“Only a Sith deals in absolutes” – Obi-wan Kenobi
When Obi-Wan Kenobi faced Anakin on the Planet Mustafa his friend and apprentice had fallen to the Dark Side. Obi-Wan Kenobi was dealing with a persona who had changed dramatically and who could not be reasoned with. Anakin had previously been a maverick, someone who bucked the system and stretched the rules. He had been a Jedi who at times thumbed his nose at protocol and used intuition and initiative to get the job done however he was never uncompromising.
As Anakin fell to the Dark Side he became the complete opposite and accepted only an extreme and uncompromising view. There was no longer tolerance or a grey area but all the hard and narrow absolutism and narrow mindedness of a Sith, the sworn enemy of the Jedi. Darth Vader would only deal in absolutes, dogma, total submission, complete and blind obedience and the unquestioning acceptance of extreme ideology. The Absolutism of Power absolute.
“If you are not with me, then you are my enemy!” – Anakin
Life is not about absolutes. The very nature of the Universe reveals anything but an absolute system. Everything is evolving and changing in nature and change is the nature of things. Human nature as well is contrary to absolutism nobody is hard wired to resist change. If humans were that inflexible and resistant to change we would not have lasted as a species. It is through a willingness to accept change, to explore new things and to question accepted norms that we have been able to grow and evolve.
I had an absolute and inflexible approach to my disease for a long time. Despite the obvious physical, mental and spiritual harm that it had caused I ignored the signs and the warnings from others. I was convinced that I was right and resented anyone who challenged that assumption. My anger and hatred for those who suggested I had a problem only worsened as my life unraveled.
A type of moral absolutism also applied in other areas of my life. I was never one to accept a differing opinion. I was closed minded. Even if the opposing view seemed reasonable, pride would not let me relent in an argument and accept that I might be wrong. In Recovery too I may have dropped the denial but I became inflexible and “righteous” in other areas. I adopted the manners of a person who had gone “God Crazy”. My spiritual fervor did not extend to tolerance of others and I set standards on myself that were inflexible and childish. I was missing the point and thinking in extremes only created negativity and unhappiness. I was missing out on life by boxing myself in.
Sanity in all Areas
Sobriety means finding one’s sanity in all areas of life. That means putting prejudices aside and reconsidering strongly held beliefs and opinions. I had to surrender many assumptions and adopt an open mind if I was to remain sober. I had to start to relax and take it easy. Even now I catch myself getting caught up in issues and becoming highly passionate about them. I see the old Alcoholic tendency of over doing it coming out and I have to rein myself in. Passion is good, but when passion over takes objectivity and starts to dominate us, we are in dangerous territory.
“There is no Passion, There is Serenity” – The Jedi Code
Life is not completely black or white but millions of shades in between the two extremes. To take a hard line and extremist approach to anything means chaining yourself to that mindset and ignoring the endless opportunities that exist within the complexity of life. We can set ourselves principles and boundaries that give us more freedom without building walls around ourselves at the same time. For example, I am absolute in my abstinence and will not compromise on that however I do not enforce my standards on others. If someone has a problem with alcohol and seeks out my help, I am at their service but I will not preach or lecture. All I can do is offer advice. The Big Book does not offer absolutes and never said “Thou Shalt”, it made suggestions for recovery only.
“Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its suggestions.” – The Big Book
Do question, challenge assumptions, avoid dogma, be open minded, get out of your comfort zone, be skeptical of Gurus. These are some of the things I have learned from the Steps and from walking the Jedi Path. I take what I need and I leave the rest.
The Middle Path
In the world today there is so much extremism. Whether it is religious, racial or nationalist in nature any form of extremism leads to tension, division and conflict. We only have to look and see how it is tearing the world apart. Within every person also resides a tension between opposing views and between our better nature and darker side. How we reconcile ourselves to the extremes in our lives and in our hearts is a personal choice.
The Stoics (like the Jedi) always sought the positive angle in every bad situation. Extremes in emotions were discouraged and avoided and the outcome was a deeper sense of serenity and acceptance in their lives. Gautama Buddha and Saint Francis of Assisi also lived to extremes of self deprivation and belief and found that it did not work so they taught their followers to walk a middle path to spiritual enlightenment. To be Jedi is also to walk a middle path.
If we take a step back when things go awry and objectively consider every angle we will often find that our initial reaction may not have been warranted and things are not as bad as they appear. Extremist views and extreme emotions are rarely justified and seldom serve in any situation.
What are your views? Where might they be extreme or unyielding? How does that affect your life and the lives of others? Now ask yourself: Does it serve me?