Decisions

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose.” – Yoda

 

A process

In previous posts the mental processes at arriving at a decision were discussed in the context of Jedi Philosophy. Arriving at a decision is a multi-step process. We looked at the need for inner reflection to realize the truth and need for change. Resolutions were considered as an affirmation of that shift in thinking. Making a resolution is creating a broad determination to do something or be someone.

Right View was framed as the wisdom and attitude that drives that desire for change and realization of the truth. Before making a decision we must undertake an acid test to determine if an action is consistent with our value system and the principles we live by.

Finally, we had to ask ourselves “why”. The intent of our desired action and outcomes had to be defined and flow from the process. At this point we are ready to actually make a decision and commit to it with action.

People go through a great degree of preparation and work to get somewhere and when the time comes to launch they balk. They face the agony and terror of actually deciding to go ahead with affirmative action.

Making a decision is akin to throwing our selves down the Rabbit Hole. We have pushed the “Go” button and now committed through thought, word and action. Everything to that point was getting the stage set up and rehearsing for the show. When the time comes to step out on to the stage and perform we either go ahead with it or we don’t.

 

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

The Rabbit Hole

I recall when I joined the Army there were a number of other men who had spent their lives wanting to be a soldier and working towards that goal. It was their decision to be there. I’d basically run away from home and had fewer choices. The Military seemed like a viable option in keeping me as far away from my home as possible. I didn’t have a clue of what to expect.

During selection we were put through  physical and medical, psychological and psychometric assessments, a security screening and a final interview. All of these I passed. We were told repeatedly that we could resign at any point during the six months of basic training.  Once we signed the interim contract we were on probation before being offered a definitive contract. This meant we had six months to decide if we wanted “in” or “out”. The Corps also had that time to assess our suitability or not and send us home in the latter case. I was going to make they didn’t send me home.

At the recruiting station I met a guy named Jack who was around 23 and had finished college. Most of the other guys in the Platoon were between 17 to 21 and were out of High School or avoiding jail or the dole. Jack was different; he looked like a soldier; he was fit, tall and tanned and had all the quiet charisma and presence which commands admiration from other men. It turned out he had been preparing for months for training and planned to get in to Special Operations. The Army was a dream of his since he was a child and he had passed up an opportunity to become an Officer preferring instead to start at the bottom.

Opting Out

Six months later there remained 16 of the original 30 intakes. A number of men had been put back farther in their training for failing tests or for minor injuries. A few had left due to injuries or psychological concerns. One recruit had gone so far as to leave one night and become AWOL. The rest of us stood in parade uniform waiting to be interviewed by the Platoon “Boss” who would provide a final appraisal and tender our final contracts for signing. This would be the moment of decision for each of us. After that we would belong to the Army for a minimum of three years.

Jack was ranked top in the platoon and had been an extraordinary recruit. He excelled at everything, drill, battle drills, navigation, first aid, range shoots, physical training, military ethos and doctrine. You name it he came first at everything. Jack also had the right attitude and was squared away all of the time. You could not fault him and he helped others get through basic training. We thought for sure he would be offered a place in Special Forces and have a career the rest of us could only dream about.

The door opened and the Platoon sergeant called up Jack. Crisply marching forward he knocked on the door frame three times and stepped in to the office, saluted and presented himself to the Boss. The door closed and we assumed he was in there to get his accolades while the rest of us waited in the hallway wondering what bits of flesh were going to be torn off us.

A few minutes passed and we wondered if he wasn’t being entertained by the attending Staff with brandy and cigars. A few minutes later Jack emerged with the Platoon Sergeant who was looking a little red faced. Jack looked his usual cool and composed self and passed us in the hallway and whispered with a grin and a wink “Cheers Lads”. That was the last time we saw him.  Later we learned that after being given a glowing report he was presented with his contract but had flatly turned it down. They had gone so far as to promise him a rapid transfer to Special Forces and even a pathway to becoming an Officer but still he turned them down and requested to leave immediately to resume his life as a civilian.

 

Waste no more time arguing about a real man should be. Be one” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

The Red Pill

At the final moment when presented with a piece of paper Jack had made his decision. Everything had culminated to that point and he chose out. None of us had before then heard him voice any doubt at his being in the Army and he had never complained. If anything he  seemed to enjoy the rigors, discipline and deprivations of barrack and field life. Jack’s departure was as much a shock for the platoon instructors as it was for the rest of us. For many, it planted a seed of doubt in their minds. Jack had decided the Army was not for him after all and that was that. What did he see that the rest of us did not?

A few years later as a civilian I reflected on what Jack had done and realized he had been more exceptional than any of us had realized. Not only did Jack do everything to 110% when he did he also refused to compromise his principles and mislead the Army and his mates by signing a contract once he decided it was the wrong decision. Jack had decided he could not commit himself to the path and decided to step away before he regretted his decision. He left without regrets.

The manner in which Jack did this was honorable. Jack had nevertheless taken the Red Pill and realized that his path lay elsewhere. It taught me an important lesson in being true to oneself without fear. Of being able to make the hard decisions in life even when they go against the grain but you know they are right regardless of what people think.

 

Principles

Ironically Jack had displayed exactly the types of virtues valued by the Army; integrity, honesty, sincerity, courage and unwavering commitment to principles. Signing a contract without being absolutely committed did not enter in to his way of thinking as it did mine.

I signed my contract because I felt pressured and was not wholly committed. This was a pattern that persisted throughout my entire life. Making a decision that I knew deep down was not the right one; never committing to my word.

Eventually life has a way of adjusting misalignment. Someone I never met made a decision and I was  thrown out of the Army for various sins. I bounced about aimlessly through life for many years. I submitted to the will of others and accepted the decisions they made for me with later regret. Girlfriends ended relationships and employers terminated me. Rejection became the norm.

As an alcoholic I had surrendered all power to make decisions that were reasoned and reinforced with commitment. Others made them for me. The only decision I made that stuck was to be committed to my drinking.

 

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” – Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

 

Made a Decision

In seeking recovery through the 12 Steps the most important decision I ever made was to turn my life over to a Higher Power. The decision was definitive and complete. I could attempt to articulate the feeling of control and power that gave me but I would not do it justice. Suddenly the compulsion to drink was lifted and I never drunk again. I had taken the Red Pill.

By turning my life and will over to the Force I had in effect handed my problems over to that power. I now carried that power with me to make any inner change I wanted. With time that inner change would begin to reflect in my outer world. Relationships improved, life became easier and more purposeful and my health also improved. I began to live the philosophy. All of this was based on one single decision.

If you are reading this because you want guidance on being Jedi or are struggling with personal issues including addiction and want to improve your life ask yourself “What is my decision”. Intent is meaningless without action. Without a final decision to jump down the Rabbit Hole and commit ourselves to change completely we remain in a netherworld between action and inaction. We become impeded by lack of momentum. We hesitate at the precipice and while we test the water we refuse to jump in. The curtain has gone up and we must decide; do we step forward and play our part on the stage of life or do we hold back.

 

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision” – Maimonides

 

The Choice is Yours Alone

The agony of decision making is a choice. Finding a quiet place to reflect or seeking the advice of others helps to some extent but a decision must still be made. We can postpone the inevitable determining that the time is not right. That will depend on whether the decision is still available for us to make further down the track. The opportunity may vanish leaving us wondering.

We can weigh the cost, benefits and risks ad infinitum but there will always be a cost and a risk of making a decision. Despite the best knowledge available we could still regret the decision later on. A decision may be a pragmatic choice or an intuitive one. Believe me I have made both and not all of them take us where we thought they would.

 

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato

 

To thine own self be true

Being true to yourself is also a choice. No one can force you to be someone you are not. Anakin in “The Revenge of the Sith” made his choice and committed to the servitude in the Dark Side and not even Obi-wan Kenobi or Padme could save him. In the “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker turned the tables on the Emperor by deciding to spare Vader. Kylo-Ren extended his hand to Rey to join him in uniting Dark and Light, a new order. Rey refused and in making her decision chose her destiny. Those decisions ultimately reflected who these characters were at that point in their lives.

Life is full of decisions. The agony of decisions, even minor can leave us confused, immobile and uncertain and it takes courage to decide. We are all confronted with choices that will be transformative  and some may come at a heavy cost. Decisions are made that will change life forever.

Your decision may be to change a career, get married, have children, embark on a lifestyle change, or commit to a philosophy. Each is an adventure that comes with opportunity, pain, disappointment, joy and most of all learning. The decision to take the plunge is yours. “Do. Or do not, there is no try” as Yoda would say.  Decide you must and do so with conviction and commitment. Once the decision is made be at peace with it.

 

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

Question

What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we’ve been fighting to destroy?” Padme Amidala, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

During “Clone Wars” series the plot by Chancellor Palpatine to undermine the war effort and manipulate the Republic through deception and subterfuge is revealed piece by piece. Like a jigsaw that eventually reveals the face of Darth Sidious the true picture begins to unfold. The veil is finally removed and it becomes revealed that the enemy was within the gates all along.

Nothing was ever as it seemed, all was an illusion and everyone was being played. I love the “Clone Wars” but sometimes wonder how blind the Republic and especially the Jedi could be to not have seen it before everything went to hell in “Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith”. Didn’t anyone on Coruscant but Senator Padme Amidala have the presence of mind to ask the question? Padme was after all in the worst kept secret of the entire Republic. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…well almost always.

Sleep Walking

How often do we open our eyes and see things as they truly are? We realize that for years we have been misled or fooled in to believing one thing over another. For many people the revelation can be life shattering and turn their lives upside down, conversely it can also be liberating and free them from living a lie.

Imagine being in a relationship built on a lie. Many people remain together but they are scared of losing what they think they have when in fact it does not exist. Love does not exist in a loveless relationship that is meant to be based on mutual affection and love. Worse, people remain attached even though it means a life of pain and suffering. The reality of domestic abuse whether physical or emotional is an example. The heartbreak of co-dependency being an another example where people are tied together because of an addiction.  The question “why” has to be asked.

That starts with waking up to reality and letting go of denial.

The Fog of Ignorance

Alcoholism made me a cynic and a skeptic, I would question everything but myself and reserve suspicion of even the most innocent of intentions. If a friend came up to me and said, “I got sober because I put my faith in a Higher Power”, I would have laughed along like it was a good joke and then tried to ply him with booze. I would then have got resentful because deep down I knew that he has something I want but can’t (won’t) get, I would tell myself that he “thinks he is better than me” and reason “if he doesn’t want to break bread (get drunk) with me, then to hell with him”.

Sitting back and exploring the personal implications of what he had said would not enter my mind. Instead I would create my own reality and color that with arrogance, anger and resentment. I would dismiss it without any consideration. This is the type of person that soon finds himself alone.

Asking questions is always a good start. Like Padme we should be critical of self as well as others. In her statement she is actually making the admission that she is part of the system, not someone standing to the side in opposition or neutral but as an active player. Yes they have been all fooled by the insidious penetration of the Sith in to the Republic but they had also bought in to the rhetoric and had blindly marched along, especially Anakin. War does that to people.

The Nazis in Germany rose to power in similar fashion riding on a wave of post War discontent. They built confidence and trust with the people over years before the reality of what they had facilitated became apparent. Dissent and opposition had been silenced and the mass psyche manipulated to giving executive power to a Dictator who killed millions. We read our history and we wonder, how could they have been so blind to fall for it? How could we let it happen again?

Waking Up

Recovery removes denial and reveals us in ways we would rather not know. We can see who we are as clearly as if someone held a mirror up to our lives. Recovery  changes who we are and very often the people close to us do not like those changes. With clarity we are also able to perceive the world with fresh eyes and we may come to the conclusion that our situation is not right and we need to change our relationships, our job and interests as well as our habits.

Change is never easy and I have met some people who regretted changing their lives for the better because it forced them to make decisions that they did not want to make. Life was hard before but then it seems to get harder and more complicated as we set higher standards for ourselves and adopt principles that others cannot accept. They must choose and so must we.

I know the sting of disillusionment very well. It seems I have gone through life anticipating disillusionment with people, place and circumstance. As an alcoholic it is to be expected, we tend to project perfection on everything but ourselves and when things don’t go our way we become resentful and allocate blame.

In sobriety however we apply principles that underpin our recovery. This requires objectivity and the acceptance of reality, we no longer live in a fool paradise but see things as they are. If a relationship is healthy we value it, if a relationship is toxic we do not lie to ourselves and claim that it is “fine”. We stick to our principles and the number one principle is  rigorous honesty with self and others.

The Jedi Method

Disclaimer, I can’t and I won’t give relationship advice, that is not my intent here. The point is simply to avoid knowingly being dishonest with ourselves and others. This of course means that sometimes we must make painful decisions. Let us not forget that the intent of the 12 Steps is to recover. One of the steps requires that we seek to make amends where it would not cause harm to self or others (Step 9). This means we must review our life in an objective and honest manner and determine what our intent is before deciding on an action. The Real World Jedi provide a solution to this conundrum in the Jedi Method (Trout, 2012).

Jedi Intent + Jedi Action = Jedi Outcome

Intent

What is our motivation behind any decision? Is it selfish, self centred or self seeking? Is our intent virtuous? Are we being objective and reasoned? If the intent is in accordance with our personal system of values then it is usually on solid ground.

 

Action

Deciding what to actually do in any situation will be largely determined by the desired outcome. The adage “means do not justify the ends” applies; one cannot undertake a course of action that is reprehensible, unlawful or unethical even in the name of a noble cause. We cannot take a course of action at the expense of others unless it is wholly justified. This principle can be hard to swallow but for us it is paramount for our sobriety. Any action we take we can sleep comfortably with and not have to justify to ourselves or others.

 

Outcome

Working out the outcome can be difficult. Take a scenario, a person is in an unhappy relationship at home. She has quit drinking and is maintaining her sobriety, her partner quit for a while but relapsed and continues to get drunk. She has tried to get him to go to meetings but he won’t and doesn’t want her to either. This places an inordinate amount of pressure on the relationship. One is working, the other is spending and not working and arguments are making an unhappy household worse.

The person in recovery decides enough is enough, no more begging, no more excuses or tears. She is grabbing her stuff and walking out. In my view the intent is solid, the action is reasonable under the circumstances but the outcome is largely unknown. That is, we may know the short term outcome but what of the long-term consequences, the direct and indirect impacts?

Will he improve in her absence? Does this mean life will get harder for her now being single and homeless? There are consequences for every action which is why it is important to carefully consider every possible outcome before proceeding. The mistake is to abandon the cause because of the fear of uncertainty, we must be agile enough to adapt without compromising our principles. Sometimes we have to take a difficult course of action that serves our best interests we can still make sure that decision is consistent with our values.

 

Setting Priorities

In my world there are three main priorities they are the “The Force”, Sobriety, Family. If I lose my faith in my Higher Power and forget that my recovery is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition I will drink again and lose my sobriety. If I lose my sobriety I ultimately lose my family, job, home and health. I can however lose my family, job, home,health and family without losing my sobriety because it is not contingent on those things, it is contingent on my Faith.

One of the reasons Anakin lost the plot was because he had his priorities upside down and feared losing the things he loved. Unable to be honest with himself or others he was easy prey to the Dark Side. We can never be certain if the Jedi Council were aware of his marriage to Padme Amidala, another deception which came at a price. The tragedy is that lies and deception destroyed them all. Its a recurring theme in mythology, in Star Wars and sometimes in real Life.

My focus then is working on what I need to stay mentally, physically and spiritually fit and sober. In recovery we only really have three things that are ours to keep or lose; our mind, our Faith and our choice. Everything else is largely out of our control. That doesn’t mean that we should not care about what we treasure in our lives but we should always keep eyes open and to quote Larry King on RT; Question More.

Ask the Right Questions and Demand the Right Answers” – Larry King