Build Resilience: Pay it Forward

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” – Princess Leia

In the opening act of Star Wars we see the Corvette “Tantive IV” under attack by an Imperial Star Destroyer. On board the Tantive IV is Senator Leia on a diplomatic mission from the Imperial Senate to her home planet Alderaan. Moments before the Tantive IV is seized by Imperial Storm Troopers Leia hides a desperate call for help inside the Droid R2D2. The message, along with information crucial to the survival of the rebellion, would find itself to Luke Skywalker on Tatooine and to Obi-wan Kenobi. It was a call for aid that would trigger a series of events that would change countless lives and ultimately the destiny of an entire Galaxy. One call for help would ultimately prove an ancient prophecy true and bring balance to the Force.

 

Comrades

A common perception is that we must tough life out by ourselves. This is a common view among men. The “suck it up Princess” mentality is something I see every day in my line of work. In the Army we were expected to rely on each other as a team to get the job done. There was no shame in asking for help from the man beside you when you could not help yourself. We had each other’s back.

There were caveats. If a guy in the Platoon was having personal issues or going through an emotional crisis it was different. Showing weaker emotions was not accepted and everyone was expected to sort themselves out. If a guy had had a bust up with a girlfriend for example we took him out and got him drunk. That was the protocol for a broken heart or other emotional issues. Booze was the ultimate remedy. If a person could not carry their emotional baggage on the job, they were a liability.

Emotions not expressed as aggression, pride, competitiveness and other Alpha Male qualities were not welcome in our midst. It was the overpowering and addictive pull of masculine toxicity which defined us.

Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Wounded

The fact that so many wounded warriors are now struggling with PTSD and depression is no surprise. Around 22 veterans in the United States commit suicide every day. Even invincible heroes have scars that lie hidden and run deep. “Suck it up Princess” no longer cuts it and it probably never did.

Suicide is one of those topics we don’t like to talk about. Even today it is still a taboo subject among many. Most of us know of someone who has lost a battle with depression and taken their own life. It goes without saying that we are only human. People are vulnerable and fragile even beneath the physical and mental armor.

Suicide was one of those “options” that tugged at my sleeve. The “Black Dog” would visit and suicidal thoughts would pass like a dark cloud. The truth was I enjoyed wallowing in self-pity and imagining how I could hurt others. I had the insane notion that I would gloat in self-satisfaction after expunging myself from existence. The reality was that I was far too much of a morally bankrupted coward to take the idea past depraved mental masturbation.

Accepting things as they are. Surrendering to a Higher Power. Recognizing the harms done to self and others. Taking steps daily to improve one’s self. Helping others. Who has time for self-pity with all of that? With recovery, thoughts of suicide dissipated along with the depression and anxiety.

Sometimes, accepting help is harder than offering it.” – The Clone Wars “Legacy of Terror”

 

Ask and Give

Recently on “Temple of the Jedi Order” I saw a thread about suicide. A number of people related how people known to them had committed suicide. They had “felt” something was wrong and now regretted not saying anything or doing anything. In many cases they had simply failed to recognize the signs and warnings. Most people aren’t trained to identify warning signs. Many times they may be subtle or absent.

Many people also don’t like to ask for help. They want to work it out alone. Speaking to others is a last resort. There could be a large number of reasons for this social, cultural or personal. Once help is sought it can turn everything around. Being alcoholic I shunned any offer of assistance and resented it. If I needed help then I had a problem. If there was a problem, change was needed. The problem was admitting to a problem in the first place. So we stay in a hole until life becomes so uncomfortable we are forced to seek help. Finding it we start to see the doors in our mind open and we begin to help ourselves.

Compassion and empathy are Jedi virtues. Jedi are expected to be willing to render aid and provide support where they can  and where it is needed. We listen with an open heart and without judgement. We can give our undivided attention without imposing conditions. It may not seem much but it might be all that’s needed to make all the difference.

Being Jedi is not forcing help on others. We help those willing to listen. In the 12 Steps we only “carry the message”. We listen and offer what assistance we can. Whether or not it is accepted or if our aid helps is out of our control. Be mindful that an offer of help does not mean “I will carry your burdens for you”.

Never forget that It is not unusual for us to neglect our own needs in meeting the needs of others. Be prepared to ask for help as well. By speaking to someone, a family member, a friend, a counselor or a sponsor it could make all the difference.

Remember. In Star Wars it was a lonely plea for help from a stranger that pushed Luke Skywalker in to action and ultimately into a journey of self-discovery, redemption and triumph.

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that God didn’t trust me so much.” – Mother Teresa

 

Pay if Forward

The book “Pay it Forward” by Catherine Ryan Hyde and the movie adaptation inspired many people when they came out in 1999. The story tells of a twelve year old boy who’s simple and brave actions in helping a stranger starts a movement that changes the world. It starts with an idea and then a simple gesture of kindness to a fellow human being. By “paying it forward” the flow of energy expands outwards, snow balling in to something that captures the world’s imagination.

“Pay if Forward” is a work of fiction as much as “Star Wars: A New Hope” is. The message is that every person has the power to help another. We are all on this rock together and have more in common than we know. Help, selfless altruism is a universal virtue. The power of help is universal.

Listening to others share their troubled and sharing our own is the basis of group therapy as used in the fellowship of AA.  Likewise being Jedi is being receptive to others and providing support where we are able. We know what goes around comes around. “Paying it Forward” is more than a catch term, it is the ballast that keeps society afloat. It also keeps many Alcoholics from sinking back into abuse.

Helping others without expecting anything in return keeps the energy flowing. Being of service, small acts of kindness replaces anger and fear with empathy and a sense of purpose. Those acts then take a life of their own. When help is offered to those that need it we are making a positive change, if only for a short time. By helping others we help ourselves. We pay it forward but we get to keep it too.

Because it proves that you don’t need much to change the entire world for the better. You can start with the most ordinary ingredients. You can start with the world you’ve got.”  – Catherine Ryan Hyde

 

Self Help Exercise: Storming the Wall

We are conscious of our own thoughts and emotions. Some of us have trouble responding to extremes of emotions or unruly and chaotic thoughts. Emotions are meant to tell us how our internal world is coping with life. The mind is meant to help us to make choices congruent with our values. The trick is not acting on impulse or allowing emotions to rule our judgement and decisions.

I sometimes take a moment to shine a light on my thoughts and feelings. It’s a method I learned from Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”. Especially when troubled I will pause and ask myself “what am I thinking?” and “what am I feeling? I become an impartial observer to my own thoughts and feelings. A light is thrown on my inner world and any negative thoughts are reasoned with and let go. Negative emotions exposed by the light are transmuted and dispersed through a simple act of mindfulness. There is no struggle. I have helped myself over the wall. I am returned to the power of the moment.

We may be resilient but like the soldier storming the wall we could use the occasional hand to help us up.

 

 

Duty

Impossible to see … The Dark Side clouds everything. But this I am sure of…Do their duty the Jedi will” – Yoda

 

Duty is a word that is synonymous with the Jedi. The purpose of the Jedi was to serve the Republic. Duty was at the forefront of Jedi training and conduct. Even as the Jedi Order collapsed and only Luke Skywalker remained alone on the ancient Jedi Refuge of Ach-To the call to Duty was strong and could not be denied. Luke finally answered the call to action because he was Jedi and bound to do his Duty.

 

We are born for cooperation, as are the feet, the hands, eyelids, and the upper and lower jaws” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Call of Duty

Whether we know or not, each of us has a duty to perform. As human beings our first duty is to live in cooperation and collaboration with others. We are social animals and it is in our nature to depend upon each other. In fact our survival as a species relies on it.  No person is entirely an Island by nature.

We also have a duty to ourselves.  As competent adults each of us has a responsibility to safeguard and maintain our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. This is necessary for us to function in our roles within society.

Our final duty is that which society accords us in our role. People who earn a living have a duty to their employer. Businesses have a duty to their customers. Teachers a duty to their students and school. Doctors to their patients. Parent a duty to raise their children. All of us interact within the relationship obligations and expectations of duty. We all have a role to play whether we like it or not.

 

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

 

Do your Duty!

When I was a Soldier I understood the concept of Duty. Through school I had been instructed in the merits of being a dutiful student. We were taught to respect the flag and honor country and God. Duty it was explained was the most honorable virtue bestowed on Man. Without it we were less than savages and had no honor or belonging. We owed it to our families, school, community, country and the church to be dutiful.  I thought that to be a good person one was duty bound to serve.

The Army reinforced this concept. To shirk one’s duty was seen as a crime. The worst offence was to abandon one’s duty through desertion or “by refusing to soldier”. Insubordination was one thing but conscientious objection or “abandoning one’s weapon” while in uniform was seen as the worst betrayal of duty. There were those who felt it was their personal moral and ethical duty to object to orders by “refusing to soldier”. Some expressed that through desertion.  Either way was punished by imprisonment.

 

Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.” – Yoda

 

Dereliction of Duty

I was not one of those men who saw duty to personal values as being more important than following insane orders. My constant insubordination and eventual desertion was driven by alcohol and a selfish and destructive attitude. As I got deeper in  to the mess of alcoholism I faced one charge for dereliction of duty after another. I found more ways to infuriate the system even more. Eventually I learned that I could not beat the system. Full of anger and resentment I went AWOL.  With little ceremony I was discharged on return and unceremoniously cast out back in to the world. I had failed in my duty. The rejection was a deep blow.

The years after my dishonorable discharge followed a similar pattern. I seldom remained in one place for long. With little warning I would leave. My loyalties were near non-existent or they lasted as long as the booze did. I could swear a blood oath to complete strangers in a Bar but not recognize them the next day. I could not hold down relationships unless they benefited my drinking and gratified my desires. None lasted long. Duty seemed like a foreign word. In the end I despised the notion of duty as it evoked control, obligation and restriction to my freedom.  Duty did not go with drinking.

 

Happiness is the natural flower of duty” – Phillips Brooks

 

Deon

Deon is the Greek word for binding moral and spiritual duty. It is also means “Of Zeus”. The Ancients placed great importance on personal duty marking it as almost holy. Coming in to recovery I had to embrace a new kind of Duty. This was a spiritual duty I owed to myself and others. Unlike the Duty that I had known in the past there was no need for self-sacrifice or submission to others. I was not compelled to do anything I did not want to do. I only had to follow my heart and act in accordance with my own principles and values.

What was required was a willingness to change and putting faith in a Higher Power I call the Force. I had the freedom to think for myself. My Duty was to not pick up that first drink and to follow some simple principles like self-honesty, humility and gratitude. Others showed me that they had a duty to help me stay sober because it also helped them. In time I could also help others and it would help me stay sober. Duty in that sense made complete sense to me.

 

The reward of doing one duty is the power to do another” – Rabbi Ben Azai

 

 

Duty of Care

These days we sometime hear the word “Duty” thrown about. People use it to remind society that it owes them a duty around their personal security, health, welfare and education. The Police, Military, Emergency Services, Hospitals, Teachers and Public Servants are there to provide us with a “Duty”. We live in a hedonistic and individualistic society where personal pursuits are valued more than the collective good. Many people seldom consider what Duty they owe to others and to the community.

Over the recent decades society has seen a decline in personal responsibility and accountability. Self-Discipline is becoming a rare commodity as is faith. Virtues are increasingly considered less importance than entitlement, celebrating diversity, political correctness, instant gratification, fame and physical appearance over character. We can still care about all of these things if they are important to us but we should find a sense of duty and purpose in our lives.

 

Do your duty and a little more than the future will take care of itself” – Andrew Carnegie

 

Ancient Wisdom

The Stoic and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote a lot about finding one’s Duty in life. Forgoing a life of luxury and pomp in Rome he sought instead to make his contribution in the defense of the Empire in the wilderness of the northern frontiers. In his works “Meditations”, the Emperor records his doubts and anxieties at the enormity of the task.  A sense of moral duty re-calibrates his resolve.

Luke Skywalker consumed by self-pity on Ach-To finally came to his senses and sought to fulfill his Duty as a Jedi. The Last Jedi only had to remember his purpose and his purpose was service.

Luke Skywalker and Marcus Aurelius shared common traits of responsibility, self-discipline, faith in a Higher Power and belief in a cause greater than themselves. That’s all we need. When you know what it is go out and do your duty.  In that pursuit you will achieve the greatest gift; the feeling that you have fulfilled a purpose and lived life well.

 

It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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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Jedi believe in Service

Jedi believe in service to others, and are selfless

The path of the Jedi teaches us the importance of service. There is a lot of joy in serving others, and the Jedi believe in volunteerism and in service. Why? Because that’s the way of the Force; the Force is always giving, giving, giving without expecting anything back in return. The Jedi are like this too. Some of the practical benefits of serving others include diminishing egotistical thinking, removing energy blockages, increasing positive energy flow, and re-connecting us with other human beings

 

A Part of Us

Service to others is a fundamental part of being Jedi. Likewise, service is also integral to the 12 Steps. Both paths recognize the value in extending ourselves to others in selfless service. Service, giving to others is also a intrinsic human trait, we are wired to work together and to help each other.

A study by the University of British Columbia showed that Toddlers were happier giving to others than they were receiving. We feel it every time we do something for another person. It can be as simple as giving up your seat on a bus or holding a door open. It connects us to people. Likewise every time we plant a tree or help an animal we feel connected to our environment. Service put us in to the spiritual flow of the Universe, the Force.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35

 

One cannot keep what they do not pass on. We have an obligation and a responsibility to pass on what we have gained and to “pay it forward”. The flow of energy must be kept vital and the only way to truly improve is to get out of ourselves by putting the focus on others. Some of us provide a form of form of service as part of our jobs. Whether we serve customers, work in the military, security and law enforcement or emergency services the way we apply ourselves in our profession and how we treat people in carrying out our duties says a lot about ourselves.

Even though we get paid for the time and effort we put in, it is still service. Whether we take benefit from it will largely depend on our purpose and the meaning that we attach to the task. Some Policemen love their job, some don’t.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Volunteer

Volunteerism is by definition unpaid and voluntary without reserve. There is real commitment. We donate our time and skills to a particular cause. Activism and advocacy are also forms of service which serve an important function in raising awareness and making important changes in society. The opportunities for service seem endless. There are countless causes one can involve themselves in.  If what we choose to do adds value to our lives and others, the direct benefits can extend beyond material, there are many intangibles as well.

What is the essence of life? To serve other and to do good” – Aristotle.

So what about Jedi? They served the Republic, they were guardians of peace. The purpose of the Jedi was to protect, defend and support citizens. Jedi were chosen for the path, they barely chose it. The Jedi were not paid for their efforts but they were rewarded in intangible ways. They were raised in to a meaningful existence and grew stronger in the ways of the Force for example. There was a mutual benefit.

The Jedi made mistakes of course but their intent was never selfish until the needs of individual Jedi became more important than the needs of the whole. The Jedi were not above reproach and neither are we. We are only human after all but we still have a choice.

 

Just Rewards

Why do it then if not for purely selfless reasons. Psychology Today lists a number of mental, physical and spiritual benefits in getting involved in the community and helping others:

  • Reduced stress and better stress management, we are able to better cope with life;
  • Appreciation and gratitude of what we have through better perspective taking;
  • Greater awareness of the world and the people in it;
  • Cultivated empathy, compassion and solidarity with others;
  • Provides greater life meaning and purpose of being.

Studies have also shown that volunteerism can improve overall contentment and happiness in people. Older volunteers have been shown to  extend life span in older people. The brain actually develops new pathways and neurons. Our brains respond better to selflessness and altruism than selfishness and meanness. It is an evolutionary trait which stems from the basic human need to belong and to care for others.

 

Motive is everything

Does selfless service truly exist? How often have we done something for others to make ourselves feel better or to gain some sort of reward or recognition? To give anonymously or with discretion with no selfish motives is different to giving with the intent of receiving some sort of recognition. Some religious people feel that if they donate money to the church or to worthy charities they will be rewarded for their generosity in the afterlife. Many students feel compelled, even forced to undertake “voluntary” community service in order to be accepted in to universities or to pass subjects.

Some people may recognize the intangible benefits of altruism such as working with the disabled or caring for injured animals, but not all will. Offenders will be awarded community service by a Judge. The hope is that service to others will help them adopt a change in attitude and reduce the likelihood of re-offending. The work may be beneficial but the person on “community service” may view it as a punishment rather than the privilege that it is. Is a large donation made by a multinational corporation sincere or a conceited form of self promotion?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

Bad Service

Years ago I did conservation volunteer work in South America and Africa and spent many months on a Kibbutz in Israel as a volunteer. These were important experiences and I went with the best intention however once there I soon fell in to bad habits. I took advantage of my hosts, avoided the worst jobs and would get so drunk is the evenings at the inevitable volunteer parties that I was too hungover to work. The experience soon turned in to an opportunity to indulge in all the excesses you would find on Spring Break in Cancun without the luxury.

In Israel I was politely asked to leave on one occasion and simply moved down the road to another place that was looking for volunteers. Many places seek volunteers because they need cheap or free labor and do take advantage. Some volunteers forget that they volunteered. They begin to question the entire experience seeking only to derive personal benefit.

 

Pay if Forward

Being in recovery has taught me how important service is as part of the 12 Steps. One alcoholic will help another through sponsorship or by taking on a role in meetings. The motivation is selfless but the work is done as much to maintain sobriety as it is to help others find or keep theirs.  Only service keeps the movement alive. The real world Jedi community also relies on people willing to give up their time, money and skills to keep the movement alive and growing. Most are anonymous and seek no recognition. Think of all the millions of people in the world right now quietly and selflessly serving others with no expectation of reward. They are Legion and bring light into an otherwise grey and cynical world.

Through service we begin to think more about others than ourselves. Getting out of our own self indulgence is a good way to avoid falling into the mental traps of self doubt and negative self talk. The point of service is not necessarily to serve without any direct benefit to ourselves. A mutual benefit can and should be derived. Service should make us feel good knowing that we’ve made a small difference. That simple pleasure can be its just reward it can also completely transform the way we see the world and others. It can transform the world.

You are the vehicle of change in this world. How will you pay it forward today?

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” – Howard Zinn

Jedi use the Force for good works

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

(33 Jedi Traits)

The Purpose

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

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

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

A River flows through

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibility

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

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

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

Whatever happens, take responsibility” – Tony Robbins

 

Motives

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

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

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

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

Right Effort

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

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

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

Humility

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

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

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

Live your own Life

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

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

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

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

Timing is everything

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Improving

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

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

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

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

Keep Going

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

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

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

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

Be True to Thyself

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

MTFBWY

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

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

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.

Joy (Part 2)

The Happy Trap

In the book the “Happiness Trap” the author suggests that one of the greatest impediments to achieving a “good life” is the expectation that we must always be Happy. The mistake that we make is we confound “Joy” with “Happiness”. Once again, the two are different; one is an emotion, the other is a state of being. The book reveals that we often beguile ourselves by falling in to a “Happiness Trap”.

We have convinced ourselves that life is meaningless and defective unless we are “Happy” so we set ourselves up for stress and disappointment when we fail to achieve “Happiness”. We may be happy in the beginning but then the love of our life leaves for our best friend, we get passed over for that promotion at work, someone steals the car, the computer blows up taking all our work. World crashes in, our life is crushed and we think it’s over because we are now unhappy. Life is not over, life is both pleasure and pain and even this too shall pass. Don’t feel unhappy about being unhappy. Embrace the wonderful tapestry of emotions which make us human.

“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy” – Jim Rohn

The “Good Life”

Monks and Mystics do not give the impression of being a “Joyful” bunch, neither do Jedi. We imagine them to be serious and humourless and everything that resembles devout. Then we are surprised when we see religious leaders, devout people like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu and even Pope Francis cracking a joke and being playful and funny. How could that be when the world is so full of misery, war and strife aren’t they supposed to be sombre and righteous? What is the secret?

St Francis of Assisi was also a spiritual leader who eschewed all the pomp and ceremony of the Church and chose a life of poverty, simplicity and service as Jesus of Nazareth had. Francis of Assisi is known as the patron saint of Ecology for his love of animals and defense of the Environment. At the Vatican Francis presented in front of the Pope in his simple habit and rags and instead of bowing and supplicating before the Pontiff he danced and sang in Joy to the complete shock of the watching hierarchy.

Francis preached in rapture about the beauty of nature and the wonder of the cosmos and the Joy of the Divine. Later Francis traveled to Egypt in the midst of the Crusades to broker peace and understanding with the Arab Caliphate. Instead of being killed or taken as a hostage he was honored by the Sultan and bestowed gifts. Francis returned home and preached that Christians and Muslims could learn from each other and co-exist peacefully as members of one big family. Francis took love, reconciliation, humility and respect with him and it was welcomed and embraced.

In our obsession with original sin we often forget original innocence”  – Pope Innocent III to Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi was 46 when he died. The years of attempting to live as an ascetic in self imposed poverty and deprivation had caught up to him despite later admitting that a middle road of simplicity was the path to spiritual Joy. Francis suffered terribly during his death but his Joy never left him, the light that he held within him was strengthened by his strong spiritual faith and beyond. Jesus and Gautama Buddha died in the same way, as did Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Sri Chin Moy and Bill W, they all took their Joy with them. They transcended life.

The Stoics believed that one could be deprived of everything but keep their sense of Joy at living, even condemned to death a person could meet their fate with peace and Joy of knowing they had lived a “good life”. Nothing can take that away. I believe we take our Joy with us when we die.

“Joy is not in things, it is in us” – Wagner

 

End of Joy

Today’s Pope has attempted to emulate the historic Francis by trying to broker peace again in the Middle East. This has largely gone no where. The Pope also tried to encourage a global consensus on climate change and environmental destruction as well as address inequality and rampant consumerism, to no avail. Technology may have moved on, borders have been drawn and erased and Empires have risen and fallen but still the same problems remain.

There is a detachment, a disconnect between what we think is joy (pleasure) and what is true joy in our society and as result a deep discontent prevails. This disconnect has resulted in endless war, poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and global angst. Perhaps this is because we have become more distanced from nature than at any time in our history. Material and individual pursuits have replaced the spiritual and the collective. It is no longer “we” but “me”. Many people feel entitled to happiness but do not realize only they have the power  to make themselves happy, no one can do it for them. We need to stop living in a “feel good” society and start living in a “do good society”.

The Art of Joy

Joy in comprehending and looking is natures most beautiful gift” – Albert Einstein

Yoda and the Jedi were similar in many regards to the spiritual leaders who have genuinely tried to make a positive difference in the world. The Jedi were not void of Joy, in fact they were probably the most content sentient beings in the Galaxy but just didn’t show it much. The fictional Jedi had a deep and abiding connection to the Force, they knew they were part of a greater whole and they were at complete peace with who they were.

Death did not fear them as they knew ultimately they would return to the Force and become one with it. The Jedi lived austere and simple lives based around duty, virtue and discipline and as a result they knew Joy.  Jedi realized that the pursuit of happiness in the shallow way eventually led to grasping attachment, which lead to fear, anger and hatred and ultimately the Dark Side.

In the Clone Wars “Lost Missions” Yoda travels to a mysterious world that is intense with the Force. Yoda seeks the wisdom to be able to unite with the Force after death in with his living consciousness. That is, Yoda seeks enlightenment and immortality of consciousness. In this mysterious realm he encounters the spiritual manifestation of the five states of being that are said to survive death; anger, sadness, confusion, serenity and joy. Each of the forms guide Yoda through the trials he must face to achieve his goals.

Yoda survives the trials and having gained the wisdom he seeks, he returns to Coruscant. The Jedi Master has changed and in the place of the fear, doubt and regret which has plagued him through the Clone Wars, emerges serenity, peace and Joy. These three unified states define Yoda for the remainder of his life until he is able to leave behind his tired physical form and his consciousness unites with the Force.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

Simple as ABC

Not many of us are in a position to change our lives to an extent necessary for significant spiritual, mental, emotional and physical improvement. We have lives, commitments, careers and families to attend to; responsibilities. Fewer want to completely leave their former lives and adopt a life as a Mystic or Monk in a monastery or retreat. We must all work out what works for us as an individual and try to maintain a balanced life that satisfies our personal needs with the needs of others.

Simple lifestyle changes can make a lot of difference, they do not need to be drastic. In sticking to them we find that the effort and time we put in to acquiring “Happiness” through the pursuit of shallow and meaningless pleasures and material possessions can be better served by going back to the basics, the “ABCs”.

A is for Act: always act in accordance with your identified values. Know what they are, they will guide you in every aspect of your life. Be spiritually, physically, socially and mentally active. This means take up a hobby or interest you enjoy, exercise within your limitations, socialize with like-minded people and build a network of friends.

B is for Belong: be part of something, join a club or community group or get more active if already involved.

C is for Commit: volunteer, engage in a cause, take up a course, accept a challenge.

It’s that simple.

only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: fulfillment” – Tony Robbins

 

War

“Wars not make one great.” – Yoda, “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”

A Zero Sum Affair

No matter what our politicians and leaders tell us, wars do not solve problems and they certainly do not make people or nations great. The killing of another human being no matter what the justification is never easy, we are not programmed to take life. Yes, there are heroes in war, acts of bravery under fire that are celebrated and remembered. War can bring out the best and worst in people but it should never be glorified. Very few veterans will relish war and only a fool brazenly seeks it. Speak to someone who has seen war up close and they will tell you it is never pretty and it is a waste of life an d treasure. For this reason it should always be a last resort and one that is never taken lightly by those that send others to fight.

As a society we seem to have become increasingly conditioned to war. It seems we are in a perpetual state of war while preparing for future conflicts. Today the United States is directly involved in conflict in no less than 15 countries on five continents. We have 300 bases in over 70 countries. A dangerous military build-up is also occurring between historic Cold War foes that is devoid of any of the mutual respect and constructive dialogue that existed forty years ago. Distrust, division and accusation prevails. Our world is headed to a precipice and indeed the Doomsday Clock overseen by a panel of international Atomic Scientists was recently adjusted to 2½ minutes to midnight, the closest to the point of Armageddon since 1953.

Last Resort

What can we do about any of this? Unfortunately not much. The Stoics suggested that in life there will be many things that disturb us of which we have no control. We can emote on a subject, we can commiserate on how terrible the loss of life in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine is due to conflict or bemoan the degradation of the global environment. Worrying or emoting about events that we have no control over does not alleviate the suffering or change a thing. If we can act, we do what can be done otherwise we focus on our place in the world and those that rely on us. We attend to our own battles at home and strive to make a better life.

The Fictional Jedi were keepers of the Peace but were sworn to protect the Republic and defend it. Being a real world Jedi means knowing which battles to pick and only ever accepting violence as a last resort and primarily in self defence, never attack. A Jedi abhors violence.

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

 Soul Wars

Carrie Fisher once compared her battle with mental illness as akin to being in a war. The analogy was not intended to belittle the sacrifice of veterans who had fought in Afghanistan but to highlight the nature of the struggle she endured for years. Many of us fight our own inner battles, the prize of victory is survival and defeat ultimately means death. The courage needed to survive addiction and recover should never be understated it also takes a tremendous amount of balls.

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside).” – Carrie Fisher

Alcoholics are not facing an enemy on a battleground or the threat of IEDS, they are confronting their own darker side. In recovery we change our lives utterly and in ways we could never have imagined.

A Crowded Hour

Soldiers are given medals for acts of heroism in the face of danger. Storming a machine gun nest, pulling a wounded comrade to safety while taking fire, jumping in to a burning vehicle to pull out unconscious casualties all take a tremendous amount of guts. The ordeal will last from seconds to hours. The “crowded hour” that Soldiers who have experienced in battle will know as the euphoria mixed with terror that is as addictive as a drug.

“Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!

Throughout the sensual world proclaim,

One crowded hour of glorious life

Is worth an age without a name.”

Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809)

When the dust settles and the adrenaline wears off the Hero Soldier will be unable to explain his actions, he will simply state that his training and instincts kicked in, there was no time to think, just act. A true Warrior will never claim that war has made him “great”.

Uncommon Valor

We Alcoholics also faces a momentous challenge in overcoming our addiction and starting the long road to recovery. In Step 1 we must admit our powerlessness to alcohol and accept that a spiritual solution is the only path. For many this can require rejecting a life time of prejudice and accepting something that before was completely unfathomable. We must dig deep and inventory our history all of our faults and all of the harm we have done others. Having admitted our faults to ourselves we must admit them to our Higher Power and another person. With our past clearly laid bare we must be willing to put it behind us and resolve to change and become who we want to be.

Our actions must agree with that resolve; we seek out those we have harmed and we make amends. We forgive others and we finally forgive ourselves. Living one day at a time we seek to improve ourselves and grow spiritually as well as mentally and emotionally. Our attention moves outwards and we seek to serve others, helping where we can.  The journey can be terrifying but we find a type of courage and inner strength that endures and we change. It takes uncommon valor.

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

Whoever answers the call of duty should never be condemned and those that make the ultimate sacrifice should never be forgotten but always honoured. War should always be regretted and never glorified. Never forget too that we as alcoholics face our own battles on a daily basis, often alone and without support. Our effort is worthy and honourable. We may not think it “great” but your recovery is a small light in a dark world, you are making the world a better place.

World betterment through self-betterment” – The Jedi Circle

Leadership

You don’t have to carry a sword to be powerful, a leaders strength is inspiring greatness in others” – Ahsoka Tano

A Rare Quality

To be Jedi is to be a Leader. Jedi choose to lead even if they are reluctant at first to do so they know it is their duty and responsibility as Jedi. The Jedi lead by example not by Force.

The Fictional Jedi were given leadership roles in the Republic. Positions of authority were granted as part of the Jedi title. A young Padawan student might have been given command of a battalion of Clone Troopers and was expected to lead them in to battle. The reality of war service demanded that they be willing to put aside hesitation, control their fear, reject their doubt and do their duty. They had to put the mission and the welfare of their troops above themselves. Quite a demand!

On our world I have met barely 21 year old men and women in the Israeli Defense Force with the rank of Captain or Major. Their dedication to duty and willingness to sacrifice themselves and lead others from the front is what makes their Defense Force and the country so united, resilient and strong. The young Young Kurdish female fighters of the YPG also lead men into battle against the Islamic State fanatics today. Their bravery, optimism, love of life and courage has gained the admiration of the world and continues to as they march to final victory.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” – Alexander the Great

False Leadership

Being Alcoholic and arrogant I had a false sense of superiority and an inflated ego that demanded respect without earning it. I expected simple length of service and appointed rank sufficient to define me as a leader. My subordinates at work may have obeyed my orders but it was out of fear and with resentment.

In my role as a Leader I was demanding standards in work and conduct from my charges that I was not applying to myself. Where there was failure or mistakes the blame would cascade down. Any credit for hard work and success went to me. My double standards negated my mandate to lead however the system kept me in charge and my team did what they could to resist and undermine me. To defy poor and incompetent leadership is a natural thing to do despite what we are told by society.

In my Regiment in the Army obedience to command was paramount but insubordination was common and also a natural response to incompetence. A corporal seemed to have the power of life and death over a private. Sergeants were a class above and Officers were like Gods. You did not even look at Officers unless you wanted a NCO to march over and literally rip your face off.

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership” – Colin Powell

Fear and Coercion

The entire ethos in my regiment was one of fear and intimidation. Through coercion and harsh discipline we were shaped in to an effective fighting force but there was no love or respect for command. With few exceptions they did not inspire us. If they told us to fight we did because we loved the fight anyway not because we respected them. We did what we did for each other and true Leaders stood among us in the ranks.

Operations were interesting. They say what “goes in the field stays in the field”. A number of unpopular NCO’s met “accidents” on patrol and were badly injured and repatriated. If a squad or platoon leader was a cluster in the field he was a liability and if not removed by echelon then he was removed one way or another by the Grunts.

Leaders that only care for themselves are not leaders. They may hold rank through some community, civic or military authority and enforce it through fear and intimidation but they are not Leaders.

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives” – Theodore Roosevelt

Lead by Example

Being sober and recovered gives us the opportunity to demonstrate that we are leaders in the truest sense. At home, work and in the community we can lead by virtue of example. We can demonstrate our principles consistently and in all of our affairs.

Being firm but fair in our approach we can adopt an attitude of transparency and openness. We look to where we can serve others before ourselves. People become drawn to our humility and selflessness. They recognize these virtues as leadership qualities and they gravitate to us. The respect is mutual and trust is established.

Leaders do this not for rewards or credit but because it is the right thing to do. It is their duty.

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you” – Anonymous
In the program there are no leaders, just persons appointed in to certain support functions needed to ensure the fellowship works. It is a egalitarian system that fosters trust and respect. All the same every person who shows up to help his fellow is a Leader in their own right.
Being given the opportunity to Lead is a privilege not an entitlement as I once imagined. Whether you hold that responsibility at home, at work or in the community remember we lead in order to serve others, not ourselves. By being sober and living in accordance with principles you lead by example. In doing so you help others strive to be better.

Be the Leader you are meant to be.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu