep going. Eventually we become the change we seek.

Why else would we be interested in philosophy if our goal was not to use it to change for the better? For action? Why would we want to do something if it took no effort? Philosophy is of no use unless it drives effort and is translated in to real action through work.

Take action, do the work and harvest the rewards.

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Decisions

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose.” – Yoda

 

A process

In previous posts the mental processes at arriving at a decision were discussed in the context of Jedi Philosophy. Arriving at a decision is a multi-step process. We looked at the need for inner reflection to realize the truth and need for change. Resolutions were considered as an affirmation of that shift in thinking. Making a resolution is creating a broad determination to do something or be someone.

Right View was framed as the wisdom and attitude that drives that desire for change and realization of the truth. Before making a decision we must undertake an acid test to determine if an action is consistent with our value system and the principles we live by.

Finally, we had to ask ourselves “why”. The intent of our desired action and outcomes had to be defined and flow from the process. At this point we are ready to actually make a decision and commit to it with action.

People go through a great degree of preparation and work to get somewhere and when the time comes to launch they balk. They face the agony and terror of actually deciding to go ahead with affirmative action.

Making a decision is akin to throwing our selves down the Rabbit Hole. We have pushed the “Go” button and now committed through thought, word and action. Everything to that point was getting the stage set up and rehearsing for the show. When the time comes to step out on to the stage and perform we either go ahead with it or we don’t.

 

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

The Rabbit Hole

I recall when I joined the Army there were a number of other men who had spent their lives wanting to be a soldier and working towards that goal. It was their decision to be there. I’d basically run away from home and had fewer choices. The Military seemed like a viable option in keeping me as far away from my home as possible. I didn’t have a clue of what to expect.

During selection we were put through  physical and medical, psychological and psychometric assessments, a security screening and a final interview. All of these I passed. We were told repeatedly that we could resign at any point during the six months of basic training.  Once we signed the interim contract we were on probation before being offered a definitive contract. This meant we had six months to decide if we wanted “in” or “out”. The Corps also had that time to assess our suitability or not and send us home in the latter case. I was going to make they didn’t send me home.

At the recruiting station I met a guy named Jack who was around 23 and had finished college. Most of the other guys in the Platoon were between 17 to 21 and were out of High School or avoiding jail or the dole. Jack was different; he looked like a soldier; he was fit, tall and tanned and had all the quiet charisma and presence which commands admiration from other men. It turned out he had been preparing for months for training and planned to get in to Special Operations. The Army was a dream of his since he was a child and he had passed up an opportunity to become an Officer preferring instead to start at the bottom.

Opting Out

Six months later there remained 16 of the original 30 intakes. A number of men had been put back farther in their training for failing tests or for minor injuries. A few had left due to injuries or psychological concerns. One recruit had gone so far as to leave one night and become AWOL. The rest of us stood in parade uniform waiting to be interviewed by the Platoon “Boss” who would provide a final appraisal and tender our final contracts for signing. This would be the moment of decision for each of us. After that we would belong to the Army for a minimum of three years.

Jack was ranked top in the platoon and had been an extraordinary recruit. He excelled at everything, drill, battle drills, navigation, first aid, range shoots, physical training, military ethos and doctrine. You name it he came first at everything. Jack also had the right attitude and was squared away all of the time. You could not fault him and he helped others get through basic training. We thought for sure he would be offered a place in Special Forces and have a career the rest of us could only dream about.

The door opened and the Platoon sergeant called up Jack. Crisply marching forward he knocked on the door frame three times and stepped in to the office, saluted and presented himself to the Boss. The door closed and we assumed he was in there to get his accolades while the rest of us waited in the hallway wondering what bits of flesh were going to be torn off us.

A few minutes passed and we wondered if he wasn’t being entertained by the attending Staff with brandy and cigars. A few minutes later Jack emerged with the Platoon Sergeant who was looking a little red faced. Jack looked his usual cool and composed self and passed us in the hallway and whispered with a grin and a wink “Cheers Lads”. That was the last time we saw him.  Later we learned that after being given a glowing report he was presented with his contract but had flatly turned it down. They had gone so far as to promise him a rapid transfer to Special Forces and even a pathway to becoming an Officer but still he turned them down and requested to leave immediately to resume his life as a civilian.

 

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

 

 

The Red Pill

At the final moment when presented with a piece of paper Jack had made his decision. Everything had culminated to that point and he chose out. None of us had before then heard him voice any doubt at his being in the Army and he had never complained. If anything he  seemed to enjoy the rigors, discipline and deprivations of barrack and field life. Jack’s departure was as much a shock for the platoon instructors as it was for the rest of us. For many, it planted a seed of doubt in their minds. Jack had decided the Army was not for him after all and that was that. What did he see that the rest of us did not?

A few years later as a civilian I reflected on what Jack had done and realized he had been more exceptional than any of us had realized. Not only did Jack do everything to 110% when he did he also refused to compromise his principles and mislead the Army and his mates by signing a contract once he decided it was the wrong decision. Jack had decided he could not commit himself to the path and decided to step away before he regretted his decision. He left without regrets.

The manner in which Jack did this was honorable. Jack had nevertheless taken the Red Pill and realized that his path lay elsewhere. It taught me an important lesson in being true to oneself without fear. Of being able to make the hard decisions in life even when they go against the grain but you know they are right regardless of what people think.

 

Principles

Ironically Jack had displayed exactly the types of virtues valued by the Army; integrity, honesty, sincerity, courage and unwavering commitment to principles. Signing a contract without being absolutely committed did not enter in to his way of thinking as it did mine.

I signed my contract because I felt pressured and was not wholly committed. This was a pattern that persisted throughout my entire life. Making a decision that I knew deep down was not the right one; never committing to my word.

Eventually life has a way of adjusting misalignment. Someone I never met made a decision and I was  thrown out of the Army for various sins. I bounced about aimlessly through life for many years. I submitted to the will of others and accepted the decisions they made for me with later regret. Girlfriends ended relationships and employers terminated me. Rejection became the norm.

As an alcoholic I had surrendered all power to make decisions that were reasoned and reinforced with commitment. Others made them for me. The only decision I made that stuck was to be committed to my drinking.

 

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” – Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

 

Made a Decision

In seeking recovery through the 12 Steps the most important decision I ever made was to turn my life over to a Higher Power. The decision was definitive and complete. I could attempt to articulate the feeling of control and power that gave me but I would not do it justice. Suddenly the compulsion to drink was lifted and I never drunk again. I had taken the Red Pill.

By turning my life and will over to the Force I had in effect handed my problems over to that power. I now carried that power with me to make any inner change I wanted. With time that inner change would begin to reflect in my outer world. Relationships improved, life became easier and more purposeful and my health also improved. I began to live the philosophy. All of this was based on one single decision.

If you are reading this because you want guidance on being Jedi or are struggling with personal issues including addiction and want to improve your life ask yourself “What is my decision”. Intent is meaningless without action. Without a final decision to jump down the Rabbit Hole and commit ourselves to change completely we remain in a netherworld between action and inaction. We become impeded by lack of momentum. We hesitate at the precipice and while we test the water we refuse to jump in. The curtain has gone up and we must decide; do we step forward and play our part on the stage of life or do we hold back.

 

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision” – Maimonides

 

The Choice is Yours Alone

The agony of decision making is a choice. Finding a quiet place to reflect or seeking the advice of others helps to some extent but a decision must still be made. We can postpone the inevitable determining that the time is not right. That will depend on whether the decision is still available for us to make further down the track. The opportunity may vanish leaving us wondering.

We can weigh the cost, benefits and risks ad infinitum but there will always be a cost and a risk of making a decision. Despite the best knowledge available we could still regret the decision later on. A decision may be a pragmatic choice or an intuitive one. Believe me I have made both and not all of them take us where we thought they would.

 

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato

 

To thine own self be true

Being true to yourself is also a choice. No one can force you to be someone you are not. Anakin in “The Revenge of the Sith” made his choice and committed to the servitude in the Dark Side and not even Obi-wan Kenobi or Padme could save him. In the “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker turned the tables on the Emperor by deciding to spare Vader. Kylo-Ren extended his hand to Rey to join him in uniting Dark and Light, a new order. Rey refused and in making her decision chose her destiny. Those decisions ultimately reflected who these characters were at that point in their lives.

Life is full of decisions. The agony of decisions, even minor can leave us confused, immobile and uncertain and it takes courage to decide. We are all confronted with choices that will be transformative  and some may come at a heavy cost. Decisions are made that will change life forever.

Your decision may be to change a career, get married, have children, embark on a lifestyle change, or commit to a philosophy. Each is an adventure that comes with opportunity, pain, disappointment, joy and most of all learning. The decision to take the plunge is yours. “Do. Or do not, there is no try” as Yoda would say.  Decide you must and do so with conviction and commitment. Once the decision is made be at peace with it.

 

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

Intention

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda

 

Symbols of Intent

The first thing most people imagine when they hear the word Jedi is Luke Skywalker or Obi-wan Kenobi with Light Saber in hand rushing towards an enemy as they deflect laser bolts. The image of the warrior is prominent in peoples mind. It is true that the fictional Jedi are armed with light Saber the same way Monks of the east and west were armed with staffs and martial arts to defend themselves. To imagine the Light Saber as a weapon of offense is an error in fact it was a symbol of the Jedi principle of protection and defense. The intent of the Light Saber is its power. It was only used as a weapon as a last resort and never in anger.

In “Return of the Jedi” Luke casts aside his Light Saber during the final confrontation with Darth Vader. The act is symbolic. Luke decided to cast his anger aside and find the love and compassion within him. It is the only way he can defeat Darth Sidious and redeem Vader.

In “The Last Jedi” the ageing Luke Skywalker takes the Light Saber offered to him by Rey after she has found him living as a Hermit on the hidden planet of Ahch-To. With comical irreverence Luke throws his old Light Saber behind his back.

For years Obi-wan Kenobi resided on Tatooine watching over Luke from a distance. Although he still had his Light Saber it was kept aside. Even in confronting the Sand People who had captured Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope”, Obi-wan Kenobi chose only to use the power of perception and his own voice in driving the Tuscan Raiders away in fear. The Light Saber is symbolic of the Jedi only if it used with Right Intent.

 

Lethal Intent

I’ve often heard the statement that firearms kill people. A gun can be used to kill a person however it is not the weapon itself that decides its end use. The intent to kill resides with the wielder. A sword can just as easily be beaten in to a plow than used as a weapon depending on the intention of the user.

Intention is therefore everything in the “why and how” we conduct our life. I can choose to own a Light Saber, a Gun or a Pit Bull Terrier.  The Light Saber replica won’t have much use but how I choose to manifest my intent with a gun and an “aggressive” breed of dog is entirely up to me. I can keep the gun locked away and hopefully never ever have to use it and I can train the Dog to be a loving pet; gentle with people and other animals. There is still an element of uncertainty based on what I have control over and what I don’t. The Dog may unexpectedly bite a child and the gun might be stolen and used in a crime.

 

Reasoned Intent

With every decision we make there is always an intent, a purpose. Why do we make the choices that we do? What is our intent? When I left High School and presented to an Army recruiter the first thing he asked me was “Why do you want to join the Army”? He said my response was important and it had to be honest. The answer revealed my true intention and whether I was going to stick my contract or wash out.

Likewise when I first approached the Jedi community and revealed I wanted to train in Jedi philosophy I was asked to spend some time thinking about “Why Jedi”. What was the intent of my choice? Would it sustain my practice past a few weeks or months? Did I realize it was an internal path and one I would have to keep largely to myself? I found that being able to reason rather than rationalize my intent before doing something was more likely to align it to who I am and want to be.

 

First things First

One of the most important questions I had to ask myself when I was drinking to excess was “Why am I doing this? What is the purpose?” There was no reasoned or even rationalized response. In the beginning the intent of my drinking had been to feel better within my self, to fill some emptiness inside. I wanted to be accepted and loved like everyone else and drinking seemed to promise a way into fellowship, confidence and acceptance.

Drinking could make me feel part of something bigger than myself and to be somebody who could be respected, admired and sought out. Of course this was all a mirage and I fell in to the trap and it took me to a dark place after all the illusions I had created began to fall away.  Something entirely different was revealed. An image that was unbearable to confront.

In the end, the intent of drinking was to satiate a need that could not be satisfied and to keep the beast within fed. It had become a cage. Realizing true intent was like lifting the veil that had shrouded the truth for years. I began to understand the true nature of my disease.

 

Failed Intent

All the times I had tried to quit or at least control my drinking in the past had eventually ended in relapse. In going on the “wagon” I had had good intentions but I could not follow it up with meaningful actions. My intent was also conditional on certain loop holes in thinking. Like small cracks in a dyke they eventually split open and allowed the entire structure to collapse in a flood of booze. Intention was moderated by rationalization. I figured I could still achieve my goal of sobriety with the odd loosening of the belt. This of course was a form of “False Intent”.

 

A Daily Reprieve

Where do your priorities lay? What is important to you? What matters most of all? In the beginning my intent was to simply get through the day without taking a drink. The next day could look after itself and the next day after that. My commitment was for 24 hours.

I would renew my intent every morning and claim the strength from my Higher Power to achieve that. At the end of the day I would review how things had gone and on turning off the light thank my Higher Power for another sober day. My goal was sustained and long-term sobriety and my dream was to realize serenity.

My intent was simply to claim a daily reprieve and stay sober one day at a time through application of certain virtues and principles. This was a form of “Right Intent”.

 

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” – Alcoholics Anonymous p85.

 

Right Intent

The second step and virtue on the Eight fold path of Buddhism is “Right Intent”. Intention is more than resolve. Through resolve we decide to do something but it is not enough on its own. We must have “Right Intent” in order to stay the course. For example would anyone who resolves to marry another person bother if they did not intend to give the marriage their utmost for as long as possible?

Resolve and Intent are two different things and of course they work in tandem. Both must stay as strong as the day we set off for the duration of the journey. Yes there are days when we stagger and fall but intent keeps us moving forward even when resolve falters. We strive for outcomes but must also accept what is in our control as well as what is outside of it.

Intent in Action

Intention is flawed if our intent is;

  • To draw something to ourselves for selfish gain; or
  • to force something away through ill will;
  • or to do harm to ourselves or others.

To counteract flawed intention one’s intention must;

  • Be based on renunciation. We must be willing to let go of the causes of our suffering. Desires and clinging attachments to people, places, things, circumstance and flawed ideas tightly held all lead to suffering as they are impermanent and transient. Addiction is a form of rampant attachment. Luke Skywalker casting his Light Saber aside was a renunciation of attachment to old strongly held beliefs.
  • derived from good will. When we do things we essentially seek to serve others before ourselves. In the recovery program personal benefit is derived by helping others struggling with their addictions. Caring for others is a corner stone of Faith and many philosophies including Jedi Philosophy.
  • inherently harmless. In the 12 Steps amends are sought to people whom we have harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. The Hippocratic Oath compels Doctors to “primum non nocere”, first do no harm. Compassion is a Jedi trait.

Right intent is expressed through thought, word and actions. Therefore being mindful of intention is important. We should consider the impact of our thoughts, words and actions on self and others.  The potential consequences either immediate or delayed should be considered. We may do something with the best of intentions but not realize the consequences of our actions until much later. By contemplating our actions and looking beyond outward far beyond ourselves we become more mindful of the reach of our intent.

Always ask what your intent is and whether it serves or not.

 

The Jedi Method

The Jedi Method is a formula used to apply mindfulness in our actions. Our desire is for an outcome which aligns with our values. The method states:

 

Intent + Action = Outcome

 

If our Intent is right and our actions follow suit than there is a high likelihood, while never guaranteed, that outcome will agree with action and intent. Action and Intent is applied in a world in which we do not exercise supreme control over all external factors. We cannot foresee the future or account for every single possible variable. We only have what we control (Intent and Action).

  1. Ask yourself before committing to an action “Could this action lead to suffering?” If the answer is “yes” reconsider it after applying ethics and your personal value system to a decision.
  2. During the action ask “Is this action causing suffering?” if so, then reconsider the need to continue or make adjustments that correct the error.
  3. After the action consider “Will this action lead to suffering?” if so, then seek to remedy, learn from it and avoid repetition in the future.

We live in an imperfect system and everyone makes mistakes. All that one can reasonably expect is that we take due diligence in our actions. We are accountable and responsible for the choices we make. If our intent is challenged we can defend our actions with conviction and without hesitation.

We take charge of the things that we can control, work with what we can influence  and we willingly surrender the things over which we have no control.

 

Surrender at Last

A Light Saber can be a weapon or a door stop depending on the intent of the user. Perhaps Luke Skywalker had learned towards the end of his physical existence that the mind is far more powerful than a weapon. The Last Jedi decided he no longer needed his Light Saber even for the purpose of protection.

On the Planet of Crait Skywalker faced his old apprentice and nephew, Kylo Ren, who was bent on killing him. Luke showed that one can still achieve an outcome without reaching for a Light Saber or without even being there. Victory can be won with the mind.

Across the Galaxy on the Island Jedi Refuge of Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker awoke from his Force projection and surrendered himself to the Force. As he met his destiny the twin suns set over the ocean.

Intent is the key.

Our Intention creates our reality” – Wayne Dyer

Right View

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

 

Noble Truths

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Teaching View

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

 

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

 

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

 

Learning the Force

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

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

 

The Real World

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

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

 

Jedi View

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

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

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

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

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

 

Emotion, yet peace.

Ignorance, yet knowledge.

Passion, yet serenity.

Chaos, yet harmony.

Death, yet the Force.

 

Right View is Freedom

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

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

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

 

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

Resolutions

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

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

Resolutions

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

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

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

 

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

Clean Slate

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

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

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

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

 

Momentum

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Effort and Excuses

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The First Step

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

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

 

Wise to resolve, and patient to perform” – Homer

 

 

Jedi Resolve

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

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

 

On Day at a Time

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

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

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

 

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

Self Reflect

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

Reflect

Why are you here? What do you want from life? Where do you want to go? How do you plan to get there? These are often the questions we ask ourselves as we enter in to a New Year. We reflect upon the last 12 months. Some of us take time to count our blessings and successes as well as failures. We assess what went well and identify where improvements can be made. We take inventory.

If you are finding yourself in a period of introspection and soul seeking the chances are you are seeking to change. That change may be specific to your relationships, career, health or finances. You may be unhappy where your life is currently at and you want to make broad and sweeping changes. Perhaps things are generally going well but you want to do better in some or all areas of your life.

 

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

 

Self Knowledge is Freedom

Self reflection and introspection is a powerful act which can guide us on a path to enlightenment. The exercise is not meant to be self absorption. We are not using it to think of ourselves only in a selfish or self centered way. The goal is not to garner a spirit of self will or to blame others. Self reflection is to realize our goals and understand where we are in relation to those goals. This leads to self knowledge. With self knowledge comes the freedom to change once we decide to act.

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

 

“Searching and Fearless”

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Inventory

Take some time to reflect on your life. Consider the past year and go back as far as you want to. List your achievements for the last 12 months. Highlight your successes. Now do the same for the last 5 years and if you dare go back as far as a decade.

The milestones of your life may be anything you consider significant. It may include finishing school and university, academic achievements, career highlights, military or community service, business achievements and financial growth. List the things that make you proud. Include your family milestones and relationships with partners, family, friends and associates.

List all of your key attributes that you feel describe you in a positive way. Words might include trustworthy, humble, funny, determined, intelligent, kind, considerate and compassionate.

Now list where things have not gone so well in your life. List the areas you regret or wish could be improved. Inventory your faults to others as well as your flaws and failures. Be honest but do not self deprecate yourself in the process. Confronting our mistakes and failures are essential if we want to move on and improve our lives.

List your character flaws and faults which you identify as negative or unproductive. These might be impatient, compulsive, obsessive, aggressive, resentful, demanding, inflexible, bigoted and dishonest.

 

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

 

Meditate and Persevere

Self reflection requires a lot of honesty and introspection. We have to be completely honest with ourselves and realistic in the way we look at ourselves. A mirror must be held up and we must confront who we are and where we have come from. We must face the good with the bad in order to make the changes we want to be. This can be hard but persevere we must.

Take the time to meditate on this exercise.

Self reflection can be a confronting as well as a rewarding experience. Unless we know who we are and come to terms with it, we can not hope to move forward. Self reflection is the first step to action.

 

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

Carrie

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

 

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

Shakespearean

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

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

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

 

New Hopes

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

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

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

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

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

The Raddus

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

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

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

 

Leia’s Near Death Experience

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

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

 

The Problem

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

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

 

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

 

Retrospection and Punch lines

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

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

 

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

 

“Wishful Drinking”

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Last Laugh

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

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

 

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

 

Thanks for the Laughs

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Twilight

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

The Last Jedi

Source: http://www.starwars.com

Count Down

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

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

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

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

 

Disclaimer

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

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

 

Questions

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

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

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

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

 

Populist

I read this statement in a LA Times review:

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

 

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

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

 

Mythology

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

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

 

 

Representation

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

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

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

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

 

Screen Rant

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

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

 

After Tomorrow

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

 

May you enjoy the movie.