Thanksgiving

 

(Credit: Lucas Films, Disney)

 

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

 

In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt and his Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Bobba Fett. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations.  In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends and it is a shame they removed it. Han needed to say Thank you more than anything to his friend and the reaction from Luke said it all. Thanksgiving is a spiritual act, it is nourishment for the soul.

 

This Thanksgiving what do you have to be grateful for? Often we find it hard to be thankful. Life can constantly throw up disappointment and frustration. We seem to resolve one problem only to be beset with another. We deal with issues at work, our relationships, finances and health. The list seems endless.

 

We can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough.

 

Meditate

Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?

 

Accept

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

 

Commitment

Once we have accepted our problems we need to commit to doing something about them now, later or never. Make a decision and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out.

 

Act

Take action, whatever it is to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.

 

Reflect

At the end of Thanksgiving reflect on the positives in your life. List five things you have to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there is always five things you can name which you are grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.  I’m sure you can if you try. Some days you will surprise yourself that are more things to be grateful of than you can count on one hand.

 

Journal

If you keep a journal take time to write your list of gratitude down regularly to remind yourself. You can also keep a gratitude diary. Thanksgiving should be every day.

 

When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection… every time we remember to say ‘thank you’ we experience nothing less than Heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach.

 

Simple Abundance

Han Solo had little to be really grateful for when he met Luke and Ben Kenobi at the  Mos Eisley cantina. The Smuggler was sought out by the Empire and Jabba the Hutt. Han Solo had run out places to run and hide. He had a loyal ally in Chewbacca but no other friends. Over time and through many adventures Han come to know the value of friends and family that he could depend on. He had the undying loyalty and love of his closest friends around him. Solo was not so solo after all. Despite all his losses he had the greatest gift a man could wish for.

 

Today I have a purpose and meaning in my existence, I have a family to care for, a job to do, the sun is shining, more is going well in my life than not and I am sober and there is always hope for a better future.

 

Be grateful every day for what you have. Spend less time on what you don’t.

 

You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach

Hamartia

You want the impossible” – Luke

That is why you Fail” – Yoda

 

Have you ever experienced soul crushing failure? Did you learn from the experience? Were you able to take that failure and make something of it? Did you resolve to overcome the challenge or did you quit? Did you ever experience Hamartia, a failing so great that it ended you?

 

We all have faults and failings, most are not the fatal and tragic flaws of Hamartia. Our willingness to try and fail and then try again say a lot about how resilient we are. If the “Hero’s Journey” is a metaphor for life, we are all on a personal “Hero’s Journey” then we should not only expect to fail at times, we should embrace it. But we should never quit and succumb to Hamartia.

 

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” – BF Skinner

 

Hamartia

The ancient Greeks and Romans recognised that failure was essential for success. The myths described the disastrous failures as well as the triumphs of the Hero. What made the stories so compelling then and now was the way in which the Hero was able to surmount their failings and continue on towards the prize. Failure made the Hero more human yet at the same time elevated them to the status of the Gods. The legend was the success that came out of failing.

 

Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) was the Greek word that described something worse that failure. It was to reject the struggle to overcome failure, to refuse the call of the “Hero’s Journey”. Hamartia was to turn one’s back on the Gods and life itself. It was to quit and give in, to lose all Faith. A Hero who could not surmount his tragic fatal flaws and was defeated by them is said to have fallen to Hamartia. They had abandoned the Gods and the Gods had abandoned them. Hamartia is a spiritual and moral failing of the character. A tragic fate worse than death.

 

The ideal but unattainable state of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers was the achievement of the opposite of Hamartia, being free of error and failing, to be without fault, Anamartetos (αναμάρτητος). The ultimate goal of life, the “Hero’s Journey” is to arrive at this end.

 

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

 

 

The Fall and Rise of Skywalker

Luke Skywalker is the Hero Archetype of the Star Wars mythology.  In the original trilogy Luke undertakes the “Hero’s Journey”. There is the call to adventure, doubts and finally commitment. A mentor appears who guides Luke on to the path he must take. Luke makes mistakes and suffers setbacks but learns from them. On Dagobah he learns that nothing is impossible if he is willing. Through his struggles he is able to overcome his Dark Side and confront his darkest fears.

 

Luke arrives at the culmination of his journey. Through struggle, surrender, love and redemption he defeats the Sith and restores balance to the Force. The Hero is now complete. Overcoming failure and fulfilling his mission, Luke is reunited with his loved ones and lives happily ever after. Luke had overcome Hamartia.

 

We know now that the Hero’s Journey did not end for Luke at the closing scenes of “Return of the Jedi”. Luke embarked on many adventures after the Fall of the Empire.  The Journey finally ended on Ahch-To where the aged, embittered, defeated and ultimately failed Jedi Master stood at the final cross road of his life. Did the Hero’s Journey end there in ignominy or did Luke arrive at the glorious destiny intended for him? Did Luke fall in to Hamartia like his father Anakin or did he achieve Anamartetos? To rise is to achieve Anamartetos. 

 

Anakin fell to Hamartia when he surrendered to the Dark Side. The tragedy of the fall was complete in every way.  Luke could have easily fallen in the same trap but learned that while failure may be part of being Jedi, giving in to Hamartia is not. A Jedi can only be judged by how failure is dealt with and whether he or she makes something of it. A Jedi may fail but never gives in to Hamartia.

 

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

 

Stumbling Failure

The first four decades of my life seemed to be replete with failings. In many ways, looking back I was a miserable failure, but a stubborn and rebellious one. I had trouble admitting it but that fact was to some extent I had failed in almost every important aspect of my life. My character flaws and failings were too numerous to admit. Yet there I was always in the ring, ready to continue to wrestle with life.

 

There had been some successes. I had survived my troubled childhood and a come out of a short and shameful time in the Army relatively unscathed. It was a miracle that I was not been killed many times during my years of roaming the face of the Earth (Alcohol took me close to that end many times). Outside of the Army I stayed out of prison. I somehow managed to graduate with a degree and in good standing which was nothing short of miraculous considering I rarely finished anything I started.

 

Friendships formed and then floundered. Romantic relationships ignited and burned out quickly. My marriage nearly ended before it had started but persisted thanks mostly to stubborn perseverance. I was a selfish father when my kids were born. Alcohol and selfish pursuit often took precedence in that regard.  My health took turns for the worse yet I continued to drink. I seemed to make a mess of every job I took as my career faltered along. At one point I was staring down the barrel of chronic health issues, a failed marriage, career in tatters, legal issues and bankruptcy.

 

My basic flaw had always been dependence – absolute dependence – on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security and romance. Failing to get them according to my still childish dreams and specifications, I had fought for these things. And when defeat came, so did depression” – Bill W

 

 

Perfection is…..

The irony of the first half of my life was my obsession with perfection and inability to see my own flaws. It pervaded everything I did. My attitude was that if I could not achieve perfection I let the whole thing slide. In my contempt for less and complacency failure was almost always guaranteed. When I did fail it was accompanied with frustration, resentment, blame and a complete lack of self-reflection. I had abandoned the “Hero’s Journey” and had all but fallen to Hamartia. In front of me loomed the dark void.

 

Things turned around for me when I stopped fighting and surrendered my alcoholic problems to a Higher Power. By letting go I decided that failure to that point was OK. There was no changing the past and there was no forcing change. I had to pick up the pieces and with unsteady hands rebuild my life in the way I felt my Higher Power would have me.  The road to success was through a morass of failure. The issue was not whether I failed in my struggles but whether I picked myself up and continued to move forward despite those setbacks. Hamartia, giving in to my fatal flaws was not an option.

 

When success began to happen the fog lifted from my eyes. Perfection was not required, only a willingness to try and never give up mattered. I found that despite a desire to lie down and not get up, I always did. I continued to wrestle with life getting stronger with every day. Persistence and effort paid off. I began to realise the goal of  Anamartetos.

 

Thoroughly have we seen a person fail who has rarely followed our path” – Alcoholics Anonymous p.58 (The Big Book)

 

Thoroughly

Recovery is not easy. By the grace of a Higher Power I have never returned to alcohol. I often see old habits bubbling to the surface. My shadow self will come to the fore. Perfectionism, uncertainty and fear of failure will hijack attempts to try new things. I sometimes limit myself by staying with what is safe, familiar and certain. In many ways I fear that failing may undermine the foundation on which my sobriety is built.

 

By taking a daily inventory of our failings and faults and admitting to them do we begin to take action to remove them from our lives. We recognise our own inner Hamartia and we keep those fatal flaws at bay. Anger, resentment, complacency and apathy are the four horsemen of the apocalypse we avoid. We do not avoid the struggles and challenges of life. By risking failure and disappointment we open up new pathways to learn and opportunities to improve.

 

Alcoholics can be frustratingly obstinate yet remarkably dogged at the same time. When we apply the same amount of dedication to our recovery as we did to our drinking we seldom fail. Some flaws have an advantage.

 

Never Give Up” – Luke 18:1

 

Anamartetos

Experiencing Failure is a part of life. Failure is a part of the Hero’s Journey. Mistakes happen and setbacks occur. Nothing ever happens to perfection. There is no smooth sailing the entire journey. Storms will appear on the horizon and sweep in. We will be battered by waves and lashed by wind. Sometimes we will flounder on rocks and be shipwrecked and marooned. From setbacks and catastrophe the Hero emerges stronger, wiser and more resilient.  The transformation allows the Hero to move forward and complete the task and return home victorious. To reject the Hero’s Journey that is in all of us is to reject life. Like Luke we must decide what is possible or not and choose between Hamartia and Anamartetos.

 

Never Give Up!

Dreams

 

Dreams pass in time.” ― Obi-Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker

 

Jung wrote “Dreams are pure nature”. Dreams are unfettered, they are wild and reside outside our will. We have no control over our dreams yet dreams affect our lives in tangible ways. Dreams tell us a lot about ourselves if we take the time to think about them. They serve as a conduit for our imagination and serve to assist in the integration of our conscious and unconscious lives.

 

Dreams provide us with symbols that act as cardinal points that guide us on our journey. They reflect the archetypes of the human persona to which we gravitate. To dream is to express our inner desires, hopes and vulnerabilities as well as our fears and regrets. In dreaming we resolve much that happens in our inner world. To dream is to allow us to grow beyond what we are, to become whole as intended.

 

Dreams take me to places and experiences that are alluring or terrifying but always compelling. Their residue lingers through the day long after specific details have vanished from memory. Most days I forget my dreams but when I recall them in startling clarity I search deeply for meaning. Dreams are important because they are a looking glass in to our soul. They tell us more than they conceal.

 

It’s like… something out of a dream, or, I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just going crazy” – Luke Skywalker

 

 

Drunk Dreams

When I was drinking I rarely recalled my dreams. Some nights I would black out and not dream at all. If I did there would be no recollection. To be drinking and drunk was to live in a sort of a dream. My consciousness was lowered and in my drinking I searched for answers and meanings that did not exist. Illusions of myself and the world would emerge. In my drunken reverie I would imagine heroic triumphs and build myself up to something I was not.

 

My thoughts would also turn dark and loathsome. I would imagine that the world was against me, that I was not worthy. I would fall in to a dark place of self-pity, resentment and anger. In one hour I could swing from the dizzying heights of euphoria to the dark world of depression and fear and back again.  The sobering up the next day was the “waking up” to reality and the consequences of my actions. In my waking state my mind would torment me with glimpses of my drunken spree as if recalling a nightmare. I would recall things I had done and said with horror.

 

Anakin, you must break through the fog of lies the Jedi have created around you” – Palpatine

 

The Fog

After a while it seemed as if my waking time and my dreams had merged in to one. I would ponder a disturbing dream I had had the night before. Flashes of faces, voices, laughter and lights would appear in my mind and I would soon realize that the images represented a memory, not a dream. I would later recall something about a drinking spree and ask a friend about it only to learn that my recollection was the product of a dream and had never happened. Dreams and reality became confused.

 

To live in alcoholism was to live in a twilight world, a fog, that blurred dreams with reality. As time passes the connection between body, mind and soul breaks down. As the important self-regulating conduit of dreams is taken hostage by alcohol we lose grip on reality and insanity begins to creep in.

 

It was only a dream.” – Anakin Skywalker

 

Oneiros

Dreams are harbingers of calamity and disaster in Mythology as well as warnings and prophecies . The Greeks personified dreams as Oneiros. Gods and other mythical creatures spoke to heroes through the Oneiros. They were warned of impending danger and guided by the benevolent Gods. In Norse mythology dreams were seen as harbingers of fate for both mortals and Gods. The Universe and all creation was said to be the dream of the Slavic God Svarog. One day Svarog will awaken from his slumber and all existence shall end.

 

In the Old Testament Joseph the son of Jacob foresaw his own future in dreams and later interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh forewarning him of impending disasters so that the Egyptians could prepare. In the New Testament angels visited Joseph in a dream and foretold that his wife Mary would bear the prophesied Messiah. Joseph was later warned in a dream to take the baby Jesus in to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the infants by King Herod.

 

I had a dream I was a Jedi.” ―Anakin Skywalker

 

I had a Dream

In Star Wars visions and dreams often appear to the characters as a warning or prophecy of danger. The Jedi took notice of their dreams. The Force interacted with the Jedi through their dreams. Ahsoka Tano dreamed of an assassination attempt on Padmé Amidala and was able to foil the plot. On the other dimension world of Mortis, Anakin was shown a vision of Darth Vader and the Death Star in a dream. The dream showed Anakin that he stood on a precipice. The vision revealed his future should he fall to the Dark Side. Yoda was forced to face his shadow in order to transcend. Through a dream induced by the Force Yoda wass confronted by visions and was able to rise above his fears, hopes and ultimately his Dark Side.

 

All Clone Troopers had nightmares. They dreamed of the horrors of war and possibly of an unknown future when the Clones would turn on the Jedi and massacre them under Order 66.

 

The Missions, the Nightmares… they’re finally…. over” – “Fives” last words

 

Nightmares

Anakin Skywalker often dreamed about loss and despair. As the years passed the dreams became darker. The dreams reflected his inner demons and fears. The potential future was manifested in Anakin’s dreams. On Naboo he dreamed of his mother’s death and the visions sent him to Tattooine where his nightmare became a reality. As Anakin began to be drawn tighter in to Palpatine’s web on Coruscant he began to dream of Padmé suffering in childbirth. She would call out to him and scream as she writhed in agony, dying. Anakin felt powerless to act to prevent these tragedies from unfolding.  Desperate to save his wife he turned to the Dark Side and his actions led to his worst nightmares being realized.

 

The fall of Anakin and his transformation in to Darth Vader was the start of a long nightmare from which there was no awakening. In his sleep, Padmé would visit him and he would fight for his soul. Darth Vader would awaken and push the memories of his past behind him. Dreams were a reminder of the dead past. Every waking moment was a nightmare of torment and pain, eased only by a lust for power and revenge. Darth Vader would have dreaded going to sleep for in his dreams lay the residue of who he really was. The desolate soul of Anakin was trapped deep within him, locked in a nightmare he could not escape.

 

Sleep, all life is a dream.” ― Jedi Master Kit Fisto

 

Waking Up

Alcoholism is a bad dream that can last for decades. There are brief moments of wakefulness  however the allure of the dream world of alcohol constantly beckons us. Reality is too painful to endure sober. We fall in to alcohols embrace and find that the fantasy we seek does not exist.

What exists is a meaningless and nihilistic realm where the body, mind and soul withers in a form of dream purgatory. We feel a sense of foreboding as if some calamity awaits. Alcohol affects REM sleep so we never get enough good sleep and our thoughts are scattered as a result. Existence soon becomes a grey netherworld that is neither fully awake or fully asleep.

 

Soon will I rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have” – Yoda

 

Sleep

Sobriety brings restful sleep and dreams I love going to sleep so much so that I look forward to the end of the day and retiring to bed. The morning comes without a hint of regret. Peaceful sleep has ended and dreams evaporate like an early morning mist. I get up to face the new day, my mind is clear and body feels rested. I can remember my dreams. Some make more sense than others. I never ignore them.

 

Mostly my dreams are good. The dreams show me aspects of the past and present, sometimes I believe there are glimpses of the future. Sometimes I dream that I am drinking again. I relive in my dreams the same comic tragedies that played out when I was drunk. Yet they are worse. When I awake I do so with a clear head. There is a sense of relief that it was only a dream. I am still sober. The drinking dreams are mere echoes of the past. They serve as a reminder of what it was like, what happened and how things changed. They also show how things might have been or could be. I keep my feet planted in reality now, my dreams are my own, I learn from them but they do not control me like they did Anakin.

Betrayed

Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code” – Palpatine

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Have you ever been betrayed? How did it make you feel? Were you angered by the actions of the person you trusted? Did you berate yourself for giving them your trust and resolved never to do it again? Did you grieve the act and the loss of trust that came from it? Were friendships and illusions of trust shattered?

Betrayal is such a terrible thing. Betrayal feels like a stab to the heart but it does not always kill but it does burns the soul and hardens the heart.

In the last ten days I have come to realize that to suffer betrayal is to suffer the five stages of grief. There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I have felt them all. The thing is, the betrayal did not happen to me. I was not betrayed. I don’t even know the people who were betrayed and have never been to the place where it happened. Their betrayal is the worst kind, because they are dying from it. It still feels as if it happened to me and to those close to me such is the insidiousness of the betrayal.

I’ll explain later.

 

“They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.” – Palpatine to Anakin

 

We have all been betrayed at one time or another. Some of us have been betrayed by our parents, lovers, friends, partners, workplace, religious leaders as well as our government. I know I’ve been betrayed at least once by all of the above. To describe it all in detail would fill a book. It should have made me bitter and unable to trust anyone. For many years it did and my grief lasted that long. I coped from the pain and anger of it with alcohol.

 

You were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them. You were supposed to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Mythology teaches many lessons. The stories may be fantastic and far from reality but they hold a mirror up to the foibles, follies, failures, tragedies and triumphs of the human condition. Betrayal is an act which has a special place in our collective mythology.

The myths are brimming with betrayal. The Norse God Odin was a God of betrayal as was Loki. The Greek God Dolos inspired betrayal. The Slavs had Czernobog and the Hindus have Vibishana in their epic myths of betrayal. People often complain being betrayed by God. Yet betrayal is a very human trait.

Jason of the Argonaughts was married to Medea and betrayed her for another. In return she did the unspeakable and slew their children. The war between Sparta and Troy started when Helen betrayed her betrothed, Menelaus for Paris.

Prometheus defied the will of Zeus and during creation gave humans the ability to make fire and use free will. This betrayal enraged Zeus, who creating Pandora gifted her to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus. Pandora carried with her a box that Zeus had filled with every evil and misfortune that she would inevitably release upon the Earth.

 

Vader betrayed and killed your Father” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

In Star Wars there are many acts of betrayal. The relationship between the Sith Master and apprentice led to eventual betrayal. Dooku betrayed Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress. Darth Sidious betrayed Darth Plagueis and killed him as he slept.

Lando Calrissian turned over his friend Han Solo to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. The Mandalorians were betrayed by their own Prime Minister who handed the seat of power to Darth Maul. Finally, Anakin betrayed the Jedi Order by turning to the Dark Side and setting a chain of events that would lead to the destruction of the Jedi, the exile of survivors, the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Sith.

Obi-Wan Kenobi betrayed Anakin on the lava flows of Mustafar leaving him for dead. Later he told Luke that Vader had betrayed and killed his father.

 

 “Their betrayal will be dealt with. After you have killed all the Jedi in the Temple, go to the Mustafar system. Wipe out Viceroy Gunray and the other Separatist leaders. Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy, and we shall have peace.” – Darth Sidious to Anakin

 

In our reality we see betrayal played out on the stage of life. Recently civilized nations, in particular America, chose to abandon and betray their true friends and staunchest allies in the Middle East, the Kurds. The ethnic and religious minorities of that place so far away are now at the mercy of a merciless invader, Turkey and its Jihadi proxies.

The reasons are purely geopolitical. The American, British and French soldiers that fought alongside their Kurdish counterparts are still devastated by the betrayal. They were there to safeguard the people from genocide. They grieve as I grieve. No one should be left behind like that especially the Kurds who sacrificed and suffered so much in the fight against ISIS. I learned this as a soldier and believe it as a Jedi.

 

You’re with him. You’ve betrayed me! You brought him here to kill me!” – Anakin to Padme

 

We can now watch the tragedy of betrayal play out in real time as if we were watching the fall of Mandalor or the purge of the Jedi by Darth Sidious and the brutal ascendancy of the Empire. Genocide and ethnic cleansing. The blood on the streets, the destruction, death and fleeing masses are real. They are the victims of betrayal. How can one not grieve? How can they ever forgive? Why did it happen?

Still the people we let down, do forgive us.

 

Forgive me, Master.” – Anakin

 

The Bible tells us that Jesus was betrayed for 12 pieces of silver by Judas. I wonder what went through the mind of Judas. How did Jesus feel? The Bible says that Jesus kissed Judas and forgave him. This drove Judas to insanity of regret and despair at his actions, so much so that he hanged himself from a tree. Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Taken to Egypt he became a friend and advisor to the Pharaoh and rose to the the rank of Vizier. Later he reunited with his brothers and forgiving them sent for his people in Canaan to live in Egypt till a famine had passed.

Forgiveness opens the door which leads to freedom from the pain of betrayal. We must be willing to let go of the past if we expect others to accept our amends. It is the path to peace and serenity. To do otherwise is to keep a deep resentment alive with us. We can never be free if we do. You can really only betray yourself.

 

I will not betray the Republic” – Anakin

 

There is a Kurdish saying “Berxwedan Jiyane” which means “Struggle is Life”. After centuries of suffering they know that the price of freedom is to struggle. I hope our friends and allies in North-East Syria forgive us for what we have done. They have been betrayed and proven once again that they have “no friends but the mountains”.

It is not the first time they have been betrayed. Each time they forgive and put renewed trust in those who cannot be trusted. My heart goes out to them. There is nothing more I can do but pray and hope for a miracle.

In betrayal there are no winners, only tears and regret. Can you betray the Jedi Code? Betray none least of all yourself.

#RiseUp4Rojava

https://riseup4rojava.org/

 

Don’t Panic

“They’ll panic? I’m about to panic!” – Ahsoka Tano

Don’t Panic” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

In a ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” Arthur Dent is mostly oblivious to the rest of the world and its troubles. One day he wakes up to find his house is about to be demolished to make way for a highway bypass. The local council had posted the plans and somehow Dent had failed to take notice. As this was unfolding a Vogon star ship had entered Earth’s orbit and declared to the world that the planet would be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass. Pandemonium ensues and everyone panics.

With the help of his enigmatic friend, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent manages to get off Earth before it blows up. Still wearing his night gown and pajamas from the morning Arthur Dent reluctantly sets off an intergalactic adventure that takes him across and to the end of the Universe and the beginning. The adventure begins with the default clause of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic!”.

 

“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The Second Arrow

Alcoholics are catastrophic thinkers. We tend to imagine the worst possible outcome in all scenarios. An argument is the end of a relationship, a reprimand at work is as good as being fired and a letter from the government or IRS is a herald of financial disaster. We are the worst for dreaming up the worst case scenarios.

The Buddha alluded to catastrophic thinking when he spoke of the “second arrow”. The first arrow was what actually happened to us, the true cause of the suffering. The second arrow was the event magnified within our own minds. The suffering is worsened by our own emotional and irrational reaction to it. The first arrow is out of our control, the second arrow is within it.

 

Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Worst Case Scenarios

When I was a child I would shake in my shoes when called to the principal’s office. I was terrified of imagined and realized punishments my Father would inflict before they happened. No matter what the reason, I still feel unease when summoned by my boss at work for a private chat in his office.

In school at the height of the cold war I was named the “Doomsday Prophet” for my dire predictions that a nuclear holocaust was about to happen. It never did.

Never one to relax I was constantly on edge in the Army believing that each new day would herald more misery, corporal punishment and probably some terrible end. I listened to rumors and digested the news with alarm and consternation. My body was a ball of nervous anxiety. Fortunately my training conditioned my reflexes. To feel fear is normal but to react with panic in combat is unforgivable. .

 

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”  – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Panic Junkie

I became drawn to calamity and chaos like a moth to fire. I was addicted to anxiety and panic. Events in the world seemed to mirror what was going on inside me. With a sense I could make a difference I set off on a global bar crawl to set things right. I traveled from the famine of East Africa to air raid sirens and religious hatred in the Middle East, the fraternal war and ethnic bloodletting in Bosnia to the tribal and racial violence in South Africa.

I washed up amidst the “colorful” poverty of the Favelas and the burning season in the Amazon in Brazil. The memories play back like the frames of a movie reel. Within that collage of noise and color I remember the haze of alcohol and an undertow of fear and self loathing.

 

The Burning Issues

Something I saw in Brazil affected me. The Amazon touched my soul. The morning mist shimmering in the early light as it hung low on a still river. I remember the call of macaws as they passed majestically over-head. The dim world of the forest was silent but for the call of birds and spider monkeys complaining in the canopy high above. The forest was vast and it had the power to utterly possess me. It had the primordial and divine peace that I yearned in my own life.

The smell of smoke and the haze hung over the forest as fires burned far away. The forest was being pushed back by ranchers and gold miners who were locked in a struggle with rubber tappers and Indians. I was told in 1994 the forest would be gone in twenty years. This alarmed me.

The forest burned. The world was being destroyed and I felt growing anger and alarm. The more I realized I was powerless to make a difference the greater my resentment grew and fed my anxiety.

 

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Did you ever hear the tragedy of Skywalker?

Irrational fear aroused within Anakin a sense of panic at a destiny he could not control. Fears were magnified in his mind and became catastrophes he could not control. The need to change and control that destiny drove him to abandon reason and allow his shadow self to dominate him.

Anakin allowed irrational fear and catastrophic thinking to bypass a life time of Jedi training. Objectivity, reason, rational decision making and sound judgement were replaced by the darker side of emotion. Emotion rather than reason owned Anakin. This ultimately led Anakin to the dark side.

 

I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

F*k Everything and Run

Sobriety has taught me that any decision based on fear and panic may help in the short term but long term the consequence often negate those positives. In the past I would panic and make rash decisions and do something I would later regret. Often I would say “F*k it” and run away from my responsibilities. I would get drunk.

In hindsight I would realize that these actions incited by fear, anger and ultimately catastrophic thinking had done nothing for me and usually it only made matters worse. Why did I put myself through that? Everything turned out fine.

After witnessing the burning season in Brazil I entered University and studied environmental science. Two decades later I work in conservation and observe with alarm how fear and panic has hijacked rational and reasoned discourse. Short sighted decisions are made with little regard to far reaching consequences. I’m pleased to see that the Amazon is still there. There are monumental problems in the world but I have faith and believe in hope.

 

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Know Faith No Fear

My life was one of reactivity, catastrophic thinking and panic. It’s strange that until you recognize it in others you don’t recognize it in your self. It took me to get sober and work on myself to realize how irrational many of my fears were and how catastrophic thinking ran my life.

Every time I feel the second arrow hit I pull it out immediately. Let the first arrow hurt for a bit but don’t make it worse by imagining something that is not real. Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic”. In other words have faith, not fear.

 

“So this is it, we’re going to die” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The House is on Fire

I don’t want you to panic. The house is not burning down. The world is not coming to an end. There is no reason to abandon reason. If things are not right, work to fix it and put it right. Do what is within your power to do and let go of the rest.

Avoid jumping to conclusions, silence the doomsayer within and never listen to doomsday prophets. Use your own judgement and think hard before deciding.

Study and be prepared to change your view when evidence suggests otherwise. Avoid falling for group-think and hysteria.

Recognize and avoid the mob fueled by dogma and anger. You were given the faculties to make up your own mind and think for yourself. In other words, be a little like Arthur Dent.

 

Don’t Panic

Panic and catastrophic thinking is not for us. Jedi are free thinkers we respect and acknowledge our emotions but we do not react to them mindlessly. We use our brains to decide what is true while remaining tolerant of the views of others. Gathering the facts as they are, we choose how best to act in a way that is applicable, beneficial, practical and positive.

Whatever you do Don’t Panic.

 

Epilogue

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Redundant

Use your time. You’ll find one day that you have too little of it.” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-wan Kenobi

Star Wars is not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.” – Joseph Campbell

 

When we set off on a journey eventually we come to a cross road. The path branches into two or several directions. Some of us choose the way forward quickly, some take their time. Others look back at the road they traveled and don’t choose at all. As we move through life we also find that doors will close behind us and others open. Some of us stare longingly at the doors that have closed and miss the infinite possibilities that life presents. It is the past that haunts us and the fear of redundancy that holds us back.

 

Individuation does not shut out one from the world, but gathers the world to itself” – Carl Jung

 

Redundant

Currently I find myself in a weird dilemma. I’m redundant but I’m still employed and getting paid. This means I get up, go to work and find very little to do. Any meaning or purpose in my job has dried up. The weird part is no one seems to mind. To keep me hanging around I even got a pay rise and a glowing performance appraisal. Naturally I feel a tension between the need for stability and an inner yearning for self-actualization.

 

I can sit back, take the free ride, get paid well, take leave and bonuses and keep my mouth shut. My basic needs are being exceeded. Wouldn’t most be happy with that? The alternative is to take a risk, get out of my comfort zone and find a job that provides purpose and meaning.

 

I was 10 years old when Star Wars first came out. By the time Lucas released “The Phantom Menace” 20 years ago I was 32 and married. Now my children are grown up and view my ailing passion with Star Wars with a mix of humor and sympathy. Despite my efforts they never embraced it past the third grade. The truth is I’m getting old and holding on to the past.

 

I’m fast becoming redundant both at work and at home. I have become a prisoner of my own design. Stuck in a job that is no longer meaningful and has an expiry date. Meeting obligations that will within a few short years no longer be required. By that time the years will have settled like the sand on Tatooine. I will be as old as “Old Ben”.

 

“Jung’s concept is that the aim of one’s life, psychologically speaking, should be not to suppress or repress, but to come to know one’s other side, and so both to enjoy and to control the whole range of one’s capacities; i.e., in the full sense, to “know oneself.”” – Joseph Campbell

 

Kenobi

I can relate to Obi-Wan Kenobi. If Star Wars was a depiction of true events I wonder how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt exiled and alone on Tatooine for years. Were there pangs of loneliness and regret as he stared toward the two suns dipping below the horizon at sunset?

 

Did Kenobi feel a sense of fear and anxiety in his advancing years and mortality? Was there a sense of unfulfilled purpose as he waited the years out for a prophecy to eventuate? Did he ruminate over past mistakes, missed opportunities and losses or ponder over how things could have been done differently? I wonder how he found meaning in that long limbo of his life. Did Obi-wan Kenobi feel redundant even as he stayed to protect Luke?

 

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” – Carl Jung

 

Doors

Alexander Graham Bell said that “as one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Every ending heralds a new beginning. As one opportunity closes another presents itself. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi believed his true purpose whatever it was meant to be would some day present itself. Obi-Wan could find meaning in the years of isolation, loneliness and danger of exile.

 

 

“Individuation’ is Jung’s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions that, even while bound to the cross of this limiting earth, one might open one’s eyes at the centre, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge”. – Joseph Campbell

 

The Monomyth

Carl Jung said that to know who we truly are we need to be complete. We must integrate all aspects of our being in order for the true self (the totality of the psyche) to emerge. The process is called individuation. Since completeness is impossible to achieve in a life time the best way to arrive at meaning is to allow ourselves to grow through life experience. One must be fully engaged in life’s journey including the struggle and suffering that comes with it. We create our own Monomyth. Each human contains within the a subconscious map of the “Heroes’ Journey”.  This “collective unconscious” is expressed in myths, including Star Wars.  They exist to help us realize our true self.

 

The ego prefers comfort and safety and resists integration. The ego will throw barriers and obstacles in our way to prevent or slow the journey. We sabotage ourselves and spend a life time looking at a closed door that we miss the doors that open for us. We stand at the cross roads immobile, rooted to the past.

 

Individuation is to divest the self of false wrappings” – Carl Jung

 

Layers

Wisdom is a product of time and experience. As wisdom accumulates we become conscious of the role of the archetypes in our lives. The archetypes are symbols that manifest themselves through the long process of individuation. In other words, we never stop evolving in to the person we are meant to be. Change is a constant and we grow in to it as the layers of our persona peel back to reveal our authentic self. The best years of our life lie ahead beyond the horizon.

 

The only choice we have is to choose and to move. In doing so we evolve.

 

I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.” – Carl Jung

 

Archetypes

Obi-Wan Kenobi evolved through the archetypes in his own “Heroes Journey” in the same way that Luke Skywalker did. Along the way Kenobi experienced joy and suffering, gain and loss, pride and shame, fame and infamy, success and failure. Exile on Tatooine completed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years the redundant Jedi Master outgrew the person he had been and was transformed spiritually in to something transcendent. All aspect of his conscious and subconscious were united through the experience of a lifetime of struggle and suffering.

 

The Apprentice who became Jedi and then Master and finally a Hermit was all and none of these archetypes when he met Luke, he was something far more. All Kenobi had left to do was step in to the open door and meet his destiny.

 

So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers.” – Carl Jung

 

Paths

Paths may end at crossroad forcing us to take another direction. Doors may close requiring us to choose other doors that open. I walk the high road sober. I can walk through open doors a free man. No need to lie in the coffin of my comfort zone. Meaning can be found in a new career or I can find ample opportunity in my “weird dilemma” to apply imagination and innovation. A parent is not one dimensional but can be mentor, guide, teacher, protector, support and friend to their children in adulthood. Kenobi dedicated decades of his life to protect the child Luke while remaining hidden in obscurity. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi I can find meaning in my own exile. Like he, I can view the storm from above even though I stand within it. Life, even a redundant existence, can still mean something.

 

 

Further Reading:

 

Luke Skywalker’s Individuation” by Steve Gronert Ellerhoff. Jung Journal Culture and Psyche, Vol 9, 2015 – Issue 3.

 

The Myth is with us: Star Wars, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Journey of the Mythic Hero” by Jacqueline Botha (M. Phil Thesis in ancient cultures at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Available:

 

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation” by Bud Harris ( A good introduction on the process of Individuation)

Failure

“Epic Fail”

 

The greatest teacher, failure is” – Yoda

 

I used to be terrified of failure. That fear would prevent me from starting or following up on many things. I would rather not try than fail. It was only when I faced that fear and found it was an illusion that I succeeded. At times I failed as well. How I dealt with that failure was mostly up to me. I needed improvement there. I had to remind myself, failure is normal. Failure is a teacher. Why do we have such a hard time with it?

 

People fail because of things which they have no control over. People also fail because of their own choices.  They let themselves down through a defeatist mindset, laziness or lack of commitment and motivation.  Whatever the reason, failure need not be a permanent set back.

 

That is why you Fail” – Yoda

 

 

Epic Fails

Pragmatists and realists accept failure as a reality of life. They realize that failure will occur to the best of people. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times in his career. Mohammed Ali was defeated in the ring 5 times. Neither are remembered for their failures but for their ability to shrug off setbacks. Mohammed Ali never talked himself into losing and every failure in and out of the ring was seen as an opportunity to get better. Babe Ruth coined the line “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way”.

 

The story of the Jedi Order  is a tale of epic failure. The failings of the Jedi had disastrous consequences. The Jedi Order also left behind valuable lessons to those who came after. On Ahch-To the Force Ghost of Yoda appears to Luke and teaches him some of those valuable lessons. Yoda reminds Luke that it is alright to accept his failures. It is also essential to learn from them and move on. This revelation allowed Luke to free himself of his struggle, find balance and unite with the Force.

 

You want to go home and rethink your life.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Reverse Clause

The Jedi used the “Mind Trick” to distort the perceptions of those they wanted to act or think in a certain way. The “Mind Trick” was used by the Jedi to avoid resorting to violence by re-framing the perceptions of their target. We can’t use the Jedi Mind Trick on people but we can use reasoning in any situation. We can use logic to persuade others to see our side. How often do we use these tools on ourselves?

 

The “Reverse Clause” is a mind hack that allows us to flip any situation on its head and look at failure from an entirely different angle. How we react to any set of circumstances is completely within our control. We can choose to react with emotion or with calm equanimity and acceptance. We can tell ourselves that a failure is a disaster or an opportunity. No given situation requires us to act one way or another but how we do is a matter of choice. This is a form of Jedi Mind Trick, there is no trick behind it. We are what we tell ourselves every day.

 

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

 

Jocko

What if any failure could be redefined as “Good”? What if every failure was seen as a Master Jedi who has suddenly appeared to teach a lesson? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Jedi Mind Trick?

 

The former US Navy SEAL, MMA coach, podcaster and author  Jocko Willink does exactly that. Every failure is seen as a lesson and an opportunity to do better. Rather than allow himself to dwell on the failure, he immediately frames it with the word “Good”. Jocko uses the “Reverse Clause” of the Stoics before the failure can mark him. Instead he finds the silver lining in failure and mines it like a raw material. As a result he can quickly move towards a solution that works to turn the failure in to success.

 

Indeed, no one can thwart the purposes of your mind—for they can’t be touched by fire, steel, tyranny, slander, or anything.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Get After It

 

In the face of failure take Jocko’s advice:

  1. Get Up: In other words take the hit but instead of staying down, Get Up.
  2. Dust Off: Take a moment to assess the situation. Be Humble. Avoid reacting. Be mindful in your response.
  3. Reload: Tool up “mentally”. Regroup. Decide to act or withdraw.
  4. Recalibrate: Check yourself and adjust as needed. Get Ready. Learn from your mistakes and apply. Focus.
  5. Reengage: Get back in to the fray. Do or do not.
  6. Attack: Confront the situation with purpose and intent. Get after it.

 

Failure provides an opportunity to improvise, learn and get better. That is what Yoda was telling Luke. Say “Good” and get after it.

 

Good!

“I lost my work”.

Good. Chance to start fresh and write a better paper. This time I will be sure to back it up.

 

“Got fired from my job today”.

Good. I can do better. One door closes another opens.

 

“I blew my job interview”.

Good. I’ll look for a better one and improve on my interview skills. I will be better prepared.

 

“I failed my exam”.

Good. I will study harder and pass next time.

 

“I got into an argument and said some cruel things”.

Good. An opportunity to make amends and practice humility.

 

“My performance review went terribly”

Good. Someone shared with me some shortcomings I was blind to and can now add to the list to work on.

 

“My girlfriend / boyfriend dumped me”.

Good. Was not meant to be then.  There is someone better for me.

 

“I got injured while training”.

Good. I’ll rest up, regroup, plan and start training again as soon as I can.

 

“I drank / drugged last night”.

Good. It’s not the end of the world. Now I know how bad that feels and why sobriety is a thousand times better. I will work the steps harder and help another alcoholic / addict.

 

 

Struggle

Training to become a Jedi is not an easy challenge. And even if you succeed, it’s a hard life.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

 

 

Safe and Warm

Sometimes I find it a struggle to get out of bed and face the day. My automatic preference would be to remain in bed, warm between the sheets and let the world go on without me. With effort I will get up and start my morning routine. I resolve to face the days challenges and I remind myself “one day a time, one problem at a time”.  The mental fog begins to clear as plans take shape. At times I struggle to find the motivation to do my work. Soon enough the day is done and hopefully I have something to show for it more than a made bed (make the bed every morning  if nothing else).

 

On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind – I am awakening to the work of a human being” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Roman Emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius also struggled out of bed in the cold dark mornings while on campaign in the frontiers. The security of the empire weighed heavily on his shoulders,  it was his cross to carry. Marcus arose each morning to make life and death decisions, fight the enemy and bury his fallen soldiers. He had to contend with cut throat politics and betrayals and the constant demands of Rome. All of this while he struggled with poor health, a troubled son and self-doubts. Marcus Aurelius saw these struggles as mere obstacles in his mind that could be overcome. Who could envy such a position?  Despite the burdens, Marcus Aurelius saw struggle as a path to enlightenment and obstacles as the road markers along the way.

 

I am ready to face the Trials.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

 

Life Struggle

To be alive is to struggle. Being human simply makes us aware of that struggle and allows us to quantity and qualify it in a subjective manner, to give it meaning. All living things struggle, that is the nature of evolution after all. It is no wonder that the human experience is inherently one of struggle but more importantly it is our innate ability in overcoming the challenges that life presents us that makes us unique. We can choose to suffer passively or struggle against suffering. The Stoics compared life to a wrestling match. At times we will get pinned down and forced in to submission and sometimes we end up on top. The important thing is we are in the ring willing to struggle.

 

Our struggles are those that reside within resulting from the things life throws at us and which we have little or no control over. Generally our struggles are an emotional response to life’s vicissitudes. It is not so much the thing that hurts or offends us but how we perceive it and how that perception affects us emotionally. The trick is to look at struggle in a different way. Victory over external struggles is usually contingent upon overcoming internal struggles. The struggle is no longer a barrier but an obstacle we work to overcome.

 

You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging” – Brene Brown.

 

 

Pushing Back

People face terrible struggles in life, many which I am fortunate enough not to suffer. I am not impoverished or unemployed, my mental and physical health is good. My family life is good. I am one of the lucky few to be working in a profession which I chose, was trained for and pays well. My sobriety is solid. I do not face persecution or discrimination. Compared to many in this world my life is blessed.

 

All that could change in an instant. What we have can be easily taken from us. People lose their jobs and livelihoods, their physical and mental capacities can fail, life’s saving and property can be taken away in an instant and their loved one’s can leave or die. Homelessness is a real possibility. Innocent or not, we can find ourselves in prison. The democracy and justice system we enjoy could be corrupted or overthrown. Peace may be shattered by war. Take nothing for granted. I try not to. It’s a good idea to remind ourselves that all things are impermanent. Life can easily pull the rug from under us.

 

I could pour myself a drink and lose everything that sobriety has bought as I spiral back in to active alcoholism. To suffer is inevitable but to struggle is largely a choice. There are those who suffer passively but do not struggle. To struggle is to push back against the suffering. Through struggle we have a chance to get out of suffering.

 

“There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.” – Carl Jung

 

 

Struggle = Meaning

Most people define “happiness” as their goal in life and they struggle to achieve whatever their ideal of happiness is. For some it may be a “perfect partner”, great job, successful career, plenty of money, adoring and loyal friends and admirers. Others may decide that happiness is a poor word for an internal state that might be best described as Eudaimonia. I’ve met people who are content in their suffering and victim-hood as if it was a good thing and do nothing to get out of it. I have also met people who find a deep sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment in the struggle to overcome their obstacles and be the best version of themselves possible.

 

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just” – Abraham Lincoln.

 

People often grapple with the mystery of meaning and purpose; why am I here and what am I supposed to do with my life? Making choices that must be made and the uncertainty that haunts me.  Accepting the certainty that one day my children will become independent adults and I will grow old and frail. Facing the inevitability of death. This is the human condition. Loss and change is a part of life. We have a capacity as rational human beings allows to choose how to respond to that and give it profound meaning.

 

We are not alone in our struggles. Would it be better to embrace struggle rather than avoid it? Should we seek to struggle knowing that the suffering it brings is a path to serenity and peace? Through struggle we are no long a victim or passive object of suffering. We no longer suffer in vain because we struggle. In our struggle we validate and own the suffering that we feel and we choose.

 

“You must…confront…Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi, will you be. And confront him, you will” – Yoda

 

 

Trials

To become a Jedi in the Star Wars Universe a Jedi apprentice was expected to undergo a series of five trials which challenged their mental, spiritual and physical limit. In rare cases a Jedi was knighted because of their actions rather than going through the formal trials.  The action usually involved an intense struggle in overcoming a penultimate personal challenge. The ordeal ultimately defined the Padawan as a Jedi Knight. Obi-wan Kenobi’s trial was facing Darth Maul in combat after his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, was struck down. Obi-wan conquered his fear and overcame the challenge defeating Darth Maul.

 

Luke Skywalker became a Jedi Knight when he confronted Darth Vader and through reason and compassion redeemed Anakin and defeated the Sith.

 

Ahsoka Tano framed for terrorism and treachery fought desperately to clear her name to the Jedi Council. Mace Windu recognized her struggle and offered her Knighthood however she refused and left the order disillusioned.

 

Anakin achieved Knighthood through his bravery on the battlefield. Despite his rank he suffered terribly but never struggled in the way that matters. Anakin’s failed to struggle with his own demons and as a result he never overcame them. He showed skill, prowess, courage and intelligence yet his struggles were directed at others and the things he had little control over. Anakin struggled against a galaxy of injustice, corruption and greed which was noble but the means he applied did not always justify the ends. Death and mortality haunted Anakin. By trying to struggle vainly against the natural order of things Anakin played in to the hands of the Sith and fell to the Dark Side.

 

This is not to say that people should not struggle for freedom or justice or the causes they believe in. They absolutely should. Struggle should however, be transformative, leading us away from suffering through suffering. It should not cause others to suffer. One’s struggle should inspire others and be borne of sacrifice, love and virtue. We should struggle for the right things, in the right way for the right reasons.

 

A warrior in not born. He is the sum of the sacrifices he has made” – Klaus Yohannes

 

 

Crucified

In the bible Jesus struggled along the Via Doloros on his tortured journey to crucifixion. Jesus was beaten and flogged by his guards and abused by spectators as he dragged the heavy wooden cross through the streets to Golgotha. Along the way Jesus endured unimaginable pain and mental anguish. According to the gospels he was nailed to the cross and hoisted up to suffer a slow and excruciating death yet he chose to forgive those who tormented him rather than condemn them, surrendering instead to his fate. Through suffering and death came redemption, resurrection and salvation. The story of the crucifixion is a reminder that the pathway to physical, mental and spiritual growth and fulfillment is won through great struggle.

 

Klaus Yohannes, the Black Viking of London describes how his constant pursuit of struggle has made him the man he believes he was always meant to be. Struggle he believes is something we should seek out and embrace every day. Security is an illusion. The warm bed and easy way prevents us from reaching our potential. To prove his point he has spent years pushing his body, mind and soul to the very limits and beyond. In that zone of harrowing struggle he has found purpose, meaning and redemption.

 

On April 14th, 2019, Klaus Yohannes endured the passion of the crucifixion. Although he was not physically nailed to a cross, mentally he was. Yohannes carried a 60 kg (132 pound) sleeper on his back and walked bare chested and barefoot 7.2 miles through the streets of London. He stumbled, fell, crawled and walked one agonizing step at a time. The trial nearly killed him as the weight of the sleeper fractured and displaced his cervical vertebrae, bare millimeters from severing his spinal cord. Why? Nor for money or for fame but because he wanted to show himself he could do the unimaginable.

 

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

 

 

Seven Sagas

 

The Obstacle is the Way” – Ryan Holiday

 

The ordeal Klaus Yohannes endured was a test of will. From the second mile, Klaus suffered torment and considered quitting constantly but pushed on, ignoring the pleas of bystanders, his support team and his own mind and body screaming at him to stop. The struggle was the point and the way to reaching a transformative state by pushing the boundaries past any limits he had considered imaginable.

 

Like the trials of a Jedi, the “crucifixion saga” is one of seven sagas that Klaus Yohannes has set himself to undertake on his journey of transformation through the embrace of struggle. The only obstacle he perceives are those in his own mind. With the right mindset, self-discipline and preparation almost anything can be accomplished if we are prepared to overcome our own self-imposed limits. We do not need to embark on near impossible feats of endurance but we can take the attitude “The Obstacle is the Way”.

 

Klaus Yohannes said “security is an illusion”. We are not made to lie in bed, passive and inactive. Comfort, pleasure and ease may be desirable but they do not sustain us. The safety and security that we enjoy is based on struggles, usually endured by others. Life gives some an easier ride however the world will not deny anyone struggle. Yet, rarely will they ask for it. People like Klaus Yohannes seek it out every day. This is what a Jedi does and why to be Jedi is special.

 

The world will deny you many things, it will not deny you struggle” – Klaus Yohannes

 

Klaus Yohannes – The Black Viking

 

Forty Percent

David Goggins is another “modern day Jedi” who also espouses struggle as a pathway to greatness and virtue. Goggins refuses to betray himself by being mediocre in any aspect of his life. Failure as a result of his own choices is not an option.

 

The former Navy SEAL and ultra-marathon runner pushes himself to the absolute limits of physical and mental endurance. The reason for this drive is simple; Goggin’s suffered as a boy at the hands of an abusive father, he was overweight and everything about him was mediocre. One day Goggins decided enough was enough and to change his life. He embraced struggle as the vehicle with which to achieve his full potential and ultimately help others to achieve theirs.

 

Goggins likes to hammer home a mantra he took from the Navy SEALs “we only commit 40% of our true potential”. Only our own minds are holding us back. If that is true, imagine the possibilities.

 

I thought I’d solved a problem when really I was creating new ones by taking the path of least resistance.” – David Goggins

 

The Obstacle is the Way

Obstacle is the Way” could be a Jedi aphorism. Becoming a Jedi was no easy feat. It was an incredibly demanding life that required constant struggle and sacrifice. Even then, success was not guaranteed. Star Wars uses personal struggle as a recurring theme because a story without an element of struggle is pointless. The victorious struggle of the hero against the Dark Side is the point of Star Wars. The archetypes manifested in Anakin, Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Yoda, Kylo Ren and Rey all face very personal struggles with loss, grief, betrayal, self-doubt, anger, fear and despair.

 

Struggle is the underlying message of the “Hero’s Journey”. Struggle underpins the collective mythologies of the human experience including the Star Wars saga. It is not only Human to struggle, it is necessary and a virtue.

 

“The obstacle is the path” – Zen Proverb

 

Finding the Path

I still recall the loud blow of a whistle and the shouting that would rudely awaken the Platoon during Boot Camp. The mornings were brutally cold and dark. We stumbled half asleep out of the barracks, getting screamed at and shoved. Like sheep corralled we formed up on the parade square and stood shivering in the snow waiting for roll call.  How long we stood depended on how long the Drill Sergeant took to finish his coffee and cigarette. Later on operations in the blistering heat of East Africa the Platoon Sergeant had a habit of always choosing the hardest route for a foot patrol or route march. Up and over mountains we went at an inhuman pace, each carrying more than 60 pounds of kit, wheezing and cursing with each pained step. Easy was not in his vocabulary. We were forced to struggle for a reason. War, if, when it came, would be “easier” if we suffered now.  Train hard, fight easy.

 

I struggled with alcohol and overcame it. Recovery and sobriety is constant a struggle against the ego. It is never good to take the path of least resistance. I must constantly challenge myself and embrace struggle if I am to stay sober.

 

My life is far from perfect and I do not claim happiness in the ordinary material sense. The pursuit of material things brings no lasting fulfillment. I would prefer to arrive at Eudaimonia as a natural result of virtue. As much as my shadow self, the inner alcoholic, wants me to stay in bed, eat junk, be lazy and drink booze I know these things will only lead me in to ruin. Virtue is my defense. Struggle is the foundation of virtue.

 

The “Obstacle is the Way”. Struggle counters the entropy of the Dark Side that threatens to engulf us. Through struggle we are reminded not only that we live but that we can only achieve our true potential by overcoming our own inner obstacles.

 

Further Reading

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins. Lioncrest Publishing (December 4, 2018).

 

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday. PROFILE BOOKS; Main edition (2001)

Blame

Darth Sidious at Nuremburg

 

It’s all Obi-wan’s fault. He’s jealous. He’s holding me back!” – Anakin “The Clone Wars”

 

You turned her against me!” – Anakin (to Obi-wan Kenobi on Mustafar) “Revenge of the Sith”

You have done that yourself.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Blame. Was Darth Vader to blame for the destruction of Alderaan?

The Death Star was the greatest weapon ever devised. The sheer scale and power of the Death Star was unimaginable. The audacity and ambition that went in to its conception, design and construction was beyond anything ever attempted. Despite all of the technology, terror and control the Emperor wielded his forces had suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the rag tag Rebel Force.

This was unacceptable, someone had to be blamed and punished. A swift and terrible punishment was needed. The Death Star moved towards Alderaan to exact “justice”. What happened next has been the subject of debate and controversy for decades.

 

I should conclude that our demonstration was as impressive as it was thorough.” – Darth Vader (on the destruction of Alderaan) “A New Hope”.

 

 

“Don’t Blame Me”

I often think about causality and blame. The two are often conflated but they are not the same thing. In my work I often deal with incidents. A mishap will occur and a as a consequence there will be some sort of loss such as an injury, equipment damage or environmental impact. An investigation will be launched to determine cause. This search for causality can often end up becoming a witch hunt.

A blame culture exists in society today which demands the allocation of blame for every fault. Causality is reduced to quickly assigning blame and meting out punishment. The result is resentment and conflict.

 

Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason” – Epictetus

 

 

Wet the Bed, Blame the Blanket

Blame is a trait unique to human beings. There is nothing in the animal kingdom that even closely resembles it. If a dog pees on the carpet it is not going to try to deflect blame on to a two year old child. A few years ago I would have gladly passed on blame to the dog if I had had an “unfortunate accident” while completely inebriated. I was the person who would willingly pass blame on others and then ultimately finding reason for guilt, self loathing and self pity, blame myself begrudgingly without learning a thing.

No one blames others like an Alcoholic. We are true professionals in the blame game.  If we wet the bed, we blamed the blanket. If we wet the carpet we blamed the dog.

Alcoholism and all the dysfunctional and destructive habits that stem from it are not accidental and don’t arise by themselves. Someone or something, we reason, must be to blame. Where there is pain, loss and suffering there must be a reason and someone to blame. We blame our parents, partners, friends, co-workers, upbringing, education or lack of. If nothing else, God, fate or providence can be blamed.

So why do people so readily choose to assign blame? Does it make any difference? Will blaming others or even ourselves for misfortune help? Does it right the wrong?

 

As a mountain of rock is unshaken by wind, so also, the wise are unperturbed by blame or by praise.” – Buddha

 

 

Survival Mode

I learned the meaning of blame, guilt and punishment as a child. Living with siblings we were quick to blame each other to avoid parental wrath. Children naturally seek favor. If a parent seeks to punish a sibling for a misdeed perhaps it will make the other child look better. No one wants to be punished for something they didn’t do and will avoid punishment for something they did, if possible. Blame can be used to absolve oneself of any responsibility by passing it on.

Sometimes blame is necessary for survival. Living in a catholic orphanage taught me to be a survivor. The Nuns would constantly seek out scape goats among the children in their care. A misdeed or grievous sin would be uncovered and the culprits sought out. Collective punishment would be dispensed unless a confessor came forward to claim responsibility and penance. Ultimately those responsible and on the sidelines of the trivial matter (stolen sweets or similar) would begin to blame each other until the shell of lies and denial cracked and confessions came flooding out in waves of helpless tears.

Children under the age of ten and as young as five were forced to denounce each other and hide behind a layer of mistrust and suspicion in order to avoid physical and mental abuse. By the age of eight I had developed a keen ability to liar, deceive, cheat, con and hide the truth. I was very quick to blame anyone but myself.

 

It is easy to see the faults of others. But difficult to see one’s own faults” – Buddha

 

We care to Admit

My blame mentality blossomed during my drinking career. Every lost job, black eye, broken relationship, falling out, argument and hangover was blamed on anything but my own actions. I saw my anger, resentments, belligerency, aggression and selfishness as natural and proportionate responses to life. Misfortunes were not my fault there was always someone else to blame. This mindset keeps us in denial and ultimately in addiction. I had however stopped fooling others. I was only fooling myself.

The blame mentality does not seek to rectify and remedy but incriminate and punish. Deep down we know the truth and the truth is no one is to blame when things are just the way they are. All we need is the power to admit it.

 

Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Taking Action

When we wake up to the truth and look for cause instead of blame we can begin to take action. Seeking causality allows us to understand the problem, quantify the effect and identify solutions that resolve the issue, not compound it. What it takes is a willingness to admit our own faults, acknowledge the harm done, clarify and seek to make amends and forgive others for the role they played.

Once we isolate the cause of our problems we can avoid falling back in to the blame game. Some times blame is reasonable and justified as long as causality is established. The end goal should be to address cause, take action and finally move on. Let’s consider a scenario that helps illustrate this point. Imagine two people who have been drinking at separate bars get in to their cars at the same time and decide to drive home. Along the way, they meet.

 

What are conflict, dispute, blame, accusation, irreverence and frivolity? They are all opinions, and more than that, they are opinions that lie outside of our reasoned choice” – Epictetus

 

 

T-Boned

The first drunk gets in to his car and some miles on drives through a red light and hits another car driven by the second drunk who is speeding. Who and what is to blame for the resulting injuries and damage?

The first drunk may tell the court that he got laid off from work and had had an argument with his wife and decided to go to a bar. He may also offer that the driver of the other vehicle shared blame as he should have slowed on approaching the intersection instead of speeding and was also drunk at the time. Those are excuses and opinions, not causes.

Ultimately the cause of the accident was the running of the red light. The conscious decision taken by the driver to drive while intoxicated led to a lapse in judgement. The first driver was found to be responsible for causing the accident through his actions. The second driver was responsible for driving whilst under the influence but shared no responsibility for causing the accident. Recognition of blame either way is voluntary. We see it all the time in the court rooms. People will accept a fine or a prison term but not the blame. Causality establishes blame whether a person accepts it or not.

 

You must stop blaming God, and not blame any person. You must no longer feel anger, resentment, envy or regret.” – Epictetus

 

 

No Blame

Even now if I don’t get my way I look for blame. Alcoholics have a reactive attitude; we are prone to extremes of emotions. I have to rein myself in and to avoid jumping to conclusions, making assumptions and playing the blame game. Introspection and self reflection is required. The goal of causality is to gain knowledge. Ask yourself these questions when looking to blame:

 

What happened?

Why did it occur? (Ask why five times to get to the root cause).

What is my role in this?

How can I / we remedy it or make amends?

How can I / we prevent this from happening again?

What can I / we learn from this?

 

Blame is not sought. Why looks for cause, not blame. How and what energizes action and focuses on solutions. Not everything in life is as simple as a T-bone at an intersection. Cause and effect can be more subtle and complex. As an alcoholic I have to keep things simple and ask “what role have I played in this?” If I am accountable I admit it and accept the consequences of my actions. I seek to make amends, learn from my mistake and resolve to do better.

In other words…if you are pointing a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. Hesitate before blaming.

 

In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station’s destructive power… on your home planet of Alderaan.” – Tarkin “A New Hope”.

 

 

Alderaan

So can we blame Darth Vader for the destruction of Alderaan and the death of two billion “innocent” sentient beings living on the planet when the Death Star opened fire?

At the beginning of “A New Hope” the Tantive IV was intercepted by the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator, boarded and seized by Darth Vader. As part of the operation Senator Leia Organa of Alderaan was captured and accused of being a Rebel agent.  In order to reveal the greater conspiracy against the Empire, Leia was interrogated. When that failed they threatened her home planet with annihilation if she did not cooperate.

The final order to fire was given by Admiral Tarkin, not Darth Vader. The target was selected because it was Leia’s home and because the Imperial command had enough evidence to consider Alderaan a willing party to the Rebellion and therefore an enemy. This fact does not does not absolve Darth Vader from guilt but it brings “blame” in to doubt.

Darth Vader was tasked by the Emperor to recover the stolen blue prints of the Death Star and eliminate any direct threat posed by the Rebels. Vader was also the Emperors apprentice and watchdog on the Death Star to oversee its commissioning. While Tarkin gave the order to fire on Alderaan he did so with the tacit approval of Vader. Tarkin may have been in command of the Death Star but Darth Vader held the strings and had ultimate power to veto any command Tarkin made.

The Dark Lord could have killed Tarkin with complete impunity should he have desired. Leia knew this and always blamed the destruction of Alderaan on Darth Vader.

 

If we would lean this way, whenever we fail, and would blame only ourselves and remember that nothing but opinion is the cause of a troubled mind and uneasiness, then by God, I swear we would be making progress”. – Epictetus

 

 

Lessons learned

I’m not sure how a trial at an intergalactic tribunal for war crimes would have played out. If they had survived and been prosecuted for war crimes, Tarkin, Vader and Palpatine would have all shared responsibility in the heinous acts of the Empire including the destruction of Alderaan. Had a tribunal been staged by the New Republic it may have been enlightened enough to determine why it happened and understand the reasons for that.

The Republic would have avoided embarking on a “Witch Hunt” bent on blame and revenge and instead sought reason and justice. While it would be small compensation for the loss of life on Alderaan, lessons would have been learned from the tragedy. Those lessons may have been used to prevent history from ever being repeated.

Blame does little more than keep wounds open. Worse it adds salt to them. Reconciliation, harmony and peace are impossible with blame. Addressing cause, acknowledging suffering and accepting responsibility not only reconciles it lifts people to a higher place and bridges differences. Knowledge is gained, justice is served. Isn’t that after all the Jedi way? If we all avoided blame perhaps the world would be a better place.

 

There is no ignorance there is knowledge” – Jedi Code

 

 

Blame by Threepio

C3PO had a built in blame mentality chip as part of its personality algorithms. This was due to the lack of defensive weaponry integrated in to protocol droids. Protocol units were completely unarmed and expected to be able to use negotiating and reasoning skills to stay out of trouble. When confronted with specific threats or fault the protocol was to resort to blame. R2D2 provided a convenient target for blame.

I wonder if the Threepio and Artoo were in a co-dependent relationship but that is for another article.

 

Don’t blame me.  I’m an interpreter. I’m not supposed to know a power socket from a computer terminal.”

“That malfunctioning little twerp (Artoo). This is all his fault! He tricked me into going this way, but he’ll do no better.”  

“It wasn’t my fault, sir. Please don’t deactivate me. I told him (Artoo) not to go, but he’s faulty, malfunctioning; kept babbling on about his mission.”  

“Deactivate! Well, on the other hand if you hadn’t removed his (Artoo’s) restraining bolt…”  

“I would much rather have gone with Master Luke than stay here with you (Artoo). I don’t know what all the trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your fault.”  

“Listen to them! They’re dying, Artoo! Curse my metal body! I wasn’t fast enough. It’s all my fault! My poor master!”  

“Help! I think I’m melting! (to Artoo)This is all your fault.”  

I don’t know what all this trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your (Artoo) fault.”