The Last Jedi

Source: http://www.starwars.com

Count Down

Tomorrow at this time I will be a settling in to watch “The Last Jedi”. I’ll be honest I haven’t been to see a Star Wars movie at the cinemas since 1983 with the release of “Return of the Jedi”. The prequels and the last two offerings from Lucas / Disney I have watched at home months after they were released.

I’ve never white knuckled the count down to release date or stood in a queue with the Sci-Fi geeks wearing a Jedi robe at a midnight screening. Given that I’ve never bothered to watch a Star Wars movie on its release date, the question “why this one, what’s so different?” is a valid one. There are two reasons.

Firstly I have a movie voucher which needs to be cashed in.

Secondly, I’m intrigued by the choice of title. There has been a lot of discussion about the actual meaning of “The Last Jedi”. Is it reference to Luke Skywalker? Is there finality in the statement that we will see the final end of the Jedi in this episode and the emergence of something else that is more palatable to mainstream opinions?

 

Disclaimer

I know next to nothing about the actual plot of the movie. I never got invited to the Premier or exclusive early screenings. I don’t even known anyone who knows someone who did.  Disney has also closely guarded details about the actual story.

I can’t offer spoilers, only guesses and a bit of philosophy. If you are reading this after having seen the movie you may say “Ha! You got it completely wrong!” If so, that’s fine. I have some questions for you.

 

Questions

During a recent interview Mark Hamill was very cryptic about the movie plot. Many pundits online wondered whether there was a hint of disillusionment or antipathy about the movie coming from Hamill.

It is no secret that the current trilogy brings an end to the original Star Wars line up. Han Solo is dead and Harrison Ford is out of the picture. Carrie Fisher as General Leia will make her last appearance in this movie on the eve of the first anniversary of her untimely passing. Does this episode also see the demise of Luke Skywalker?

Is that the whole story though? Is something else afoot? What is Disney’s intent with the Jedi Order? Is there a deeper reason to Luke Hamill’s apparent non nonchalance and rumored misgivings about the plot than a possible final retirement from the franchise to make way for newer and fresher blood? Are the fans of the original trilogy going to be walking out disappointed or will we be begging for more?

Since 1977 I’ve been asking questions about the plot and direction of Star Wars. The franchise has become very successful at keeping us guessing.

 

Populist

I read this statement from a LA Times review:

 “The Last Jedi is so beautifully human, populist, funny, and surprising. I cried when one POC heroine got her moment because films like these leave their mark on entire generations – and representation matters.”

 

Two words jump out at me; “populist” and “representation”. Both words suggest a carefully calculated social agenda built in to the plot. Hollywood is an epicenter for the assimilation of popular thought in to mass consumption through movies.

If we go back in time we can see how the views and attitudes of the day are reflected in the story lines and movies characters of the day. Movies have always been an effective way to communicate change to generations and to hold a mirror to the face of society. Star Wars is certainly no exception.

 

Mythology

Stars Wars is a mythology that was born at a different time. When Episode 4 “A New Hope” was released in 1977 America had recently been defeated in a long and bloody war in Vietnam. The counter culture was winding down in America. Hippies that had not found responsibilities, careers and suits were getting high and spiritual in places like the Hindu Kush and Himalayas. The Jesus revival was in full swing in America.

The nation at the time was finding itself and trying to determine its identity after the turbulent post-war period. George Lucas was a product of these times and had cultivated a personal philosophy which resonated within the movie through the mystical and enigmatic Jedi. As a 10 year old I identified immediately with what the Jedi had to offer.

 

 

Representation

Things have changed in the last forty years. The buzzwords of the current times are “political correctness and representation matters” among other hashtags.

There is nothing wrong with ensuring that gender and race are given fair hearing in Hollywood Blockbusters. No producer in Hollywood wants to release a movie that may come across as misogynist, racist, patriarchal or homophobic.

The fallout however is that the Jedi may no longer be welcome in the modern era. The Jedi Order after all was a pseudo monastic religious order that was by nature patriarchal and full of “old male” stereotypes at the helm. Not exactly diverse or representative.

There were female Jedi and Jedi Masters but no females existed in the Jedi Council at the fall of the Republic in Episode 6 “Revenge of the Sith”. With the exception of Princess Leia and to some extent Padme Amidala all of the hero archetypes in the Star Wars original and prequel line up were male. The only person of color who could be called a hero was the scheming smooth-talking smuggler, Lando Calrissian. Jedi Master Mace Windu had a minor role in the prequels and was more “Realpolitik” than progressive.

 

Screen Rant

In a recent article on “Screen Rant” a compelling case was made maligning the Jedi Order for a series of bad decision throughout its history. The Jedi Order were not perfect in fiction but they were nothing like the Sith. The faults that ran through the Jedi Order ultimately led to the rise of the Empire and its ultimate betrayal and destruction. The whole cannot be blamed for the errors of the few.

Is a type of revisionism in Star Wars really appropriate? Do we now need to ensure that the story fits snugly in to a politically correct agenda in order to avoid offending anyone at the Oscars? Should the fictional Jedi be relegated to the dust bin of history? Are we ready for a feminist Star Wars with a secular, sexy and independent light sabre wielding Grey Jedi out to rid the galaxy of the oppressive patriarchy in all its forms? Does Star Wars need its own Wonder Woman? I guess the Box Office sales and reviews will answer that question in good time.

 

After Tomorrow

Whatever happens in this movie, after tomorrow I’ll keep being Jedi regardless. None of it really matters. No matter what happens in my life I’ll likewise keep being sober. What happens outside of my control is outside of my control. The real reason I want to rush out and see this movie boils down to one question; is this really the final end of the Jedi on the big screen? If so, I want to see Luke Skywalker one last time.

 

May you enjoy the movie.

What would Kenobi do?

Making up Legends

We often look to historical figures to guide us in how we should act and conduct our lives. Religious icons such as Prophets and Saints are often used as examples we can follow. Their stories are told so that others can take meaning of their work and emulate it some way. Historical and religious figures are raised on to a pedestal of greatness and perfection  Very often the person that is represented is not a true and accurate image of who that person was in reality. History becomes distorted over time and the accounts of some of the most revered figures are often disputed. Sometimes they were never recorded when the person was alive but afterwards. Historical figures essentially become legends based on a great deal of myth. Figures that had a resounding impact on the world; people that lived, breathed and were often martyred for their cause essentially become fictional characters in a story over time.

The reality of the who a person was and who they weren’t becomes insignificant in the light of the story. What is important is the story and the role that the character played within it. Whether it agrees with historical fact is irrelevant. Many nations and religions are built on this paradox of reality and fiction.

Star Wars is a work of fiction. There is no doubt about that. There was never a Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker. The Star Wars saga is a complete fantasy based on the journey of the hero. It was written by a man who has turned his creation in to a global phenomenon spanning more than forty years and destined to continue to enthral and entertain hundreds of millions of people for decades to come. If anyone was to suggest in the beginning that the story might become the inspiration for a philosophy for life or a contemporary religion they would have probably been called mad. But that is the case and it is growing daily.

 

One’s Fantasy, One’s Faith

But why not? Religion is essentially based on myth and fantasy. Stories depicted in the religious texts of the main world religions are for the most part not historically verifiable. At the very least they may be loosely based on events that actually happened but distorted to such an extent over centuries that they became fiction. The religious figures, whose names are known by almost everyone, are depictions based on the descriptions of people who knew them and wrote accounts on their lives as they remembered it. Many of the stories were also written much later by people who never knew the characters involved. We cannot be sure that the icons who have influenced the world are real or based on pure myth no more factual than Star Wars.

If many of the world’s religions, beliefs and philosophies are based on myth than why would it seem so strange that people would look to a modern day space saga for inspiration? All the elements are there. There is the struggle between good and evil, light and dark. Characters which stand in almost biblical stature abound the Star Wars Universe. The Sith and Jedi present to great forces opposing each other. There is also the omnipresence of the Force which brings a strong spiritual essence adding hope and destiny to the story.

 

Knowing and not.

Recently I heard someone ask another person what they thought a particular religious figure would have done if faced with a situation that required  a lot of soul searching. The question struck me as odd as there is no way to know how that person would have acted in that situation or in any situation. All we have is an image, assumptions about a man who lived a long time ago and for which no reliable and historically verifiable accounts exist other than those written by men decades or centuries after he lived. For all intents the man, if he existed at all, may have been a very different character to the one depicted today. We just don’t know for sure.  Assumptions can be made on how he would have acted based on our personal beliefs and what we have been taught or read.

To a 12 Stepper one might ask, “What would have Bill W done”? Again, we can only surmise. Bill W was a complex character not without fault; he was human after all as were all of the Saints, Gurus and Prophets in all the religions of our world. No less, our most revered historical figures, philosophers and leaders, modern and ancient, were and are also human. They were exceptional but they also had faults. To surmise how they would apply principles in all circumstances is a rhetorical question; we can only imagine how they might of.

 

Kenobi

Call me a Geek or worse, I ask “What would Obi-wan Kenobi do” when presented with a problem. Go ahead and laugh but I have found a remarkable tool. Obi-wan Kenobi is entirely fictitious. The story of Obi-wan Kenobi has been largely told. We have a recorded history of his life from the time he was a young Padawan with Qui-Gon Jinn to the moment he was felled by his old apprentice and friend on the Death Star. Later we know Obi-wan as an ethereal figure who lives on after “death” and continues to mentor and guide Luke Skywalker in his quest to bring balance to the Force. There is nothing hidden about Obi-wan Kenobi. We know his character and unless future writers decide to distort and twist the persona in movies and books we have a fairly clear image of who he really “was”.

Unless a person is living under a rock or has no access to modern audio-visual entertainment they would have at least seen one of the Star Wars movies. Many people under the age of 60 are also more familiar with the Star Wars saga than they are with religious stories or doctrine. Whether this is a sign of the times or a complete accident, “Star Wars” may well one day be called the “greatest story ever told”. It seems that almost everyone knows or has at least has heard of Obi-wan Kenobi. Inspiration need not be drawn from someone who actually lived, it can be the idea of someone that didn’t.

 

What would you do?

If people are asked to describe Obi-wan Kenobi you will likely get words like “patient, calm, friendly, witty, intelligent, wise, reliable, loyal, astute and kind”. For me, Obi-wan Kenobi represents a good role model. The fact that he never existed does not matter. If we can relate to a character and find qualities and wisdom in that person worth emulating in our own lives then it should not matter whether the person existed or not. I’m glad Obi-wan Kenobi is a fictional character as history will never uncover facts which challenge my perception. The world is changing and the role models of the past are being swept away as history is revised to align with attitudes of the day. Rationality replaces dogma while extremism replaces wider tolerance. Obi-wan stands aside from all of that and provides a perfect role model for me. Even Disney can’t change that.

If on the other hand you are no fan of Obi-wan Kenobi you can also ask “What would Yoda do?”.  More importantly ask, “What should I do”.

MTFBWY

Living like a Stoic Jedi

Stoic Week

For the last seven days I have been living like a Stoic. For those that are not aware the international group called “Modern Stoicism” hold an annual conference in one major city to discuss Stoicism and how the philosophy can be applied in modern times. After the conference invitees and the global community are invited to try living like a Stoic for a week. This year several thousand people signed on to the free event and put the Stoic practices to work in their own lives. Following a week participants were invited to complete a life satisfaction survey and compare results with the same survey taken the week before. Given that the exercise only went for a week it is unlikely that people new to Stoicism would find much difference in their lives however we can agree that the philosophy does has a lot to offer.

So why is someone who promotes and advocates Jedi philosophy so inclined towards Stoicism? What are the similarities between Stoicism and Jedi philosophy? Why should we care?

 

The use of Philosophy

Well the goal of Jedi Philosophy is to achieve “world betterment through self betterment”. Stoicism is pretty much the same. Many people out there are in to self improvement and there is nothing wrong with that. I have been embarking on self improvement campaigns of one sort of another most of my life. The problem that I and many other people had was the underlying motivation and intent that went in to our efforts to improve. We wanted to be “better” but not necessarily better people. Practical philosophies help us to identify our values, define our goals and keep us motivated in our efforts to be a better person and live a better life.

 

Motivation

We can decide to do something about our weight and fitness. Getting ripped at the gym to look better is great but if we are doing it only to impress other people with our physique then it’s actually a little pretentious and fake. If your motivation and goal is to be fitter and healthier so that you can improve your quality of life and be a better partner, friend, father, mother and so on then you are trying to be a better person. Studying philosophy simply for the purpose of being able to quote dead people in front of your friends might be impressive for a while but unless there is genuine application of the philosophy in your life then it’s shallow and not going to impress anyone for long.

Having a personal philosophy for life helps us to align our values with our goals in life. We find that having a goal to be rich and famous and own lots of stuff no longer has the appeal it once had. Being a better person and living with virtue becomes more important than superficial goals. What’s your motivation?

 

Appearances

I’ll share a secret; I’m an alcoholic but I won’t tell anyone unless it serves to help them in their own pursuit of sobriety. I don’t look like an alcoholic, few people do and how would we imagine an alcoholic to look like anyway? I’m also Jedi, not a light sabre wielding, cloak wearing Jedi Knight who can move objects using the Force but a person who applies the virtues and principles that are common to the Jedi fictional archetypes. That does not mean I go around telling people that I’m a Jedi. There is no such a title in our universe and to go about claiming to be one is not sane behavior. I can treat the noun Jedi as a verb and be Jedi. If you saw me walking down the street you would not be able to pick me for a Jedi. Even if you got to know me you would never think to ask “Are you a Jedi?” anymore than you might guess that I am an alcoholic who has been sober for a long time. I would hope that my actions and words demonstrate the virtues I imagine to be common to Jedi. If they do, then the philosophy has served me.

 

Just People

The Stoics were no different. In ancient times Stoics were very much a part of mainstream society. They had received their training and mentoring through schools of Stoicism and then moved in to jobs and careers pretty much the way people do these days after receiving an education. The Stoics were taught a formula for living that would help them get through life on life’s terms. They were given the psychological tools to master their response to emotions and better handle the challenges they were presented with. The Stoics were not a grim bunch of men who were flaccid about life and completely void of emotions because they felt life was not worth getting worked up about. On the contrary the Stoics were fully engaged in life. They were leaders in commerce and  civil, military and political spheres. The Stoics included artists and musicians, military strategists and politicians, emperors and slaves as well as ordinary people on the streets of Athens and Rome. For the most part they were indistinguishable from other citizens except in their unique and pragmatic approach to life. People who practice Stoicism today are no different, they are military, academic, business leaders in our society and every day people like you and me.

 

Shared and Common

Jedi Philosophy shares a lot of similarities with Stoicism. The Stoic concept of God as being the all matter in existence and a universal reason or primordial fire is similar to the concept of the Force. We are all luminous beings but we are also crude matter as well.

The Stoic ethics and virtues of wisdom, courage, justice and temperance are similar to the core Jedi virtues and states of peace, serenity, harmony, knowledge and the Force as cited in the Jedi Code. The Jedi Code is the basic point of reference for all Jedi. The code being underpinned by principles of objectivity, reason, self discipline and justice. Passion and dark emotions such as anger, fear and hate are seen as a sure path to suffering. The Dark Side is to turn over to these dark emotions, a personal rock bottom. The Stoic branches of Logic, Physics and Ethics find common ground in Jedi philosophy.

None of this means that Jedi Philosophy is Stoicism. Jedi also share similarities with Buddhism, Taoism, Humanism and other traditions. Jedi Philosophy puts a great deal of importance on meditation and physical fitness while Stoicism does not. To be Jedi is to be prepared to practice both, daily if possible. The philosophy puts a great deal of emphasis on balance between our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

Stoicism and Jedi Philosophy both place a great deal of emphasis on duty and self discipline. Daily spiritual practices are also encouraged by both. Jedi Philosophy urges physical fitness, meditation, etiquette and service to others, Stoicism teaches daily reflective practice such as self dialogue, negative visualization, mindfulness, contemplation and self reflection. Stoicism places a great deal of importance on duty and integrity. Many of the Stoic practices have been borrowed and modified in modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We also believe that Jedi Philosophy can help people achieve a sense of calm, serenity, peace and purpose in their lives. It helped me stay sober.

 

Keep Practicing

So this week we covered seven major themes as we explored Stoicism. I would argue that each can be regularly visited and practiced to get real benefit. Any practical philosophy requires consistent application and practice. Self discipline is required if we are to make an honest go of it.

 

  1. Taking Stock: Sit down and contemplate where you are currently at in life. What are your goals? Are your actions consistent with achieving those goals? What are your values and are you living in accordance with them? Daily self reflections is a great tool we can use to keep us on track. Start the day with a morning meditation and end the day with an evening review.
  2. Commit to Change: If we want something out of life that requires change on our part then we must be prepared to change. Firm commitment is required. We cannot expect things to improve for us on their own. Focussing on the things what we can change we take action. We have to accept that things may not work out the way we want despite our efforts. Doing what we can do is up to us the outcomes are largely out of our hands and we must be prepared to accept them.
  3. Virtue: Clarify your core values, they are all you truly have. When we know what our core values are and commit to them we are more likely to stand by our principles. Our life becomes consistent with our stated values and guide our decisions.
  4. Relationships: Be mindful in your relationships with others. Are your relationships productive and mutually beneficial? Are they co-dependent or interdependent? Be prepared to apply your values and principles in to your relationships. Be a better partner, father, mother, sibling, friend or co-worker but be prepared to never compromise on your own core values.
  5. Community: We are part of a global community, a member of a big family. Be prepared to look past the differences, look for the similarities between you and others.
  6. Perspective: Be willing to take a “step back” to appreciate the “Big Picture” while never losing sight of the finer details. Learning to be able to look at life from different angles, close up and from a distance helps us get a better appreciation of our place in the world and the interrelationships between us and others and our environment. We are strands in the rich tapestry of creation.
  7. Resilience: Being realistic and pragmatic is accepting that life is also suffering. Loss is inevitable. Sometimes it pays to contemplate the impermanent nature of things and realize their loss. Negative visualisation helps us fortify ourselves for that inevitability by contemplating it beforehand. By practicing poverty we can also harden ourselves for leaner times and better appreciate what we have over what we want.

 

MTFBWY

Stoic Week

“At every hour, give your full concentration… to carrying out the task in hand with a scrupulous and unaffected dignity and affectionate concern for others and freedom and justice, and give yourself space from other concerns… You see how few things you need to be able to live a smoothly flowing life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.5

Self Renewal

For the next seven days we will draw our attention to Stoicism. For over a year I have been a practicing Stoic incorporating the fundamental practices and principles of Stoicism in to my Jedi training as well as my 12 Step journey. The Jedi path itself carries many elements of Stoicism as does the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many of the entries on “The Daily Jedi” have attempted to capture the essence of Stoicism in the context of both. I hope that over the next seven days I can summarize how applying the practical philosophy of the Stoics can bring many benefits.

This year the theme of Stoic Week is “Self Renewal”. For me the last five years has been a daily journey of “Self Renewal”. My sobriety is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition; therefore recovery is a “one day a time” process. We get up in the morning and we face the new day.

The sun may rise in all its splendor or behind a blanket of clouds. There has never been a day like this one and there will never be another like it again. We each have the choice how we arise to the day and what we do with it. Yesterday has passed with its mistakes and blunders or achievements and victories, it is gone beyond recall and remains but a memory. Tomorrow is but a promise and one that is neither granted nor guaranteed. The present moment, this day, is all we really have.

So begins Day 1 of living like a Stoic. Click here to learn more.

Jedi are Spiritual Seekers

Jedi believe in and are a part of the Jedi Order

The word ‘Jedi Order’ gives connotations that the Jedi Path was something like a religion in the Star Wars Universe. The pure and true meaning of the word religion comes from the Latin word “religio” which was derived from the Latin word “re-ligare” or “to reconnect.” The purpose of the Jedi teachings were “to reconnect” a Jedi to the Force. Actually, we are always connected to the Force, but we have lost our conscious awareness of this connection.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Religion?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is a religion or some sort of cult. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who come together with the sole purpose of quitting drinking, overcoming their addiction and finding contended sobriety. Similarly I have heard the Jedi path called a religion. To some people it is and there is indeed a campaign to have “Jediism” recognized as a religion. To most people however it is a philosophy for life, a formula for living that brings physical, mental, emotional and spiritual improvement in to their lives.

Whether someone considers themselves to belong to one Faith or another is entirely up to them. The beauty of the 12 Steps and the Jedi Path is that anyone can apply the philosophical teachings of both and practice them in their day to day lives. One need not have a religious background or even believe in God. Indeed there are Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Pagans and Wicca’s, Humanists, Agnostics and Atheists that are part of the 12 Step and Jedi movements. We believe that a religious conviction is not needed to benefit from the philosophy of personal improvement, self betterment and recovery.

 

Losing Religion

If someone was to ask me my “religious affiliation” I would respond “Jedi”. In fact I have listed it as such on census forms and on personal information. These days we rarely see that question appearing on documents. People increasingly are coy about their religion or default to the “NA” response preferring not to answer. Society is more secular. At the same time we are seeing an increase in religious extremism. Browse the news and you will be presented with human rights abuses and violence inflicted on others in the name of all faiths not just one.

The truth is I write Jedi not because I want to be different or I claim to be an ardent Star Wars fan who has taken it to the next level. I call myself Jedi because it best describes my own values and spiritual principles which I live.

Religion may have bought a lot of war, hatred and division in to the world but it has also introduced some wonderful and beautiful philosophies on how people can live in peace and harmony with others. I have found that there is so much in common between religions as there is so much in common between all people. The more the Jedi Path and 12 Steps has taught me the more I have come to realize that all the trouble in the world, all the strife, conflict and hate does not need to exist.

 

Take what you Need

I read the Holy Quran, the Bible, the Dhammapada and the Tao every day. Currently I am studying Kabbalah and the “A Course in Miracles” among other spiritual and esoteric texts. Besides that I consider myself a follower of Stoic philosophy and read the writings of the ancient sages and their contemporary counterparts as much as I can.

Recognizing the value of psychology I read books by Jung and Frankl as well as texts on CBT and ACT. None of this makes me an expert on any of the above. I am only a beginner on the Path. What it does provide me with is a rich world of knowledge and thought that I can use in my own way. There is so much to learn and I can take or leave whatever I want. There is no dogma to become tied down to. I take what I need and I leave the rest.

 

A Verb

Being Jedi is a verb, not a noun. I do not consider myself a Jedi but someone who takes inspiration from the fictional archetypes in the context of a practical philosophy. Apply real world ideas and philosophies that fill the gaps of what the Jedi represented in the fiction and you have a Philosophy. There is no hard dogma. I am not required to bow down to an effigy of the Force and pray to Yoda. In my view that would be ridiculous however I would not begrudge anyone who chose to do that. My goal is to be Jedi.

Similarly I recognize that the 12 steps were only ever suggested as a program, they were never mandated to Alcoholics as some form of dogma. The only requirement for membership was and is a desire to quit drinking. The promise is that the program had been tested and proved to work by many and if a person is willing to give the 12 Steps an honest go then they are sure to reap benefits.

There is no treating Bill W as some sort of saint or messiah as in some sort of sect or personality cult. Are there Big Book thumpers  and Step Troopers out there who would disagree with me? Certainly; there are extremists and puritans in every school, sect and religion. People who claim their way to be the only way. Some self proclaimed Jedi Masters are like that too.

Remember there are many people who are religious but not at all spiritual and there are many people who are very spiritual but non-religious. There are also many people who are neither. Some people like dogma, others don’t.

 

The Group

There is no Jedi Order and one never existed in reality. The closest semblance to a Jedi Council exists online. Most would be hard pressed to accept that one online Group or individual represents all people who follow the Jedi Path in one form or another.

Sometimes people lose sight of the forest for the trees. People get caught up in the trappings, the image and the labels. They want to call themselves something, they want a title and to belong to a discreet group. It is human nature to want to belong. We are drawn to the inner circle of the tribe where it is safe and secure.

 

Seek, it is there already

The truth is that all of us have our own individual needs. We are all seeking something. For many it is to reconnect with a spiritual source that has been missing from their lives. This is the case for many alcoholics in recovery. While we follow a path, many of us also seek to define our own higher power and purpose in life. Spirituality becomes a very personal journey that we must take alone; we do not need a Guru to take us there.

I used to consider myself a “Seeker”, now I know that that is not really the case. One only seeks something that is lost or hidden somewhere. The truth is that we are always connected to the Divine Source, whatever it is, the Force. There is no need to seek anything. We just have to be willing to be open to the possibility that something exists which is larger us. With that first step begins a journey of self discovery  and it never ends.

Jedi use the Force for good works

Jedi have special powers and are encouraged to learn the ways of the Force, and to use the Force, but only for good works like training, defense, knowledge, and helping others who are in need.

(33 Jedi Traits)

The Purpose

Every thing we learn has a purpose. We can use experience and knowledge to improve our lives if we choose. The only sin is to be given the benefit of knowledge and not to use it. Worse is to go against what we have been taught and what we know is right.

The purpose of Jedi Philosophy is to seek knowledge, learn and apply it real life. Philosophy should always be a practical as well as an intellectual pursuit. Wisdom is shared so that it may benefit others in some way. To keep that knowledge for ourselves and to never use it is a waste and also a disservice.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

A River flows through

I have worked the 12 Steps now for five years. In comparison to many others it is a short amount of time. My time on the Jedi path has been even less. I have only started to grasp the concepts and lessons that I have learned on this journey. There is still much to learn. I view both as a life journey with no end point.

Faith without Works is Dead” – James 2:24-26

All the knowledge and experience that we attain is useless unless we try to share it in some way through works. We can help others. There are people only starting out on their journey and others who are seeking answers we can provide. Service comes in many forms.

If we can offer something that can help point someone in the right direction then it is worth it. A lake fed by a river that goes no where soon becomes stagnant. A lake that flows on remains vital. We only get to keep what we give away.

“Always pass on what you have learned.” – Yoda

Responsibility

The price of knowledge is responsibility. That responsibility extends to how we use the knowledge and skills we have learned and to what purpose. Do we use our training purely for selfish reasons or do we improve ourselves ultimately for the betterment of others?

One of the greatest misconceptions about military training is the idea that it produces “trained killers”. This is sometimes extended to people who train in martial arts. The belief being that some students will use their acquired skills for nefarious reasons. That martial training somehow glorifies and encourages violence. Certainly there are exceptions but they are rare. In my experience such personalities are quickly shown the door.

We should always remember that we bear a responsibility to use our skills and knowledge for Good Works. Whether the outcomes of our efforts are beneficial or adverse, we should always take ownership and responsibility for our actions.

Whatever happens, take responsibility” – Tony Robbins

 

Motives

In Buddhism the precept of Right Motive is paramount. An adherent seeking training towards eventual enlightenment does so to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings not just her own. It is meant be selfless action.

We must ask ourselves what our motives are. Why am I doing this? For what purpose? Do I really want to change for the better or am I attached to some fantasy? Am I prepared to do the work and put in the effort or just pretend and coast along.

We can only judge our own motives and decide if they are right.

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others.” – Charles Darwin

Right Effort

We only get out what we put in. Consistent application of practices and principles will get results and half measures will avail us nothing. In recovery I have found this to be true. Anything worth doing must be done consistently and with the necessary effort.

In recovery we sometimes see others lapse back in to active addiction. We see it as a loss but we never condemn the person. Any of us could fall at any moment, we cannot be sure that our sobriety is bullet proof. We can have all the tools and all the knowledge at our disposal and years of experience but still come undone. Never grow too arrogant or cock-sure.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Humility

As we improve ourselves and get better our self-confidence grows. We should never use that as an excuse to become arrogant or place ourselves above others. Remaining humble while retaining a healthy degree of self esteem is a virtue.

One does not need to boast and brag about their achievements. We can be inwardly proud of what we have achieved without succumbing to pride. One should never forget why they decided to start the journey in the first place. Was it for self improvement or was to prove themselves to others?

Humility is not thinking less of your self, just thinking of you self less” – CS Lewis

Live your own Life

You should only stop drinking for yourself and no one else” was the first thing someone told me at a 12 Step meeting. I had said that I was getting sober for my family so that I could be a better person for them. The lesson was important. I had made a decision to quit drinking before in order to please others and I had always failed.

It was only when I decided that it had to be my choice alone that I started to get it. No one could do this but me. Our purpose is our own and from that should flow benefits that cascade to others.  Through self betterment comes world betterment. Always get yourself sorted out before you try to save the world.

Don’t let others dictate your life. Take advice and wisdom but make your own choices.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

Timing is everything

With the purge of the Jedi following Order 66 the survivors fled in to exile. Rather than seeking to retaliate immediately and lead a counter attack on the Empire, the Jedi withdrew and let the rebellion take it’s own course. The Jedi chose a path of non-intervention realizing that their time was not at hand and they would need to wait to re-emerge and restore balance to the Force. After 900 years Yoda had the wisdom to accept the turn of events and not to allow self interest to make matters worse.

Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing but wait. Life is not a race. We do not have to rush to achieve our goals. At times we are forced to make a major life changing decision. We must always ask ourselves; “am I ready for that”. The Force will let us now when we are.

A couple of years ago I was offered a Management role and looking at the scope I decided to turn it down for the simple reason that I did not feel ready to accept that level of responsibility. I put off a lot of things over the years and fortunately they were wise decisions.

In exile Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi dived in to their studies and training. Their knowledge of the Force expanded as did their connection with it. When the time came they played a pivotal role in the future of the Galaxy. Deciding not to act can be as important as choosing when to as Yoda revealed to Luke Skywalker on Dagobah.

Decide you must how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could, but you will destroy all for which they have fought and suffered.” – Yoda

Keep Improving

We should never stop learning. Even the most experienced Veteran can learn something new. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Keep seeking and never box yourself in to some dogma that enforces one world view point rejecting all others.

Take what you need and leave the rest. With time comes improvement and change. Old ideas will be replaced by new. We should turn the soil of the mind over once in a while to keep ourselves open and fresh.

Accept criticism with grace and be ready to critique yourself. Always admit mistakes and work on improvement rather than on blame. Ask “how can I fix this” rather than “why did it happen”.

If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.” – Epictetus

Keep Going

I don’t know how one is exactly meant to “Learn the ways of the Force”. The best way I can apply it is to regularly say “Let Go, Let God” and “Thy Will be done not mine”. These are affirmations to direct myself in to the moment where everything happens. We can only do our best every day to be the person we want to be. Turn the outcomes to a Higher Power, the Force. Let the Force work through you.

We can continue to look at where we are lacking  and make adjustments there. We can review our daily practices of being Jedi and assess where work need to be done. When others request help, we give it within our capacity. We can treat people as we expect to be treated. Commit to our principles always and without compromise.

There are things we can control and many more things we cannot. Always focus on where your control resides and accept that a lot of mistakes will be made along the way. Being Jedi is all about the little every day acts. It is about the mundane and the mediocre as much as it is about the big and important things. It is also about falling down but getting up and trudging on.

You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.” – George Lucas

Be True to Thyself

Every one of us must decide what their “Good Works” is. We must all decide how we spend each day and what we want out of life. People generally know what they must do to live a good life. Some of us face a tension between where we want to be going and where we seem to be heading. Remember, you are the Master of your own vessel, the Pilot of your own ship. Take it where you want to go and be true to thyself first.

MTFBWY

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” – Shakespeare

33 Traits

The Real World Jedi community maintains a philosophy that is practical and a spiritual path that is non-dogmatic. Regardless of the particular Jedi movement one finds themselves in there are a number of traits that are common to all. People who identify with the Jedi Pragmatists, Jedi Realists and those that follow the Jedi religion known as Jediism all recognize certain traits that are essential to the Jedi.

The traits can be best summarized in the “33 Traits of a Jedi” list originally posted on an online forum called Jedi Sanctuary. The list is still used to help guide those that are seeking answers to what the Jedi Path is. Like Buddhism, the Jedi community offers numerous lists. These lists have evolved in the Jedi community over the last 25 years however none are more comprehensive or practicable than the list of 33 Traits.

I want to emphasis that the term Jedi used in this article refers to a person who identifies with the Jedi Path in the Real World. These traits do not necessarily apply to the fictional Jedi however it should be noted that the 33 Traits were inspired by the fictional archetypes.

 The Foundation

Over the next few weeks I will be exploring each of the Jedi Traits. Broadly speaking they can be separated in to 5 broad categories which guide a practitioner on the Jedi Path. These are:

  1. The spiritual foundation: statements relating to the Force and the Jedi’s relationship to the Force.
  2. Mindfulness: statements about the importance of meditation practice, mindfulness and awareness in the life of a Jedi.
  3. Virtues: statements that describe the key attributes and virtues of a Jedi such as patience, self discipline, objectivity, humility, humor and courage among others.
  4. Physical and Martial Training: statements that describe the use of physical and martial arts training to help improve the Jedi in a holistic way.
  5. Service: statements that highlights the importance of duty and service to others.

 A Path for Life

When I first read the list several years ago I was blown away. This was my point of depart for a rekindled interest in the Jedi Path and it came at a time when I had started my recovery and was faltering emotionally. Like the 12 Steps, the list seemed complete and all encompassing, there is no need to change or improve on it. I felt that if I could apply this in to my life it would fortify my recovery. Others had done the same by assimilating their religious and spiritual practices (Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Advaita etc) in to the 12 Steps so why not the Jedi Path?

During my studies I have read many interpretations of the 33 Traits and seen examples of how they are applied in real life. As a recovering alcoholic I have used the list to support my progress through the 12 Steps. Both compliment each other however the 12 Steps provides a road map for recovery while the 33 Traits provides suggestions for improving one’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. One supports the other. I return to the list often and will attempt to provide some practical ways on how one can apply the 33 Traits in their lives.

The list is provided here

Apathy

The longing you seek is not behind you, it is in front of you” – Maz Kanata

In philosophy we ponder existence and the meaning of creation. We ask questions like does life have meaning or is it a futile exercise of survival? Are we here to know our divine selves, to discover God or do we exist only to fulfill an evolutionary function through the law of gene preservation? Does life mean everything or nothing at all? I often ask myself these questions. Sometimes the questions are rhetorical as philosophy provides a response and Faith reassures me. Other times, especially when depression or apathy settles in the answers are less sure and doubt sets in.

In choosing recovery I made a decision to turn my life around. Sometimes I wonder if becoming sober and taking a spiritual view is not some sort of Jedi Mind trick on my self. That I’m not fooling myself. After all everything happens at the level of the mind. We can choose to believe whatever we want. The question of existential meaning in our lives can throw a spanner in the works. What is the meaning of life?

Psychology tells us the being able to modify our belief system from one perspective to another will in time change our outlook, our habits, character and ultimately our brain. The brain I had as a practicing alcoholic is not the brain I have now. Through nueroplasticity it has changed. Mediation and mindfulness are practices which have helped modify my cognitive and behavioral patterns. Indeed both are suggested by psychologists for that reason. Removing alcohol and working the steps also changes the brain. With a fresh set of eyes I see a world which is utterly different than what it was before.

“Even a thought, even a possibility, can shatter and transform us” – Friedreich Nietzsche

Red Pill, Blue Pill

In reality the world has not changed that much since I got sober only my perception of it has. Like a pilgrim on the road to Damascus I march along heading to a destination. Then on that road something happens. I stop look around me and ask the question that sometimes changes everything; “what’s the point“? Is there any point to any of this? Is life not just a futile exercise that ultimately means nothing and leads no where?

Nihilists premise that there is no existential meaning and all is for nothing. This idea suits many people but I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me embraces the idea that there is absolutely nothing I have to do or be. This means I can be whatever I want and not have to care.

I can take the blue pill and become a Nihilist. Hard reality crashes in. Virtue becomes entirely subjective; there is no right and wrong or good and bad about anything. Life is simply a choice between personal preferred and non preferred indifference. We can basically say “F&#k It” to anything, anyone and everything and sleep soundly at night.

On the other hand it is also bitter pill to swallow. Embracing a nihilist, albeit futile nature of existence view of the world throws the baby out with the bath water. It can leave us naked in a cold and barren world. The absence of philosophical and ethical tethers may feel good but apathy and depression doesn’t. Take the red pill and we jump in to the rabbit hole of endless possibility that could all be an illusion.

Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” – Sartre

                  Source: Jean-Paul Sartre Existential Star Wars: Death Sartre

On a Mission

As a 12 Step Jedi I am supposed to champion virtues and uphold principles. There is supposed to be a point to everything. I know what’s right and wrong, good and bad. A philosophy based on both virtues and principles is to be practiced daily and lived. The Fictional Jedi took an oath to the code and dedicated their selves to that code no matter what the consequences. They lived by the code. A mission or cause could seem futile, even doomed to fail however the Jedi did their duty accepting whatever the outcomes.

Not all Jedi took that view. There were Jedi who chose to walk away and adopt a life that was more nihilistic in philosophy. These were the Gray Jedi. They had taken the proverbial blue pill.

 

The Gray Jedi

The “Gray Jedi” were not an order, there was no structure or organization behind them. These were Jedi who walked a solitary path free of any code but their own individual one. From a historical perspective they resembled the Ronin of feudal Japan. Unlike Ronin who were master-less Samurai and often mercenaries, the Gray Jedi were Jedi who had lost their Faith and had distanced themselves from the Jedi Order and Path.

Gray Jedi did not embrace the Dark Side, to do so would have made them Sith. Rather they walked a middle path between light and dark without embracing either. They were beholden neither to the Jedi or the Sith and were indifferent to both.

Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn was considered a Gray Jedi for his unorthodox ideas but was in fact a dedicated Jedi. In the old Republic there were true Gray Jedi like Jolee Bindo. Groups of Force users also arose that were essentially Gray Jedi. Quinlan Vos and Ahsoka Tano were never called Gray Jedi but both had lost faith with the Jedi. They survived as maverick rebels after the purge of the Jedi Order and destruction of the temple under Order 66. They saw the futility in their cause but with nothing else to do they carried on.

 

Losing my Religion

Luke Skywalker apparently suffers a loss of faith and becomes a Gray Jedi in the “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”. Has he really become a Gray Jedi? Many seem to think that Luke has succumbed to an existential crisis. Luke is old and alone on Ahch-To. A self imposed exile with a lot of history. Despite his past he has never fallen to the anger and fear that swayed Anakin to the Dark Side. The futility of the struggle and a faith lost has made him a type of Nihilist. He finally said “F#%k It”. Sometimes I feel like Luke Skywalker, maybe it’s an age thing.

These days there is a real temptation to be a Gray Jedi. I’ve thought about it. I could also be apathetic and sober. I’m not sure how that would work though. Its not in my nature and apathy tends to go hand in hand with booze. Nihilism and apathy don’t always go hand in hand though but the latter is worth a mention because it figures prominently in the new type of nihilism emerging in society.

 

Generation Apathy

There is a growing trend for younger people to embrace a philosophy that claims a futility of existence and the absence of meaning. A type of hedonistic nihilism that dictates everything is going to hell so have the maximum amount of fun now with total disregard for the future. Mindless consumption is one of the symptoms, so is mindless sex and violence.

Society has become numb and dysfunctional. Religion is dying and spirituality is seen as less relevant. Nihilism, not even the true type as penned by Nietzsche, becomes the easier option to an apathetic and disenfranchised generation. The result is a general apathy and resignation that if nothing has any meaning so why should one pretend to care.

Social media posts, comments, likes and hastags have become the symbols of an uncomfortable apathy. We want to do something about all the wrongs we see on the internet, we feel anger, rage, inertia and finally apathy. A cognitive dissonance is continuously felt by people who feel they would do something if they could but won’t because it’s too hard. It’s in our face all the time. Saturation media and social isolation reinforces apathy and a sense of futility follows.

We are entering a post modern era. Truth and reality is now defined by the individual based on their own cultural, social and personal history as well as trending views that shift and polarize. The world is becoming over populated, culturally uniform, highly mobile, technologically connected and yet so very lonely and disconnected on a human level. Society has shifted from optimism based on scientific certainty and technology to one of pessimism based on uncertainty and anxiety. We are literally being conditioned not to care.

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Sartre

 

 Snap out of it

Nihilism gets a bit of a bad rap for being the philosophy of Apathy, it isn’t. Nihilism simply states that nothing has any meaning, there is neither good nor bad. For many people this can be liberating. However we can depress ourselves when we ponder existentialism and start to question the meaning in our lives.

Right now I’m telling myself to snap out of my own sense of apathy. I need to get back on the road to Damascus and walk the Jedi Path again. I need to keep trudging the 12 Steps. Wallowing in self doubt and apathy won’t help. Perhaps a bit of media fasting will help. I can sit for five minutes and write a gratitude list. Try to keep busy and find a way to get outside of myself. There are a lot of things we can do when we start to question the very meaning of our lives.

Perhaps Nihilism provides a solution in part. Why be sad, apathetic or depressed about something that has no meaning?

But I still have to decide, do I take the red pill or do I take the blue?

The Duck Test

The Duck

Today while walking on the beach I encountered a Duck. Until that point I had been enjoying the strong cold wind, the hint of more rain to come and the wash of the surf breaking on the beach and rocks. The ocean was alive and it felt good to be there. I stared at the duck and the duck stared back. We were like a scene out of “The Far Side”.

There was something odd about this duck. For a start it did not seem to mind the wind or the cold, but then ducks are used to extreme conditions. It had all the features of a duck; plumage, shape and size were all distinctive. The Duck did not waddle or quack but based on my observations thus far I could surmise safely that this indeed was a Duck.

The oddity struck me. This Duck was not in its natural habitat. I was looking at a freshwater lake dweller far from home. For some reason the Duck had decided to join sea gulls on the beach. There were few other birds around and I started to feel worried for this duck. I asked myself, is this duck lost? Does this duck need help? How did it get here? Was it blown on the wind and separated from its group? Was it in fact a migratory duck? Could I see a tracker on its legs? Was it injured? Would it die? Should I call someone and report a wayward duck?

All of the sudden my mind was agog with concerns and questions about this duck. I had seen what I assumed was a duck and had made a whole lot of assumptions about it. It never struck me that perhaps this Duck was eyeing me in the same way; is that a human? What’s it doing on the beach in a storm? Is it dangerous? Should I leave now? Does it have food?

 Abductive Reasoning

There is a saying “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”. The phrase refers to a form of abductive reasoning commonly used by people to arrive at the most simple and logical conclusion. The Duck Test is based on observation and deduction. When we see something that appears to be what it is, we determine without much fuss that it is.

For example, if I see someone staggering down the street with a bottle of liquor in his hands, slurring his words and smelling of alcohol I can safely assume that this person is drunk. It would be a mistake for me to surmise that the person is also alcoholic without further proof. I can determine that the person may be unpredictable if approached because experience has taught me that people who are drunk in public can be unpredictable.  This does not make this person unpredictable, bad or a danger. I must simply be wary until we have passed and gone on our separate ways.

A ploy used by canvassers to get people to read their flyers is to hand them what appears to be a $100 bill. On one side is Benjamin Franklin and on the other side is an offer to sell something. I’ve fallen for it a number of times. Once I have scrutinized the piece of paper I realize it is a ruse. The canvasser is simply taking advantage of two things, human greed and the fact that everyone will do a Duck Test on a $100 bill to determine if it is real. We don’t keep the note hoping that it may somehow later prove to have monetary value. There are no assumptions made, we toss it away.

Rumors

Why is that we always make assumptions and jump to conclusions about the important things in our lives? The temptation is to wander away from the facts that are presented. We hear a rumor that things are going poorly in the market and then fear the calamity of an economic recession and unemployment. A lump is felt somewhere under our skin and we do a bit of “Dr Google” and convince ourselves that it is cancer. A news flash tells us that the Government has increased its Terror Alert and we react in fear and stay away from public places. A report of an escaped fugitive somewhere in the city and we stay indoors and arms ourselves. An article on social media tells us that the planets, current affairs and wild weather herald the coming end of the world and based on the comments some of us believe it.

I was recently pleased to hear that the people in Guam are continuing on with their lives and holidays despite ominous warnings in the media about nuclear Armageddon visiting the Island. I’ve been to Guam and the local reaction does not surprise me. Why be freaked about about something for no real reason?

Catastrophes

We alcoholics tend to be catastrophic thinkers. Over complication, dramatization and pessimism are alcoholic habits that die hard. We tend to tie ourselves in to knots over imagined fears. An argument is the end of a friendship or the start of a divorce. One missed repayment will cost us everything as we tell ourselves the banks will take the house. A mistake at work will surely blow our chances of promotion or cost us our job. This is the Ego representing itself as Fear. They are nothing more than mental impressions but have a powerful pull on us. In fear we do irrational things and make poor decisions. Through those actions we can realize our worst fears.

 Jedi Reasoning

In the Star Wars saga there are many examples where the Jedi use the Duck Test. The Jedi were cool headed under pressure, they saw things in plain view and worked in the now with the facts at hand. The Jedi had profundity, they had deep insight and knowledge as well as the Force guiding them. Yet the Jedi could keep their feet on the ground and “keep it real”. Decisions were often based on the simplest explanation of things.They did not over complicate things.

The Clones were soldiers who operated under very simple reasoning processes. It was in their genetic programming to see things as they appeared. Clone Troopers did not spend their time agonizing over unknowns. They had one purpose. Orders were passed down and obeyed without question. The Jedi used this to tactical advantage and led the Clones in to battle as an effective fighting force.

There were also many occasions where the Jedi were blinded by assumptions. Ahsoka Tano was framed and charged with attempting to destroy the Jedi Temple and was banned from the order with little chance to defend herself.

All of the Jedi Masters were fooled by the meticulous deception of the Sith. They were blindly led to the events which resulted in the end of the Galactic Republic. Obi-Wan Kenobi failed his student Anakin by refusing to accept the truth that his friend was straying from the Jedi Path. Darth Vader was fooled in to thinking that the Death Star was indestructible until a bold group of rebels were able to storm an impenetrable citadel and steal the master plans revealing the Death Stars fatal flaw.

We could argue that each of these events transpired because things “were not as they appeared”. In fact, the most decisive moments in Star Wars occurred because the characters failed to see things for what they were. There were no Jedi Mind Tricks to this, just failure to see superficial reality out of profundity when it mattered.

The Surface Appearance

Usually reality is nothing more than the surface appearance of things. Things happen and they happen as they appear. All of the other images of calamity and disaster might well be imagination. A Duck is really just a Duck. Who knows why it might be on a beach?

Sometimes it is better to stick with first impressions and allow the facts to reveal themselves as they do. For example, it would be ill advised to accuse someone of something based on a hunch or loosely held assumptions. The proper way would be to reserve judgement, allow the facts to present themselves, remove all doubt and then make a statement and present evidence. Allow the person to defend themselves; there may be more to it than is known.

 Superficial – out of profundity

Be Objective, stick with the facts and to quote Marcus Aurelius “don’t tell yourself anything more that what the initial impressions report”.  We are conditioned to judge, seek answers and work things out. Our cognitive abilities include critical thinking. Pragmatism should however never be compromised.

As Jedi we should be able to keep a cool head and see things as they are, we should reject the compulsion to automatically jump to conclusions. We should be, as Nietzsche referred to the Greeks, “superficial – out of profundity”. With insight and knowledge comes the ability to accept things as they appear without losing our minds. We should sometimes accept that a duck is just a duck and nothing more.

Practice what you Preach

“Prove your words by your deeds.” – Seneca the Younger

The only worth a philosophy has is whether it can be applied in life. If our philosophy can be applied then we should practice what we preach. A practical philosophy means not only knowing what must be done but actually doing it. Without practice, a philosophy is conceptual and not a tool. We can sit in a university café (or online forum) for hours and debate the merits of one philosophy over another. One can bring forward the moral and ethical strong points of their chosen philosophical flavor but unless they have practiced it in real life then there is nothing much to say.

We go to a doctor or psychiatrist if we are feeling physically or mentally unwell. A psychologist or therapist is visited for counseling. Some of us visit a Priest, Rabbi or Spiritual Advisor to help us grapple with problems or questions. Who these days goes to a Philosopher for advice on how to live in accordance with a particular philosophy? We do not live in ancient Greece or Rome where we can engage in conversation with Socrates, Epicurus, Zeno, Seneca or Epictetus. We will not find Stoics, Skeptics or Ascetics to confer with and take away a formula for living.  If I were to walk in to the Philosophy Department of the local University and ask a professor for some sage advice on how to manage my affairs, handle cravings or deal with emotions he would probably not be able to offer anything practical.

The Philosophers

The ancients had words of advice on all these matters. Today we have many philosophies to choose from. The libraries are full or books written by the classic, renaissance, contemporary and modern philosophers. One can easily create an account on an online forum and engage in debate on Philosophy. The Stoics hold an annual conference and a “Stoic Week”*. The event draws people from around the world in an online experiment on living like a Stoic for a week. I participate in the event and continue to apply many of the practices as part of my own Jedi training throughout the year. You only get out of philosophy what you put in.

I consider myself a student of Jedi Philosophy. This means not only do I read widely on Jedi Philosophy but I broaden my knowledge in others as well. I participate in online forums and read posts to understand what other followers of the Jedi path think and how they live their lives.  The fiction is also there to draw inspiration from. Jedi philosophy is a recent phenomena and an evolving trend. The focus of Jedi Philosophy is similar in many ways to the ancient schools of philosophy. Students are encouraged to study and question but most of all to practice what they have learned every day. The Fictional Jedi was all about action and deeds, not words.

Deeds not Words

This emphasis on a practical philosophy for life agrees with recovery from addiction. The 12 Steps is also all about action. By accepting our disease and embracing certain principles in to our life we embark on a program of recovery that requires action. Reading books, speaking to people and attending meetings is not enough. Recovery occurs outside of that, in the day to day things that we do. We commit to mapping our faults and doing something about them. Addressing the past and seeking to make amends. Action includes daily maintenance of our practice through meditation, prayer and study. Service to others is also a form of direct action that helps us.

It is the same for any philosophy. One can say they are a Stoic but yet live like a Hedonist and allow their emotions and desires to govern their every decision. We are judged by our actions not our words. I can not say I am Jedi if I am rude and obnoxious to people, dishonest in my dealings and commit illegal acts like theft or physical assault no matter what the reason. Would I be able to stand up in a meeting and tell people I follow the 12 Steps and the principles of honesty and humility if in fact I continue to drink when I’m not there?

You are the Master

We can argue and debate about how one should act and what one must do to live a “Good Life” however unless we do these things none of that matters. It is only a rhetorical practice. No one is watching us all the time but ourselves. If there is a “God” and it resides within then the old scripture which tells us “God knows all that we do” is true. It may not be some deity outside of us looking down but our own inner conscience. If I question whether I am consistent with my personal philosophy of life usually checking in with my heart reveals the truth. We can fool ourselves in to thinking that we are something but deep down we know we are faking it. We can be dishonest with others, but to be dishonest to our self is far worse.

If I am unsure of how I must think, speak or act in any given situation there is usually no sage standing by. There are books and forums but usually we must decide on how to proceed from advice given in general terms. We must also filter what works for our unique circumstances and what doesn’t. I know what my principles and values are; I know which virtues to practice when faced with challenges. My philosophy for life gives me that tool kit and I decide how to use apply the tools.  There is a general rule of thumb when we get stuck or are caught with our pants down; we can react and possibly go against our principles or we can stick to the basic rule that Marcus Aurelius set him self every day:

If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it

Jump In

The practice of Kabbalah teaches students to just go out and practice; “first do it, then understand”. Don’t get lost in the detail or the semantics just pick up the tools and get to work. Trying to learn everything there is to know before practicing means never practicing. One must simply jump in. I did not wait to read the Big Book and the 12×12 and a myriad of other literature before I decided to abstain from alcohol, I did that first and then read the books.

At the moment I am trying to learn the guitar. A part of me thinks that I will be able to learn simply by reading the books, understanding theory and watching some you-tube videos. Unless I pick up a guitar and play I will never learn. Philosophy is no different. Even mistakes are useful, in fact making mistakes is essential.

Go out and practice being the person you want to be. There is no need to be a Philosopher or even to have a firm philosophy of life. Simply be the person you want to be and the rest will fall in to place. Practice what you Preach.

*http://modernstoicism.com/stoicon-stoicism-conference/