Forgiveness

Image: We can Forgive Lucas for Jar Jar too.

 

The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am” – Darth Vader

 

In the last post we explored the “Abundance Mindset” and how it is drawn from gratitude, acceptance and surrender. By having an “abundance mindset” we come to realize an abundant life. Our attachments to people, places and things loosen. We readily consider new ideas and refuse to be tied down by dogma. Life becomes fluid. Rather than focusing on life’s scarcity we focus on what we have. People who have arrived at a contended state of sobriety will often have an ‘abundance mindset’ that pervades their life rather than a “scarcity mentality”.

However an “abundance mindset” is sometimes not enough. Despite a solid mental and spiritual foundation the past can revisit and turn our lives upside down. Many of us live on the edge of a dark place. We believe our past is behind us yet at times we are haunted by it. Old habits and resentments threaten to ambush us and drag us back in to a pit of self pity, depression and anger. We still blame ourselves and others for past transgressions. This is when we need to forgive most. Forgiveness is the key to our salvation.

 

Scar Tissue

I have an introverted character that is often mistaken for being cold and insensitive. In fact the opposite is true, I am a sensitive person and wounds cut deep. Scars take a long time to heal, if they heal at all. I tend to carry the weight of my history on my back. I don’t forget old injuries and insults. In fact I can clearly recall what was said and done years and decades ago. Old memories of feelings and fear come flooding back. With that hurt and fear comes anger.

 

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

 

 

Digging up the Past

Recently I was at a conference where I saw some familiar faces. The last time I had seen many of them was a decade or more ago. When we had last met I was a different person. Alcohol had dominated my life and my relationships. I treated people in a certain way and they responded accordingly. As a result I was shamed or hurt. I reacted with anger and resentment. This of course made matters worse. Ten years or more later I see these people and can’t bring myself to speak with them. I avoided them and did my best to fade in to the background.

Later I considered my behaviour and realized my actions were driven by false impressions and self imposed fears. People generally don’t hold grudges for decades. They don’t have a catalogue of hurts like I do. Whatever had passed between I and these people was in a different life and they (being normal human beings) had long forgotten our petty disagreements of the past. People get over stuff and move on.

I realized that I was largely isolating myself out of shame. I knew the person I had been and did not want to be seen that way. This of course is ego based on fear. Why should we care what others think of us? Should we be paralyzed by the opinions of others? Do those opinions really matter so much that they keep us in doors?

 

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

Isolating

It suddenly occurred to me that I had not acted like a person stable in his sobriety. I was avoiding people, places and situations because I was afraid of how I  would be seen and treated and mostly how I would react. The fear of being “triggered” by a remark or a memory and possibly doing or saying something that I would later regret paralyzed me and forced me to isolate. Had I hung around and engaged the very people I had crossed in the past perhaps I would have made friends. But I chose to flee, hide and stoke my ego.

The problem of course lies in the failure to forgive. This has held me back for much of my life. As an alcoholic I was reluctant to forgive as it meant dismantling my defenses and leaving me open to attack. I also could not believe that others were capable of forgiveness. How could they be if I was not? If people said sorry it was only words. My cynical and paranoid outlook on life kept me incapable of forgiving or being forgiven. As a result I suffered and hid in the shadows. People were treated with suspicion.

 

 

Making Amends

Step 9 of AA suggests that we go out and seek to make amends to those we have harmed where it does not injure them or others. It is a selfless act. Through amends we right the past, forgive others and seek to be forgiven, if that is possible. We cannot force people to accept our amends. Their response, positive or negative, is accepted with grace and equanimity. Our task is only to do what we have in our control.

In Step 10 we are reminded to appraise ourselves on a daily basis, admit mistakes and make amends where required. The goal is constant and continuous self improvement.

Amends are not just for others. We must also never forget to forgive ourselves. Our lives cannot be held hostage by the mistakes of the past. We acknowledge the past and resolve to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. The past is neither shunned nor ruminated upon. We look at the past as one glances in the rear view mirror. Regarding it mindfully and occasionally.

Never let the past hold you as hostage in the present.

 

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley “Redemption Song”.

 

 

Emancipate Yourself

Star Wars is a tale of personal redemption based on Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. The theme of redemption is repeated throughout the mythology. We see it in the tale of Anakin, the trials of Luke Skywalker, the adventures of Han Solo and in the tragedy Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos. Through forgiveness each of the characters is able to reconcile the pain of their pasts and find redemption and final peace.

Our lives are no different. We are all on our own “Heroes Journey” of redemption. Learn to forgive yourself and others. The path will clear and we can live in the Now.

Abandoned

Image Source: http://afisher.com.au/

Asajj

You’ve told me your existence has been nothing but pain and loss. Never feeling secure. Never having a home. You deserve so much, and I can get it for us. The life we’ll be able to have together” – Quinlan Vos

What kind of life will that be, Quinlan? The kind where we’re slaves to our hatred? Our rage? That’s what the dark side made me. That’s what it does. Nothing is ever enough. You get more, and more, but you’re never happy. It’s a trap baited with all the things you want most in life—and it’s not worth living. I already left that behind.“― Asajj Ventress “Star Wars: Dark Disciple”

 

Padawan

Asajj Ventress was a Bounty Hunter, an Assassin and a Sith Apprentice. Before all of that she was a Jedi. As an infant she was taken from her home planet Dathomir by a Bounty Hunter and enslaved. During a raid by Pirates her owner was killed and using Force powers to defend herself she attracted the attention of a Jedi. The Jedi Ky Narec took Ventress to the temple and she began her apprenticeship as a Jedi. The training helped awaken her force powers which were very powerful.

The Jedi Narec was like a father to her as well as a mentor and she loved him.  Years later during a battle with Pirates the Jedi was killed and Ventress deserted the Jedi Order feeling that it had betrayed her Master. Filled with grief and anger she began to turn towards the dark side.  Eventually she caught the attention of Count Dooku and was trained and indoctrinated in to the Sith. Due to her powers and hatred for the Jedi, Ventress became Count Dooku’s favored apprentice.

 

The Apprentice

Asajj felt at last she was home and she served her Master well. Her powers and skills grew and she became an accomplished Assassin. Many times she came close to killing both Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Sywalker under the orders of Count Dooku. The time came when Darth Sidious began to notice Asajj Ventris and the bond that existed between Master and Apprentice. Testing the loyalty of Count Dooku, Darth Sidious ordered Asajj Ventriss be killed. Reluctantly Dooku agreed and he ordered her execution however Asajj managed to escape and returned to her home world of Dathomir where the Witch Order of the Night Sisters reigned.

 

The Witch

Deeply enraged by her betrayal, Asajj attempted to extract her revenge by infiltrating Count Dooku’s fortress and attempting to assassinate him. She was aided by the Night Sisters magic and the help of a slave assassin Savage Oppress, a monster created by the Night Sisters spiritual leader. During the battle Savage Oppress turned on them both forcing Asajj to flee in to hiding.

Sought by Dooku, Ventress was eventually traced back to her home planet on Dathomir. A retaliatory strike was launched on the Dathomir Fortress killing all of the Night Sisters in the ensuing battle. Once again Asajj survived and found her self alone.

 

The Redeemed

In the following years Assaj changed. Becoming a Bounty Hunter and Mercenary she found herself forming alliances with the Jedi as they fought a common enemy. Ventress saved Obi-wan Kenobi and helped Ahsako Tano after she was framed for bombing the Jedi Temple. It was Quinlan Vos the maverick Jedi Master who ultimately redeemed Ventress through love. Forming a team in a quest to finally destroy Count Dooku the Jedi and the Mercenary became lovers.

During an attempt on Dooku, Vos was captured by the separatists and brutally tortured and brainwashed, he fell to the Dark Side. Finally it was Asajj who saved Quinlan Vos as she sacrificed her own life to save him. Vos returned from the Dark Side renouncing the Sith. The Jedi honored Assaj Ventris and she was buried on Dathomir.

 

Dependency

The tragic story of Assaj Ventress follows a familiar pattern of an orphan who is forced to live a life of codependency and abuse. Things could easily have been different but fate played her a cruel hand. In the end her true hidden spirit shined through and redeemed her. For many, Asajj Ventress is a “villain” in the Star Wars saga. I view her as an enigma and a largely misunderstood character. Asajj serves as a reminder that we should never give up on people, they can come back. I know I did.

 

Orphaned

Separated from her family and bereft of a heritage and parents all Asajj knew was the hard and cruel life of a slave. Nevertheless she was dependent on her owner and when he was killed in a Pirate raid she lost the only carer she had ever known. Adopted by the Jedi she found happiness and purpose at last and with it her Force powers blossomed. Tragically her Jedi Master was killed and once again she was left an Orphan.

Alone Assaj became bitter and angry. She blamed the Jedi Order for the death of her Master. That anger and hatred was exploited by Count Dooku. In the same way that extremist organizations and gangs attract young and vulnerable people to their ranks, the Sith found a prime candidate in Asajj to do their bidding.

 

Abandoned

Eventually Ventress was betrayed by the Sith. This is also common in extremist organizations and cults. People are brainwashed and used until they are killed or betrayed. The fall was a shock to Assaj and she returned to her home world of Dathomir, a place she had never known and met her mother, the Night Sister leader Mother Talzin. Among her sisters on Dathomir she at last found a home where she was valued and belonged. This home was soon also taken away.

Drifting in the grey world of the Bounty Hunter and loyal to none Asajj began to realize that the absolutes she had believed in were invalid. She had been full of rage and hatred for years and it had been used by the Sith for their own purposes. Once her use had been exhausted, she was discarded like a broken tool. Ventress realized that she had been dependent on a lie and the loyalty she imagined did not exist. Even her own Mother, Talzin, abandoned her following the massacre of the Night Sisters on Dathomir.

 

Adrift

“None of this was my choice, I never asked to be ripped away from my home, from my family. You’ll never know what its like” – Pluma Sodi

I wish I didn’t, but I do” – Assaj Ventress “The Clone Wars: Bounty”

 

At last Asajj began to form her own identity and found her place in the madness that surrounded her. Despite her previous allegiance to the Dark Side she learned compassion for others and the ability to work for mutual benefit. The Jedi had been her sworn enemies, now she no longer saw them as such and was willing to work with them. In Quinlan Vos she found a kindred soul and shared her knowledge of the dark arts of her people. Through shared experience and hardship they became lovers and through that love the darkness that resided within her gave way to light and hope. She was home at last.

 

Freedom

The final act of Asajj Ventress is a remarkable chapter in the Star Wars saga and symbolizes the salvation that later redeemed Anakin. In an effort to save Vos from succumbing to the Dark Side, Ventress battled with Count Dooku and willingly sacrificed her life so that her lover should live.

That act alone redeemed Asajj Ventress and bought Vos back from the Dark Side, saving him. Asajj Ventress was a Jedi who had fallen from the path. Desperate to find meaning in her life and to make someone pay for the pain she had suffered through life she had fallen to dark emotions and lived a personal hell. Forgiveness, sacrifice for others and ultimately love redeemed her and bought her back to the light. She did this by herself and it freed her.

Remember, no one holds the key to your own freedom and salvation but you.

Jedi believe in Justice

Jedi believe in peace and justice

Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice, so we certainly believe in promoting them. Jedi deeply believe in finding peaceful solutions to problems if possible. Jedi are expert negotiators, and try to solve problems without fighting. Jedi embrace justice, which means protecting and preserving the basic rights of others. Empathy is important too, because without it, Jedi can’t understand how others feel when they are injured by injustice.

(33 Jedi Traits)

The fictional Jedi inspired millions of people. That inspiration was because the Jedi were portrayed as selfless heroes who willingly gave themselves to a purpose greater than themselves. They were the “good guys” who could be relied upon to uphold Justice and get things done and to save the day.

Society reveres its selfless heroes and always has. Their example can be found in timeless stories told in literature and in movies. As children many of us wanted to grow up to be like them and to serve and protect. Once it became apparent that Jedi was not a professional option, we wanted to be the next best thing; soldiers, marines and airmen, fire fighters and police officer or the town Sheriff. Some of us became those professions or found other ways to help people. Role models were seen as being those who were forthright, reasoned, fair, courageous and strong. A strong sense of justice was seen as a virtue.

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst” – Aristotle

One of the greatest challenges of our time is how do we define a hero, someone who can be described as a guardian of peace and justice. The world has become a cynical place and the definition of a hero is not as clear as it once was. One person’s definition of justice will differ to the next.

 

Social Justice

Societal views and social justice causes move as quickly as feeds on social media. Each day we find another “hashtag” to jump on to in support. Depending on where you look the compelling issues of the day are racial  and gender equality, freedom of sexual expression, freedom of speech, minority rights, environmental defense, ecological justice, marriage equality, black lives matter, all lives matter, anti-globalization, save the whales, animal rights, welcome the refugees, stop the war, redistribute wealth, land rights, political freedom, media rights, the list goes on ad inifitum.

The voices for change and justice are marred with anger and frustration, hostility and divisiveness.  One is no longer able to sit on the side lines. Opinions are judged and to be silent or neutral is to attract as much admonishment and anger as the opposing view. Some views are not to be considered, especially when they contradict popular opinion.

Righteous indignation has become the norm on both ends of the spectrum as has violence.  Progressives resemble conservatives in more ways than they realize. For a World that calls for justice we have become judgemental on all but ourselves. Perhaps the world needs less judgement and more open discourse and forgiveness.

“Social Justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create” – Pope John Paul II

Be the Change

Most of us abide by the law. We want to see justice. As we observe others breaking the law we demand rectification. When we stretch the  boundaries of the law ourselves be it on the road or in our tax return we expect concession and if bought to account, mercy. Justice goes both ways. What example do you set?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghandi

The best Leaders I have ever followed were consistent but adaptable to change, fair but firm in their principles and reasoned in their approach. At the same time they were open to ideas and never so inflexible that they were unwilling or unable to listen to the other person’s view point.

Being Jedi is being an example. A Jedi holds views and opinions but is not above admitting when they are wrong or conceding that the world is an imperfect place and so is our world view. Jedi are reasoned, they are not zealots who demands rigorous conformance to dogma. Jedi talk the talk and walk the walk, they lead by example.

Open Minded

Once upon a time I was highly defensive in my views. I believed that issues such as climate change and whaling for example were clear cut, black and white. If you engaged me in a reasoned debate on the topic my argument soon fell apart through lack of authority on the subject. I had attached myself to a dogmatic view and while claiming to be Scientist I only bothered to look at the Science which supported my view. Anything that potentially questioned that view point was either ignored or ridiculed as being false.

No matter which way you look at it, the truth is the truth. We can disagree all we want and demand an alternative but that does not change the truth.

Keeping an open mind and a sense of objectivity opens ourselves to being able to drive towards inclusive change. We all live in this world together and to deny others their opinions, no matter how offensive they may seem, closes the door for reasoned debate.

Whether we agree with the views of others or not, we must try to understand where they are coming from and the reason they hold the views that they do. Social injustice and inequality has a wide net and often we find that opposing sides have more in common than we care to admit.

“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same” – Albert Einstein

Sacred Cows

In recovery I have learned to question some of my “sacred cows” be they around politics, environment or current affairs. My views were once highly polarized but now I am able to listen to both sides of the debate and recognize that there is always more to learn and nothing is ever really black and white. This extends to my recovery. I cannot stand back and judge someone in addiction who is making bad choices and causing harm to themselves and others. I was once like that, even though I thought there was nothing wrong. It was only until I faced the truth did I realize how badly mistaken I was.  My reaction now is more along the lines of empathy for the person and concern for the behavior.  I know that if I can change for the better so can most people.

Reality is actually millions of shades of grey, extremism is a departure from reality. Unfortunately extremism hold a radically “black and white” view and seems to gain more public attention than they deserve. Extremism is often coupled with violence which is a depart from reasoned debate and compromise.

The good news is that most people do not see violence as a solution to problems but a part of the problem. Violence is never justified as a means to an end, no matter how important we think it is. Any situation which results in the creation of victims only sows the seeds for future conflict. To be Jedi is never to accept extremism and to abhor violence in all its forms.

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace” – Martin Luther King

 

Forgive to Set Free

Forgiveness is another concept I have learned in recovery. Making amends made me realize that most people are not only able to forgive past wrongs, they want to. I always thought that resentment and grudges was a normal and universal state of being that all people had all of the time. Of course that is not the case.

Being forgiven by others made me want to forgive those I perceived as having done me wrong. I have come to realize that most people don’t seek to be disagreeable. Most people do not openly seek conflict. Hatred is not a normal part of our makeup. We are all born the same and only invent our differences later on usually through fear inspired by falsehoods appearing real.

Most of my grievances with people were imagined. In some cases I could see the world in the eyes of my detractors once I imagined myself in their shoes . I had hated my Father for example, but now as I saw that he was simply acting out what had been done to him and passed down through generations. The fear and anger could stop with him. The sins of the Father need not be visited on the son.  I forgave my Father and released that karmic cycle. I was freed from a lifetime of guilt and pain.

“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Live and Let Live

The solution to all the conflict and hatred in the world is forgiveness and acceptance of our diversity. We need not agree all on things but we can choose to disagree agreeably and respect the other person. The world can still be a kaleidoscope of views, opinions and beliefs without causing harm to one another. Remember Justice is a two way street. If someone disagrees with us that is their right. Their opinion of us in none of our business. We keep our side of the street in order. We “Live and Let Live”.

There are some simple ways we can demonstrate a sense of reasoned justice in our daily lives. We can lead by example and show others that we are not inflexible or rigid in our views. One can still champion the cause of social justice through protest and lobbying without succumbing to the emotions such as fear, anger and hatred.

  • Treat all people fairly;
  • Allow people the opportunity to be heard;
  • Respect the person’s right to an opinion even if you disagree with it;
  • Seek common ground;
  • Play by the rules;
  • Speak up if something is unfair or unjust.

 

Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle” – Martin Luther King

Redemption

When Anakin had succumbed to his fears, anger and hate and fallen to the dark side the person that he was died. In his place rose Darth Vader, a dark shadow of his former self and a slave to the Dark Lord. In “Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi”, Darth Vader finally realizes who he truly is and finding the love for his son Luke, he turns on his Master, Darth Sidious. The redemption of Anakin was the final end of Darth Vader.

I’ll not leave you now. I’ve got to save you.” – Luke Skywalker

You already have.” – Anakin Skywalker

The Chains of Addiction

The fall of Anakin and the emergence of a twisted and tormented Darth Vader in the same body can be viewed as a metaphor for suffering and the slavery of addiction. How many people have we encountered in our lives who changed so utterly through addiction that they were barely recognizable? Family and friends no longer knew them and they no longer knew themselves.

The effects of drug and alcohol addiction carries an insidious toll on a person’s life and on their psyche. I became morally compromised and spiritually bankrupt through alcoholism though I did not see it at the time. The difference between who I had been and who I became was stark.

By destroying Darth Sidious and saving his son, the chains that had held Anakin in the form of Darth Vader finally came off. He  emerges from the dark place where he had been imprisoned and tortured for decades as a mere slave to fear, anger and hatred. As Anakin lies dying he atones for the past. He forgives and is forgiven and finds redemption at last. Anakin is set free and is reunited with the Force.

Inventory

Realizing the truth of who we are and what we have done through our alcoholism can be painful but it is also liberating. I remember one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had was completing my inventory in Step 4.  Admitting it to my Higher Power and sharing it with another in Step 5 was to finally free myself from the bondage of the past. I saw at last who I had been and the damage I had done to myself and others. There was another way and I could forgive myself and build a new life.

“Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

“Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

After sharing my story I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off. I was ready to change and I wanted to right the wrongs of the past. Filled with hope for the future I looked forward to making amends and claiming a sober life. The clouds parted and at last it felt as if a door had opened and I had passed through to a new dimension a free man.

Amends

Several years ago when I was still drinking I learned that my Father had passed away as a skid row drunk. He had been dry when I had last seen him 25 years earlier but we became estranged and I never spoke to him again. In time he became little more than a rumor. The news was that he moved around a lot and was back “on the sauce”.

Over the years I often wondered what I would say if we met again and whether I could forgive him. There had been anger for years for a miserable childhood. I  blamed my drinking and many of my troubles on him. There were so many faults I so despised in him that I had revealed in myself. Like Luke Skywalker I was in danger of falling to the Dark Side, like his Father and indeed in the end it had me.

When I learned that my Father had died my feelings were mixed. Part of me did not care, another part was sad and the last part was angry I had been robbed of an opportunity to tell him how he had ruined so many lives including my own. My reaction was to simply get drunk in response to the news. I was more like him than I dared admit.

Forgive

When I compiled my list of amends in Step 8 I placed my Father near the top of the list. The predicament of course was that he had died the previous year. I said a prayer and Forgave him and asked for forgiveness in return. With that I blessed his memory and made peace at last with a painful part of my life. Perhaps someday we will meet again on the other side of the veil where these things will no longer matter.

Forgiveness and making amends is one of the most powerful experiences that anyone in recovery can experience. The humility and compassion that we discover during the inventory and disclosure of our faults is further cultivated as we put aside resentment and pride and seek to atone for the past. We also begin to find redemption as Anakin did by seeking forgiveness and by forgiving others. Most of all we find the power to forgive ourselves and move on.

MTFBWY

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.

Personal Dagobah

Only what you take with you” – Yoda

Life is hard and sometimes seems insurmountable. From time to time we question what we are doing and ask why? We need to validate our lives and justify to our deeper selves our choices and the sacrifices we make. This is part of the human condition and completely normal. Once we commit our minds and our hearts to something usually the body will follow. Often it’s taking the first step and then staying on the Path that presents the greater challenge.

We all confront self-doubt, self criticism and at times consider quitting. Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Buddha, Saint Francis of Assisi and Bill W, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous all had periods of the gravest doubt. In the end all of them achieved the peak of the human condition some call enlightenment. The paradox is that in order to arrive at our destination, in order to become who we truly are, we must pass through the darkest forests, our personal Dagobah on our personal journey.

Anakin Skywalker, Obi wan-Kenobi and Luke Skywalker also had moments of self doubt and personal anguish that they worked through and overcame. While Anakin had periods where he struggled with his inner Demons and emerged for a time, eventually he succumbed and fell to the “Dark Side”. Eventually through the love of his son, Darth Vader was vanquished and Anakin reclaimed his true self re-united with his son and died at peace.

Obi-wan Kenobi as a young Jedi was in love with Satine Kryze of Mandalore but forsake their relationship to pursue his life as a Jedi. At times he regreted the decision and the life he could have had as a Father and Husband. During the Clone Wars Obiwan experiences the horrid effects of war over and over again and witnesses many friends and allies killed and in the end the fall of his friend and apprentice Anakin to the Dark Side. Despite it all, Obi-wan Kenobi transcends his pain.

Following further adventures and solitude Kenobi at last meets his destiny and achieves an enlightenment which unites him with the Force. Luke Skywalker is also human and despite his loyalty and passion questions his purpose. Riddled with regret and disillusionment in his later years Luke questions the purpose of the Jedi Order and the cost it has imposed on his life.

Sometimes the dark places that reside within us are far worse than reality, but through it we must pass to get to the other side.

 

That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
What’s in there?
Only what you take with you….Your weapons … you will not need them.”

Yoda and Luke Skywalker (The Empire Strikes Back)

Hell is an Illusion

In my early recovery I would pray for patience, courage, understanding and tolerance and seek to apply these virtues. As things out of my control tipped me over I would succumb to a small personal hell of self-pity, anxiety and depression. I could feel the insanity creeping back in and was terrified that I would start drinking again. I railed against the world and God and could not understand why these things were happening to me. Was I not after all keeping up my end of the bargain? I was staying sober and trying my best to be a better person! Why could life not give me a break? I started to seriously doubt myself and wonder “what’s the point of it all”.

Then it hit me, nothing had happened to me, I was doing it to myself by perceiving life to be a struggle. I was fighting something that did not exist! Like Luke Skywalker on Dagobah I was confronting my own inner Demons and losing. I had asked for courage, patience, tolerance and objectivity and when I was given opportunities in life to practice these I failed!

I had to change my perception and stop fighting everything and everyone. I had to pick myself up and brush myself off and start having faith in myself and in the power of the Force. I had to accept that this journey was going to be hard and for good reason; in order to make gains and grow as individuals we must be prepared to overcome ourselves first.  This means stop fighting ourselves and others, accept what is and let go of things we cannot control “one day at a time”.

Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one, himself” – Buddha

Life is full of pitfalls and challenges that make us question our very purpose in life. We wonder if life has any meaning or is simply a futile exercise in self validation on a road that ultimately leads to our eventual demise. Sometimes we must take a different view and change our perception. We must remember that life does nothing to us; it is our perception and our response to life that matters in the end to whether we live a fulfilling life or a mediocre one. We can live in regret or learn from the experience, we can struggle and fight or we can accept and let go. No matter what you are feeling right now, it will pass and in time the purpose of your personal Dagobah will begin to make sense and you will emerge stronger for it.

This too shall pass” – Sufi saying.

Revenge

“Jedi don’t hold grudges” – Aurra Sing (Bounty Hunter)

Revenge is a recurring theme in the Star Wars saga. The Sith spent centuries seeking revenge against the Jedi in the old and the last Republic and finally succeed in the “Revenge of the Sith”. Boba Fett the clone son of the Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Jango Fett sought revenge against the Jedi Master Mace Windu for killing his Father during the Battle of Geonosis in “Attack of the Clones”.  Asajj Ventress, one of the most compelling and lethal characters in “The Clone Wars” is betrayed by her Master Count Dooku during the Battle of Sullust. The Dathomirian Assassin then attempts several times to exact her revenge and kill Dooku. Failing every time, Ventress finally decides to set aside her lust for revenge and seek a new life.

“A Season in Hell”

There is a Sicilian proverb which translates to “Revenge is a season in Hell”. The “Dish best served Cold” may seem satisfying when carried out for a perceived injustice but my experience has shown otherwise. Anger, resentment, hatred and a thirst for restitution and revenge are burdens on the mind and soul. In the end it achieves nothing and leaves an emptiness and a scar that runs deep.

Revenge has become confused at times with Justice. The complex issue of retaliating to terror attacks for example can often seem unclear and ill thought. Revenge leads to more violence and so on. During my time in the Army the desire to extract revenge for a comrade killed by an IED would lead us to do things that were ethically and morally questionable. We felt it was justified, it felt good and the brass mostly looked the other way. Our self righteousness and anger gave us the fuel we needed and you were either in or out. Whether it was a dead or wounded soldier or an affront to unit honor, we wanted “pay back”.

I still think about the violence and the anger which dominated my life for five years. The effect it had on all of us then remains in part today. Sometimes the regret of actions, the way we treated each other and especially people weaker than us is remembered. I was angry and wanted pay back for years. I would think of my childhood, my dead mother, my drunken father and his fists, the bullies at school, the Nuns and Priests who would abuse us physically and mentally in boarding school. There was the process of bastardization and dehumanization experienced in the Army. I was riddled with anger and resentment for years. I wanted revenge but there was no specific person I could exact it on, so I drank and decided one day I would make the world pay.

It is true, revenge is a season in Hell and I spent the better part of 25 years in my own self made Hell. I was no longer under the control of a parent, school, institution or government but I was completely owned by Booze. In that grey cold place between sanity and insanity and living and dying nothing seems real. We drink to make life bearable and we blame the world for our troubles. In the end there is only two choices; continue down the slippery slope or start forgiving and start the long road to recovery.

Forgiveness

I took Step 4 some time ago and wept like a child as I wrote my long discourse of misery. All of the anger, fear, resentment and revenge seeking that I had held had left me broken.  I forgave myself and I let all of it go, leaving it to the past and in the hands of whatever Higher Power I had conceived. By forgiving myself I was able to forgive the world. It felt as if the weight I’d carried for all those years fell away like some dark heavy cloak. The clouds parted and for once I felt real hope that the nightmare was over. I set out to list those I had harmed and started to make amends one by one.

In “The Clone Wars”, Bobba Fett infiltrates Geonosis and with the help of the Bounty Hunter Aurra Sing attempts to kill Mace Windu. The attempt fails and Boba is captured and imprisoned on Coruscant. Face to face with the man who killed his father Boba Fett vows he will one day have his revenge:

I see now I’ve done terrible things. But you started when you murdered my father! I’ll never forgive you.
Hmm. Well, you’re going to have to. Take him away.

Boba Fett and Mace Windu

In the end we never find out if Boba Fett forgave Mace Windu after the Jedi Master was killed by Darth Sidious. Asajj Ventress attempted one more time to kill Count Dooku, this time with the help of Jedi Master Quinlan Vos. The Jedi Council wanted Dooku dead to bring an end to the war and Ventress saw an opportunity. During the adventure Ventress fell in love with Vos and it is that love and the sacrifice of her life to save her lover that redeems her, not revenge.