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.”

The Inner Child

A child stolen is a lost hope.” – Moral “Spheres of Influence” The Clone Wars

 

Truly wonderful the mind of a child is” – Yoda.

 

Let’s not kid ourselves; Star Wars is essentially for kids. I’m not ashamed to say that I like Star Wars and don’t mind being called a “big kid” because of it. We go to the movies to escape reality for a while and to enjoy ourselves. Even to remember what it was like to be a child again.

 

As a ten year old I saw Star wars for the first time when it hit theatres in 1977. The experience was indescribable. It blew away all expectations. My life was changed from that evening 42 years ago.

 

Ever since that I day I feel that same sense of wonder every time I sit down to watch the original trilogy. The nostalgia dented only by the re-mastering and editing that replaced the original cinematic version. The movies belonged to my generation. Star Wars was made for us. It belonged to us.

 

We often tend to ignore how much of a child is still in all of us.”  – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, “On Death and Dying”

 

 

Kids Stuff

Children still enjoy Star Wars of course. The prequels  entertained the millennial generation and the current trilogy has been made for the current generation of kids. Let no one tell you otherwise, Star Wars is meant for the kids first and us critical and adoring adults second.

 

The way we view Star Wars can even differ between generations. In “How I met your Mother”, Barney comes to the conclusion that a girl he is seeing is much older than he is because she hates the Ewoks. Barney reasons that because she was a kid when Star Wars first came out and a teenager when “Return of the Jedi” screened in 1983 the Ewoks to her were annoying at best. The Ewoks were cute and adorable and made for the kids. If Barney’s girl fiend hated Ewoks, he reasoned, she would have to be up to ten years his senior. This also annoyed Barney, he could not be with someone who hated Ewoks.

 

The Ewoks were annoying, I still find them mildly annoying but Star Wars is a modern fairy tale and while fairy tales have a moral they are also written for children or at least the inner child in all of us. Time to get over the Ewoks.

 

The Ewok LineHow I met your Mother

 

Blessings

Children are a blessing. My life changed when I had kids. All of the sudden there was more than just my self to live for. I was responsible for another human being that was powerless in every way and utterly reliant on me. This is a revelation that only a parent can describe. In one sense it is amazing beyond words and in another it is utterly terrifying. Your mortality is revealed as is your human vulnerabilities. Every selfish act becomes shockingly apparent. There is no hiding from the truth. You have the most important job on the planet to fulfil.

 

For me it was not enough. I loved my kids of course and tried my best however alcohol was more important to me. There were nights when I drank secretly in the study while my wife and kids slept completely oblivious to the fact that I was drunk. If they needed me in the middle of the night I would probably have been completely incapable of caring for them.

 

Thank God for their mother who truly looked after their every need and never drunk. I can only imagine what would have happened if they had been left alone in my care. Who was the bigger child in all of that I wonder. It is my biggest shame as an alcoholic. A Father is meant to protect his kids and put them first always. This is not sacrifice but a sacred duty.

 

We did not come into this world loathing ourselves or wishing to numb or feelings. As small children, we operated from a place of wonder, curiosity, spontaneity and creativity.” – Christopher Dines, “Drug Addiction Recovery: The Mindful Way”

 

 

Memories

I recall being a child. I remember Star Wars and a lot of other cool things that happened. There are also plenty of memories of a drunken Father, my mother’s bitter tears and despair at a husband who put money for food in to his drinking and stayed out for days and nights. One day I saw my mother taken in an ambulance and that’s the last time I saw her before I saw her lowered in to the ground in a coffin.

 

The years that followed were not childlike in any normal sense of the word. There were orphanages, homes and hostels, abuse from care givers and intermittently my drunken Father would appear. No wonder I hated the Ewoks when I went to see “Return of the Jedi” at 16. They were lame and stupid and reminded me of everything I wanted to forget, my childhood. The promise of Star Wars had failed me.  The inner child within me was smothered out, all but dead.

 

Alcoholism was the natural progression from that point.

 

Oh Annie, you’ll always be that little boy I knew on Tatooine” – Padme.

 

Growing Up

Its no wonder then that when I finally became sober I had to rekindle my long lost inner child. Not just the “big kid” that comes out to rough house with the kids and make a convincing go at playing dress ups at parties without feeling completely foolish. Also not the petulant and obstinate child I became when I was drinking. Playing the drunken idiot was also easy. The inner child is something different. It is something wonderful.

 

The inner child represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself.” – Carl Jung

 

 

The Divine Child

If you could personify the divine I have no doubt it would appear as a wide eyed and amazed child, playful, curious and innocent. This inner child would be eager to learn and discover and create. She would have boundless energy, enthusiasm, optimism, empathy and compassion. Most of all, the child would have an imagination that knows no limits.

 

Now think Star Wars. Is Star Wars not for the inner child that resides within all of us? I would say that Lucas created Star Wars from his own inner child for the child in everyone.

 

Carl Jung created the “divine child archetype”. Star Wars fans may recognise the young Anakin as the embodiment of the archetype in “The Phantom Menace”. Anakin was innocent and vulnerable but at the same time he was far beyond his years in so many ways. He could repair racing pods and knew his way around a ship. The boy had an amazing talent for racing pods and had the instincts of a survivor.

 

There was something compelling about Anakin which drew Qui-Gon Jinn to him and endeared him to Obi-wan Kenobi. Anakin was a powerful force sensitive, incredibly intelligent while at the same time naive and easy to mould. At first sight he was an ideal candidate for Jedi training but something troubling loomed within him. Yet to all he appeared to be the “chosen one” as foretold in prophecy.

 

“You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.”  – Carl Jung

 

 

Supreme Meaning

Krishna, Jesus, Horus, Dažbog and Zoroaster were all divine children who were born under auspice circumstance to bring great change to the world. King Herod did all he could to stop the prophecy of the coming messiah by having all new born male babies slaughtered. Mary and Joseph forewarned fled to Egypt to keep Jesus safe. Demons plotted to kill the baby Zoroaster but failed.

 

Anakin was the Jungian “divine child” archetype of Star Wars.  Darth Sidous sought out the “chosen one”, Anakin, to either kill him or preferably bring him to the Dark Side. The new born twins Luke and Leia were secreted away in to hiding after Anakin’s fall. The truth kept from them until the prophecy could be fulfilled. The children were the hope for the future of the galaxy.

 

Yoda in essence was also a symbol of the divine inner child manifest. Despite his 900 years of age he recognised the divinity in children and allowed his inner child to shine through before and after his transcendence to the Force. In exile that inner child was still alive in Yoda with all its wonder, wisdom, humour and optimism.

 

“In every adult there lurks a child and eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention and education. That is part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole.” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

Vulnerable

Yet the inner child is vulnerable. In “Revenge of the Sith”, Darth Sidious completed the conversion of Anakin through the slaughter of innocents at the Jedi Temple. The massacre of Younglings by Anakin is symbolic of the final destruction of the inner divine child. It is the loss of final hope and the future.

 

For children are the future. A society that forsakes its children has no future. A person who denies his inner child also betrays his soul.

 

“I believe that there is a sacred child-like spirit in all of us (often referred to as our younger self or sacred inner child), one we can access and heal in recovery. We can gradually learn to integrate our youthful spirit into our everyday life. There is sweet sacredness when a person truly dedicates himself or herself to reclaiming his or her forgotten and abandoned inner child.” Christopher Dines, “Drug Addiction Recovery: The Mindful Way”.

 

 

Recovered

So it is with Alcoholism. The disease eventually all but snuffs out the inner child within us. That is a tragedy. In its place the shadow inner child emerges to fuel our addiction. The shadow child is the dark, spoilt, belligerent and selfish brat that clawed, kicked, screamed and berated us in active abuse.

 

Recovery heals the shadow child and restores the inner divine child. We learn that the divine child is a manifestation of the Higher Power within us. It has been all but snuffed out but a tiny glow remains in a sea of blackness. Soon that glow becomes a flame. For me it is the Force that burns within. With time it has grown brighter kindled by walking the 12 Steps.

 

I have had to grow up, perhaps for the first time in my life. The inner child has guided me along the journey and still does. To be Jedi is to allow the inner child to step forward and be heard.

 

“When you learn how to re-parent yourself, you will stop attempting to complete the past by setting up others to be your parents.”  –  John Bradshaw, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child”.

 

The Inner Child

The inner child is that small still voice. You will know it when:

  • A creative idea takes root in your mind and you feel excited about it.
  • You look up at the stars at night, witness a glorious sunset or wander through nature and feel awe, joy and a connectedness with creation.
  • That “kid like” excitement and abandon you get visiting a theme park and getting on rides.
  • The mystery and wonder that causes the heart to race and time to stand still when you get that first kiss.
  • The thirst for life and yearning to explore.
  • The feeling you get when the light in the theatre dims and everyone hushes as the 20th century Fox anthem plays and then the words “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” appears and then fades  to  the loud crescendo of the opening note of the Star Wars musical score and title.

 

Listen also to the Child when you are feeling down, it is trying to tell you something when you feel;

  • Regret at abandoning an idea you was excited about.
  • Frustration at being denied your creativity or held back.
  • Depression that comes with not being able to fully realize your self.
  • Grief over loss.

 

These are natural responses. It’s OK to be not OK. Let the inner child in you express itself.

 

Be a Kid

If you approach life with the eyes of a child you do so with the divine guiding you. The world suddenly reveals that there is still wonder and beauty in it. Despite the odds there is still hope for the future. People become inherently good despite their shortcomings. Life will not be all “Puppies and Kittens” but it does get easier. Your mind will seek to create rather than destroy, to flow with, rather than resist and to accept rather than reject what life offers. Let life surprise you for certainly it will.

 

Learn from the wisdom of children and take something from their insights like Yoda did.  No matter what happens allow your inner child to completely take over the next time you watch Star Wars. Learn to be a kid again. Ewoks or no Ewoks, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

 

Star Wars (Original release crawl 1977) Lucasfilm Ltd.

 

Further Reading

John Bradshaw; Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 1990. ISBN 978-0-553-35389-1.

Third Man

 

Are you an angel”  – Anakin

 

Imagine being hopelessly lost in the desert. Walking for miles as the sun beats down.

The distant line of mountains seems to be now closer after days of walking in the blistering heat and nights spent huddled against the cold.

Eventually whatever water you had is gone. Thirst torments you and hunger gnaws at your belly.

You mutter to yourself mindless thoughts. Apparitions of strange figures come in waves of hallucinations at night.

You dream of water and hear voices in the wind. The sun rises and you greet it knowing you won’t see the end of the day.

Tears come to your eyes but they are dry, an attempt to cry is nothing more than a tortured croak.

You stagger and fall and blackness finds you. With eyes open you see the cosmos spiraling before you, all the planets and stars arc above.

You feel a presence, it bring you peace in the hour of death. It speaks to you and urges you on. You stumble as if in a dream.

The presence never leaves you it tells you everything will be alright and to keep going. You obey.

Voices come out of the dark, water, hands grip your shoulder and you see a face. Salvation has come.

 

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road, there is always another one walking beside you” – T.S Elliot ” The Wasteland”.

 

Lost

There are countless stories that tell of the presence of an “other” when life was in peril. Shackleton recounts that such a presence was felt by his group as they wandered across the Antarctic wilderness held in the place between this life and the next.

 

I have no doubt that Providence guided us…it seemed to me there were four and not three.” – Sir Ernest Shackleton

 

Yossi Ghinsberg an Israeli backpacker who nearly died while lost in the Amazon jungle also recounted being led by a young girl who appeared to him just as he gave up hope. The experience left an indelible spiritual mark on him.

 

Frank Smyth the British climber attempted Mount Everest in 1933 failed and narrowly survived the descent. Later he recounted the welcome presence of another person who followed him during his ordeal. To him the guiding presence was real and it eliminated all loneliness and fear in him.

 

Soldiers in war, shipwreck survivors and castaways, people lost in the wilderness, survivors of natural disasters and terror attacks all recount experiencing the presence of a benevolent presence that helped them survive beyond their physical and mental limits. The presence gave them comfort and courage against the odds and this helped saved their lives. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “Third Man factor”.

 

An angel. I’ve heard the deep space pilots talk about them. They’re the most beautiful creatures in the universe” – Young Anakin to Queen Amidala “The Phantom Menace”

 

The Protector

Intense physical and mental duress can have a profound effect on the brain. No one knows for certain whether the “third person” is a hallucinogenic effect caused by the release of a burst of dopamine and possibly Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The effect of DMT is very similar to those reported by people who claim to have had a near death experience. In a recent study people who had had NDE’s reported experiences of spiritual transcendence similar to subjects who took DMT psychedelics like Ayuhuasca.

 

Is the “Third Person” effect simply a coping mechanism, a mental trick, a survival reflex triggered by a brain that knows it is dying? Some believe the “Third Person” a guardian angel that intervenes in the time of greatest physical, mental and spiritual anguish.  Does it matter whether the “Third Person” comes from deep within our psyche or is a manifestation of something divine if it leads to salvation?

 

The human psyche has a persona and an ego at the conscious level. Deeper in our subconscious resides our anima and animus. The shadow, the darker side of our nature also resides there. Why not also a guardian angel? The “Third man factor” is a protector and guide that resides deep within us all?

 

 “Death is just the beginning.” – “Destiny” The Clone Wars

Guardian Angels

The appearance of a spiritual guiding force in the time of great need is often used in fiction. In Gravity (2013) Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) visits Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) after he has floated away in space to his death. Kowalski speaks to Stone and urges her not to give up and helps her survive. The guiding spirits in “A Christmas Carol” transform Scrooge as they reveal his faults and show him a way to his own salvation.

 

Guardian Angels are nothing new. They appear to the prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus was said to have been visited by angels during his wandering in the wilderness and again as he suffered during the crucifixion. Guiding spirits occur in every culture; Zoroastrian, Chinese, Slavic, Aboriginal lore describes them as benevolent spirits who look over their human charges and keep them safe.

 

In Star Wars the Force Spirit is the ephemeral and benevolent presence that comforts and guides those it visits. In “Ghosts of Mortis” Anakin is visited by the “Force Ghost” of Qui-Gon Jinn who tells him he can bring balance to the force. Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda are also visited by Qui-Gon Jinn. In “A New Hope” Luke is guided by the disembodied voice of Obi-wan Kenobi giving him the courage and presence of mind to complete his mission. At the end of “Return of the Jedi” Luke and Leia are visited by the Force Spirits of Yoda, Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi. Luke himself becomes a powerful Force Spirit. In “The Last Jedi” his Force Spirit projected to Crait where he comforted Leia and confronted Kylo Ren.

 

    “Eternal life…

    “The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only through the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.

    ―Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn

 

NDE

I can’t say I have ever had a near death experience like Ernest Shakleton in Antarctica or Frank Smyth on Everest. I have been exhausted enough to hallucinate while in the army. I was on operations patrolling for days on end with little sleep. My thoughts were disordered and I knew that the visions and voices in my mind weren’t real. The “Third man factor” experience is described as lucid and ordered while hallucinations are dreamlike imaginings.

 

Some Alcoholics who have had spiritual experiences which directly resulted in sustained recovery report the presence of a guiding presence. Some describe this as a blinding light of love and compassion while others describe the visit of a man or a woman or a deceased love one. These spiritual experiences tend to happen at a moment of great spiritual, mental and physical torment.

 

I have had the “Rock Bottom” experience and while I did not see a presence I definitely felt it. The sensation was real and tangible in every way. I knew immediately that I had nothing to fear and that everything would be fine. The presence imbued a love and compassion that was transcendent and impossible to articulate. I felt at home. From that point I never have drunk again.

 

Fear is a disease; hope is its only cure.” –  “Blue Shadow Virus” The Clone Wars

 

Finding Hope

I read somewhere once that an atheist will deny the existence of God until the day he finds himself with nothing and is utterly alone, without hope and facing death. At the end of hope the atheist finds hope, not in changed fortune but in the presence of a spiritual force that guides him to salvation.

 

Very few people ever call on a “power greater than themselves” until the time they need it. Even an atheist faced with his own physical demise will ponder at the wonder of the cosmos and the symphony of creation. A part of them will wonder at the mystery and purpose of life. While denying someone else’s concept of God they might come to a deeper understanding of a divine truth.

 

The Force can be a source of strength when I need it. The Force can be a source of calm and serenity in times of turbulence. Understanding and patience can be the little inner voice that comes from the Force when confronted with difficult people and situations. It is the guiding and comforting presence when facing calamity. The Force can be the hand that guides you out of harms way, a candle in the dark that leads the way to the light.

 

Whatever your concept of God or a Higher Power might be the important thing is to realize that no one is ever truly alone. When you need the will to carry on past your imaginable limits, there is a power you can fall back on within you. All you need to do is accept the hand that’s offered.

 

Geiger, John (2009). The Third Man Factor. Toronto: Viking Canada.

The Shadow

Luke, trust your feelings – Obi-Wan Kenobi

When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.” – Yoda

 

We are each made up of three distinct aspects. There is the Shadow, the Watcher and the Persona. The part of me which I know best and which presents to others is the persona. The Shadow is what lurks beneath the surface of my consciousness and my ego. It is the Dark Side of the psyche, the inner beast. The Watcher is the unseen observer, the inner pilot which comes from the Force. Today I would like to talk about the Shadow.

 

This meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is….” – Carl Jung

 

Ahuyuasca

A friend of mine recently came back from Peru where he had attended an Ahuyuasca retreat*. Over a period of three days he participated in ceremonies where he took a brew made from the Ahuyuasca plant. The plant is a potent psychedelic drug. Users can attest to profound life changing experiences under its influence.

 

My friend was curious and being a veteran of recent wars he had deep seated issues he wanted to confront and resolve. Depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, self doubt, suicidal thoughts and PTSD clouded his existence as it does with many other veterans.

 

During one of the ceremonies my friend came face to face with his Dark Side. Decades of repressed emotions were revealed and released. Spiraling deep in to a dark abyss his whole being was made apparent in all its millions of facets. All of the guilt, self doubt, the anguish and pain he held within, all the buried memories were revealed to him in a swirling sea that stretched to eternity. The vision was tangible and alive. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.

 

“….For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad…..” – Carl Jung

 

In that swirling chaos of his subconscious my friend found that he could let go of all that held him back and find peace at last if he chose. His past, present and future became as one. All time was now. Every place was now. Separation and duality did not exist. In that dimension he realized the illusion of self for what it is.

 

The effect the experience had on him was cathartic and complete. My friend had had nothing less than a deep spiritual experience.  I was drawn to this story because it sounded like the spiritual experience that had placed me on the road to sobriety. I had also met my Shadow. The difference was I didn’t take Ahuyuasca then but had fallen into a deep psychic rift leading to a mental and spiritual personal hell which I came back from as if reborn.

 

“….It is the world of water…..where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

The Beast

Carl Jung wrote about the Shadow. Jung stated that every person has a Shadow, a Dark Side, which is always present. Some of us keep it buried deep within our psyche and never know of it. Others allow it to bubble to the surface and manifest on occasion but maintain control or keep it buried much of the time. Fewer people are dominated by the Shadow. Very few people are even acquainted with their Shadow. It is the repressed morass of everything we don’t want to know about ourselves. The conscious Ego refuses to acknowledge the Shadow at all.

 

The Shadow is like the creature that lurked in garbage compactor of the Death Star; hidden and insidious yet indifferent. The Cave on Dagobah was a symbol of the intrinsic Shadow. A place best avoided. The Shadow is in us but we’d rather not know about it.

 

The Shadow is not necessarily evil. To label anything evil or malign is convenient but not always accurate. No person is inherently evil but the capacity to do terrible things resides in all of us. The Shadow of the psyche plays a hand in that. At the same time the Shadow can also have positive aspects such as risk taking and competitiveness. It can also be entirely unknown to us and have us act in ways that baffle us and those around us. You may not notice your own Shadow but others do and they’ll rarely be up front with you about it. Likewise you will see it in others. You will project your own shadow on others and find fault there.

 

There is in every one of us, even those who seem to be most moderate, a type of desire that is terrible, wild, and lawless.” – Plato “The Republic”

 

 

Primal

We all have an inner moral compass. Much of our personal views and morality is based on societal norms and the influence of our family and friends. It is often said that a person who is “well raised” will display moral virtues even under the most testing conditions. Yet, a sense of morality is also built in to our psyche. We intuitively know right from wrong. Children are naturally empathetic and caring. An infant that is deprived of affection and human touch will fail to grow and likely die. To be human is to be more than just a product of our environment. There is a blend of nature and nurture in everyone.

 

Yet the Shadow resides within us all. Jung said it extends all the way to Hell. It is part of our nature and buried in the recesses of our psyche to levels you cannot imagine. The Shadow pulls at our sleeve and appeals to the Darker Side of our nature and manifests as aggression, selfishness and greed. There is an evolutionary advantage to that. After all as humans we are driven to compete, dominate and consume. Without that drive our species would not have evolved, prevailed and ultimately populated the Earth.

 

At the same time coexistence and cooperation has been a requisite for survival and mutual benefit. There remains a duality in Humans, a Yin and Yang derived from millions of years of evolution. But like it or not everyone is a loaded gun. You, I and everyone are capable of good, bad and even terrible things.

 

Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” – Carl Jung

 

 

Archetypes

In Mythology there is usually a Hero and a Villain. Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” reminds us of this timeless formula. George Lucas based Star Wars on Campbell’s “Heroes Journey”.

 

We meet the Shadow in Star Wars. There are Heroes and Villains of course but none of the characters act always as expected. Some of the heroes are less than heroic and some of the villains also show redeeming virtues at times. Real life is no different. In reality we are both Hero and Villain in our own life story.

 

The “Heroes Journey” calls the protagonist to face his Shadow, overcome it and come out better from the experience. Along his Journey the Hero can also be a Villain and an Anti-Hero. This doesn’t only make for a good tale but it also develops character and provides an important lesson which is the purpose of myth.

 

Han Solo, Asajj Ventress, Boba Fett, Cade Bane, Lando Carlissian, Mace Windu, Quinlan Vos and Qui-Gon Jinn were neither all Hero nor all Villains. Each of the characters displayed attributes both good and bad. They were complex individuals who acted for reasons that seemed correct to them at the time. The Empire was not entirely bad either nor was the Republic entirely good. The Shadow was in everything. That is one of the gems of Lucas’s creation.

 

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

 

 

Living with the Shadow

The Skywalker family seemed utterly cursed. Anakin of course was haunted his entire life by the Shadow of Vader. Leia struggled with her own inner Demons. There was the perpetual conflict in Leia between a responsibility to her family and to her position. Luke was torn by his own inner doubts. On Dagobah he came face to face with his Dark Side in the Cave, a crucial part of his training. Luke confronted it again, for real, as his rage took decades later and he almost killed his nephew. Kylo Ren equally infected saw beauty and purpose in a nihilistic pursuit of power.

 

Yoda summoned his Shadow and overcame it allowing him to unify with the Force. Obi-wan Kenobi also invited his Shadow “out to play” and let it cut him down thus releasing him to also unify with the Force,

 

The best way to deal with your Dark Side is to face it, know it and accept it. Ignoring the Shadow does not work. Trying to kill the Shadow is impossible. We Alcoholics are often warned of the danger of the Ego. The Ego we are reminded has a tendency to become inflated. In time we lose our humility to Ego and allow ourselves to be led astray. In fact the much maligned Ego is not all bad. It is essential to our persona as long as we don’t let it get away from us. The Shadow on the over hand is the overlooked enemy if we let it dominate and control us.

 

“It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both” – Robert Louise Stephenson (Author of “Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde”)

 

Source: Star Wars (Luca Films)

 

Jeckyll and Hyde

Someone once told me that alcohol does nothing more than bring the real persona to the fore. That scared me because it meant that I was not a nice person. It also meant that I did not know myself at all.

 

If you knew me sober and then met me when I was drunk you would no longer know me. You would be confronted by a personality completely different to the individual you had previously met. The act of taking a drink had chemically altered my brain. After a single drink I was no longer the same person. One drink would lead to more drinks and the transformation would progress.

 

Eventually I would no longer resemble my sober self more than a passing physical resemblance. I resembled the duality of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde. Drunk I was as base, antisocial and destructive as Mr Hyde.

 

Eventually the Shadow began to take over my persona entirely.

 

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Three Steps

Look deep in to the soul of an Alcoholic in the later stage of addiction and you will see the Shadow staring back. The person you see is now the Shadow having completely taken over the person’s psyche. It is frightening if you pause to think about it. Even the Ego has been muted and forced down. The Ego needs the body to survive and won’t endanger it willingly. The Shadow does not care.

 

What remains in the late stage Alcoholic is the manifestation of something primal, desperate and nihilist. There is utter selfishness, anger, rage, self pity, self loathing, denial, indifference, resentment, grief and more than anything an urge that must be fulfilled at any cost. This is the Shadow. The only way out of the Shadow is through a spiritual cure.

 

In order to break from my Shadow I had to confront it through admission of my Alcoholism. My disease showed itself to me in all its detail. I saw clearly the harm I had caused to myself and others. I saw the past and the future laid out before me. The present moment stood still and I knew that I was on the edge of a great chasm.

My Shadow was laid bare before me. It was like I was detached from my body looking down at me and seeing myself for who I was for the first time. At that moment I turned to a Higher Power and asked it to take my burden. I became willing to let go without regret or reservation. In that moment I knew the shackles had been removed. I was free.

 

“In these ways, the personal shadow reinforces, encourages, and becomes dependent upon the addictive behavior to express itself, to have any existence in the light outside of the closet, the attic, and the basement where it has been locked up and hidden for so long.” – David Schoen “The War of the Gods in Addiction”.

 

 

The Journey

What I meant by a spiritual cure is not Divine Intervention but Faith in a Higher Power. The road to recovery for me had only begun at that moment. In order to express Faith I had to work. Self discipline and tenacity was necessary. Constant and honest introspection was required. I completed my personal inventory and admitted my faults and litany of wrongs to another and to my Higher Power. Little by little my Shadow began to dissipate becoming less black and dense. The spiritual burden I carried became lighter. I began to know myself more in weeks than I had in decades.

 

The process never ends. Daily introspection is required. Admit faults without hesitation. Seek to make amends where appropriate. Make a daily inventory and meditate on the Shadow often. Review, adapt, modify and improve continuously. Knowledge accumulates and wisdom follows.

 

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

Integrate

Once you acknowledge and accept that life is suffering and you suffer you can begin to dissect the reasons why. It will come as no surprise to discover that much of our own suffering comes from our own choices. Many of those choices will be contrary to your stated principles, values and virtues. An Alcoholic must at last confront the Shadow which afflicts his life and struggle to overcome it. Only by accepting that reality and seeing things as they really are do we stand a chance. Paradoxically healing comes from integrating the Shadow in to our consciousness.

 

We must constantly question the paradigm we find ourselves in. Does it represent reality or a projection of your own psyche? We must also decide what our values are and the virtues we wish to demonstrate. Are your thoughts, habits and actions objective and in congruence with those stated principles, values and virtues?

 

A Jedi constantly questions his or her reality. A Jedi trusts her feelings because she knows they are valid. Jedi are never satisfied with appearances alone and delve deeper to uncover the truth discarding what is false or redundant. Jedi practices such as meditation, physical training, mindfulness, awareness, objective inquiry and self discipline all serve to keep a Jedi in reality. Cooperation, diplomacy, reasoned discourse and respect for others creates an environment incongruent to the Shadow. Jedi strive to uphold the Code.

 

Light repels shadows and only barriers that we construct with our own minds create them. Light offers clarity through knowledge while the Shadow conceals the truth. A Jedi is simply someone who knows who they are both good and bad, warts and all. They know and accept the Shadow and fully and mindfully integrate it.

 

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  – Carl Gustav Jung

 

 

Being you

My friend found answers in his quest for knowledge through Ahuyuasca. In reality all he did was confront his Shadow and fully integrate it in to his being. This he did through acceptance and surrender to the experience. As a result all of the repressed memories and emotions he carried were released. From there he was able to walk away from the experience a free man at least for a time.

 

Isn’t freedom from suffering what we all seek?  Is it enough to confront the Shadow? Is a spiritual experience alone enough to reach self actualization and lasting serenity?

 

The attainment of virtue, clarity of purpose and wisdom should be the pillars we seek in life. This is the highway on the journey to enlightenment. By confronting the Shadow we come face to face with our Dark Side and knowing it we can better know ourselves. Knowing ourselves we can then begin to lighten the shadow and express what we repress. We invite our repressed feelings out to play. We integrate our Shadow in a constructive way rather than leave it buried deep within our psyche.

 

All our lives we are conditioned to be and act a certain way. We repress and hide aspects of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge. Our persona is a mirror of what family, friends and society wants from us. The Shadow retains the hidden morass of repressed memories and emotions like the refuse and the beast in the garbage compactor on the Death Star. Embrace the aspects of the shadow that serve. Be you entirely not a second rate version, a mere shadow of yourself.

 

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung

 

 

*Authors Note: I do not personally endorse or recommend the use of Ahuyuasca or any other psychedelic drug without the full supervision of a competent practicing psychiatrist. There are many retreats in South America and elsewhere that offer Ahuyuasca ceremonies. Readers who are considering traveling to a retreat and using the drug should fully research the topic beforehand and seek medical advice prior to proceeding with the experience.

 

Further Reading

Related article on Star Wars.com: https://www.starwars.com/news/star-wars-in-mythology-the-shadow

Jung, C.G. (1969). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious [sic], Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09761-9

MTFBWY

May the Force be with you – Han Solo

 

Every Fourth of May the world celebrates Star Wars Day. The date is taken from the catchphrase “May the Fourth be with you” a play on the famous line “May the Force be with you” first heard in Star Wars in 1977. It immediately captured the imagination of millions of people. Two years later and Margaret Thatcher won the UK  elections on May 4th , 1979 becoming the countries first female Prime Minister. The Conservative “Tory” party took out a front page notice in the London Evening News congratulating her victory with “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie congratulations”. I remember the day well….Anyway, the line stuck and it re-appeared until the date was immortalized as “Star Wars Day”.

Most people would give you a weird look if you were to say “May the Force be with you” on any other day. In the Star Wars universe it has a magical and holy ring to it. The Force is real, it permeates everything. The Universe is the Force. The statement affirms that primary truth, that the Force resides in all life. The Force is then with you always but when someone says it, it reminds you and brings you back to the moment, to a glimpse of who and what you truly are.

In the 12 Step movement we are reminded that no one ever loses the divine spark within them. We choose only to shut it out or throw a barrier between us and our Higher Power. The flame is never fully extinguished. If you believe in God you will know that the divine never leaves you, for God resides within, without and in all creation. As conscious human beings with free will we only choose to believe or imagine that we are utterly bereft and forsaken in the dark. We never truly are, there is always a candle in the dark, a way out.

What we had in addiction was a choice to express that spark that resides within and finally embrace life.

 

Remember the Force will be with you. Always. – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

I have to laugh when I see people on Social Media wishing each other the catch phrase “May the Fourth be with you”. It’s all for fun of course. The date is a good one to celebrate the fictional universe that Lucas created more than 40 years ago and we continue to enjoy today.

I don’t often wish anyone “May the Force be with you” I’m not a religious person but I can’t deny the power of those words even if they are attached to a story that is entirely fictional. When I was in the Middle East I heard people say Shalom and Salem. Both words mean Peace. They are used as everyday greetings but also as a wish that peace may be on your soul. One word can soften a look of suspicion or potential animosity in a stranger when you offer him or her the word Salem…Peace.  One greeting can make all the difference.

So “May the Force be with you” on this day, the Fourth of May and all days. May it bring you peace, happiness, serenity and peace. May you find your inner Jedi (and Child) not just for one day but for all days.

Resurrection

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

He who surrenders hope, surrenders life.” – The Clone Wars “Alter of Mortis”.

 

The Resurrection of the Christ from the dead is the very foundation on which the Christian faith is built. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross and then he rose again and walked among his followers for forty days before ascending to heaven. The symbolism of the story is that Jesus, as a manifestation of the divine, died like a common man. Jesus then descended to hell carrying the sins of the world and then arose on the third day defeating death and redeeming the world. This is the salvation of the resurrection.

From a metaphysical perspective I see the story of the resurrection as a parable which is intended to remind us that death is not final. Yes all things die but life always follows death. The circle of life is continuous and death is a part of that. But life always triumphs over death.

I also believe that the story of the resurrection is to remind us that in life we must let the old parts of ourselves die in order to renew ourselves. We must be willing to let go and suffer in doing so if it allows us to grow.

No one’s ever really gone” – Luke Skywalker

 

The Rise of Skywalker

“The Rise of Skywalker” is an interesting title for the last episode of Star Wars. In “The Last Jedi” we saw Luke Skywalker “die” on the Island of Ahch-To. In the final scenes Luke vanishes symbolizing his transcendence from the flesh to the living Force. Yoda, Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin all transcended to the Force. They were resurrected not in a physical sense but there continued consciousness in the Force defeated mortality by becoming immortal.

Will Luke now “rise” from the dead in the last episode? Will he be more than a Force Ghost? What of Lela? Will the laws of the Force be utterly upended and Darth Sidious also released from the shackles of death?

I believe you will bring balance to the Force. That you will defeat your demons and bring balance to the Force” – Qui Gonn Jinn

 

Resurrected

The Star Wars mythology uses the theme of resurrection in the saga. Obi-wan Kenobi was clearly struck down by Vader in the original movie. The Jedi Master deftly parried Vader’s Lightsaber before opening himself to the fatal blow. At first it seemed like suicide but soon the true purpose of Obi-wan Kenobi’s death was revealed. Yoda also returned to aid Luke Skywalker after he had died in the flesh. Qui-Gon Jinn also appeared to Anakin and tried to guide him.

Villains also return in Star Wars. Darth Maul struck down by the apprentice Obi-wan Kenobi somehow survived and returned decades later insane with a lust for revenge. Cade Bane the unscrupulous Bounty Hunter and perennial anti-hero was rumored killed in a duel but I have no doubt we may see him again in a future series of the Clone Wars.

 

“Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to create life… The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” – Darth Sidious

 

The Return of the Sith

Can the Sith defy death and resurrect themselves? Sidious was destroyed in “Return of the Jedi”, killed at the hands of his apprentice Darth Vader. What if the essence of Darth Sidious was preserved within the dark side of the Force? Like his Master Darth Plagueis had he mastered the secret to cheating death?

Luke said in the teaser that no one’s ever really gone does this allude to Palpatine? Lucas may have been planning the resurrection of Darth Sidious since the “Return of the Jedi”. One of the alternate endings of the first trilogy was the conversion of Luke to the dark side with the defeat of the Sith Lord. Lucas however decided on a happy ending.

Having the resurrection of the Sith and the return of Palpatine as the end to the “Rise of Skywalker” may keep the circle of the mythology turning. If the Dark Side rises once again in the galaxy we must wait for another “chosen one” to end it and restore balance to the Force fulfilling the ancient prophecy.

The second coming so to speak…

 

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

 

Rise

Whether you believe in the story of the resurrection of Christ or not depends on your religious leanings. In reality people who die do not rise again unless the person was in fact not dead. This is why the story of “The Rise of Christ” is so important to Christians and underpins the basis of their religion. The resurrection of Christ provides proof of the divinity of Jesus as the son of God and eternal savoir of the world. Christians believe that the crucifixion and resurrection were prophesied to happen in the Old Testament.

I believe that the story of the resurrection is to remind us that we have a choice. We can choose to find purpose and meaning in life and strive to be a better version of our self every day or we can capitulate to a nihilistic existence and reject any meaning in life. We can choose the Light Side or the Dark Side.

The story of the crucifixion and resurrection is one of reaching redemption and meaning by going through suffering. In life we must take up our cross and bear it. Redemption comes through suffering. Like pruning dead branches, we shed parts of our old lives. The process can be painful but we emerge renewed.

The celebration of Easter is one of rebirth and renewal as well as hope. Becoming sober is like being born again, a resurrection from an existence that was neither being wholly alive or completely dead. Addicts are caught in twilight between two worlds. Eventually we are forced to choose between the two. That choice is to let the old life die and the new life arise or not. We can stay down or rise up resurrected and renewed. I choose life. What do you choose?

Ashes

“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 sensing the destruction of Alderaan “A New Hope”

“No one’s ever really gone” – Luke Skywalker “
The Rise of Skywalker”

In the more than half century I have been on this planet I have always noticed change in the world around me. In 1977 Star Wars was released and climate scientists claimed the world was entering another ice age. This year the ninth and final episode of Star Wars is being released and the world is warming. Everywhere I look I see change and one thing replacing another. Ashes and memories remain.

Star Wars is one of those things that has changed and evolved over the years. The teaser for the last installment of the last trilogy of Star Wars has been released. “The Rise of Skywalker” is the final act in a mythology that has been loved for more than forty years. The teaser is a welcome distraction from the chaos that seems to be pervasive in the world at present. I also feel sad because Disney has stated that it has decided to enter a hiatus with Star Wars. Many herald the “Rise of Skywalker” as the end to the saga. Many fans will now have to struggle with further change and loosen their attachments. Even Star Wars has to end someday.

“It matters which side we choose. Even if there will never be more light than darkness” – Qui-Gon Jinn


Burning Temples

While I write this the fires at the Notre Dame Cathedral are smoldering. I spent much time in Paris and admired the cathedral more for its longevity than its religious symbolism. I can’t help but take notice and feel emotion of loss and regret. Why? Distraction, impermanence and attachments all lead to suffering. Lately we have seen a lot of suffering in the world. Why should I feel nostalgia for something that will soon be rebuilt and perhaps in better condition than before? It’s just a building of stone and wood after all.

Many Jews lament the loss of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and that memory runs at the heart of the long running Israeli-Arab conflict . The destruction of the Temple of Artemis by the Greek arsonist Herostatus for notoriety is also still remembered and gave rise to the term “Herostratic fame”. Many of the worlds greatest shrines are built over the ruins and ashes of destroyed places of worship, including Notre Dame.

In Star Wars Jedi Temples across the Galaxy were destroyed by the Empire. The Great Temple on Coruscant, built on the ruins of a Sith Temple, fell and became the seat of power to the Emperor Palpatine. The Temple that Luke Skywalker built was destroyed in revenge by his own Nephew. As I contemplated the Notre Dame engulfed in flames I wondered how the Jedi who survived Order 66 felt about the loss their Temple on Coruscant after thousands of years. Did they care? The Jedi who survived put their emotions aside and continued to resist the Empire.

I remembered how I reacted to the Planet Alderaan being destroyed in the original Star Wars release in 1977. The theater reacted in horror and awe. Princess Leia, possibly the greatest Force sensitive ever, reacted to the destruction of her home in true Jedi fashion.

So why should concern myself with the loss of an old stone building? Change and impermanence is nature.

 

Old for New

Is a vintage car that has been continuously restored for decades with new panels and engine parts the same car as the one which was originally built? Will the rebuilt Notre Dame be the same as the one which was constructed 850 years ago? Much of the structure of the building has been replaced over the centuries during renovations and to think it is the same and original structure would be incorrect. Notre Dame has been on fire before.

The Spartans kept a Tireme, a battle vessel which had fought in the Persian Wars, for centuries to remind them of the glorious victory. Over time the Tireme was completely replaced and not a fiber of its wood remained from the original vessel. Has the Tireme then not been completely replaced? Is it nothing more than a physical memory, a mere replica of the original? When it was finally destroyed did they lament an object that no had longer existed in the first place?

 

Boiling Frogs

People are attached to objects and to the “way things are”. Because change can happen so gradually we often fail to notice until we sit down and contemplate it (see Negative Visualization). When something happens that is confronting and transformative we are shaken and reminded of impermanence. It hurts badly. The death of a loved one, the mortality of our own flesh, sudden illness, the loss of a treasured possession and the sweeping change of events that shape human society are constant reminders of impermanence and our own human fragility.

The fable of the boiling Frog reminds us that we can tolerate and accept change in our environment gradually but not suddenly. This can be detrimental as it leaves us blind to reality.

The premise goes that if you place a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately try to jump out because the shock is too sudden and survival instincts kick in. If the frog is placed in a pot of tepid water and allowed to slowly boil it will remain in place until eventually it dies.

The premise is false, at least for Frogs that is. Humans fall for it all the time. Amphibians are more receptive to changes in their environment than humans. Biologists use frogs as “canaries in a coal mine” as an indicator of ecological damage from climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Frogs will move or die when conditions become adverse. Humans tend to react when things become unbearable. Rather than adjust to warning signs we miss or ignore them and slowly boil in our own ignorance.


“I’ve seen what I become… and I cannot let that happen.”
– Anakin Skywalker on seeing a vision of his role in the destruction of Alderaan

Gone Forever

In the time it takes me to write this sentence 38 acres (15 hectares) of rain forest were removed permanently somewhere in the world, never to regrow in human time scales. Did anyone notice? Because deforestation is progressive like a slow spreading cancer we barely notice until the “frog in the rain forest” vanishes. The “canary” is in trouble but the world has its eyes elsewhere. 21 children under five died of starvation and preventable illness in the time it took me to write this paragraph. No one noticed that either. Unlike frogs in a slowly boiling pot of water we are sleep walking to our collective destiny.

Yet we lament and donate a billion dollars to a Cathedral owned by one of the richest institutions in the world. Palpatine would be cackling in delight. Jesus would be appalled.

 


Wake Up

I know something of the “boiling frog” principle. My career as an alcoholic was time spent in a pot of slowly boiling water. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, changes creep in to our persona as our character slowly morphs. All the clear warnings are ignored. Eventually a slippery slope evolves and we are carried away. For many the spiraling free fall is terminal. For the rest of us there is the chance of recovery and redemption. Having been through the wringer and spat out finally humbled, we are wiser for it.

The Boiling Frog is a metaphor warning people to never be complacent and to be mindful of the consequence immediate and long-term of gradual change. This includes our own decisions and behaviors. We can’t allow sudden and catastrophic events to spur us in to action alone. These events can be a late sign or distracting from the real problems. We must be constantly vigilante to gradual change and question it.

 

Think again

Distraction is a modern day problem. Humans are becoming less attentive and aware despite the greatest accessibility and wealth of information available in history. We are becoming more reactive. As a result civilization is literally the frog in the slowly boiling pot of information. We tend not to see the forest for the trees and we feed from media misinformation like pigs at a trough rarely questioning what we are being fed. The digital noise is incredible and distraction has become a postmodern drug, to our collective detriment. Information is in abundance yet wisdom is scare.

Distraction is dangerous for an Alcoholic. It leads to unruly emotions and bad decisions. In recovery we are taught the “think think think” mantra as a way to pause and center our attention when we become distracted by thoughts or things that trigger us. We think our way out of a drink by being aware of what we are doing, about to do or have done. We have become wiser as a result.


Distracting Injuries

I kneel next to the patient and start a rapid initial assessment. “Hello can you hear me?”, “Can you tell me what happened”. “My arm… it hurts” comes the pained reply in short breaths. This means the airway is open and the patient is breathing. Eyes open means level of consciousness acceptable for now. Move on to a rapid trauma assessment. There’s a tear in a sleeve and a bone is protruding from it. The radial bone has fractured clean and there’s not much blood. The injury is not pretty and draws my attention. The patient groans. I begin to create a padded bandage to place around the bone before immobilizing with a splint and tell the EMT to get an IV set up so I can manage the pain. The watching on instructor stops me.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m doing my trauma assessment and treating as I go”

“Are you sure that’s the most serious problem he’s got?” she points her chin that the arm.

I look at the patient, again and think hard, his breathing is shallow, lips are blue, he’s pale and he is not really with it anymore.

I take a quick blood pressure and pulse, the instructor tells me its “80/40” and “140 but feeble”

Bloody hell he’s in shock! I need to move! my mind races.

I bare his chest and there is a large smudge of moulage that would indicate the massive bruise from a sudden and catastrophic impact of a chest with a steering column during a head on collision.

I auscultate his chest with my stethoscope.

“Breath sound absent on the left side. You see a unilateral rise in the chest and tracheal deviation” the Instructor says

“Patient has a tension pneumothorax and is going in to shock, probably internal injuries” I say feebly feeling sick.

“And….?” she is getting impatient, prodding me.

“Treat the tension pneumothorax with needle decompression, manage shock, priority 1, treat on route to Hospital” I respond.

“Crack on” she smirks and moves to the next Paramedic student working on his patient in this motor vehicle accident scenario.

My patient winks at me and grins “Gotcha!”.

Damn! I think to myself. Rookie mistake, distracting injuries!


Accept, Adapt, Act

One of the strengths of a Jedi is that she is adaptive to change and never rests on her laurels. The Jedi must be ready to modify her behavior with changing circumstances and be ready to adapt quickly as the situation remains in flux. Distractions are recognized and filtered out. Small tell-tale signs are considered, nothing is ignored. Her life may depend on it.

A Jedi holds no attachments and quickly accepts loss even when it is painful and final. Without reservation the Jedi accepts the impermanence of all things. All that is belongs to the Force anyway and returns to it. Everything that is will one day cease to exist in physical form. Nothingness is the only true reality.

Princess Leia quickly accepted the loss of her home Planet, Alderaan, when it was destroyed by the Death Star. The loss of her friends, family and the home she loved were felt but it did not break her resolve to resist Vader. As tragic as it was for Leia she did not let it compromise the Rebel mission to destroy the Death Star and save countless other lives in the Galaxy. Luke also felt the loss of Obi-wan Kenobi and expressed his remorse openly but accepted it. Ironically Obi-wan was still with him and had not died. The Force is constant and does not change.

 

 

“Nothing is lost where the Force dwells, and the Force is everywhere.” – Obi-wan Kenobi


Ashes in the Mouth

When the Notre Dame was burning I was shocked and saddened at seeing the images on the screen unfold. Then I put it in to perspective. No lives were lost, the event was likely an unfortunate accident. Paris has endured far worse. It’s a building and can be rebuilt. Do we allow the impermanence of things to upturn our lives when they are taken from us suddenly? Do we allow ourselves to be distracted by small scale events that we would normally ignore if they weren’t beamed to us live via the internet while remaining oblivious to the creeping destruction of our planet, injustices and starving children?

It suddenly struck me that the loss of the Notre Dame was not the problem. The real problem is that people (myself included) have trouble accepting change. We are afraid of the sudden demise of things that are familiar, safe, secure and solid because our lives are fragile in comparison. Humans are insecure. If great monuments and institutions can fall what chance do we have? We start to sense chaos, the darkness crowds in and with it our anxieties and most base fears emerge.

The Buddhist Monk Ajahn Chah one day held up a tea cup “To me this cup is already broken. Because I know its fate, I can enjoy it fully here and now. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.” The lesson here is to enjoy what life offers but to accept it without excessive remorse when it is gone. Uncertainty, randomness, impermanence and loss is a part of life and we must accept that if we are to have serenity.

All temples eventually crumble to dust. Do we grasp at our attachment to things that only carry the meaning that we give them? A church does not contain God. The Force is everywhere and most of all it resides within us all. Let nothing distract us from that.

Remember; accept the impermanence of things, loosen your attachments and avoid being distracted from what’s really important.

 

Λόγος

Λόγος: Logos (reason / meaning)

 

“I want to be a Jedi, like my Father” – Luke Skywalker to Obi-wan Kenobi “A New Hope”

 

“Being a Jedi is a hard life” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Anakin Skywalker “The Phantom Menace”

 

Is being Jedi an occupation, a job, an avocation, a lifestyle or a discipline? Can someone really call themselves a Jedi or claim the title of Master? Is being sober a lifestyle choice, a path, an avocation? Is it an actual job for some? Do we seek meaning in the things that we do or do the things that we do give our lives meaning? Do we give our lives meaning or the other way round? Are we nothing more the total sum of our existence at any given moment? Are you merely your job, possessions, responsibilities, car, where you live, your clothes and the image you put on for others or something more?

When Luke saw the bodies of his Uncle and Aunt and the smoking ruins of his home on Tatooine he knew that everything had changed. There was only one thing to do. Luke’s destiny was to become a Jedi and his actions from that moment would resound across the Galaxy. Being a Jedi was his calling, his purpose and the meaning he gave his life. Luke embraced his destiny. Being a Jedi was more than a Job it was the very essence of Luke, his purpose and calling.

Anakin was rescued from slavery. Anakin was a mere boy when he met Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi. Because Anakin was special he was taken from his home and mother to become a type of Galactic “Janissary” and serve the Jedi Order for life.

From the day he was born Anakin knew Fear, now he would learn to be a Jedi. Being Jedi was not what Anakin really wanted. A conflict between his heart’s desire and his duty raged relentlessly within Anakin. The imbalance tore him apart. Anakin was meant to be the “chosen one” but how could he? That’s what others wanted, not him. Anakin could not save himself let alone those he cared for. Eventually Anakin turned against the very people that bought him out of slavery and he destroyed everything in his path.

Luke found meaning as a Jedi. Anakin failed as a Jedi because he found no meaning in it other than the mission at hand. Anakin was never meant to be a Jedi.

 

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

Fight Club

Recently I read “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk it remains the defining novel of my Generation. A “Catcher in the Rye” of Gen X. The story got me thinking about things. In many ways “Fight Club” is also a meditation for those in recovery from alcoholism. We lived in an illusion that was self imposed. We knew that that our lives were a shambolic prison. Like the Narrator we sought “something different”.

In the Fight Club the narrator is attempting to escape the hollow materialistic and hedonistic world he is bound to as a mindless consumer and wage slave. The Narrator is completely unsatisfied with his life and finds no meaning it any part of it. In his insomnia induced psychosis the Narrator creates an alter ego, Tyler Durden, the man he wishes to be. Tyler Durden is contemptuous of society and wants to destroy it and create a nihilistic utopia from its ashes. The consequences of letting Tyler in to his life are devastating for the Narrator.

The “Fight Club” is a call to our inner primordial self, a place where one can be completely unfettered. My alcoholic self was my alter ego, a personal Tyler Durden who eventually took over every aspect of my life. Like the Narrator I became hateful and I wanted to fight everyone and everything. In some ways it was a bliss, a refuge from the mediocrity and meaningless of living in the modern world. Complete abandon. In my aggression I thought I was enlightened. Booze set me free but like Tyler’s persona in the story it was nothing but a delusion, an escape from reality. I was riddled with angst.

Tyler forced the Narrator to end himself but in doing so he ended Tyler. The Narrator emerged a new person, a transcendent version of himself. He awoke to reality at last. My Alcoholic self tried to destroy me and I found my Higher Power and also emerged stronger for it. I also awoke to reality, not a utopia full of rainbows and unicorns but a cold hard slap in your face reality. It was pure relief.

 

Today is the sort of day where the sun only comes up to humiliate you.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

A Living

I work for a living. Since I left school I have worked first to provide for myself and then to support others. In many ways my purpose in life has always been to work. In the absence of alcohol my career took precedence. Work became a surrogate for booze in sobriety. Often my career came at the expense of things that matter more. Now I realize I am not made to work. I do not live to work, I work to live.

We put so much emotional investment in to defining and shaping our identity. One of the first things people ask is “what do you do (for a living)? Your answer will usually set the impression that people will have of you. Their profession defines who they are and your work defines you if not something else you spend a lot of time doing.

Meaning and status are vital for the human need of social acceptance. People need to know where they reside within the social hierarchy and what their purpose within it is. A profession, career, work provides all of these things. Those who are happy in their work and find meaning and purpose in their position are more likely to have positive emotions. Those who are dissatisfied with their position, their work and their status are more likely to carry negative emotions. Those that find themselves in an existence that conflicts with their inner purpose are conflicted within themselves.

 

“This is your life and it’s ending one moment at a time.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Lobsters

Having status within the hierarchy is a human need rooted in a biological imperative that is hundreds of millions of years old. We have evolved to seek to climb the hierarchy and when we arrive at our potential we guard it against threats and defend our position from attack. This same behaviour is noted in every social animal from Humans to Wolves to Lobsters. Jordan Peterson in his seminal work “12 Rules for Life” talks a lot about Lobsters and describes this human need for self actualization in detail and how much of our emotional health and well being is tied to our social standing and our work.

The Human need for existential meaning goes beyond the need for a place within the social hierarchy or as Peterson call it the “Dominance Hierarchy”. We are more than Lobsters. Humans most of all yearn for meaning and seek purpose in their lives.

Even in the midst of calamity and tragedy a meaning to one’s suffering can be derived. This fundamental truth of human nature kept the Vienna Psychologist Viktor Frankl alive during his darkest years of captivity in the Nazi concentration camps. Because he deeply believed that he could define meaning from his suffering.

Commander James Stockdale spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison suffering torture and the worst of deprivations but yet came out of it morally and spiritually intact. Despite the years lost, Stockdale claimed that the experience was life transforming. They found meaning through their experience and survived against the odds.

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”  ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

Finding Meaning

Viktor Frankl relates in his book “Man’s search for Meaning” the story of a leading Viennese Doctor who arrested by the Gestapo began to proclaim his many credentials and qualifications. Showing the Nazi Officer his papers the Doctor emphasized his point that he was a man of great esteem and standing in the community. The German Officer took up all the papers and tore them up stating “Here this is all you are now! You are nothing!”.

The Doctor striped of his suit, his identity, dignity and privileged position in society died soon after in Auschwitz. The Doctor lost the will to live as he could find no meaning and purpose in life. In the Hanoi Hilton the communists did the same to their American prisoners and those who abandoned hope and lost meaning in the experience and purpose to their lives soon succumbed.

Those who shared the same experience but accepted it as an opportunity to find a deeper meaning and purpose survived and even thrived. They may have been beaten, tortured, starved and constantly humiliated but they kept possession of their mind and inner self. The Jailers could break their bodies but not their spirits. The prisoners had something that their tormentors could not take away; their will to meaning.

 

“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”
– Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Logos

Frankl went on to publish his treatise on “Logotherapy” a therapy based on the “will to meaning”. The fundamental truth that people seek meaning in their lives to survive and grow. Self actualization through meaning is the leading motivator in a person’s life. Inner conflict and negative emotions are assured when an individual fails to find a sense of meaning in their life or when it is frustrated. It can also result when a person is forced in a direction that conflicts with his inner purpose, like Anakin.

Logotherapy was the result of Frankl’s experience in the camps and came together from scraps of paper that he kept hidden within his prison uniform. Commander Stockdale finished his career in the US Navy and contested the US presidential elections. The experience of his internment never stopped him from achieving his goals and made him a better person.

 

“The lower you fall, the higher you’ll fly.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Trudging On

I work for a living. I have a career. One day I will stop working but life will not stop. Hopefully I will be able to retire to books and gardening. Perhaps there will be Grandchildren. In time the memory of my working years and the importance I placed on my position, education and career will fade. They call this retirement.

Tomorrow I could also get a call from my employer telling me that I have been made redundant. Like anyone else I could find myself on the street without position, status, money or a home. I could remain unemployed for months or even years and fall in to destitution. Would this loss of security and upending of my plans for a long career diminish me as a person? Am I my job, position, the model of car I drive, the clothes I wear and the house I call home? Do these things have any more meaning than what I give them?

 

“I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.”Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

Down but never Out

Although I’m ashamed of many things that I did as an Alcoholic in active abuse I have to concede that I’m glad I went through that and came out sober. Those years taught me a lot about my self. I had to fall to Earth to fly higher than before.

My career has provided a certain degree of financial security and pride in my abilities but it is my recovery that has and still gives my life real meaning. If I lose everything I can still choose to be sober. I can still find purpose and meaning in a Higher Power. Although they are all important, I am not my position, my status, education, property, relationships and I am certainly not my job.

 

“Look up at the stars and you’re gone.”Chuck Palahniuk,“Fight Club”

Be You

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I work for a living and I don’t work to live. I have to remind myself to loosen any attachments I have to my job, position, status, property or relationships. Any of these things could end at any time. A bad day could trip me up and find me back to drinking.

Being Jedi has meaning. Frankl said that the meaning of life is to find meaning and purpose in it even on the darkest of days. We have to start by taking responsibility for ourselves and for others. Jordan Peterson was also right in suggesting we should always stand up straight with our shoulders back. Tyler Durden ultimately had it wrong. The Jedi Order was definitely wrong about Anakin.

I have to be like Frankl or Stockdale and accept that the winds of fate may not blow in my favor but they will blow me somewhere. I should know they will and be prepared for that. That is the nature of Logos. I may call myself many things in this life, I will be many things but I am and always will be a recovered Alcoholic in training. That’s where I find meaning and purpose every day.

 

I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”