Fives

Source: Lucas Films

Look around! We’re the one and the same; same heart, same blood. Your training is in your blood. And my blood’s boiling for a fight!” – Fives

In doing nothing men learn to do evil” – Cato the Younger

There are many tragic themes in the Star Wars saga. The Fall of Anakin Skywalker is one and the death of Obi-wan Kenobi is another. The betrayal of Ahsoka Tano is also tragic lesson. The death of Padmé Amidala and the separation of Luke and Leia as orphans unaware of their past and common destiny is a sad and tragic story.

The death of the Clone Arc Trooper Fives towards the end of the Clone Wars is particularly tragic as he died trying to prevent a terrible conspiracy from being realized. What made it more poignant was that Fives was a Clone Trooper that was thrust in to a destiny he had no control over. One that would ultimately lead to the fall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Empire. The story is also similar to that of Cato the Younger, who sacrificed his own life trying to save the Roman Republic from descent in to dictatorship.

 

The Clones

Thanks CT-27-5555. That was close.”

It’s Fives. The name is Fives!” – Echo and Fives

Fives was a Clone ARC Trooper and a loyal member of the 501st Legion. He was called “Fives” because of his number (CT-5555). Surviving multiple battles and demonstrating uncommon bravery Fives quickly became promoted and accepted in to the elite Advanced Recon Commandos (ARC). The Kaminoans had engineered and manufactured the Grand Army of the Republic to fight without pity or remorse and to die without hesitation in service to the Republic.

The Clone Army was a military asset purchased by the Galactic Senate to be used against the military might of the Separatist Alliance, the Droid Army. Being Clones with one purpose they were expendable and the Kaminoans took pride in the precision  of their creation.  They had created the ultimate fighting Force. The Clone Fives was a shining example of the Kaminoan product line. Each Clone was a number, however there was a problem; Fives was more than a number, he was different.

Clones were made to be the same in every way; the model soldier. The Kaminoans designed them to display little variability in behaviour and to follow orders without question or hesitation. Any differences were the result of inevitable genetic drift and personality development during training. These were considered defects. Variations that could be tempered through discipline and control biochips.

The Clones also held a secret which only the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, his apprentice Darth Tyranus and the highest ranks of the Kaminoans knew. Each Clone carried an inhibitor bio-chip which contained the orders for Protocol 66.  When that order was eventually given, every Clone that still carried the biochip in his head suddenly turned his weapon on any Jedi in the area and executed them without hesitation and without pity. They were programmed to become Galactic Storm Troopers once that switch was thrown. Only the Clones who had removed their biochips refused to carry out the orders. Some joined the rebellion.

 

No Ordinary Soldier

Fives was no ordinary Clone. Throughout his career he had questioned the morality and sanity of orders. The Clones were connected by a common genome and considered each and every Clone to be his brother. For Fives it was more than that, he truly cared for his comrades and was willing to risk his life for them.  Fives also had a deep respect and admiration for his Jedi superiors and made it a personal mission to protect them. The sentiment was reciprocated by those Jedi closest to him. Anakin Skywalker, Obiwan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano were amongst those he called friends.

 

Where is the honor in marching to our deaths?” – Fives

 

As Fives saw more and more of his comrades die and many for pointless reasons he began to question his identity and purpose. Fives believed that Clone were not expendable tools but living, breathing, sentients worthy of dignity, respect, free will and above all life. It was Five’s discovery of Protocol 66 which ultimately led to his demise as he sought to warn the Jedi of the plot to kill them. Fives had stumbled on an unspeakable truth and for that he could not be allowed to live.

 

The Last Roman

In much the same way Cato was betrayed by the corrupt Roman Senate.  The Rebel Army surrendered but was ordered slaughtered by Caesar. Cato had almost stopped Julius Caesar from becoming Dictator of Rome. Cato committed suicide rather than seek pardon from Caesar. The rebellion against Caesar  was defeated. This final defiant act was in line with his principles. Cato preferred to die than lose his liberty.

Had Cato succeeded the Republic would have survived. Caesar would never have taken power from the Senate and abolished the Republic.

 

In doing what we ought we deserve no praise, because it is our duty” – Cato (Joseph Addison Play “Cato”)

 

In the same way a single, solitary soldier who was meant to be programmed not to think exposed the greatest conspiracy in the Galaxy. The Jedi were blind to the truth and the Senate was easily manipulated. Only Fives saw it and he was a tragic figure when none believed him. If Fives had succeeded in his quest to unveil the truth, Protocol 66 may have never happened.  The Old Republic would have survived and Chancellor Palpatine would have been exposed for what he was, a Sith Lord.

 

I am not just another number! None of us are!” – Fives

 

The Power of One

Fives was the last known survivor of his Rookie Squad, “Domino”. Each of the Clones were genetically identical but also had unique personalities. When these personalities worked in tandem they were formidable warriors. Like Cato, Fives was the epitome of the Stoic and it carried him through the war.

Cato and Fives were both stubborn and tenacious, loyal and dutiful to their superiors and subordinates. Both soldiers displayed high moral integrity, resolve, strong leadership and led by example. Above all they distrusted corrupt politicians and incompetent leaders who only sought to serve themselves. Cato and Fives were sworn to protect the Republic. Living by principles was not an option but a duty. They both failed in their duties for reasons far outside of their control. The forces united against them were too great to overcome.

 

I know not what treason is, if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason.” – Cato the Younger

 

I’ve compared my own mental defect, the one where if I’m exposed to alcohol my personality undergoes a sweeping change, a sort of Protocol 66. With booze I am driven to do and say things that I have no control over. It’s like a switch is thrown in my head. I have to remember that alcohol was more powerful than me for most of my life and that only working the Steps and applying spiritual principle overcame it. Ultimately the only thing preventing me from another fall is reasoned choice and reliance on the Force.

Nations and Empires can rise and fall over night with or without our consent but one’s own mind is his own. It is the only thing we truly own. Every day we battle a cunning foe and that foe is our very self. Our better nature holds the high ground as long as reason prevails.

 

Do not expect good from another’s death.” – Cato the Younger

 

The Point

The point of mythology is to provide us with lessons through storytelling. The stories entertain us but they also provide a message. Sometimes that message is a warning. Star Wars serves that purpose and we take from it what we want. The fictional realm can hold a mirror to reality. We can also apply Philosophy to make sense of life. The tragedy of Fives teaches me that even someone who is just a number can still make a difference in the world. Even the most powerful can know the name of a humble soldier. No person is a number and freedom is a choice.

Star Wars is fiction but the story of the collapse of the Old Republic and the purge of the Jedi resembles the beginning of the death of the Roman Republic and rise of the Empire. Whether Lucas was aware of this historical similarity is irrelevant. The point is that it is in our power to change our own lives for the better, to seek truth and to challenge injustices like Cato and Fives did.

 

“Rex….this…it’s…bigger than any of us…than anything…I could’ve imagined….I never meant to…I only wanted to do my duty. The mission…the nightmares…they’re…finally…over….” – Fives

 

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Intention

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda

 

Symbols of Intent

The first thing most people imagine when they hear the word Jedi is Luke Skywalker or Obi-wan Kenobi with Light Saber in hand rushing towards an enemy as they deflect laser bolts. The image of the warrior is prominent in peoples mind. It is true that the fictional Jedi are armed with light Saber the same way Monks of the east and west were armed with staffs and martial arts to defend themselves. To imagine the Light Saber as a weapon of offense is an error in fact it was a symbol of the Jedi principle of protection and defense. The intent of the Light Saber is its power. It was only used as a weapon as a last resort and never in anger.

In “Return of the Jedi” Luke casts aside his Light Saber during the final confrontation with Darth Vader. The act is symbolic. Luke decided to cast his anger aside and find the love and compassion within him. It is the only way he can defeat Darth Sidious and redeem Vader.

In “The Last Jedi” the ageing Luke Skywalker takes the Light Saber offered to him by Rey after she has found him living as a Hermit on the hidden planet of Ahch-To. With comical irreverence Luke throws his old Light Saber behind his back.

For years Obi-wan Kenobi resided on Tatooine watching over Luke from a distance. Although he still had his Light Saber it was kept aside. Even in confronting the Sand People who had captured Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope”, Obi-wan Kenobi chose only to use the power of perception and his own voice in driving the Tuscan Raiders away in fear. The Light Saber is symbolic of the Jedi only if it used with Right Intent.

 

Lethal Intent

I’ve often heard the statement that firearms kill people. A gun can be used to kill a person however it is not the weapon itself that decides its end use. The intent to kill resides with the wielder. A sword can just as easily be beaten in to a plow than used as a weapon depending on the intention of the user.

Intention is therefore everything in the “why and how” we conduct our life. I can choose to own a Light Saber, a Gun or a Pit Bull Terrier.  The Light Saber replica won’t have much use but how I choose to manifest my intent with a gun and an “aggressive” breed of dog is entirely up to me. I can keep the gun locked away and hopefully never ever have to use it and I can train the Dog to be a loving pet; gentle with people and other animals. There is still an element of uncertainty based on what I have control over and what I don’t. The Dog may unexpectedly bite a child and the gun might be stolen and used in a crime.

 

Reasoned Intent

With every decision we make there is always an intent, a purpose. Why do we make the choices that we do? What is our intent? When I left High School and presented to an Army recruiter the first thing he asked me was “Why do you want to join the Army”? He said my response was important and it had to be honest. The answer revealed my true intention and whether I was going to stick my contract or wash out.

Likewise when I first approached the Jedi community and revealed I wanted to train in Jedi philosophy I was asked to spend some time thinking about “Why Jedi”. What was the intent of my choice? Would it sustain my practice past a few weeks or months? Did I realize it was an internal path and one I would have to keep largely to myself? I found that being able to reason rather than rationalize my intent before doing something was more likely to align it to who I am and want to be.

 

First things First

One of the most important questions I had to ask myself when I was drinking to excess was “Why am I doing this? What is the purpose?” There was no reasoned or even rationalized response. In the beginning the intent of my drinking had been to feel better within my self, to fill some emptiness inside. I wanted to be accepted and loved like everyone else and drinking seemed to promise a way into fellowship, confidence and acceptance.

Drinking could make me feel part of something bigger than myself and to be somebody who could be respected, admired and sought out. Of course this was all a mirage and I fell in to the trap and it took me to a dark place after all the illusions I had created began to fall away.  Something entirely different was revealed. An image that was unbearable to confront.

In the end, the intent of drinking was to satiate a need that could not be satisfied and to keep the beast within fed. It had become a cage. Realizing true intent was like lifting the veil that had shrouded the truth for years. I began to understand the true nature of my disease.

 

Failed Intent

All the times I had tried to quit or at least control my drinking in the past had eventually ended in relapse. In going on the “wagon” I had had good intentions but I could not follow it up with meaningful actions. My intent was also conditional on certain loop holes in thinking. Like small cracks in a dyke they eventually split open and allowed the entire structure to collapse in a flood of booze. Intention was moderated by rationalization. I figured I could still achieve my goal of sobriety with the odd loosening of the belt. This of course was a form of “False Intent”.

 

A Daily Reprieve

Where do your priorities lay? What is important to you? What matters most of all? In the beginning my intent was to simply get through the day without taking a drink. The next day could look after itself and the next day after that. My commitment was for 24 hours.

I would renew my intent every morning and claim the strength from my Higher Power to achieve that. At the end of the day I would review how things had gone and on turning off the light thank my Higher Power for another sober day. My goal was sustained and long-term sobriety and my dream was to realize serenity.

My intent was simply to claim a daily reprieve and stay sober one day at a time through application of certain virtues and principles. This was a form of “Right Intent”.

 

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” – Alcoholics Anonymous p85.

 

Right Intent

The second step and virtue on the Eight fold path of Buddhism is “Right Intent”. Intention is more than resolve. Through resolve we decide to do something but it is not enough on its own. We must have “Right Intent” in order to stay the course. For example would anyone who resolves to marry another person bother if they did not intend to give the marriage their utmost for as long as possible?

Resolve and Intent are two different things and of course they work in tandem. Both must stay as strong as the day we set off for the duration of the journey. Yes there are days when we stagger and fall but intent keeps us moving forward even when resolve falters. We strive for outcomes but must also accept what is in our control as well as what is outside of it.

Intent in Action

Intention is flawed if our intent is;

  • To draw something to ourselves for selfish gain; or
  • to force something away through ill will;
  • or to do harm to ourselves or others.

To counteract flawed intention one’s intention must;

  • Be based on renunciation. We must be willing to let go of the causes of our suffering. Desires and clinging attachments to people, places, things, circumstance and flawed ideas tightly held all lead to suffering as they are impermanent and transient. Addiction is a form of rampant attachment. Luke Skywalker casting his Light Saber aside was a renunciation of attachment to old strongly held beliefs.
  • derived from good will. When we do things we essentially seek to serve others before ourselves. In the recovery program personal benefit is derived by helping others struggling with their addictions. Caring for others is a corner stone of Faith and many philosophies including Jedi Philosophy.
  • inherently harmless. In the 12 Steps amends are sought to people whom we have harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. The Hippocratic Oath compels Doctors to “primum non nocere”, first do no harm. Compassion is a Jedi trait.

Right intent is expressed through thought, word and actions. Therefore being mindful of intention is important. We should consider the impact of our thoughts, words and actions on self and others.  The potential consequences either immediate or delayed should be considered. We may do something with the best of intentions but not realize the consequences of our actions until much later. By contemplating our actions and looking beyond outward far beyond ourselves we become more mindful of the reach of our intent.

Always ask what your intent is and whether it serves or not.

 

The Jedi Method

The Jedi Method is a formula used to apply mindfulness in our actions. Our desire is for an outcome which aligns with our values. The method states:

 

Intent + Action = Outcome

 

If our Intent is right and our actions follow suit than there is a high likelihood, while never guaranteed, that outcome will agree with action and intent. Action and Intent is applied in a world in which we do not exercise supreme control over all external factors. We cannot foresee the future or account for every single possible variable. We only have what we control (Intent and Action).

  1. Ask yourself before committing to an action “Could this action lead to suffering?” If the answer is “yes” reconsider it after applying ethics and your personal value system to a decision.
  2. During the action ask “Is this action causing suffering?” if so, then reconsider the need to continue or make adjustments that correct the error.
  3. After the action consider “Will this action lead to suffering?” if so, then seek to remedy, learn from it and avoid repetition in the future.

We live in an imperfect system and everyone makes mistakes. All that one can reasonably expect is that we take due diligence in our actions. We are accountable and responsible for the choices we make. If our intent is challenged we can defend our actions with conviction and without hesitation.

We take charge of the things that we can control, work with what we can influence  and we willingly surrender the things over which we have no control.

 

Surrender at Last

A Light Saber can be a weapon or a door stop depending on the intent of the user. Perhaps Luke Skywalker had learned towards the end of his physical existence that the mind is far more powerful than a weapon. The Last Jedi decided he no longer needed his Light Saber even for the purpose of protection.

On the Planet of Crait Skywalker faced his old apprentice and nephew, Kylo Ren, who was bent on killing him. Luke showed that one can still achieve an outcome without reaching for a Light Saber or without even being there. Victory can be won with the mind.

Across the Galaxy on the Island Jedi Refuge of Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker awoke from his Force projection and surrendered himself to the Force. As he met his destiny the twin suns set over the ocean.

Intent is the key.

Our Intention creates our reality” – Wayne Dyer

Codependency

Codependency is often described as a dysfunctional relationship that exists between two persons one or both of which may be in addiction such as alcoholism. The other person tolerates and facilitates that behaviour by remaining within the relationship despite the emotional, mental and even physical abuse that they suffer. Both participants in the relationship believe that they cannot live without the other. Both condemn themselves to a partnership that is built on anything but true love.

In reality Codependency is much more. A relationship that is held together out of fear or loss is a form of codependency. One person may lean on another person emotionally and be unable to validate themselves without the person. This is compounded if the other person also has emotional or psychological issues which compliment those of her partner.

Two damaged people bought together do not necessarily provide a solution or salvation. One of two things may happen; one of the individuals may grow emotionally and awaken to the fact that they are in an unhealthy codependent relationship that does not allow them to flourish. Otherwise the relationship may endure but simply out of a fear of being “alone”. The opportunity to find true love and to live a free and fulfilling life is compromised. This is not love but a form of bondage that ends in regret.

 

A Painful Truth

Some years ago I realized I am in a codependent relationship with my partner. I thought couples just had their disagreements and got over them. During my drinking these disagreements were fairly often but then I was very selfish and obstinate and only saw my side. Despite getting sober and working the steps I found I could not break this cycle of codependency. The relationship remains dysfunctional.

I found that despite the decades I spent being on my own I was now a virtual prisoner to my need to belong. I now find myself questioning the authenticity and honesty of the relationship but uncertain on  how to act. Is it fair to be in a relationship where deep within our own heart we know that whatever true affection and love existed has long been replaced with a mutual need for stability, security and familiarity? Is not being in the world alone more important than being in a true and nourishing relationship?

 

Emotional Maturity

There is nothing wrong with stability, security and familiarity. All of these are important in a healthy relationship. However a codependent relationship is categorized by an imbalance between two people. There are power struggles and each attempt to assert their control over the other. Disagreements occur and concessions are made by one side or another in order to maintain the peace. The result is resentment and anxiety. Open and honest communication breaks down. Couples become distant harboring private resentment for the failings they perceive in their partner. They blame each other for the unhappiness in their lives but they are unwilling to do anything. Despite all the ill feeling and pain both know that they cannot function alone. Freedom and happiness is traded in for stability, security and familiarity.

Emotional maturity was not a part of my sobriety in the beginning. I am still growing up. In other words I had not matured as an emotional person during my decades of alcoholism. I still had all the emotional maturity of a traumatized teenager and a lost young man trying to make sense of the world. Much to my surprise I realized not long ago that everything decent I had ever done was to get approval and love from others. To be accepted. Every spiteful or indecent act I had ever committed was to get back at them or others for perceived wrongs. This included getting drunk.

 

Child

Codependency in my case did not just happen later in life. I grew up with an alcoholic Father who himself had all the emotional maturity of a deprived child. Without another role model to learn from and no outside support becoming an accepting and active participant in the abuse was assured. A child will adapt quickly and learn to survive. As a child I begged my Father to be reasonable, sane and sober. I would put him to bed in the dead of night when he stumbled in to whatever doss house we lived in and pull off his boots. In the morning I woke him up and pressed him to go to work as he swore at me through a hangover. I hated him but he was still my Father and as such I needed him.

Natural emotions such as empathy and joy were dulled and replaced with fear, then anger and finally apathy. With apathy and time people start to identify with the negative influences in their lives and also begin to act them out. Emotional abuse, violence and cruelty become a part of who we are. I remember the cruelty I afflicted on my siblings as a child and on hapless victims in the school yard. I suffered at home and others had to suffer. Bullies beat me so I had to bully those that were weaker than me. The bullied often become the bullies. This still wears down on me heavily at times.

Growing up without a Mother and in the care of an abusive alcoholic Father had left me angry and vulnerable as a kid. We were thrown in to the State Care system as the Child Welfare people intervened. My sullen disposition attracted the wolves at school and being small in stature I was an easy target for bullying. I fought regularly and was in trouble often. I shoplifted and was smoking and drinking by age 11. The world looked like a hostile place to me and I was out in the cold. Desperate to find a place I could call home, I ran away and joined the Army as soon as I finished High School.

 

A Home

I took that anger in to the Army and they molded it and beat my vulnerability out of me. My weaknesses were removed and they built me up in to something useful. I cut all contact with my Father and never spoke to him again. The Army gave me a roof over my head, three meals a day, medical and dental, training and told me what I had to do and when to do it. It was simple and structured. For a long time I felt empowered and protected. I also felt like a bad ass. I was extremely fit, tanned and trained. Being part of something bigger than oneself does that. So does extra muscle mass and being trained in unarmed combat and Infantry skills. But it was shallow; there was a gaping hole there. I knew I didn’t belong in that world and rebelled. I found alcohol.

After an ignoble and unceremonious discharge from the Army a few years later I was back out on the street and completely alone. The Army had probably saved me from destitution and a hopeless future but I had barely matured in to an adult. I was dependent on the system to support me. I felt like an important part of me was torn away when I stepped outside the gates for the last time and the cord was cut. They had taught me to be a Soldier but not a functional and mature adult fit for normal life. I had entered barely 18 and at 23 I was on the street while many of my High School Friends were graduated from University and already in professional careers earning close to 6 figure salaries. I had no transferable qualifications other than in heavy drinking.

 

Barely Functional

Functioning and surviving in civilian life alone was an enormous challenge. People around me were phony and shallow. Their concerns and priorities were petty and made little sense. Employers seemed only to use and exploit young employees. The Jobs I took were mind numbing and low paid and I soon made enemies. There was no comradeship or mutual benefit. It was a dog eat dog world and I felt completely maladapted to it.

My anger and frustration would boil over and I quickly alienated and scared off people. Friends and acquaintances distanced themselves. I could not re-enter the Army, I had well and truly burned my bridges there. The answer was to move around a lot and get drunk as often as possible. I tried the Geographic solution and drowned it in alcohol. In order to eliminate any reliance on others and be completely independent I vanished overseas taking my problems with me as far as I could take them.

 

A Wife to the Grave

My relationship with booze took a new turn in civilian life. For a start I didn’t have to worry about trying to fit drinking around the Army. I learned I could arrange life to suit my drinking. As I did so I found myself becoming more dependent and less flexible with people, places and circumstances that got in the way of that relationship.

Alcohol is cunning and has a way of intruding in every aspect of life like a demented and obsessive lover. We know that the relationship is doing us harm but we remember the good times too. We cannot imagine being separated from alcohol. Our disease adopts a persona that is omnipresent and absolute in our lives. She is like a Succubus, a lover turned Demon who will not let us go. The relationship becomes entirely one sided. Alcohol will eventually take everything unless we break that hold first.

 

Emotional Sobriety

Recovery of course is breaking that dependence. The 12 Steps provided the pathway for me to do that. As my sobriety strengthened my personality began to change. Self honesty and humility allows us to review our actions in life and identify where we have been lacking. This provides the impetus to start maturing as a person. Emotional sobriety is the eventual outcome of practicing principles and working the steps.

Along the way we begin to review our relationships. Some of them present themselves as being dysfunctional or toxic and are ended. In my case my sobriety began to reveal dimensions and aspects of my relationship with my partner that I had never considered before. In our journey we take an honest view of our life and question where authenticity is lacking and where fear or resentment resides. We make amends for the harm we caused where we can.

Every major change in life comes with costs and benefits and recovery is no different. I began to realize that I had been in a relationship simply because I needed it when I was drinking and alone. The need to fulfill the need for a place to finally call home and to find someone was a way of addressing the void that had existed in me my entire life. It’s a trap many of us fall into, we think that others will complete us and we rely on them to carry us when we can’t carry ourselves. Once we get sober and sane the world becomes a different place and so do we. The illusions that we created for ourselves start to fall away and we see life in plain view.

Having emotional sobriety is realizing that only we can fill the void that resides within us with something deep and spiritual. We look at ourselves and realize we no longer need anyone. We may want them, but we no longer need them. It can come as a bit of a shock to realize that a long term relationship is built on the shifting sands of codependency. The sands are slipping away, being eroded with time. The trick of course is what to do about it. Do we let it go or start sand bagging?

 

Interdependency

I have a friend who is also sober and in a relationship that is interdependent, that is the opposite of codependent. I envy them. The couple compliment each other perfectly and neither is dependent on the other to be the person they want them to be. They support each other and understand each others needs. They are together because they want to be, not because they have to be or need to be. Both are free to express their own individual qualities in the way that best defines them.

The outcome is a trusting and mutually beneficial partnership built on mutual love and respect. Both are empowered, self sufficient and self determinant because the nature of their relationship encourages it. Communication is open and honest; laughter is a daily part of their lives. The relationship is vital like a breath of fresh ocean air.

 

Accept the things

I don’t have a definitive solution for my situation. My strategy is acceptance and to take the view “this too shall pass and better times shall come”. I keep my side of the street clean and live in accordance with my principles. Realizing that one’s relationship is in trouble is a good start but knowing is not doing. Being unable to do much about it without the willingness of the other person is a problem. Then things could always be much worse.  Things can seem bad and cause us pain but actually it is not the thing that does us harm but our reaction to it.

Being Jedi as well as being sober has taught me that we cannot force people to be one thing or another. They will decide for themselves and so should we for our own selves. We can try to improve situations through our own choices. If we are separated or divorced we can choose to be polite and civil to our estranged partner. There is no reason to answer one person’s bad behaviour or harsh words with more of the same. Promises should be kept and obligations met even if we would rather not comply. If someone lies to us we should not use it as an excuse to be dishonest in return. Children should never be used as a bargaining chip or held for ransom; they are innocent parties.

We may be stuck in a relationship that is dysfunctional and even terminal but we can still treat the other person with care, dignity and respect. Han Solo and Princess Leia set a good example. Married at the end of one war, separated decades later at the start of another. There was no animosity or blame between them. The fortunes of war and a shared love and concern for a very troubled son reunited them for a brief time. No matter what circumstance we find ourselves in our relationships, we still have a choice to be a good person.

 

The High Ground

 

Art of War

In War the advantage of the high ground is constantly sought out. Seizing and holding high ground is often critical in a military campaign. One only needs to look to history to show how choosing to defend a higher position has resulted in a decisive victory. Federal forces under General Meade defeated the Confederacy at Gettysburg by holding the high ground. Napoleon was able to defeat the Prussians at Jena by attacking in flanking maneuver from a higher position.

The advantage gave both Meade and Napoleon a better view of the battlefield and further reach for their artillery, it also made life harder for the enemy. The Vietminh were able to over run the besieged garrison at Diem Bien Phu during the Indochina War by attacking from and holding the mountains that surrounded the valley in which the French were “ensconced” and subjected to months of withering assaults until they cracked. The Mujahideen in Afghanistan managed to wage a war against the Soviets and Afghan national army by drawing them in to the mountains where they held the advantage with guerrilla tactics and American weapons. The contemporary version of the Mujahideen, the Taliban, today uses the same tactics against their former allies, the Americans.

 

Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight” – Sun Tzu

 

Sun Tzu in the Art of War advises that military commanders should always seek to use the high ground to their advantage. This ideal has come to be used not only in military planning but also in business decision making. Companies that secure the high ground in the field of innovation, use of technology and adopting modern and ethical approaches to business such as diversity, sustainability and a proactive safety culture will often hold a competitive advantage and an adaptable culture. Inflexible companies that refuse to adapt to change or are sluggish in their attempts to keep up and innovate are left behind and out competed.

 

A Battle Ground

Holding the high ground in a tactical sense however does not always make sense. In small units the high ground is avoided unless it is a defensive position. Normally a good commander will read the terrain and use it to the best advantage. On patrol we would often lay up on high ground at night. Before dawn we would silently break camp and withdraw to a position that offered better protection and a means of escape. The tactic also was designed to throw off an enemy planning to attack at dawn.

Patrol commanders would take in to consideration factors such as observation, concealment, and means of escape and avenues of attack; sometimes the high ground is the last place you wanted to be. The advantage of air power and use of drones however has removed some of the advantage of being a militia or guerrilla force ensconced in the mountains as the current war in Afghanistan has shown.

 

A Word Weapon

An often used term is “moral high ground”. In society we see it a lot in arguments. It is a weapon used by both sides of a debate. For example, both pro-life and abortion advocates believe they have a “moral high ground” on the issue of abortion. The same applies with the euthanasia and same sex marriage debate in many countries.In the military the assimilation of females in to combat roles and the acceptance of LGBT divided the population in and out of uniform. Both sides claimed the “moral high ground”.

Progressive movements will often claim the High Ground in these social issues. Very often the term “moral high ground” is also used to excuse violence or intimidation in the name of a contentious issue. Claiming the moral high ground does not mean that an argument is correct unless you are a Sophist.  It also does not justify the use of violence. Unfortunately violence is still used as the power of advantage rests with the side that holds the high ground.

 

Remember back to your early teachings. “All who gain power are afraid to lose it.” Even the Jedi.” – Chancellor Palpatine

 

A Point of View

In the Star Wars sage the Jedi often claimed the moral high ground in their campaigns both military and political. Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn were often predisposed to blur the lines of ethical conduct in order to advance the cause of the Jedi. The argument often put forward by the Jedi was that the use of deception, betrayal and subterfuge was in the interests of the Republic and for the “common good”. The morality and ethics of such actions were tenuous at best. This fact was not lost on Palpatine who ironically often used and played the Jedi for his own nefarious ends.

We often hear such lines being used in the real world. Companies use it when they lay off hundreds of staff for the “common good”. When our government takes us to war they do it in the “national interest”. They use the moral high ground to place legitimacy over an irrational argument. Much later we are left wondering how it could have happened. The real question should be “what is the moral high ground”? Who defines it? Is it valid?

 

Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.” – Chancellor Palpatine

The false High Ground

Anakin had been in many fights over the years and many of these battles had seen him and his opponents seek to take advantage of higher positions. Whether on foot using a light sabre or in a fighter Anakin always vied to take the higher ground by out maneuvering and outwitting his opponents.

Confronting Ob-wan Kenobi on the lava flows of Mustafa, Anakin was faced with a dilemma and sought to counter it with a reckless move that almost cost him his life. Obi-wan had the high ground and offered Anakin the chance to surrender and live. Metaphorically speaking, Obi-wan also held the “moral high ground”. By confronting Anakin he was not only attempting to stop the rise of the Sith and the fall of the Jedi Order, he was also trying to save his friend. Both seemed to be noble causes in the context of what we believe. The outcome however was that Obi-wan Kenobi was unable to accomplish either of these objectives.

 

Casualties of War

Taking the moral high ground has pit falls. It can blind us to the “bigger picture”. We take one view and refuse to consider alternatives or opposing arguments. Very often a deep seated “righteousness” pervades an opinion. It does not matter if it is right or wrong, true or false, the only thing that matters is that it is must prevail. Objectivity followed by honesty is often the first casualties on the fight for the “moral high ground”. Arrogance is a flaw that often develops in the belief that a view is superior to all others.


The Higher Objective

Have the high ground means being better able to view the landscape and appreciate the situation for what it is. From a higher vantage we can look down at people or we can help them up to stand beside us. The goal should not to be to hold the moral high ground in order to defeat or belittle others. The goal should be to take that person to the higher vantage point so that they can see the truth for themselves.

Being recovered means we can place a high value on sobriety and clean living. We can also value virtues in ourselves and others such as honesty, humility, benevolence and selflessness. Although we are better we do not act better than others.

Being sober does not give me the right to take a moral high ground at the expense of others especially if I consider my history. No one has the right to take a moral view and consider others lesser than themselves because they fail to make the grade. It would be wrong for me to judge an alcoholic who is desperate and hopeless; I was near enough there once myself. It may be easy to judge a homeless person pan handing in the street who looks young enough and fit enough to be working but it would be wrong. We cannot know what fate put him there. Some of us have hit the skids before and know the bite of poverty and acute apathy. A few of us have slept rough, begged for booze and money or searched for food in rubbish bins.

 

Falling Down

We should always be mindful before taking the High Ground. The fall from our lofty tower might be great when our views are laid bare as false. Having strong opinions on matters can make us feel potent and powerful but they also leave us open to scrutiny and judgment by others. When we are forced to defend our position we can find that our argument does not hold and our defenses have major weaknesses. We fight to hold the high ground and we lose ground. As our defenses crumble so do our firmly held beliefs and with them our self esteem and confidence.

 

It’s over Anakin, I have the high ground” – Obi-wan Kenobi

In that dramatic scene on Mustafa, Obi-wan tells Anakin it is over. Filled with hate and rage, Anakin attempts to leap over Obi-wan and out flank him. The move is a fatal one and Obi-wan’s light sabre flashes and catches Anakin mid air amputating both his legs. Anakin rolls away and comes to rest by a lava flow his skin badly seared by the heat soon bursts in to flames. He screams in anguish, pain and rage.

 

Surrender the Higher Ground

In the end it did not matter who had the high ground on Mustafa. Anakin was reconstructed as Darth Vader and Darth Sidious assumed the role of Emperor. The Jedi Order was destroyed but for few survivors and a scattered rebellion emerged from the ruins of the Republic. Over the decades of war that followed both sides would claim the moral high ground in their struggle over the other. Obi-wan exiled and alone with his memories might have pondered the merit of his beliefs and questioned whether they had been firmly placed on high ground after all.

The idea of a moral high ground is based on what society values. Our parents, friends, teachers, religious instructors and leader, elected leaders and peers all help form our moral views. We hold on to them and build our fortress upon their foundation. How often do we question them, how often do we ask if they are right?

The first thing to ask is “what are my moral high grounds”. The next thing to ask is whether attaching ourselves to an inflexible view point helps or hinders our cause. Would it be better to loosen the bonds of opinion slightly and to critically assess them? Instead of focusing on the failings of others should we not be looking at our own faults? Where there is conflict and hate do we assign blame on the others only or do we also look at the part that we have played? Is there room for compromise and mediation, can common ground be found? Sometimes it can, sometimes it cannot but by engaging in dialogue there is always a chance of a spark of understanding to emerge. The only way to find out is to walk down from the high ground across no mans land and speak with the enemy. The way to peace and forgiveness may be to surrender the High Ground.

The best conversation is rare. Society seems to have agreed to treat fictions as realities, and realities as fictions; and the simple lover of truth, especially if on very high grounds, as a religious or intellectual seeker, finds himself a stranger and alien.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Cave

Five Years

Today marks five years of sobriety in my life. I look back at that time and I ask myself have I come far? Am I a better person? Is it worth it? If I am honest with myself I can respond with some conviction “yes” to all of these questions. When I look at the person am I now compared to whom I was five years ago the change is remarkable. This process of change has not been dramatic but gradual. Change has not come over night but has been achieved through incremental progress, “one day at a time”.

Has it been hard? It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Becoming sober and trying to achieve a measure of emotional sobriety has been a roller coaster ride. The good news is that anything that we strive for, anything worth doing is rarely a walk in the park. Sobriety is no different. Most days we are getting by fine but we keep up the pressure and test ourselves. By never resting on our laurels and by applying principles in all areas of life and by being true to our values we prepare ourselves for those tough times when we need to dig deep. Philosophy helps us to get there.

 

“There is no success without hardship” – Sophocles

 

Life is a Wrestle

The Stoics understood the purpose of philosophy. They committed to applying their philosophy every waking hour. It was not a tool they used when they needed to draw inspiration or use a handy “get out of jail free card”.

 

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.” – Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius compared life to a wrestling match. A wrestler is able to move gracefully and with purpose. The Wrestler is aware of his surroundings and can move through time and space with ease like a dancer. At the same time a Wrestler can anticipate an attack and if taken off guard can quickly recover from an assault, break a hold and turn the table in his favor. Using strength, flexibility, agility, momentum, technique, courage and intelligence the Wrestler prevails over his opponent.

Unless we take our philosophy for life and apply it, practice it and make progress constantly we will not benefit. We should learn from mistakes and strive to improve so that we do not become complacent and untrained. We are less likely to handle the adversities of life, be it an opponent in the ring, a sudden crisis, a tragic event or even a petty inconvenience that raises our ire if we are ill prepared.

Being sober has been five years of “train hard to fight easy”. I have had to wrestle mostly with my own failings. I have worked the 12 Steps and applied my principles and values in order to recover.   Working the Steps and being Jedi has enabled me to manage my anger, fear, anxiety, resentment and self pity.

 

The Cave

In many ways the last five years has been a solo journey.  I have had to face many challenges and confront many fears and a great deal of doubt and pain alone. My family has been there and there is also a fellowship to learn from but ultimately any one who passes through their personal Dagobah Cave must do so alone. When Luke Skywalker confronted his dark side in the Dagobah Cave he did so by himself. Yoda knew what Luke would face there; he too had faced his own personal Demons and conquered them.  Yoda also knew that Luke had to face the cave alone.

 

“What will I find in there”? – Luke Skywalker

“Only what you take with you” – Yoda

 

The Dagobah Cave scene was a symbol of the human need for self exploration and self knowledge. We all want to know what resides within ourselves every flaw and fault as well as every virtue. When I embarked on my journey or recovery I did not know myself. I thought I did but it was an illusion. The person I saw when I looked in the mirror was not the person that other people saw. What I believed others saw in me was not a reality either. I lived in self illusion and dishonesty.

Only by having the courage to confront myself and reveal all of my faults and flaws to another and to my Higher Power was a clear picture presented. I was appalled by what I saw but I also knew I did not have to be that person any longer.With self-knowledge  I could change but I had to want to and be prepared to do the work.

 

The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge” – Plato

Catharsis

In order to change sometimes we have to be prepared to undergo a personal catharsis first. For me it was hitting rock bottom and then finding a way out as I surrendered to a Higher Power. It was not the first time I had experienced a transformative experience. The death of my Mother when I was seven was traumatic and confusing. The years I spent in orphanages, juvenile foster care and living with an abusive alcoholic taught me about survival and the value of human dignity and justice. Service in the military and years as a homeless itinerant after discharge taught me about the wider world and showed me the best and worst in others and in myself. Alcoholism too was an important school of life.

 

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” – CS Lewis

 

All of these experiences were personal Dagobah Caves; trials on the journey of life. All of them carried poignant and powerful impacts on my life that shaped my character and my destiny. Those experiences carried important life lessons which have made me who I am today.

 

“Self knowledge puts us on our knees, and it is very necessary for love. For knowledge of God gives love, and knowledge of self gives humility” – Mother Theresa

 

 

The School of Life

If my alma mater is the school of hard knocks, then the last five years of sobriety has been the most powerful graduate school I could have ever hoped for. The prize has been emotional, mental, physical and spiritual growth. Recovery teaches us a great deal about ourselves and others. We are taken beyond the limits of what we thought was humanly possible. Much of the time we are swimming against the tide.

There are  years or decades of reinforced behaviors, ideals, bias and sacred cows to overcome before we can progress. The requirement is a complete overhaul of who we thought we were. We have to stop looking outside ourselves for faults and excuses but look inwardly at how we have made our lives. For many this can be confronting and frightening. Some of us fight it and resist but we know that we must enter that dark cave and put trust in our Higher Power. We must enter alone and face the truth, only then can we emerge victorious.

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” – Dalai Lama

 

Life Contract

Tomorrow I will wake up to another sober day. God willing there will be many more. I like to believe that I will see this life through without sliding back in to alcoholism. The future is uncertain and far better people than me have relapsed so I don’t take my life for granted. Even the most promising Jedi can turn to the dark side and become Sith. If I can continue the upward march towards a higher vantage point that never ends till the final breath I will be contented. There is still much work to do; there is no five year contract on sobriety or personal betterment. It is a life contract with my Higher Power.

We should never be complacent. I will not rest because of a milestone. It is only another day. Aurelius believed that his Legionnaires should train as hard in peace as they did in war. So should we. As Jedi we are compelled to train and to improve ourselves, it is our personal duty. While we drop our guard our opponents are watching and waiting for an opportunity. Our addiction is outside doing push-ups while we get comfortable in our complacency.

If we work at it a little at a time, day by day, consistently without repose we see the change that we seek not just in ourselves but in others too. Improvement happens incrementally. We work and do what we have to do, rather than what we want to do.

A philosophy for life is for life and to live well is to do so without struggle and without rush. We only live one day at a time and deal with one obstacle at a time, with each step we climb higher. Consistency and commitment is everything. Faith keeps us there. Remember it took Yoda nearly 900 years to reach enlightenment. Enjoy the ride and also take the time to smell the roses, you worked for them.

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

Jedi defend the helpless

Jedi try to protect others if possible, Jedi are peaceful warriors. Jedi are also aware that being prepared and trained gives them the advantage if they do have to protect themselves and others. Most Jedi know at least one form of martial arts or self-defense.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Defend the Oppressed

The Jedi were a humanitarian movement. During the centuries of conflict in which the Jedi participated they were often rushing to defend one oppressed group or another. Theses efforts were limited only by the reach of the Jedi. Anakin and his mother were sold as slaves to the Hutt Clan by a slaving Empire run by the Zygerrians. Anakin carried the stigma of slavery with him, it burned like an old wound. The wound cut deep and Anakin vowed to stamp slavery out.

“For thousands of years, Zygerria supplied slave labor to the galaxy. We prospered. Our customers prospered. Then the Jedi came.” – Darts D’Nar

The Jedi of the old Republic outlawed  the slave trade and dismantled the practice pushing it in to the outer rim criminal underworld. During the Clone Wars Zygerria allied with Count Dooku hoping to resurrect the galactic slave trade. The planet of Kiros was taken and despite the Jedi’s intervention the peaceful Togruta inhabitants were enslaved.

Later Anakin and Obi-wan did all they could to find and rescue the hostages from slavery and destroy the new slave trade.

The Sheep Dog

One of the five goals of Jedi Philosophy is “Defend the Weak” (Trout, 2014). Some real world Jedi work as police officers or serve in the military. Others are in emergency and medical professions. Aid and humanitarian workers and volunteers are also represented. Defenders of the environment are also among us. There are Jedi who work at the vanguard of environmental activism and others who try to advocate for sustainability and conservation through science, management and education.

“I am a sheepdog, I live to protect the flock and confront the world” – LTC Dave Grossman (ret)

I have a friend who at time of writing this is on the outskirts of the Syrian City of Raqqa fighting the so called Islamic State. This man is there as an unpaid volunteer serving with the Kurdish Forces. A former soldier who has acted against the advice of his government and on his own volition. Why? Because he considers himself Jedi and is trying to defend the helpless and free people from slavery and oppression. It is a small gesture which means a lot to people who were without hope. My friend is the proverbial “Sheep Dog”.

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3

 

Lend a Hand, an Ear

Not all of us can find ways to “Defend the Weak” through our jobs or past times. Those of us who volunteer our time do what we can. We in the 12 step program support the fellow alcoholic who comes to us for help. A kind word, an offer of a cup of coffee and giving our attention can also make a big difference.

When we see someone being treated unfairly we speak up. Often the weak and the vulnerable are easy targets for ill treatment. By looking the other way we would condone such abuse so we say something. We intervene mindfully and use our judgement. There is rarely cause to resort to violence. We show where our principles reside.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” – Winston Churchill

Take Courage

Courage is a virtue. Sometimes it takes real courage to stick to our principles and act them out. By defending others we are also showing selflessness and empathy. In accordance with these principles we act to avoid exploiting or abusing others. We do not play the oppressor whatever the reason. This means being fair and diligent in all of our affairs and with all people. For example we would not short change a customer or be silent if we were over changed. We would not push in ahead of others or use our size to intimidate people. We would not grow impatient and hurl abuse at a waitress doing her job on minimum wage. On a crowded bus we willingly give up our seat to someone who needs it more than us. We would not bear silent witness to a person being victimized or bullied in the workplace or in public.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

Recovery teaches us that we are not the center of the Universe. There are other people in this world who are deserving of respect and dignity as we are. We also recognize that we depend on our environment to live. Clean living shows us the value of unpolluted air and water and the beauty of nature.

We were victims once but we have cast off that label and reclaimed our lives. Step 12 reminds us that to “carry the message” also means to act out our principles and demonstrate virtues such as courage. No one is watching us all the time but we know what is in our heart. We can choose to look the other way and walk or we can act.

Trout, KS (2014). Exploring the Jedi Lifestyle. Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Lifestyle-Academy-Online-Presents/dp/1482339714

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/

Tolerance

Remember, a Jedi fights only as a last resort. If you are forced to draw your lightsaber, you have already forfeited much of your advantage. A Jedi trusts the Force and at first seeks other ways to resolve problems: patience, logic, tolerance, attentive listening, negotiation, persuasion, calming techniques. But there are times when a Jedi must fight. – Luke Sywalker to Students

Higher Learning

Some time ago I was at a University during  its Open Day and I wandered from one tent stand to another. There were Philosophy and Political Groups to Religious and Sporting Clubs. A tent for sober and recovering students was parked next to a group calling itself “Party Hardy”. I enjoyed the appearance of harmony and tolerance on the campus. There were students wearing signs of religious affiliation and an Islamic students tent tended by young men in dish dash and prayer caps were serving Halal sausages to student wearing shorts and singlets.

I came across a tent stand that was occupied by a group that sit on the political spectrum well left of the middle. A large bearded guy with a Karl Marx T-shirt was standing next to a girl wearing a Hijab and a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt. The guy saw me looking at the Posters decrying all the wrongs in the world from corporate power to American Imperialism and environmental destruction.

Seeing my attention he offered a newspaper and said “Hi”. On the cover was an article about the conflict in Syria. I paused there and he said something to the effect that “It was *expletive* terrible what is happening over there, Russia and Assad have started killing the Kurds”. My jaw dropped and I looked at him in amazement and asked “What? For real?”. This was a shock, did I miss something in the last 24 hours? The war in Syria moves and shifts at an incredible speed, alliances form and break up. The news is distorted and often fabricated. I spent a lot of time digesting news and sorting fact from fiction. If true, this was a serious development.

“Yeah Man *expletive* they dropped gas on the Kurds in Aleppo”, he said starting to get a little excited, “ *expletive* Russians, I *expletive* hate them”.

The penny dropped.

“Actually I said, that’s not right, last week there was a gas attack in Aleppo on the district held by the Kurds but the perpetrators were anti-Government Rebels holding East Aleppo, not Assad or the Russians”, I told him.

“That’s Bullshit” he replied, now looking at me with suspicion.

“No” I said “It was reported in many of the media outlets and by the Observatory for Human Right in Syria”

“What media?”, he asked “ *expletive* RT”?

“Yes, RT, Al Jazeera, Middle East eye and others”, I replied.

“RT and Fox man, that’s *expletive* Fake News, run by Putin and that stooge Trump”, he was getting a little red in the face, his voice was louder.

I made a comment that I knew people in Syria, western volunteers in the Kurdish militia, the YPG, and independent correspondents they had corroborated the story but the mainstream media had not picked it up.

At the mention of the YPG, the girl in the Hijab who had been standing to one side in silence, spoke up;

“The YPG?” she said “They are Terrorists, stealing land from Arabs, persecuting Muslims. They are worse than ISIS”, she pointed a finger at the sky.

“I’m sorry?” I asked rhetorically and replied;  “They have Arabs in their Forces, Christians too. They are socialists like you, don’t you support that”?

The bearded guy glared at me “They’re not Socialists Man, they’re puppets of Western Imperialism!”.

I was flabbergasted, these people are meant to be educated “But, the US supplies weapons to everyone in Syria fighting Assad or ISIL, even listed Terrorist groups”, I said and rattled off some names.

The lady’s  face grew darker as I spoke “The Kurds are racists and nationalists who oppress Arabs and Muslims on their own land!” she shouted “Anyone who supports them is an Islamophobe and a Racist”!

They both glared at  me like I was some sort of decayed trash. I was the enemy in their eyes. The symbol of what they hated. The conversation had ended. I gave him back his paper and moved on. I heard the girl say “Privileged White Asshole”  to her ginger haired white friend.

Tolerance is Being Heard

Once upon a time I had been politically active. I had considered myself a Socialist of the type that wanted to see the poor lifted up and conditions for blue collar workers improved. There had been the protests for the protection of Forests, nuclear disarmament and end of Apartheid in South Africa. We felt as if the causes were for everyone not just the few and our dreams were for a better future not a more divided one.

The protest movement was based on Love and Hope, not Fear and Anger. Now decades later I was in the same place I had walked in Protest as a naive activist complaining about intolerance and had just been called a “Privileged White Asshole” by a person who didn’t know me at all for expressing a view.  I thought about my childhood, the living in poor housing, the missed meals and forgotten Christmas’s. Going to school in threadbare clothes and worn out shoes. The years of struggling in alcoholism and the sting of shame at being broke all of the time. I felt like someone had kicked me in the groin. I never knew the privilege she was referring to.

How can someone judge  a person so blindly and so negatively when they don’t even know the person? We are taught that a person’s skin color, ethnicity and religion should not matter and that tolerance should be embraced. Yet at the same time the freedom of open dialogue and expression has been constrained to such a degree that to have an opinion is discouraged unless it is accepted as “politically correct”.  It occurred to me that there are people in the world on both extremes of the political spectrum who are intolerant of others beliefs and views. That not all people of Faith are tolerant of other Faiths. The world is more intolerant now than ever before and as a result people are lashing out.

The highest result of education is tolerance” – Helen Keller

Opinions are not Facts

We believe what we want to believe and when evidence appears that contradicts that “sacred cow” we either revise our view point or we throw the shutters down. I’ve been called Islamophobic, Homophobic, Xenophobic, Sexist and Misogynist and a Russophile in my time. I would reject those charges, except I am quite fond of Russia and Russian women in particular.

The point is that we may not agree on certain points of view or opinions but we can allow dialogue and discussion that is informed, considerate and causes no harm to others. If one is to learn and expand their knowledge the opinions of others must be considered and evaluated in an objective and impartial manner. Throwing the shutters down makes no sense just because we disagree with someone on a point of view.

 

Tribal Warfare

A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at the phenomenon of Social Media and the death of debate. The results found that social interaction is now stymied by the emergence of strong divisions along the lines of opinion on social issues and politics.

A sort if Tribalism has emerged where a person is automatically judged, accepted or rejected as a human being based on their opinions on specific issues such as race, global warming, religion, gender equality or politics. Non conformance with the accepted dogma will result in a tirade of hate comments and possible online harassment. In the real world it can get you harassed,  bashed or worse.

The New Intolerance

The phenomenon has spread to Universities and High Schools where lecturers and teachers insist on certain views that are consistent with their own and penalize or ostracize students who question them. I’m reminded of my childhood when any expressed doubt of “original sin” or the holy trinity was met with a torrent of shrieking and admonishment from the Sisters who taught us. If you did not conform you were defective and to be punished.

Recently Universities such as Berkley and  Middlebury College were the scenes of riots as students forced the cancellation of lectures by visiting controversial figures. These were not preachers of radical ideology and extremism but academics who hold a position that is counter to the current opinion and ideology. The Higher schools of Learning are being sabotaged and opinion silenced by dissent, righteous anger and the threat of violence.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of other” – John F Kennedy

Bartolerance

Intolerance is a trait that becomes an alcoholic. Being an obstinate and recalcitrant bunch we tend to get impatient with people that don’t agree with our views. We quickly right off people, places and things that do not concur with our distorted view of reality. Intolerance keeps the Ego strong and provides enough resentment and belligerency to keep us in active alcoholism.

Once upon a time I was a bar philosopher and boozy political commentator, the debates were lively, if not slurred, but as far as I was concerned the other person had nothing to say. Only my opinion mattered but that did not stop me from buying rounds all night to keep the conversation going. Anyone who drank with me was alright in my opinion regardless of their views. I had a type of Bartolerance on opinions.

Tolerance is the virtues of the man without convictions” – Gilbert K Chesterton

Keep an Open Mind

I love the phrases “take what you need and leave the rest” and “live and let live”, the first time I heard them in the context of tolerance was at a 12 Step Meeting early in my recovery. I had become dogmatic in my views about the program and was a bit of Big Book thumper. The printed words in the book Alcoholics Anonymous were gospel to be followed to the letter and without divergence rather than a set of recommendations and suggestions as the authors of the program had intended.

“Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on out-side issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” – Tradition 10, “12 Steps and 12 Traditions”.

Bill W and the other founders realized that in order to attract people to the program they needed to make it as palatable as possible for all irrespective of their religious, political or philosophical views or lack  there of. The Founders encouraged new comers to go out and try different things and to speak to psychologists, doctors and religious or spiritual advisors about their problems. The fellowship did not claim to have a cure but a program that if accepted as a way of life would bring a spiritual renewal that would remove the compulsion to drink.

In the program there are people of all religious denominations, political ideologies, atheists, agnostics, ages, races and background. Professionals sit side by side with shop floor workers. The rich sit with the poor. Everyone is in the same boat and opinions do not matter. All are accepted for who they truly are, a spiritual being having a human experience. A human being who wants to get sober. I have often wondered at how this is possible but it is and it could be like this everywhere. Opinions do not matter, people do. We can disagree but we can disagree agreeably.

Be Jedi, be tolerant and keep an open mind.

The Hero

“I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day” – Bowie

The Hero’s Journey

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars he based the story on the mythical Hero as described by Joseph Campbell. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” describes the “Hero’s Journey”, a narrative monomyth which has existed since the dawn of story telling. The Monomyth follows the story of one who answers the call for adventure, the Hero archetype. Departing home the Hero encounters and overcomes the fear of the unknown and sometimes with a mentor learns the path to overcoming challenges and obstacles that lay ahead. Towards the middle of the story the Hero meets resistance and facing peril must overcome  an enemy or nemesis and finding strength and the help of others is able gain the prize.

The story continues and we think the Hero is safely home but encounters even greater challenges that bar the way. Unable to escape the Hero battles in a climactic struggle. Victorious at last  the Hero claims the final prize and discovers a revelation that restores the balance. The Hero is transformed and returns home or continues the journey.

The “Hero’s Journey” can be seen as a metaphor for life. We all face similar milestones in our personal Journey through Life. In recovery, we know the path quite well.

The Hero

People have always been inspired by the Hero. Legends and Myths are full of them. Since the Babylonian tale of Gilgamesh written in 18 century BC, the human story has included Odysseus, Hercules, David and Jason. Our contemporary fiction is full of them and include unlikely heroes like Harry Potter, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker and Jyn, Rey and Finn. Each of the characters became swept up in events greater than themselves. They  became accidental heroes who went far beyond what they believed they could achieve for the greater good. Their stories followed the classic “Hero’s Journey” as described by Campbell. The Hero provides humanity with an example for others to follow. We carry our Heroes on shields and decorate them with awards and medals.

No Ordinary Hero

Sometimes the Heroes of the world are right in front of us but we don’t even recognize them. These are not like the Heroes in the Ancient or Modern Sagas. They have committed themselves when action was needed with no time to think or plan. The bystander who jumps in to perform CPR, the one who instinctively jumps in to a swollen river to rescue a drowning child and the person who races in to a burning building to pull out survivors are the ones we sometimes hear about in the news. They remind us that there are still people out there who are willing to risk their lives for others. We think their acts are exceptional and rare while in fact they are in most people. The instinctive need to help and to protect and preserve life. It’s in our DNA.

We often hail our sporting achievers as “heroes” yet what have they done other than win a title, medals or a trophy, usually for great monetary reward and fame? Society tends to overlook underpaid and overworked care givers like Paramedics, Nurses, public health care Doctors as well as Police Officers and Fire and Rescue for their daily heroic deeds. Volunteers who dedicate their time and money to helping the poor, looking after the environment or taking care of animals are rarely considered “Heroes”. Not many people would count School Teachers, Hospice Workers, Aid Workers and Volunteers as Heroes. Soldiers are treated as “Heroes” and lauded for their military feats in some wars and derided or condemned for fighting others.

The Classic Hero as described by Joseph Campbell is a rare gem and one that primarily exists in literature and movies. Real Hero’s are are actually everywhere.

The Accidental Hero

Luke Skywalker was a hero of my childhood and for me had all the ideal traits that made such. I could also relate to Luke Skywalker on a personal level as I had also suffered loss. Skywalker gave many kids a dream that they could reach for the skies and achieve incredible feats if they only believed. Not long ago someone pointed out that Luke was no Hero. Why I asked? Well, he had destroyed an artificial planet with many thousands of lives. This “atrocity” had not ended the war, in many ways it had extended it and the untold suffering it caused.

The Death Star was moments away from ending the Rebellion and the war but instead it was destroyed. The Empire suffered a crushing military defeat with the loss of important Admirals and the ultimate weapon of deterrence. The war raged across the galaxy for years after and so did the death and the destruction. My Friend kind of had a point.

My Friend also pointed out that Luke Skywalker was not only against the established rule of law and active in an illegal Rebellion but he was indoctrinated in to an ancient religion. This religious belief compelled him to destroy the Death Star and continued to drive him to carry out attacks in the war and eventually topple it. Does this not sound at least a little like a terrorist?

The Modern Hero Dilemma

I thought about the many recent conflicts I had become acquainted. In these wars I had taken sides. One side was “Right” and the other “Wrong”. More than once I had called people I knew “Heroes”. They had traveled to Syria to join the Kurds and fight ISIL, an extremist and brutal regime. While I believe my friends to be Freedom Fighters and “Heroes”, other people, many decent and intelligent, called them “Terrorists” or “Criminals”. It made me realize that the word “Hero” can be a little ambiguous at times. In fact not everyone can agree on what, let alone who, a Hero is.

Then  what is a Hero? How would we define it? Many Real World Jedi have their own definition of what a Hero is and they diverge as much as people in any other part of society. This is a Jedi Philosophy Blog so I will take the words of Joseph Campbell to help define what a Hero is here:

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.“- Joseph Campbell

Then that would mean that anyone who has died for a cause that he or she considered bigger than themselves fits the definition of a Hero…Obviously this cause problems as it would firmly validate the phrase “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”. The cliché in fact contradicts itself as we know that no terrorist can be a Hero and no Hero can be a terrorist then neither can exist as they cancel each other out. To me a Friend in Syria is a Hero fighting for Freedom from tyranny, to many people in Turkey and  the Arab world he is a Terrorist as he happens to be fighting under a Kurdish Flag. Being a Hero can be complicated.

The Journey

As a recovering alcoholic I know that things never appear to be black and white. Every ideal and bias that we hold is a product of our Ego. The human psyche pushes many of us to embark on the “Heroes Journey”. In a perfect world there would be no need for Freedom Fighters or Terrorists. Heroes on the other hand, we need those angels like the Paramedics, Nurses, Cops and Soldiers who put others before themselves. The recovering Alcoholic in a 12 Step Meeting who comforts and consoles a newcomer who is at the end of his wits is a Hero. Each of us can through simple act of kindness and love in our daily lives also be Heroes.

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” –  Gandalf “Lord of the Rings”

Marcus Aurelius admonishes us to stop “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one” There are five common traits found in a Hero. They are courage, selflessness, humility, patience and caring. These are the virtues which the Stoics like Aurelius found so important if one was to achieve the “good life”. They are also the virtues that a Jedi was expected to demonstrate consistently. The 12 Steps require all five virtues for recovery to be built on a solid foundation:

Courage

Courage is when a person does something in spite of their Fear.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear” – Mark Twain.

Selflessness

Selflessness is doing something for others without expecting anything in return, indeed often with personal sacrifice.

selflessness is the only way for progress and prosperity” – The Bhagavad Gita

Humility

Humility is acting in a way that shows you respect yourself but never place yourself above others to look down.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less” – CS Lewis

 

Patience

Patience is being able to accept that things to happen at their own pace even when we wished they wouldn’t. Good things do come to those that wait.

Patience is bitter but it’s fruit is sweet” – Aristotle

 

Caring

Caring is showing to others the kindness and concern that they deserve. Caring is in the little acts that we do every day.

Caring The simple act of caring is heroic” – Edward Albert

 

Can we be all of these things? Can we be the Hero that we are meant to be? We can be Heroes not in the big causes that we take up but in the simple every day acts of life.