Victim

“It’s not my fault!” – Han Solo

 

The famous line “It’s not my fault” was said four times in the original trilogy of Star Wars. The quote is used by Han Solo and Lando Calrissian to dismiss any blame for screwing up at precisely the wrong moment. For example when being chased by Imperial Star Destroyers or making excuses to Jabba the Hutt. Rogues and smugglers do not easily admit their mistakes even when the odds are that everyone is about to be killed because of them.

 

Pulling Hair and Eating Dirt*

Growing up I always felt the victim. It felt as if I was born to suffer injustices. The blame for every problem that I ever had could be placed squarely at the feet of others. With the years that attitude solidified. I was arrested for shop lifting as a child and blamed those who were with me, my home and an alcoholic Father. My troubles at school were due to a broken home, a dead mother and being taken into state care.

I fought a lot because other kids provoked me. I was the “same old backside again” for the Head Masters cane. I didn’t do well in School because of a disruptive home. My grades were poor because we had moved around a lot. We were poor migrant working class. None of it was my fault. I was a Victim.

Being a skinny and awkward kid who lacked confidence I was never popular with girls. I was one of those kids that sat on the sidelines at school dances waiting and wanting someone to ask me but dreading it at the same time. Being like that, the sullen pale skinny kid, inevitably attracting bullies and trouble at the same time. I was miserable and for every slight, insult, slap across the head and wedgie my self-pity and indignation grew. Every screw up that happened seemed to be blamed on me. I hated the world and wanted to fight everyone and everything.

 

Baseless victimhood is usually the last stage before outright aggression.” ― Stefan Molyneux

 

Baggy Trousers, Dirty Shirt

I was shocked when the Captain signed a document committing me to five years in the Army. I barely notice he did so with a perceptible sigh of resignation as if he had suffered a slow day and needed to fill a quota before he could leave for the Officers mess. The Captain passed over a contract which I signed. I thanked him for the opportunity and he looked at me with mix of humor and pity and said with a grin “Good Luck Son”! My lack of self-confidence and self-esteem was obvious. Perhaps he thought the military might save me from something worse than death.

Getting in to the army felt like I had finally been accepted in to a family that mattered something. Even as my scalp still burned from being roughly shaved clean and I stood shorter than everyone else in my over-sized new fatigues, I felt like a man at last. A Corporal said I looked like a “bag of shit tied in the middle”.

They called me “Sprog”, “Grommet” and “Cluster”. For the first year I was the guy who got the worst jobs and suffered the most offerings of Punishment. My Team harangued me for every fault in barracks, field or range. They were also getting “beasted” for my mistakes. I could do nothing right and when I tried my best it was rejected and ridiculed. Soon on overseas on deployment I sometimes contemplated deserting in to the night or turning my rifle on myself. None of this was my fault. This is not what I wanted. Why couldn’t I fit in?

 

Stop validating your victim mentality. Shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli

 

Bend not Break the Rules

Propped up at a bar nursing a whiskey and chasing that with beer I suddenly felt like I belonged. My “Muckers” were around me buying rounds of tequila. I slammed a few and staggered outside to throw up. Everyone howled with laughter but I came back for more. At last I could do something right! A face blurred came in to view. I smelt perfume and felt a hand between my thighs. She whispered something in my ear and I nodded. Next a cab ride to a hotel with a prostitute.

Waking up with a hangover and realizing that I had missed parade and was officially AWOL. Still drunk stopping at a bar for a drink to steady nerves before grabbing a cab ride to Base. My gut churning from booze, lack of food and fear I face the OC. There is the mandatory reprimand and smack broadside across the head from the CSM then a week in the guard house. In jail there are slaps, yelling, drill and ruck runs and digging holes under a burning sun. It’s a chance to sober up a bit. I’ll do it again, probably next week.

Rinse and repeat many times as my career went down the toilet. Each time it gets easier, not caring because it was never my fault. I started enjoying the Army. My attitude stunk.

They throw me out saying I’d had too many chances. I can’t accept its anything I did. The years pass by. I wander from place to place and job to job. I can’t hold down a job for long. Relationships never last more than a few days or weeks. But none of that was my fault. I’m the victim in that story, right?

 

Self-pity is spiritual suicide. It is an indefensible self-mutilation of the soul.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

 

Dark Legacies

Anakin fell to the dark side because he was primed for the fall not by Palpatine but by his own set of beliefs. Anakin believed that he was a victim of circumstance. Born in to slavery, never knowing his Father. Taken from his mother to become a Jedi. Finding his mother years later on her death bed. The horror of war and losing friends and allies. Building anger and hatred over the years. Anakin never learned to accept things as they are. None of it was his fault but he did have a choice in how he allowed these events to shape his character and destiny. The choices he made and the suffering they bought to him and others were on him. Becoming Darth Vader was his fault not Obi-wan’s, Yoda’s or Padme’s.

Ben Solo is another complex character who wallows in the self pity and aggression of the victim. Being force sensitive from his mother Leia, Ben also had the darker traits of his grandfather Anakin. Eventually it was Ben’s feelings of abandonment that made him ripe for grooming to the Dark Side by Snoke. Both of Ben’s parents failed to provide him with the attention he needed as a child.

Han Solo was unable to settle and be a good Father. Leia had enormous responsibilities as a civil and military leader and was often absent. The marital problems and clashes between his parents left Ben Solo feeling further abandoned. As an adult Ben was finally told of the truth of his grandfather Anakin and it affected him deeply. In the end it was his revered Uncle, Luke Skywalker, betrayal of his trust that finally pushed Ben Solo to the Dark Side. As a servant to Snoke he became Kylo Ren. Blaming his parents, the Jedi and the New Republic for his pain, Kylo Ren set out to destroy them all.

A Victim Mentality seems to span generations of the same family. While a victim mentality is a learned and acquired behavior It seemed to run in the Skywalker family like some mental illness. As children we learn from the example of our parents and peers and form beliefs. Later we surround ourselves with like minded people which reinforces those beliefs. If we allow ourselves to fall to the narrative and act out we become Victims. The only way to break free of it is to reject the narrative as false and retrain the mind to let go of the negative mind set that Victimhood perpetuates.

 

Wet the Bed

Alcoholics act the perennial victim. So it was with me. We have a tendency to make a mess of our lives and blame others. We wet the bed and blame the sheets. Alcohol blinds us to the truth that most of our problems are of our own making. We blame our parents, teachers, friends, partners, the system, the government or “God” for our problems. Ultimately we fail to take responsibility and do what is within our power to make things right.

My own set of beliefs kept me in denial and victimhood for decades. It’s easier that way, to blame others for our problems. Blaming others absolves us of responsibility to take action. If anyone should take action, we believe, it should be others. After all it is not our fault.

 

“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.” – Joseph Campbell

 

The Victim

Victimhood culture is a scourge of the modern era. So many people today embrace the idea that being the victim gives them the justification to blame their misery on others. “Victims” carry an attitude that life is against them and that society is somehow bent on pushing them down and holding them there. They and only they have a monopoly on injustice. Believing they are being denied the tools to help themselves they refuse to take steps to analyse their beliefs or change in any positive way. Without realizing it they hold themselves down and attack others for it. Even when things do improve it is never enough. There is always fault to be found and someone to blame.

Victims will always complain, criticize, blame, gossip. They can’t take a joke and find attitudes or opinions that differ from theirs offensive. Victims are easily triggered and emotionally incontinent. Society and its institutions seem to encourage and facilitate this perpetual sense of entitlement and victimhood. Victims tend to draw upon each other in order to validate their status as victims. This culture creates a mindset of powerlessness. Rather than being empowered to create the change needed the victim is disarmed by a sense of self-pity, frustration, anger and unfulfilled entitlement and potential.

 

I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become” – Carl Jung

“I can fix this” – Poe Damerone

 

Victim to Victor in 12 Steps

In the 12 Steps, the first step addresses the mental chains of a “Victim Mentality”. While Victimhood taught me I was powerless in all aspects of my life, Step 1 showed me I was only powerless where alcohol was concerned. I had the power and only needed to claim it fully to overcome my addiction and become the person I wanted to be. Instead of being a Victim I could be a Victor by committing to some principles and practices;

  1. Turning problems over to a Higher Power I call the “Force”;
  2. Framing “obstacles” in a rational manner rather than with emotions such as anger and fear. Learning that it is only our perceptions that matter to us, not the thing itself.
  3. Identifying those things that are in my control and those that are outside of it. Focusing energy on those that reside within my locus of control without investing emotional energy to the outcomes.
  4. Using “negative visualization” and “voluntary discomfort” to remind me that things can always be worse and to be prepared physically, mentally and spiritually.
  5. Having the courage and resolve to make amends where appropriate.
  6. Accepting that mistakes will be made and being prepared to admit them and make amends.
  7. Accepting that things do not always turn out as planned. Being grateful for what does.
  8. Entertaining thoughts, feelings and impressions but choose which to accept as valid and useful.
  9. Using mindfulness to remain in the present while avoiding projecting in to the future or ruminating on the past needlessly.
  10. Removing focus from self by helping others within means and where that help is welcome.
  11. Daily review. Identifying what went well and where improvements can be made.
  12. Striving for continuous self-improvement and learning.

Han Solo loved to deny fault especially at the worst possible times. Blaming a failed Hyperdrive systems error on someone else while an Imperial Star Destroyer is bearing down is not going to fix the situation. Han knew that. In the end Han does what Han does best, he takes decisive action and gets out of his predicament by the skin of his teeth and with panache. Han was a Rogue but also a Victor after all, not a Victim. Be like Han…

 

Leia –

What did you have in mind for

your next move?

Han –

Well, if they follow standard

Imperial procedure, they’ll dump

their garbage before they go to

light-speed, then we just float

away.

Leia –

With the rest of the garbage.

Then what?

 

*Acknowledgement to “Baggy Trousers” by Madness – the anthem of my childhood.

The Master

… for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.”  – Darth Bane

 

The Sith were the antithesis of the Jedi. Serving the Dark side of the Force the Sith were diametrically opposed to the Jedi. The Sith sought to dominate the galaxy and impose their will on all life. The story is one of the struggles between the dualistic nature of the Force. The conflict between the Sith and Jedi is a struggle were the Light Side attempts to negate the Dark Side and the Darkness seeks to extinguish the Light. One must dominate the other. One must be Master.

Within each person it can be argued is a similar struggle. What Lincoln called the better angel of our natures does not always prevail against the dark side. Within all of us lurks the shadow of the Dark Side, our own inner “Sith”. Throughout our life we face an internal struggle with that duality of our nature. We are torn between virtues and vice. Virtue does not always take precedence. Good does not always prevail.

 

Remember, the first and only reality of the Sith… there can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced.

―Darth Sidious, to Darth Maul

 

The Headmaster

Believe it or not, our personal Dark Side is a teacher. I refer to it as my inner “Sith Lord”. I attribute selfishness, belligerence, arrogance, self-will and a rampant or an over inflated ego to my inner “Sith Master”. Emotions such as anger, resentment, hatred and especially fear are the outcomes of an effective education in the Dark Side of the Force. For more than two decades, alcohol was my Master and I was its willing apprentice.

Among the Sith there was a constant struggle for supremacy between the Master and Apprentice called the “Rule of Two”. The Master sought to keep the Apprentice in servitude. The Apprentice served the will of the Master and at the same time learnt from him through the suffering of training. Through pain, fear and loathing the Master kept the Apprentice in check and bent him further to his will.

 

Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

 

Rule of Two

The Master also knew that the Apprentice sought the power to eventually usurp him and become the Master. While the Apprentice continued to learn and submit to the Master and serve him, he was of use. The Apprentice sought to learn all he could from the Master. Once the Apprentice was ready to overthrow the Master, he was killed and replaced. The Apprentice however demonstrated his superiority by killing his Master and assuming the role and seeking out a new Apprentice. Thus the Sith grew stronger and stronger with every generation through the natural selection of the “Rule of Two”.

Darth Sidious served Darth Plageuis and killed him. Darth Sidious at first drafted Darth Maul as a servant and then betrayed him choosing Count Dooku as a suitable Apprentice. Dooku became Darth Tyranus until the Sith Lord in the guise of Palpatine recognised Anakin as his chosen disciple. Once he had corrupted the Jedi Anakin to the Dark Side, Palpatine had his new protégé kill Count Dooku in cold blood. Anakin soon became Darth Vader and served Darth Sidious until the Sith line was ended in the Return of the Jedi. The history of the Sith was one of domination, submission, betrayal and death.

 

“(Darth Plagueis)  became so powerful … the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. never saw it coming. It’s ironic he could save others from death but not himself.” – Palpatine (Darth Sidious) to Anakin

 

Natural Selection

The analogy of the relationship between Sith Master and Apprentice accurately describes the alcoholic’s relationship with booze. The relationship is far deeper than shallow desire. It is a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual “craving” to something which is at once endearing, warm and inviting while at the same time cunning, devious, cruel and unforgiving. Alcohol becomes the unwavering and unforgiving Master that dominates every aspect of life, even to the grave.

Alcohol embodies the power and the Alcoholic craves it. A “Rule of Two” resides within that relationship. The only thing that matters is the relationship between the Addict and the substance of Addiction. There is nothing else. A struggle evolves over time in which the Addict attempts to seek control in the relationship. Through resistance and failure the Addict is constantly reminded of the futility of her attempts to overpower her addiction by self will alone. Every attempt leaves her weaker.  Only one victor can emerge from the throes of that struggle. There can be only one Master.

In time the Master takes everything and leaves nothing but despair, anger and fear.

 

The Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me. Once, I had power — now I have nothing.” — Maul (Clone Wars: “Twilight of the Apprentice”)

 

 

Harsh Lessons

In my early recovery I imagined my addiction to be some dark beast that dwelt within me. That beast had me on a short leash. Attempts to leave were cruelly punished. My confidence was shaken with every failed attempt to escape. As I fell deeper in to despair my addiction mocked and tormented me and I grew more dependent on it. The Dark Side closed in all around. I found the harder I fought the deeper was the decent in to the Dark Side and ultimately my personal Rock Bottom.

Finding a Higher Power and rejecting my addiction by turning it over was the act of overthrowing that insidious Master. In the end there could only be one. Alcohol would take me to the grave or I would usurp it somehow and reclaim life. In the end all it took was a willingness to believe and the act of surrender. In order to over throw the Master I had to face myself and stop fighting. I came to realize that when I looked at the face of the beast I stared squarely at myself. I and the Master that I feared and reviled were one and the same. We were two sides of the Force that Lincoln described; the better angel facing the dark side. By ending that struggle I was able to walk free again.

 

When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.’ – Yoda

 

The Apprentice

I never forget that every person has a dark side although not all are slave to it. That is the Tao, the duality residing within the whole. My Dark Side remains but I choose not to give it license. I can’t afford to. I never forget that once it was the Master and it seeks to return. Like a prisoner condemned to a dark and deep cell it hides in the shadows brooding. It patiently waits. It believes the day may come when it will kill its old Apprentice. And when I peer deep in to my soul I see that Dark Side it is watching and it waits.

Keep fear at bay and be touched by Better Angels.

Evil

 

The Face of Evil

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine or better known as Darth Sidious is portrayed as an evil character in the Star Wars saga. The very essence of the Dark Lord brings a dark and sinister air to the story. Darth Vader is also depicted as menacing and evil. The musical score which announces the entrance of Vader in “A New Hope” and more recently in “Rogue One” leaves one with little doubt that this is a figure of some dark and diabolical evil.

As children we are taught to fear. Evil is defined as something real and tangible. Our childhood religions personified it in the image of the “Devil” and blamed him for human errors. Evil is given names and made into a label we can assign to almost anything. We are never asked to question whether our impression of what appears Evil is valid or false. Indeed few of us are ever told that we might also be considered evil by others whom stare at us across a social, racial, ethnic or political divide. Should we be surprised? It is human nature. Our perceptions do not make us or anyone else “evil” in reality.

 

Evil by Name only

What is evil? Is it some metaphysical embodiment that exist like some dark mass existing in the ephemeral plane ? Is it something real and tangible which can be identified through empirical science and a dichotomous key? We need not think too hard. Society, our teachers, parents and friends give us plenty of examples to consider evil.

In my childhood I was taught that certain religions and entire nations of people were to be considered evil as it is in their very nature. Communism, I was assured was the epitome of evil spawned by the Devil himself. Of course none of this was correct. I have since learned that a person’s religion, political views and race does not make them either “good” or “evil” by definition. There are preferred and non-preferred indifferences but people are just people. What makes a person “good” is no more set in stone as to what makes them “evil”.

A matter of Opinion

Emperor Palpatine in the true form of Darth Sidious, did not believe that he was evil. The Dark Lord could justify his actions plainly and convincingly. Whether it was a delusion on his part or a blatant lie the (then) Supreme Chancellor Palpatine suggested to Anakin that the Sith were misunderstood and that the polar opposite of the Force is needed to ensure balance in the cosmos. According to Palpatine, the Jedi also could not be considered a true “Good” as the Sith could not be considered a manifestation of evil. Both descriptions were he argued were too simplistic and misleading;

ANAKIN: The Jedi use their power for good.

PALPATINE: Good is a point of view, Anakin. And the Jedi point of view is not the only valid one. The Dark Lords of the Sith believe in security and justice also, yet they are considered by the Jedi to be—

ANAKIN: Evil.

PALPATINE: From a Jedi’s point of view. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power. The difference between the two is the Sith are not afraid of the dark side of the Force. That is why they are more powerful.

ANAKIN: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.

PALPATINE: And the Jedi don’t?

 

Devil’s Advocate

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had a point which struck a chord with Anakin. Skywalker had long questioned the apparent inconsistencies and hypocrisy he had experienced in the Jedi Order and had grown disillusioned.  Palpatine recognized this slither of doubt and used it to his advantage widening the apparent cognitive dissonance which Anakin grappled with constantly.

Palpatine was not indoctrinating Anakin in to “Evil”, he was making him look at things from a different angle. Anakin was led to question everything he believed. The end result was that he abandoned the Jedi Order and became Sith. At no point did Anakin declare “I want to be Evil”. It did not enter in to his decision. Anakin was angry and upset and hateful but that did not make him “evil”. Anakin felt he was doing what was “right” at the time. He picked his side and acted out.

PALPATINE: Or so you’ve been trained to believe. Why is it, then, that they have asked you to do something you feel is wrong?

ANAKIN: I’m not sure it’s wrong.

PALPATINE: Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code? The constitution? A friendship? Your own values? Think. Consider their motives. Keep your mind clear of assumptions. The fear of losing power is a weakness of both the Jedi and the Sith.

 

Source: http://swfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_Sidious_(KHS)

Uncomfortable Truths

A concept of good and evil does not belong in a discourse on the conflict between Sith and Jedi as neither concepts exist in reality. Good and Evil is simply a construct that is arbitrarily defined by society at a given point in time. Those that accuse another of “Evil” are often guilty of the same crimes. History often fails to record this fact.

Obi-wan Kenobi also believed that the belief in “good” and “evil” was ultimately a matter of perception and not entirely based on knowledge. In reality the polar opposites of the Force “Light” and “Dark” exist in harmony with each other. A Jedi does not (or should not) believe in “Good” and “Evil” as absolutes or intrinsic elements within a system.

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

 

 

Horrors

Emperor Palpatine went on to commit horrific crimes with his ascension to supreme executive power and dissolution of the Senate. Order 66 was given resulting in the complete purge and eradication of the Jedi Order without mercy. Force sensitive children in the temple were massacred without pity.

The Death Star was later created to impose Imperial rule on the galaxy. Entire planets with billions of lives were destroyed without warning as leverage or in punishment. The Death Star destroyed worlds to test the weapon. A brutal war of attrition raged between the Empire and the Rebel alliance for decades at an immeasurable cost in sentient life and treasure.

We can argue that the Empire was evil beyond any doubt. Who perpetrates such horrors? The Empire under Darth Sidious was also simply doing what it felt was necessary in war time to impose its will over its dominion and enforce its authority. The Rebel alliance were viewed as terrorists and the Jedi an extinct brand of religious fanatics that preached some fantasy and brainwashed children to their cause. The Republic and later the Rebels also saw their cause as noble and just. If we are objective we can conclude that neither side was inherently “Good” or “Evil”. Such is often the case in war here on Earth. Atrocities and mistakes are committed by all sides.

 

“I’m not a terrorist. I’m a patriot. And resistance is not terrorism.” – Saw Gerrera (The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episode 4)

 

Manifest Destiny

Hitler believed that his philosophy of racial purity and a manifest destiny for the Germanic-Aryan people was “good”. Millions of people embraced that ideology and as a result genocide and horrid atrocities were justified. Today there are few people who would not agree that the Nazi doctrine was evil. Likewise Stalinism is widely considered evil but is still practiced in some countries which are likewise labelled “Evil” by our Governments.

Saddam Hussein gassed Kurdish civilians as the world watched on in 1988. Up to one million Iraqi civilians subsequently died in the two punitive wars against the Saddam regime and the economic sanctions imposed during the intervening years. Again the Saddam regime was blamed for these deaths, making him even more evil in the eyes of the west. More recently atrocities are being committed by both sides in the Syrian conflict.

We decry these acts as “evil” and indeed they are by our definition. Yet if we seek an explanation from a prominent Nazi, a senior member of the Iraqi Baath party or current players in the Syrian conflict we will be assured that the acts committed seemed reasonable and justified to them at the time. At the war crimes tribunal in the Hague most of the perpetrators of ethnic genocide in former Yugoslavia were unrepentant and without remorse because they believed they were in the right. We rarely consider how different our own statesmen and politicians are in their motives for going to war. Evil is something the other side does, we don’t back that team. Do we?

Master or Slave

George Washington kept slaves yet he freed a nation from colonial rule and eventually his own slaves. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves and may have even raped a few. Jefferson was also an advocate for emancipation. It does not change the fact both men profited off slavery. We all agree that slavery is vile and evil however two hundred years ago the practice was common and accepted in the very countries that strongly advocate for human rights and social justice today. Washington and Jefferson unlike many other landowners of the time, suffered a degree of cognitive dissonance about keeping slaves. That much is certain. They preached that all are “created equal” yet had people in bondage. Both still accepted that change had to come and dared to rise above the common view of the time and take action to reduce that internal dissonance.

Views changed over time and the emancipation movement grew until slavery was abolished in the United States. Modern day views do not change the past or excuse them. We can only learn from history and avoid judgment using the standards of our day over times and people we will never entirely understand. By our standards that Washington and Jefferson were slave owners is clearly objectionable today but few would dare call the revered founding fathers “Evil”. In their day, both would have been considered remiss by their associates and peers not to have carried slaves. Let us not forget that the Native Americans like indigenous populations everywhere also suffered terribly under a doctrine of racial supremacy and industrialization “at all costs”.

 

For if one shows this, a man will retire from his error of himself; but as long as you do not succeed in showing this, you need not wonder if he persists in his error, for he acts because he has an impression that he is right” – Epictetus. (Discourses, II.26)

 

Framing Reality

Psychologist use the word reification to describe the apparent human need to embody inexact human traits in to an independent and metaphysical symbol. “Evil” is seen as “out there” when actually it is just people doing really bad things they rationalize as “right”. Failure to recognize wrong or to justify actions that could be deemed morally wrong or even “evil” is sometimes called rationalization. It is not that people are blind to wrong but they can frame it differently and convince them selves that what others might consider to be  wrong or “Evil” entirely justifiable if not “Good”.

Psychologists also point out that reification allows people to justify singling out groups of people, organizations, religions or entire races or countries as “Evil”. I know white people who grew up in apartheid South Africa. They recall the lessons in race they received as part of the mandatory curricula in school. Black people they were taught were a lesser race, not because they were bad people but because they were considered genetically and physiologically inferior. Black people it was argued could not help it as they are born that way.

Entire generations of white South Africans have since realized that this form of reification was completely wrong and engineered by a regime desperate to remain in power out of fear of what would happen if black people were allowed to gain majority rule. The regime rationalized that their theories on race were correct and segregationist policies justifiable. Even the most intelligent and rational human being would accept this ideology. Many Governments survive by creating an imaginary foe or enemy that threatens the common good. At the same time they use the psychology of fear to breed division. Our differences rather than our commonality are used to control us and dehumanize people who are no different to us.

 

Be Rational don’t rationalize

Rationalization diminishes the extremely uncomfortable association with cognitive dissonance. It allows us to be manipulated and to manipulate ourselves. Cognitive Dissonance is the feeling you get when you know what you are doing is wrong but you can’t or won’t stop it. Your actions or behavior are contrary to your belief system or set of personal values and principles. This creates an inner tension and conflict. People will rationalize their behavior in order to reduce that tension. For example a rapist will convince himself that women “want” to be raped and will use reification to convince himself that all women are inherently “loose”.  A Nazi will reify Jews as some sort of global cabal bent on world domination. Rationalization then further demonizes Jews to the level of subhuman and justifies the use of violence against innocent people.

Rationalization and reification can be used to create almost any paradigm the human mind desires and justify almost any means to an end. Almost anyone can be turned in to a pariah and labelled as Evil. Certainly the world has seen megalomaniacs, psychopaths and narcissists commit atrocities and horrific crimes. Are these people actually “Evil” or are they just sick? Do they fail to grasp reality as the vast majority do? Why do some of these people assume positions of power and are able to direct society toward their view and gain widespread support if not quiet acquiescence from the masses for their actions?

Dealing with the Dark Side

How do we deal with this “dark side” of human nature? Do we destroy “Evil” people only to see another rise up and take his or her place? Should we pity them and try to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society? Is forgiveness and acceptance the key or revenge and restitution? Let us not forget that all of us have a “dark side” but no one gets up in the morning and says “I’m Evil” unless they are severely afflicted with psychosis and delusional personality disorders.

As thousands of “Foreign Fighters” return home to the west from service in the ranks of terrorist organizations such as “Islamic State” in Syria it is a question we need to ponder mindfully. What do we do with these people? People are now asking the question why did this fanaticism, this “Evil” emerge and why were so many seemingly intelligent and talented people drawn to it? As ISIL draws it final agonal breaths another group rises to replace it with as hard and unforgiving a doctrine thanks once again to the actions of western powers that claim to stand behind “universal” concepts of human rights.

 

Ignorance is Hell

We have all done things that in hindsight we regret. At the time we committed the offense we probably had a justification for doing it. That justification may have been largely influenced by personal views and biases that were a product of upbringing, education, peer pressure, experience or even delusions of the mind. Despite our reservations about our actions we would reduce any cognitive dissonance by finding justification no matter how flimsy to excuse our behavior. We would seek affirmation in the world that further validated our views and in finding we would select what to take as the truth, setting aside all evidence contrary to that preferred view. Ignorance trumps knowledge.

 

“There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge” – Jedi Code

 

The Stoics argued that the concept of “Evil” is too simplistic and an easy card to draw. People are not born evil and are not evil by nature. Acts that appear “evil” are rooted in ignorance or as the Stoics believed lack of wisdom. The Stoics also believed that the only “good” were “virtues” such as justice, courage and wisdom. Evil acts are therefore the product of lack of wisdom. Ask any perpetrator of “evil” acts for a justification of their actions and they will affirm that they were right and refuse to accept an alternate view. The person may be otherwise intelligent and articulate but within them resides an impenetrable wall which refuses understanding and forgiveness and is mired in a deep rooted conviction in the righteousness of their cause. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Kaddafi and Pol Pot are among a parade of despots and dictators through history who were all highly intelligent but suffered from this mental deficiency. Is it right to call them “Evil”?

 

There is only one good, knowledge, and only one evil, ignorance.” – Diogenes Laertius

 

 

Taming the Beast

What keeps most addicts in abuse? You guessed it rationalization.  Alcoholism can lead people to do horrific things. Should we call them “Evil” or merely sick and ignorant? As an alcoholic I used reification and rationalization to justify my actions and reduce my own cognitive dissonance. The beast was given free reign. I did some bad things but do not consider myself “evil” then or now. I do not claim to be “good” either.

Consider the process of recovery is the progressive reversal of an insidious disease using a spiritual remedy. When an alcoholic or addict accepts that she is afflicted with a disease that is reversible but incurable there is a move from ignorance to knowledge. When  that addict also recognizes their faults and accepts their part in the damage their actions have caused others they move further along the trajectory from ignorance to knowledge. By taking responsibility for her actions and seeking to make amends she is proving that knowledge can be converted in to action. Those around her begin to realize that what appeared to be a “lost hope” can be saved and forgiven. People can climb out of the pit they dug themselves in to and bathe in the light of the world once more if they find a spiritual cure.

 

A spiritual solution

I take comfort in the promise that with enough practiced principle and a solid spiritual foundation a relapse into active abuse and destructive behavior is  unlikely. Cognitive dissonance is reduced. To quote someone in  a 12 step meeting, “it’s impossible to get blissfully wasted and turn in to an asshole with a head full of program”. If we adjust our mind away from the patterns of thought that we grapple with, our actions will eventually align with our beliefs. Cognitive dissonance through knowledge and honestly makes it hard for us to think one way and act another. With the Force behind us it’s even harder.

“Evil” may be nothing more than a temporary affliction requiring a spiritual cure. Remember that before judging others and condemning them as “Evil”. Like Anakin, we all have a dark side that can come out to play if we let it. If we convince ourselves enough that what is false is true we open ourselves to error and very bad decisions. Only knowledge and virtue prevents that. We should be Jedi and be forgiving of others as we are self forgiving but also accept only what is true. We should seek to understand before we judge others. By accepting ignorance we are not “Evil” but we may allow “evil” to perpetuate itself in ways we cannot foresee or imagine.

Jedi avoid acting on Anger

Jedi avoid acting on dark side emotions like fear, anger, aggression and hate.

We can’t control which emotions we will feel, but we can always choose to control our actions. We might feel anger from time to time, but we don’t have to act on that feeling of anger or rage.

 

A Sword

Anger is a double edged sword. The emotion is primal and inherent in our nature. Anger triggers an adrenal reaction in the face of a threat. As a biological creature we are primed to use anger to compete successfully and to survive. As a rational human being anger also serves to motivate change. For example, revolution is a societal reaction to common anger. Had it not been for anger among the masses there would never have been a French Revolution or an American War of Independence. Both historic events ushered in a world hunger for social justice and democracy. Anger can be beneficial, even essential to the human condition.

Controlled aggression is the tool used in the Martial Arts and by Soldiers to counter and defeat an opponent. There is a line between controlled aggression and cruel savagery. As Jedi we know not to cross it. Sometimes that line becomes blurred and we risk crossing in to the darker side of our natures.

Anger is a short madness.” – Horace

 

A Madness

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”- Buddha

I have seen the other side of the anger. There is a reason why it is one letter from Danger. Anger is a poison which does more damage to the vessel which carries it than on which it is poured.

Unfettered anger can lead us to do terrible things. It can cause us to make the greatest and most memorable speeches we will later regret. In moments it can destroy a lifetime of effort, love and creation in a torrent of catabolic rage. In the biblical parable it was jealousy which turned Cain against Abel but anger which led to murder. Anger has been the trumpet call for countless wars, genocides and murders. The madness continues unabated.

 

Born to Anger

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” – Yoda

The character emotion of Anakin through the prequels was Anger. Anakin was angry at fate and what it had put his family through. For years he held resentment against those who had enslaved him. Anakin hated himself for being unable to save his Mother. Eventually the Jedi became his object of anger and hatred. The dark emotions consumed him and carried him to the Dark Side where he submitted to Darth Sidious and suffered as Vader.

I inherited my Father’s anger as he inherited his Father’s before him. Anger runs through the paternal side of the family. It is an emotion embedded in our make up and carried in our souls. They are an angry people made to suffer in the crucible of the heart of the Balkans.

Centuries of war and occupation by brutal Ottoman occupiers who enslaved the population, forced conversions and removed children for the Janissary was passed down from one generation to the next as a deep anger and bitter hatred that fueled ethnic and religious divisions, war and genocide.  I saw that country explode in to war in the early 90’s and was horrified by the expression of raw anger and hatred between former neighbors and friends.

The pure savagery of the war still haunts me to this day. Entire communities on all sides were wiped out. Whole families snuffed out including relatives. I lamented the war but I understood the anger that fueled it. That anger was in me like some curse. It still simmers there in that old country.

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it”. – Marcus Aurelius

 

A Heavy Burden

Anger took me to alcohol and kept me in her clutches. The promise that it would ease the pain of loss and history were false. Alcohol made it worse. Anger and seething resentment cast a dark cloud over the brightest days. It would simmer and occasionally boil over.

I lived in perpetual fear at what I might do if it exploded in to blind rage and consume the people around me. The memories of seeing anger and hatred in its worst shades would haunt me. My own anger lay brooding within and it remains there to this day buried deeper than it was before.

Men in rage strike those that wish them best” – Shakespeare

 

Its not Enough

Being sober is one thing. Everyone thinks that abstaining from alcohol is enough. Everything else must fall in to place and life will be rosy thereafter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Take away our substance, our addiction and we lose our physical crutch. The spiritual must fill the hole that is left behind otherwise it is soon replaced with fear, anger and hatred. This is exactly what happened to my Father.

An alcoholic, my Father quit drinking and became a dry drunk. Unable and unwilling to accept the self honesty and humility required, my Father’s anger and hatred consumed him. At times his anger would terrorize and control I and my siblings. We lived in fear of physical and emotional harm.

That anger drove us away. One later took his own life, the rest of us survived as best we could. My Father later died with that anger a skid row drunk, alone and embittered. We still carry that ancient anger within us but we chose to stop the cycle. The anger will not be passed on. There is no need for the sins of the Father to be visited on the son. Love heals anger.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”

— Alcoholics Anonymous

 

The Red Flag

Anger is a red flag for the recovering alcoholic for everyone else it is the “convenient emotion”. Of all the emotions which will carry me back to drinking and using, anger and resentment are the most dangerous.

I still get angry. It is a normal emotion and a normal reaction to certain situations in life. We would be foolish to laugh off something that any normal person would claim righteous anger. The difference is that we choose how to respond to anger as we do any other emotion. That’s a normal response to anger.

Do we act out our anger in destructive ways or do we carefully consider a proportionate response knowing that forgiveness and compassion might be one option. If anger visits us for trivialities such as a minor slight like a rude remark or a spilled drink do we allow it to affect our mood or simply brush it off as an event not worth an elevated heart rate?

Know what ticks you off. Manage your response to those triggers. Take time out when you feel your anger rising and find ways to stay calm and in control through relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Seek professional help if anger is derailing your life and relationships.

Remember Anger is our birthright as a species. It will serve us well if we use it wisely. Anger can also be terrible tool capable of the most heinous acts. Whether we use Anger to build or destroy bridges and light wild fires is largely up to each of us. The world is a very angry place now and mostly for the wrong reasons. Do we add to that global anger? We all have a choice in how we use this blessing and curse of being human.

The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath”. – Buddha

The Dark Side

Jedi believe that there is a dark side but refuse to dwell on it.

Jedi believe that the dark side exists, but refuse to dwell on it, or follow it, or use it in any way. The dark side is a negative energy, also known as the ‘negative power’ or ‘dark energy’. The dark side is considered to be evil, negative, the opposite of good, and is never to be followed or used by the Jedi.

“The 33 Traits of a Jedi”

Good and Evil

In reality nothing is inherently “good” or “evil” there is only the preferred and the non-preferred. Opposites do exist however at the spiritual or metaphysical level. The opposite of Love is Hate and the Opposite of Faith is Fear. All emotions come from a place of Love or from a root of Fear. The Ego creates Fear while the Divine self only knows Love.

In nature there is no “Evil” only indifference. There is no physical source of the human perspectives of “Light” or “Darkness”  in the Universe. The cosmos is entirely indifferent to our existence. Spend a second in outer space without a space suit and that cold harsh reality becomes quickly apparent.

There are two sides to the dimension of the Force and the duality of “Light” and “Dark” polar opposites. One is physical, the absence of light results in dark and the absence of heat is cold. The other is metaphysical or spiritual and is a question of belief. One could say that Fear is the absence of Faith and Hell is the absence of Love.

Dark Side is Ego

My view of the Force is that it is the source and destination of all. It cannot be described in words. The Force is the non-duality of reality and the source of all creation. The sum of the parts and the each of the parts all contain the Force. Life is expressed in the Force.

The Dark side is purely a Human construct, it does not otherwise exist. The source of the “Dark Side” is the Ego. It is made by the Ego. Without the Ego the Dark Side does not exist as it does not represent who we truly are. The Ego keeps us in separation from our Divine truth and in fear. Fear is the tool it uses to keep us there. As previously stated all “negative” emotions are rooted in Fear. The source of all resistance, conflict, denial and competition is Fear.

Negative Emotions

Emotions such as anger, shame, anxiety, melancholy, arrogance, guilt, doubt, distrust and envy are examples of “negative” states of mind which are generally non-preferred.  All such emotions are felt as “suffering” and are derived from attachments of the Ego.  Such states could be called “shades of the Dark Side”.  Extreme and forceful emotions such as rage and hate could be called expressions of the Dark Side. These raw emotions have the potential to be destructive and rarely serve.

“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” – Yoda “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”.

The statement reminds us to be mindful of our negative emotions. To be human is to have an Ego and to have an Ego is to carry the burden of emotions. In some people there is the capacity to suppress or mask emotions. In rare people there is a heightened state of consciousness which transcends base emotions and replaces them with higher order emotions such as abiding love and joy. These people are said to be “enlightened”. Ordinary emotions are however human and each person chooses how they respond to passing emotions particularly those we refer to as “negative” such as fear, anger and hate. Do we rule our emotions or do we rule them?

Evil is an Opinion

I personally do not believe in a “Dark Side” as depicted in Star Wars anymore than I believe in a place of eternal suffering as depicted in the mainstream religions called Hell. Hell is a choice we make for ourselves through the consequence of our decisions and actions. There is no eternal pit of fire for damned souls other than a metaphorical one.

I do believe however that each person has the capacity to do evil. By evil I mean something that is contrary to both nature and moral virtues common in all societies historical and contemporary. An evil act is usually obvious to the observer but not always apparent to the perpetrator. One only need to search their conscience to decide whether an act is evil or not.

People will also differ in their definition of evil based on religious or cultural mores. For example, some people consider abortion to be evil while others view it as an individual right. The same applies to euthanasia or capital punishment. No person is inherently evil any more than a person is born hating someone.

People do “evil” things, some people may be so mentally disturbed that they appear “evil” and even act evil. Psychopaths and megalomaniac generally fall in to this category. However even the most vile criminal who is sane of mind will be able to articulate the rationale and justification for their heinous crimes. The will to commit evil will rarely ever figure in their decision to murder, rape or molest.

The Sith

The Sith never said that they were evil, quite the contrary the Sith believed they were acting in accordance with their beliefs and to the benefit of law and order, the greater good.

Once more the Sith will rule the galaxy, and we shall have peace. – Darth Sidious

You will find many occasions in the Star Wars saga (Canon and Legends) where the Jedi could be contrived as being the “bad guys”. As a matter of fact many Star systems sought to breakaway from the Republic and viewed the Jedi as an autocracy as bad as the Sith.

you‘re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anakin embraced his raw emotions of anger, hatred and fear. He used pain to grow stronger and become one with the Dark Side of the Force. The Sith believed that such emotions that we view as “negative” were actually a source of power. The philosophy advocated the attainment and ascendancy of power at the expense of inferior sentient beings. Evolution applies the same principle without effort, through natural selection. Is it right or is it wrong? That depends on your point of view.

The question is whether Anakin’s conversion served him in the long term. Considering what he lost by turning to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader the verdict would be that he suffered.

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad wrote about a man’s personal journey in the “Heart of Darkness”. The story was brilliantly adapted in to the movie Apocalypse Now. Sometimes the Dark Side does overcome what Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature”.

“Because there’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.” – General Gorman “Apocalypse Now”.

I have  seen some of what humans are capable of in the name of country, ethnicity, religion and race. There is a “Dark Side” to human nature. If Hell exists it is in places right now like Darfur, Syria and Yemen.  I have seen it in East Africa and Bosnia. We are essentially animals struggling for survival at their basest nature. Politics, patriotism and religion is nothing more than mind trick to incite people to war and keep us in separation. The Ego also pushes the limits of what a rational person would consider acceptable under any circumstances.

Everyone still has a choice though. We do not have to resort to emotions that make us act in ways we will later regret. We do not need to fall victim to our own personal “Dark Side”. To do so leads to suffering.

Never Forget

In my descent to my own “Dark Side” of alcoholic “Rock Bottom” I was filled with fear and loathing. The wold was a dark place void of all hope, the shrieks of madness and despair echoed within its walls. Nothing less than a complete deflation of the Ego allowed me to emerge and start a journey of recovery.

The “Dark Side” is something that exists in all of us, it is part of our Ego, not some sort of Force that builds and coalesces into energy we can shoot from our finger tips. My Dark Side of alcoholism still resides within me like some twisted beast tethered by a rope, it sits there in silence, watching and waiting for a chance to come out. I know it and it knows me. A cold wind blows and a chill runs down my spine as if I have been brushed by the Dark Side. I can hear it laugh and rage within me. Better not to dwell on it but I never forget that it is there.

Fear

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This was a prophetic line and one which reverberated through the entire Star Wars Saga . Yoda’s words revealed the destiny of a single child who was to ultimately change the course of history and have a resounding impact on an entire galaxy of trillions of sentient beings. The wisdom also shows us the path that can lead us back to despair. Our own journey to the Dark Side begins with fear.

Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with Fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself” – ACIM

Fear is the polar opposite of Faith. Only Fear can eclipse Love. It was Fear which drives the wedge of separation between who we truly are and our divine source. It is Fear that keeps us in that illusion of separation. The Ego thrives on Fear and validates itself there in the human expressions of anger and hate. Fear, Anger and Hate are the harbinger of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse; Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Every negative expression of human emotion and each of the seven deadly sins finds its source in Fear.

Every single negative emotion and action has its root in Fear. Fear is Suffering, the very essence of the Dark Side. The need to resist, attack, impose, possess and control all come from Fear. Fear controls us in so many ways and forms the basis of the Ego. Without Fear there is no Ego as it removes the filter between our false and true selves. To live in separation is to exist in Fear.

 Facing Fear

Besides your recognizing that thoughts are never idle, salvation requires that you also recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear.” – ACIM

Fear kept me in alcoholism for decades and controlled every aspect of my life, every decision. The Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of the truth defined who I was. For me it was “F#*k everything and Run”. In recovery we make our way out of the dark and we begin to realize that Fear is nothing but an illusion which the Ego uses to keep us from self-realisation.

In recovery we learn to face our Fears and facing them they vanish one after the other. We realize that we have been held captive by something we empowered with our own minds. Like the children’s tale of an imaginary beast that lives in the Forest in order to keep them from straying, our Ego creates a beast and the more we resist it or try to run, the larger it grows until it consumes us. Through non-resistance we are able to confront our Fears and face them down, what appears to be real soon fades and vanishes.

All healing is essentially release from Fear” – ACIM

We become free of Fear, we really had nothing to Fear in the first place other than Fear itself. Fear really is “False Evidence Appearing Real”.

Destiny

In “The Clone Wars: Destiny”, Yoda meets the manifestation of his Dark Side. The creature harbors all of Yoda’s Fears and Doubts and tries to attack and kill the Jedi Master. Yoda fights for his life but the more he struggles the stronger the entity becomes. Realizing the truth Yoda confronts the Dark figure and draws it to him. No longer afraid Yoda looks in to the face of his Dark Side and releases it, banishing the entity to oblivion. The Force Priestess Serenity arrives and reveals that the entity was nothing more than a manifestation of the mind, it never existed.

Observe and Let Go

In the “Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle teaches that within us all exists a light that we can use to illuminate anything we Fear. I doubted this and realizing that Doubt is the cousin of Fear I began to explore. One day I felt a strong sense of Fear and foreboding hit me that was overwhelming. It took me to the edge of sanity and I knew that unless I did something I would lose my grip and drink again. I resisted and fought the sensation and the Fear grew stronger. Somewhere in my mind I realized it didn’t have to be like this, I was giving in to Fear. I remembered the “Power of Now” and used my own inner light.

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness.” —Eckhart Tolle

This is how it works. Observe your Fear to overcome it. Imagine that Fear to be inside, a dark mass where the core is. Now imagine a strong glowing light growing brighter and brighter in your mind. Watch that glowing white light fill you entire body and illuminate the “Dark Mass” of Fear within you. Observe without judgment, with equanimity and without resistance. As Fear recedes from the light, embrace it and let it go. I imagine this as the Force negating Fear.

Your Fears have no Power over you no more than the Dark Side had any Power over Yoda. Luke faced his Dark Side on Dagobah also an illusion of Fear. Anakin let himself fall victim to something that was not real, his own Fears. This led to immense anger and then hate, the very fuel and oxygen needed for the dark Side to consume him. Our Fears do not own us unless we let it.

 Natural Fear

In some situations Fear is a healthy response. For example if confronted with a threat to life the Fear emotion is a normal. Natural Fear is used to elicit a “fight”, “freeze” or “flight” physiological and behavioural response in the face of Danger. The Jedi were trained, like Soldiers and Emergency workers in the real world to harness that Fear in to mindful actions and responses. Anxiety, fear of the unknown and the imagined is Ego-Fear and it is not real and not rational. Therefore there is no need for the emotional suffering we put ourselves through. It is important that we know the difference between Real Fear and Irrational Fear.

The greatest insanity of all is to submit to Fear. The greatest act one can do is free oneself from Fear. Love is the only thing which can truly overcomes Fear. Choose Love not Fear.

He who has escaped all fear of future pain has found his way to present peace. Place then, your future in the Hands of God.” – ACIM

Love

“Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love” – Anakin “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”.

One Word

Of all the words in existence the the word used to mean “Love” carries the most meaning to people.

What is Love? What does it mean? Countless songs, poems and stories have been written about it. Most of us intuitively know it but few can articulate in words what it is even to themselves. We know how it feels and we also know that Love comes in different flavors.

The Fictional Jedi were forbidden to love another in the ordinary sense. They were in fact expected to Love all sentient beings. The key role of the Jedi was service to others. Buddhism carries the same precept called “Loving Kindness” (Mettā). A Buddhist seeking enlightenment does so for the benefit of all sentients, so that they may be released from samsara, the eternal karmic cycle of life and death. Enlightenment is not sought for the benefit of the Bodhisattva but for all to ease suffering (Dukkha). Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi demonstrated a similar commitment when they abandoned the “crude matter” of their bodies and surrendered their souls, bringing balance to the Force.

The goal of Jedi Philosophy is to provide the path for people seeking to improve themselves. We realize that the way to achieve fulfillment and happiness is through service to others. Selfless service and giving of self requires Love not love.

World betterment through self betterment” – Kevin Trout “The Jedi Circle”

Love and love

Love with a capital “L” is unconditional Love. It is the Love that transcends personal concerns and the Ego. Love is all embracing, liberating, all forgiving, all encompassing, omnipotent and omnipresent. It binds all of creation together. It atones completely and sets free. All life is an expression of the Force. Love is the Force.

The Love of a mother for her child, the love of sacrificing one’s life for another, the love between comrades in arms and the deep and enduring love between two people that transcends the physical and life. That is unconditional Love.

Are you allowed to love? I thought that was forbidden for a Jedi.” – Padme Amidala “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”

When Padmé Amidala challenged Anakin on his capacity to Love another she was right but she was also wrong. Anakin could not attach to carnal love but he could express unconditional Love.

Love with a lower case “l” is called ordinary love. It binds, controls and fears loss. Jealousy is harbored in ordinary love and grasping attachment keeps it moored there. Ordinary love cannot sail, it is not free and it is controlled by the Ego.

Love as Suffering

It was the ordinary love that destroyed Anakin. The attachment and fear of losing Padme, his wife and the anger that burned in him was exploited by the Dark Lord. Unconditional Love would have allowed Anakin to set Padme free and defeat Darth Sidious. Instead he chose to control something that cannot be controlled and lost it all.

Anakin also loved Obi-Wan Kenobi like a Father. Perhaps because he never had a Father and had lost his mother Anakin grasped at anything that gave him meaning. It was a need that consumed him and others. As an Orphan myself I can appreciate the pain, fear and anger, the grasping attachment.

Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t say that Master… You’re the closest thing I have to a father… I love you. I don’t want to cause you pain. ” – Anakin “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”

Obi-Wan Kenobi also loved Anakin but he was able to fight him because of that Love. I can only surmise that Obi-Wan’s pity and compassion for what little remained of his friend prevented him from slaying Anakin on the lava flows of Mustafa. Anakin was dead already and only Darth Vader remained. Obi-Wan felt unconditional Love for what was left of his beloved friend and could not take Life in such a way no matter how twisted and evil it was.

In the fight between Love and Hate, Love will prevail.

In the final confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader on the Death Star II it was unconditional Love that reunites Father and Son and destroyed the Dark Lord. Love does conquer all.

False Love

Alcoholism was the Dark Side in my life. Love was a word I used but it was not real. We may feel what we believe is Love but it is only an object that we desire and grasp on to. Love that is grasped and bound cannot breath and it cannot last.

“I can’t live without you”, “I need you”, “You complete me, I’m nothing without you”, “You belong to me”, “I hurt you because I love you” were the kinds of words I used. In reality I only loved myself and the bottle. I would choose booze over the feelings of others. Love in thought does not match Love in action.

We weep at love lost because it was never about the other person but what we wanted and were attached to. Addiction does not allow unconditional Love to flow. It stifles it.

If you love someone, set them free.” – Richard Bach

Love sets Free

I found Unconditional Love in the most unexpected place. In the mental and psychic black hold of “Rock Bottom” I imagined myself dying in suffering, self pity and self hate. I called for help and my Higher Power saved me and set me free from my addiction. It was unconditional Love that bought me back to sanity and in to recovery.

The feeling glowed within me for days. I felt like I had the deepest Love for all things. Every rock, tree and animal I saw, every person I passed I felt unconditional Love for. I believe I had transcended to another dimension of existence. At the fundamental level we are spiritual beings having a human experience and we are all made of unconditional Love.

In the rooms you feel compassion and Love for the fellow suffering alcoholic. You feel it when you see those that suffer. It is not pity, it is unconditional Love. Our Ego is the only filter, the only limitation to that pure Love.

In recovery we learn who we were, who we are and who we will likely be if we stay on the beam. Love like spiritually is a personal journey. We can seek advice on affairs of the heart but it is up to each of us how to use our intrinsic capacity to love. Love is who you are so you can’t go wrong.

I believe that Love never dies. We take it with us. The ego dies and so does ordinary love but Love with a capital L is eternal.

Love, not time, heals all wounds” – Anonymous

Temptation

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

There is a saying in AA that while you are in a meeting your addiction is the Beast in the parking lot doing push ups. It’s a sad fact that the disease of alcoholism is for life. A true Alcoholic may be recovered but is never cured. One may be sober for a while and be doing well in recovery and gain the confidence to try a little “controlled drinking”. Then there’s temptation. The Beast is always seeking a way, it is a subtle and cunning foe.

Russian roulette

Controlled drinking may work for a while; it may even work for months. I know I’ve tried it. After a while I started to get confident and cocky. Thinking that I had beaten the old Dog I would let my hair down and next thing I know I’m as drunk as ever. My confidence deflated and my ego badly bruised I would “swear off” again for a few weeks until the next time.

We all know that the only effective way of staying sober is to abstain completely. There is no room for a drink. Not even one. We can try but the disease of alcoholism is unpredictable. With one drink we may be away on a massive binge or we may find that it was easy to stop at one. There is no certainty and for me the game is akin to Russian roulette.

Temptation

Temptation is our disease doing Jedi Mind Tricks with our head. Rationalization is the other weapon it uses. We can literally hear our disease trying to lull us in to a false sense of security. A drop of the guard and next thing we are staring at a glass full of Bourbon wondering how the hell we got there. The crazy thing we never even know how we arrived at that point. It goes something like this:

“Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn’t hurt me on a full stomach.” (Big Book Chapter 3, p.38).

That is how subtle alcohol is. The man in the story had his loaded glass of milk and then another and another. This led to more drinks and eventually an asylum.

Temptation is “looking at the dark side”. Every time I walk past a bar or a liquor store I feel something within me stir. When I feel my anger rise and darkness falls over me as my judgment becomes clouded by resentment and fear I can hear my addiction laughing. Lonely, tired, depressed, anxious, frustrated or even hungry I can sense that my defenses are down and my addiction is stirred.

Times like these you need to do anything, pray, workout, call a sponsor, meditate, scream, anything but pour a drink.

 The Beast

In my early recovery I visualized my addiction as some sort of creature, a Beast if you will. I had cast a light on it by turning my life over to a Higher Power. My addiction retreated to a dark place and there it screamed and cursed. It promised it would have me again as it always had in the past. It would come back and make me pay. There was the knot of withdrawal in my stomach and I imagined it was my addiction beating against the bars of it’s cage. I have the keys, I could let it out. I dare not.

My addiction is still there and it always will be. It is mostly silent now but it waits patiently. The disease does not know time, it does not care how long I abstain for or how strong I think my recovery is. It only needs one slip and it’s out of the cage. It will be there till I die or it will carry me to the grave. I hold the key, I decide.

Every time I look in that dark place it is there and it looks back and it grins.

Freedom

I will never forget the night sitting on a train I watched my Father Play poker with a stranger as they drank whisky. I watched my father lose one round after the other until he was broke. The man who had emptied my father’s wallet asked “have you got anything left to wager”?  My father nodded in my direction and said drunkenly “the Boy”.  The man nodded and said “OK”. They played their hand and my Father won and soon had most of his money back. It seemed like his luck had returned, I’m still undecided about mine. Who wagers Freedom?

Alcoholics do.

I was around 7 years of age when I experienced that and would soon find myself in a religious orphanage where my view of Christianity would forever be blighted by my experience. Later in State care I would learn the meaning of class, rank and status. The event that played out on the train may have been a joke to scare me or it was as it seemed; it remained with me till now more than 40 years later and forever changed my perception of my Father and what it means to be Free.

Anakin Skywalker was a slave as was his mother. The distinction obviously affected Anakin in his younger years and later as a Jedi Knight as he struggled with his identity and his past. Anakin then became a slave to his guilt, his anger and his hate until he became a slave to the Dark Side and was lost to it.

Slave to Self

I was never a Slave in the normal sense of the world but I was a slave to my addiction and to my Fears. The things that keep us down and in bondage are very often of our own making. I had the key, in fact the door was always open. I just chose never to take it and kept myself a slave for decades after that moment on the Train.

Surrendering is the key to Freedom. By turning over my drinking problem and then my fears, anger, anxieties and resentments to the Force I was setting myself Free. The paradox of surrender is a powerful one and it does not need a spiritual source. All it needs is willingness.

We all have within us an inherent desire to be Free. Not only free from oppression and fear but free from our own negative and self defeating emotions. We want to be Free from our darker side and our past. The key to Freedom is in our hands. Set yourself Free Now.

Mastery (and the Big Shot)

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi to Darth Vader (Episode IV: The New Hope)

With practice comes competence and with reinforcement comes confidence and finally mastery. The process from novice to master can take years and result in a change of personality with every evolution. Along the way increased self confidence can lead to a greater sense of humility and gratitude or an inflated ego and arrogance. Anakin Skywalker was the Jedi version of the latter, a “Big Shot” in the Jedi Order.

How many times have we seen Sport Stars reach the pinnacle of their game only to fall victim to ego? Adored by fans, followed by the media and afforded a lavish lifestyle they eventually succumb to vice or ego driven scandal and fall from grace. The distraction of wealth, fame and glory eventually defeats them in the ring or on the field. At this point they retire in to obscurity, exist in notoriety or hopefully redeem themselves and find their way back to whatever source raised them from their humble roots.

In recovery too, an alcoholic with years of sobriety becomes over confident, cocky and grows in to some sort of “Big Shot”. Along the way he forgets his principles of humility and self honesty and chooses to ignore the warning signs that he is back sliding. Unless someone or something reminds him of where he came from he is soon questioning the nature of his disease and taking the first drink which finally leads to full blown relapse.

Never Forget your Roots

I never forget where I came from but I don’t let it define me either. Growing up with an alcoholic parent who could barely hold down a job and who never had money to pay the rent, utilities or buy food was a day to day reality for me as an elementary school age kid. My Father was a compulsive gambler and when he was sober he was angry and resentful and at time paranoid of everyone around him. At times he would resort to violence to discipline us and then feeling guilty would storm out of the house and not reappear for several days. When he did he was usually very drunk, remorseful and emotional. Most times he was busted up from a street fight. At around the age of 10 and 12, we would put him to be bed and he would sleep for days while we fed ourselves, laundered our clothes and got ourselves off to school.

There were visits from the Police both State and Federal, Eviction Notices, angry landlords, creditors seeking money, disconnected power, water and gas. No food in the cupboards and no heating in winter. We slept on the street, homeless shelters or in the toilets of churches kind enough to give us shelter. We moved from one end of the country to the next. Always running, trying to make a fresh start.

Eventually during one of his absences Welfare showed up at the door and I next saw my Father both angry and defiant in Family Court arguing why he should be able to take care of his kids. To make matters worse he threatened the court with revenge and screamed obscenities at the Judge and had to be removed. Even faced with the loss of his kids and the risk of being charged with child neglect my Father still played the arrogant “Big Shot” who was right and everyone else was wrong. Told he was to lose custody, now unencumbered, he vanished from our lives for two years as we were whisked away into State and Foster Care.

Learn from the Past

I spent the next three years as a Ward of the State and learned how to survive and ascend the school yard pecking order through a combination of diplomacy, strategy and willingness to use my fists and feet to settle arguments and claim my rank. Eventually my Father showed up sober enough for the State to grant conditional custody after a period of review. In no time we had fled out of jurisdiction to another State where we would find relative anonymity and he could resume his old ways of lying, cheating and gambling. At least he stayed sober though I wished at times he would drink so I got the reprieve of him being absent for days on a binge.

As soon as I finished High School I walked out of home and got on a train and headed to the Army. I never spoke to my Father again. I often reflect on my childhood and wonder how I never ended up down the same path as him. Then I ponder that I nearly did but my disease was arrested and I reclaimed my sanity. Putting it in to perspective like that keeps me grounded. I try not to get conceited or cocky with my recovery. My Father provided an important life lesson after all.

Anakin Skywalker was doomed to fall to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. The analogy of the fall of Anakin teaches me that the more confident I become in my recovery, the more powerfully recovered I believe myself to be, the more I need to be mindful that I don’t fall off my pedestal. Mastery over anything, a profession, an art or a sport or even the game of life can cultivate a “Big Shot” attitude. All of the sudden we lose our humility and appreciation of place.

We forget where we came from. We expect to be treated special, to be given allowance, to be respected and we start to compare ourselves with others and find them lacking. We no longer see fault in our own conduct and stop trying to cultivate virtues and be better versions of ourselves. We forget that we should only compare ourselves with who we were yesterday.

As a mere servant of Darth Sidious, Darth Vader still claimed his Mastery and domination over others. In reality Darth Vader was a mere slave, a pitiful shell of a man he had been deep in pain and suffering. The utter delusion that his fall had condemned him played out in the scene where face to face with his old teacher and mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader claims his supremacy.

“Now I am the Master” – Darth Vader

True Mastery

Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared to fall under the fatal stroke of Darth Vader’s light saber seemingly mastered by his old apprentice. However the opposite is true. Darth Vader  released Obi-Wan from the confines of the material plane and set him free, returning him to the Force and more powerful than ever. Darth Vader is aware that he has been fooled by his own arrogance and hatred. It is not the victory he sought but a defeat. Even knowing this Darth Vader continues to deny the truth until he is confronted by Luke in “Return of the Jedi”.

I learned a few years ago that my Father had died a skid row drunk, broke and alone. I sometimes wonder if in his final months, days, hours he realized his mistakes and at least came to acknowledge his part in a life of suffering he had imposed on others and his self and at last forgave himself. Did he instead take that anger, fear and arrogance with him as he defiantly stepped from this world to the next? It was 25 years after I had last spoke to him. I will never know but I hope it was the former, I pray he made peace with God and himself before he died.

My own struggle did not end there in 2011 with the news of my Father’s death. A year later, embittered and angry, facing my own “Dark Side”, I reached my own personal “rock bottom”. Instead of staying there I called on whatever “God” there was to help. I felt a hand reach out for me like a flimsy reed. I grabbed at it like it was my only chance for salvation and I was lifted out of my own despair. The arrogance and the denial swept away and I saw who I was with clear eyes. I saw my life in plain view and saw what I had done to myself and others. At last I admitted my alcoholism and began to believe in Faith. I forgave my Father and let go of my own fear, anger and arrogance and began to claim who I, who we, truly are.