Courage

Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” –Yoda

The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart “cor”. Courage was one of the cardinal virtues of the Stoics. A Roman was measured by not only his courage in the face of combat but also in his response to everyday adversity. A Stoic approached suffering with equanimity and acceptance. The courage shown in the face of uncertainty, pain and death were the only things that truly mattered.

The Jedi also had courage. The rigours of Jedi training, the trial of courage required it in abundance. Without courage a Jedi could not hope to survive the many ordeals that would confront her in a lifetime.

“Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – Moral

Face Fear

I lacked the courage to accept my alcoholism and the damage it had bought to my life and the life of others. Alcoholism made a coward out of me. It removed any willingness and heart to face mistakes and own up to them. I lacked the honesty and courage to accept accountability for my actions. It forced me to avoid or run from my responsibilities. Through the three steps I came to admit my problems, accept responsibility and believe that a Higher Power could restore my sanity and give me all the courage and strength I needed to recover.

Life is suffering. Every day is to face a degree of uncertainty in life. With experience we come to understand that plans and expectations rarely match outcomes. What we hope will transpire is often dashed by reality. We have all heard of “Murphy’s Law”. Expect the unexpected and always at the worst possible time. Life is fraught with unknowns, adversity, trials and challenges not to mention disappointments, failures and tragedies.

It is in the act of getting out of bed and facing the world that we demonstrate a measure of courage. With every heart break and loss that we endure, each disappointment that we accept and all the challenges that we face and overcome we show courage.

He certainly has courage.” – Princess Leia

Finding Courage

Courage cannot exist without fear. It is perfectly normal to feel fear. Some people are terrified of public speaking. Others find the challenge of leaving the house with trepidation. Many of us will feel fear for reasons we cannot articulate or do not understand. For example, the world is in a state of turmoil. The media bombards us with a constant stream of bad news and despair. Humanity seems to be in a state of chronic fear. The fear is not a tangible thing. It does not exist outside of our mind.

Fear is a normal human response; it is necessary to our survival. Courage is not the absence of fear but being able to act despite those fears. Courage is the person terrified of public speaking who stands in front of a crowd and delivers their speech. It is the person who walks out of their home to face a hostile world. Courage is choosing to face yours fears despite every fibre in your being that screams at you to turn back. Courage is the very essence of being human because without it, humanity could not have survived in a world that was constantly trying to kill it. Fear and courage are brothers.

Ironically Fear has much to do with my recovery as does Faith. Courage does not mean the absence of Fear but the willingness to place faith in our ability to rise above it. I fear a return to alcoholism and suffering but know that faith and courage provides the safe harbour from the storm that rages around me.

“This battle is inevitable. You can stand by your beliefs but let us stand by ours.” – Anakin Skywalker

Courageous

Star Wars is a saga of trials, tragedy, loss, hope, struggle, and redemption. The virtue that pervades the story is courage. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are idolised as morally virtuous characters because they repeatedly showed courage in the face of fear and evil . Han Solo despite his faults and shortcomings showed amazing courage and was willing to sacrifice his own safety for the ones he cared for. Each of these characters had their own fears and doubts but they overcame them and did what was needed despite every reason to seek safety and refuge.

What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station is not my idea of courage. It’s more like, suicide.” – Han Solo

The “Heroes Journey” is an act of courage. Courage is what differentiates the mere traveller to the hero on the journey of life. One simply follows the path and arriving at challenges and obstacles chooses to turn back, stay put or go around because of fear. The traveller is not necessarily a coward, he simply lacks courage and will stick to what is familiar, safe, and expedient. The Hero on the other hand overcomes his fear by confronting the challenge head on at the expense of what is safe, secure, and expedient. Through that act the Hero is elevated from one level to another.

“The Force may not have a Light or Dark Side, but we do… and we must choose.” – Luke Skywalker

Rising Above

To show courage:

  • Choose to act, despite the fear. Answer the call to adventure whatever it might be.
  • Follow your heart despite the risks and the naysayers who tell you to abandon your dreams.
  • Persevere in the face of adversity, keeping your eye on the prize. Keep going and never give up.
  • Stand up for what is right to you. Speak up!
  • Face the unknown. Embrace the suck. Eschew comfort and familiarity. Welcome adversity as an opportunity.
  • Face suffering with acceptance and equanimity. Say “This too shall pass”. Mean it whatever your concept of Faith.

Through the catharsis of suffering the Hero has gained where the traveler has not.  By falling, failing, and then persevering through one challenge after another the Hero lives the virtue of courage. It is through these efforts that the Hero achieves her goals and returns home transformed.

Over the next seven days explore your fears and how you can use courage to overcome them. Remember that reality is divided into the things that we can control versus those that we have partial or no control over. In life you have very little control over the things that are external to you. You do control how you perceive those things which harm you. This is an invitation for you to ask your fears to come out and play.

You know why you are here and why you are here. Your mountain is there in front of you waiting to be conquered. Only fear holds you back. The challenge is on you. Only you can muster the courage to go out and get what you want. Have courage and send your fears packing.

Independence Day

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness. Be a candle, or the night.” – Yoda, Dark Rendezvous

“We shall not go in to the night” – William Shakespeare “Henry V”

Every person shines their own light. The goodness within them, the eternal love that exists resides within like a flame. That inner flame is life, truth and redemption with who we truly are.

At times the light burns brightly and at other times it flickers. Some times the flame is buffeted by the winds of life but still it burns. It may be reduced to the tiniest of flames in our darkest times but it still burns waiting to be kindled with new Faith and Hope.

Recovery is also that flame. It is fed by the daily acts that we do to ensure our sobriety, our thoughts and our words. Evert choice we make either feeds or stifles that flame. As it burns brightly with our spiritual condition the shadow of addiction retreats. Our path forward is guided by that Light. We can share it with others.

To give up all hope and to lose all faith is to surrender to the darkness, to accept the final fall and to go in to the night.

Never give in to the Dark Side.

Who can forget Bill Pullman as the President in the movie “Independence Day”?

The Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night!”

This was probably the most memorable moment in the movie. Against all odds the President rallies the nation and the world to fight. At that moment the story turns to hope and resolve. The flame burns bright and refuses to go out.

So it is with recovery. Keep the flame alive, hold the light and share it. Celebrate this Fourth of July. For unity and for recovery.

Happy Independence Day

 

Accountability

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” – Moral (Clone Wars: Storm Over Ryloth)

 

To err is to human to forgive is divine. But are you accountable for your mistakes? Do you inspire people or do you let your ego lay blame elsewhere?

 

The Human Condition

Today there is an accountability crisis. People avoid being held accountable for their actions. When they do or say something wrong, they avoid taking ownership. Blame is allocated elsewhere. Fault can always be assigned. The status of “victim” or a person’s identity can be used to excuse the behaviour or justify it.

 

We live in a world where the consequence for bad behaviour and poor performance are routinely avoided, argued away, and dismissed.

 

This should not be the way. When a mistake is made, we should owe up to it and commit to doing better. If at fault, we should accept it and the consequences that it carries. We should learn from our mistake and use it to avoid a repeat. You can own your feeling and mistakes.

 

In the end, cowards are those who follow the dark side.” – Yoda

 

You are not a Mistake

No one is perfect. At times everyone thinks, says, and acts in ways that they are ashamed of or regret. By being accountable we learn to accept that we are only human and have the right to make mistakes and learn from them. We learn that we made mistakes, we are not a mistake.

 

By making mistakes we build a value system from an early age. We earn our place in the family unit, social group, community, and society by being accountable. Being accountable is to be a social creature made to work with others, a human being.

 

You are responsible, Ahsoka. These men are depending on you, and this time, so am I” – Anakin

 

Making Amends

Alcoholics have an accountability problem. Everyone knows this. It came with the territory. The last person an alcoholic will blame for the mess they have created is themselves. The act of choosing to drink is a failure of accountability because we know where the drink leads. Money that was needed for food is spent on booze, time better spent elsewhere is lost in a bar. We disappoint and hurt family, close friends, associates, employers and partners.

 

Through alcoholism we leave a trail of broken hearts and dreams behind us. We fail to acknowledge the harm we have caused to others and to ourselves. Facing reality we seek someone else to blame, a scapegoat but deep inside we know we are the cause of our problems.

 

Recovery is futile without taking action to make amends for the harm we have caused others. Without accepting accountability for our faults and mistakes we leave a dark shadow on our soul and eventually we return to drink.

 

If you make decisions out of fear you are more likely to be wrong” – Ahsoka Tano

 

Owning it

So why is it so hard for so many people today to face mistakes, own feelings, admit wrong, apologise to others, and make amends? It all boils down to ego and personal values. The Jedi and Sith provide a analogy:

 

A Jedi is fundamentally different from a Sith in that she will always be accountable for her conduct. This is because a Jedi is self-reliant, self-assured, and grounded enough to know that shirking accountability and blaming others betrays their inner system of values. Most of all it hurts others as well as themselves.

 

A Jedi is gracious enough to quickly admit a mistake, seek to make amends and resolve not to do it again. A strong sense of self and self-discipline will help turn out thoughts of denial, blame, resentment, and self-pity.

 

A Sith by comparison is a narcissist who is unable to show and feel empathy. They display a grandiose disregard for others and care only for themselves. A Sith is never at fault, other people are the problem, not they. Mistakes are never made unless they are caused by others. Blame is always deflected. Where a Sith perceives a wrong done, he will seek restitution or revenge.

 

Being narcissistic, a Sith personality will fly into rage and will bully, threaten, and accuse others of wrong. The Sith relish in the failings of others and use it to prop their egos up.

 

The Sith, like narcissists everywhere are weak and fragile self-loathing people who hide their true selves by projecting their faults on to others. They instil fear, anxiety, and self-doubt in other people so that they can maintain a level of control. The chaos and insecurity they create is debilitating to those around them.

 

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

 

Own it or be Owned

There is a Jedi in all of us and there is also a little bit of the Sith. The next time you find yourself on shaky ground after an emotional outburst or a mistake will you own it, or will you be like a Sith and refuse to take the blame?

 

Will you work on being accountable and set an example to others and make amends?

 

Will you inspire fear or greatness? Do you let your ego or humility step forward?

 

That is your choice.

 

Harmony

There is no Chaos; there is Harmony” – Jedi Code

The underlying message of the mantra “There is no Chaos; there is Harmony” is perception. At times everything around us seems in utter chaos. Thoughts and emotions can run amok and cause us to act in ways that we later regret. The way you respond to things out of your control remains within the power of your control.

 

We can control our lives by controlling our perceptions.” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

For a recovering alcoholic, the progression of the disease is like being caught in a whirlwind. It is nothing less than pure chaos, a type of hell or nightmare in which we have no control. The only way out ironically is to accept, admit and surrender, there lies the keys to freedom.

 

Whatever has been said about Darth Vader it can never be said that he was an agent of Chaos. Darth Vader was to the extreme a controller, he wanted to rule the universe and control the Force. In the end he was little more than a slave to Darth Sidious who was chaos himself.

 

Sheev Palpatine was a megalomaniac, a narcissist with a colossal ego who thrived on chaos, deception and manipulation to control others. Not that different to a functioning alcoholic, Palpatine was drunk on the power of the Dark Side. Control was maintained by perpetuating disharmony through fear.

 

Chaos, like Palpatine, was my master and I know her well. She was a cruel mistress but she promised me joy, power, confidence and popularity. She made me feel like a king and allowed me to feel alive and free. Once I was hooked she made me a slave and I could not live without her. She made me lie, steal, cheat, fight and disgrace myself over and over again. She challenged me to leave and then would punish me severely when I returned. I rode on this merry-go round from hell for over 20 years and tried many times to get off but could not until she took me to a very dark place and that’s where I found my way out. The grace of a a higher power.

 

You can choose Chaos or Harmony. That is in your control.

 

“Your perspective is always limited by how much you know. Expand your knowledge and you will transform your mind.” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

We know that the world can seem chaotic yet viewed from a distance the planet appears in order, calm and peaceful, in harmony. Even if your world seems to be falling apart there is more working in the world than not. The water, electricity and telecommunications systems are still running. There is still food on supermarket shelves. Harmony resides behind the chaos.

 

Whether in full glory or behind a mask of clouds, the sun will rise in the morning. Harmony cannot exist without chaos no more than day can exist without night. The sun never really rises, and it never sets, that is only a perception. Yet we do not feel the world turning beneath our feet.

 

Our beliefs control our bodies, our minds, and thus our lives…” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

When we center ourselves and look at a situation outside of the lens of our own reactivity it often looks very different. To paraphrase Epictetus, “it is not the thing that harms us but our perception of it”. Chaos exists within you but so does harmony.

 

By grounding yourself you can sort through the chaos and find inner harmony. The world may fall apart but that does not mean that it should also cause your mind to do the same. You have a choice how to perceive a thing and how to respond to it.

 

Buddha stated that in fact there is nothing. Nothing we perceive is as it appears. Everything is an illusion. Yoda tried to explain this to Luke Skywalker and demonstrated that power when he lifted the X-Wing out of the swamp on Dagobah with his mind.

 

What quantum physics teaches us is that everything we thought was physical is not physical.” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

Quantum physics demonstrates how little we understand matter and energy. All matter is in fact packets of energy and essentially comprised of nothing. This sub-particle concept is incredibly mind-boggling but illuminating. Consider that an electron can exist in two different points in the Universe, at the same time. It can be here and there at the same time. Chaos and harmony are in balance at the cosmic and at the particle level.

 

Our goal is to live in harmony with others, the environment and ourselves. By achieving harmony with the inner and outer environment we come to be in harmony with our higher self.

 

Our very cells respond to our thoughts. A mind that resides in chaos and disharmony affects the body at the physiological and DNA level. The community, nature and health of the individual are affected. When we are in a balanced a state of harmony allows for the body, community and nature to heal itself and function.

 

human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity,” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

Giving up false beliefs, becoming honest and pouring passion and tenacity into recovery is what brings contended sobriety to the suffering alcoholic. The formula works wherever disharmony exists.

 

The world is in the current mess because humanity is in disharmony with itself and with nature. Our species has forgotten that we are a part of nature and not separated from it. We share a common fate because all is ultimately connected. Once we find that connection with nature and live in harmony with it, the balance can be restored and the world can recover.

 

When Yoda said “we are luminous beings, not this crude matter” I believe that George Lucas was alluding to this convergence between science and the spiritual. The interconnectedness of all things defines the Force. Harmony cannot exist without chaos. The Force binds everything together and pervades everything like the Tao. Where chaos and harmony meet and balance, we find Infinite Love. Is Life, the cosmos, not both after all? It is a perfect union of chaos and harmony.

 

“Nature is based on harmony. So it says if we want to survive and become more like nature, then we actually have to understand that it’s cooperation versus competition.” – Bruce H. Lipton

 

To ground yourself be mindful of your thoughts and emotions by regularly checking in on them. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now”. Observe, impartially, the emotions that stir within you. Explore them with a curious mind without becoming attached to them as if observing them from a distance.

 

Observe your thoughts in the same way; ask “What am I thinking right now?” Dissect your thoughts without judgement resisting the urge to attach to them. You only need to decide if they are reasoned and serve you. Let go what doesn’t.

 

Anytime you feel yourself disconnected stop for a moment. Just breathe focusing on the air entering and leaving your lungs. Close your eyes if you wish. Open them and look around. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Open your senses to the world. Seek out nature whenever you can. The natural world will centre you and restore harmony. Be at peace, calm, passive in the world.

 

Watch the full episode with Dr. Bruce Lipton for FREE: https://londonreal.tv/dr-bruce-lipton…

 

Routine

So you want to be a Jedi” – Yoda

Do. Or do not. There is not try” – Yoda

 

So you want to be a Jedi?

Life is hard and so is being Jedi. The Jedi Code, doing daily practices, applying principles and proactively working on self-improvement all take effort. Change was never meant to be easy. It can be damn hard. Sometimes it can take everything you have.

 

But he still has much to learn. And his abilities have made him…well… arrogant. I realise now what you and Master Yoda knew from the beginning… the boy was to old to start the training” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

The Jedi had a training program which included years of Temple Study in Lore, Ethics, History and Diplomacy as well as intense physical and martial arts training. There were long hours of meditation and Lightsaber practice. The Jedi student was assigned to a Jedi Knight who acted as mentor and teacher. The apprenticeship lasted until the Padawan was ready to be a Jedi.

There were dangerous trials the Jedi student had to pass. Rigorous training then continued between missions. The Jedi rose in rank as they demonstrated mastery and skill. A Jedi also knew that despite years of dedicated training they had not learned everything there was to know.

 

I’m ready for the trials. I know I am! He knows it too. He believes I’m too unpredictable…Other Jedi my age have gone through the trials and made it..I know I started my training late… but he won’t let me move on.” – Anakin

 

Master self first..

Sometime we get ahead of ourselves and claim full knowledge and mastery before we are ready. We don’t know everything, and we never will. There is always more to learn, even the wisest and most experienced Jedi Master never stops learning. To claim “complete mastery” over any subject and announce that there is nothing more to learn is fool hardy at best, dangerous at worst.

So how do we approach our training? A good first step is to create and maintain a routine which will ensure that you stay on path in your journey to competency and after many decades, perhaps mastery.

 

Form Habits

This journal can serve as one small act done daily forming a routine and a habit. As a Jedi we should be doing our daily practices daily. This means every day, without fail, no excuses (unless you are too ill to move). We exercise, meditate, apply mindfulness in our interactions with the world, practice diplomacy and demonstrate self-discipline every day. Unless you incorporate the practices into some sort of routine you will fall well short of the mark.

Former US Navy SEAL Jocko Willinck has a daily routine that most people would find insane if not impossible. It  starts at 04:30 usually with a run and an intense workout. Willinck posts a photo of his watch to Instagram when he gets out of bed then sometime later there will be a photo of gym equipment or a sweat puddle on the floor.

“Real life Jedi” like Jocko Willink and David Goggins have realised that the secret to success and achieving goals is creating a routine and sticking to it no matter what. This take commitment, sacrifice and self discipline.  Hard work and an unbeatable mindset is built on a solid routine.

 

Routines

My daily routine is nothing like Jocko Willicks, its a simple one, but it does take effort. The benefits cannot be understated. Very often what we most need is a routine and a set of goals to work towards. The best way to set goals is to break them down. With simple and achievable targets that challenge you, you will progress. Over time you ratchet up the effort a little. Always start slow but be consistent and work to improve.

My daily routine comprises of practices I have adopted from the Jedi Path and the Stoics and adapted to my needs. Feel free to come up with your own program and stick to it for a while, then modify if required to suit your lifestyle, limitations and needs.

 

Morning

On rising, practice a short period of gratitude. Remind yourself of one or two or more things you are grateful for as you come into this day. Record them in the journal. This will put you on a good grounding. Avoid jumping straight on to your social media account to check missed posts and likes. Start with a fresh mind.

Welcome the day. A new day means new opportunity. Be thankful for it. Every morning try to greet the sunrise in its splendour. Otherwise take a quiet moment and imagine the sun coming up over the horizon. Take a moment to contemplate the grand scale of the cosmos and infinite time. Try to remember that this day is unique and will never be repeated. You only get one shot at it. You can take this time to meditate for 15-30 minutes if you prefer to meditate in the morning.

Spend a moment in contemplation. You can journal your thoughts on any topic or on the Jedi quote provided for the day. Grab a mental theme for the day. It can be anything taken from a quote, a line from a book or your own inspiration. Set in your mind or on paper three things you aim to achieve today and work towards it.

Consider the things that may go wrong. Remind yourself that through the day you will encounter people who are rude and obstinate, that your plans may get derailed. Tell yourself you will face obstacles and difficulties and how you react will reflect on you. Resolve not to let the things you cannot control affect you in negative ways.

 

During the Day

You will apply diplomacy and mindfulness throughout the day frequently checking in your inner world by simply asking yourself “How am I feeling right now? What am I thinking about?”.

Take time out from your responsibilities to simply focus on the breath. Go for a walk and notice things around you, the sky, trees, birds and people. Take the time to really notice the taste of your food and drink rather than scoffing it down mindlessly. Spend some time surrounded by nature each day, even its it’s only the local park. Enjoy a moment of solitude and silence if you can find it.

Do one act of kindness, a service, every day for someone. It can be anything, random or predetermined; an offer of assistance or help to someone struggling with a load, giving up your seat on the bus to someone who needs it more, a simple courtesy such as opening the door. A smile or kind word or an act of charity.

Deny yourself something nice or practice some form of denial to remind myself not to get too attached to comforts and ease. I practice periodic intermittent fasting on occasion. In addition to reminding myself that food is a precious resource not to be taken for granted I find that occasional fasting makes me feel better (Check with your Doctor before intermittent fasting). I may decide to leave my jacket at home on a cold day. Run the occasional cold shower! Sleep on the floor occasionally if you are adventurous.

Take a moment to undertake negative visualisation. Consider a realistic scenario that might occur which could ultimately change your life or at least make it unpleasant. This could include ill health, unemployment, poverty, ridicule or hate from others, betrayal by friends or colleagues. This should be done without attaching emotion. Imagine you are watching it play out in a movie. See yourself dealing with the situation and overcoming it; visualise yourself practising acceptance and equanimity.

Do at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical training (this can also be in the morning or evening). The type of physical training you do will vary and depend on your own preference and limitations. You may practice martial arts, play sports, hit the gym or CrossFit Box, swim, surf or run. Remember to have rest days to avoid over training (Stretch / Yoga on off days). However, do some form of physical activity every day even if it is only a short walk or some light stretching.

 

Evening

Spend at least 20 minutes in meditation (this can also be during the day or in the morning). Review the day, what went right, what went wrong and consider how you can improve. Journal your thoughts. Take some quiet time to relax and enjoy your free time any way you like. Thank the Force for another day.

 

I want to be a Jedi, like my Father” – Luke Skywalker

 

Do you still want to be a Jedi?

Self Discipline is the key to a healthy and productive routine that achieves outcomes. The only person who is accountable to it is you. No one is going to force you to do this. There is no Jedi Knight pushing you to excel yourself. Yoda is not admonishing you to “Do. Or do not. There is no try“. You will have to be the one who does that.

When Jocko Willink would enter a debrief room to give orders for a mission his Team Members would hum the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. They knew the more satisfied Jocko looked  the tougher the mission was going to be. You wouldn’t want someone like Jocko Willink getting you out of bed to run 10 miles every at 04:30 every morning before a gruelling workout in the grinder would you? You know its going to hurt real bad. The next less painful way is for you to do it yourself.

 

 

Not every one can be as hard core as Willink or become a Jedi. You can still aim high but forget about achieving perfect practice. Perfection is an ideal. In the real world we can only do our best. There will be days you will skip the routine, days when you are too tired or don’t feel like it. These are the days that will best demonstrate where your commitment is and how far you have come on the journey. Every moment you have a choice. Keep Yoda on your back and the mantra “Do. Or do not. There is no try” in your head, it’ll help. I guarantee it.

 

Further Reading

A day in the life of a retired Navy SEAL commander, MMA coach, podcaster, author , success coach and entrepreneur Jocko Willink:

Jocko Daily Schedule

Jocko Workout Philosophy

 

Resolve

Credit: Lucas Films Ltd

 

I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker ( A New Hope)

 

In a tragic scene which has become one of the most iconic in cinematic history Luke discovers his Uncle and Aunt murdered by the Empire, their bodies outside the ruins of their homestead. Grief quickly turns to fear and hate and in that dark place he finds his resolve and answers the call to adventure.

 

In order to change we must have resolve. We cannot rely solely on others and must be active in our own transformation. Others can act as guides, mentor or coaches but you are the author of your own change. You are the protagonist in your own “Hero’s Journey”.

 

Once you have decided to do something it is important to clarify in your mind why you are doing it. We are often tempted to pursue a new goal and set off before we are prepared or even willing. New year’s resolutions are an example. We give ourselves an ultimatum to change and improve our lives but fail to commit. We lack resolve. As a result we stumble aimlessly forward without a well-defined plan or even any objective. We then falter and abandon the prize we had set ourselves. A goal should always be articulated in a way that it defines the “why” and “what” you are trying to achieve before racing off to achieve it.

 

A study conducted through Scranton University and reported in the Journal of Substance Abuse found that only 19 percent of individuals follow through with New Year’s Resolutions. The main reason is resolutions fail is because they lack the resolve, the commitment and the “why”.  The main reasons alcoholics and other addicts fail to recover is because they fail to admit they have a problem in the first place. Change is the desire but desire alone is not usually going to get you far. Resolve and commitment will.

 

The transtheoretical model of behaviour change states here are six stages people go through on their journey to recovery. This is equally applied to any change in pattern or behaviour that requires concerted effort and commitment.

 

  1. Precontemplation: Denial of a problem contrary to the opinion of others and apparent evidence.
  2. Contemplation: Admission of a problem. Exploration of the costs and benefits of change.
  3. Preparation: You become mentally prepared to change through acceptance.  Surrendering to the process.
  4. Action: Doing the Work. Demonstrating the change you wish to see  even if you have to “fake it till you make it”.
  5. Maintenance: Taking steps every day to ensure that the change becomes embedded over time.

 

Relapse is the sixth stage. Almost everyone who has attempted a change has slipped in to old habits or suffered a setback.  True failure is quitting while there is still the chance to continue on the journey. On the path to being Jedi you will meet many obstacles and challenges. The temptation to fall off the path and quit will sometimes be greater than the effort required to pick yourself up and stay the course. Relapse should not be seen as a failure unless it is terminal.

 

If you had zero problems in your life and everything was perfect there would have no reason to change anything and no point in being here. Likewise if you are not ready to admit you have a problem or are not fully prepared and committed to change then the change you seek will not happen. No magical date will change that. Whether you start on January 1 or any other day makes no difference if you do not have the resolve to start with.

 

So why are you here? Why Jedi Philosophy? What are you seeking to change or improve about yourself? Do you really want to change or does the idea appeal to you more than the work? If you can arrive at answers to these questions then you admit you have a problem and are willing to change. You resolve to improve. Preparation and action usually follows.  For some people this may be self-evident, for others it may be harder to define or articulate. Often it’s easier to keep it simple.

 

Write down one thing you would change about yourself this very moment. Then ask yourself “Why” five times writing down the answer that comes to mind under each line. Dig deep to get to the “Why” to uncover hidden emotions and motivations and become more self-aware. I had a deep seated habit of catastrophic thinking. This affected my relationships and I needed to address it. In the end I had to confront that the way I reacted to adversity was essentially based on fear of punishment or loss that stemmed from a traumatic childhood.

 

What do I want to change?

I want to stop over reacting

Why?

Because it makes me anxious and upset.

Why?

Because I think the worst possible outcome.

Why?

Because I have no control.

Why?

Because I let the fear and anger dictate my reactions.

 

What upset me was not the problems I faced but how I perceived them. I can choose to allow every single bump on the road trip me up or I can accept that things will not always go as I plan. I can decide not to let it affect me that way. The reason I needed to change was because my behaviour was affecting my relationships. I wanted to achieve a higher degree of peace and serenity responding to life in a mindful way rather than reacting to it. By conceptualising it that way I became more invested in addressing that fault and more willing to change.

 

Without having resolve, change is unlikely to be enduring or meaningful, “half measures avail us nothing”. You need to care passionately about the goal and be single-minded about it giving it the focus it deserves. Accept the odds and don’t let people dictate them to you. Have a plan in mind and a destination but do not cling to either as plans change and goals may be unattainable. You need to accept that change is not easy and must be prepared to endure the obstacles, challenges and setbacks that will get in your way.

 

In order to start on the Hero’s Journey, you need to accept your call to adventure. You need to leave the “Ordinary World” behind. To do that you need a reason to be here. You need to answer with full conviction the “Why”. You need to have Jedi Resolve and be prepared to change despite the part of you that fears change and resists. This is your “call to adventure”. Do you answer that call as Luke did?

No Guru

I am neither a scientist nor a philosopher. I’m a Jedi. I don’t have to explain reality. I just have to deal with it.” – Mace Windu

 

People sometimes ask “why Jedi” and I sometimes see people in the Jedi community online debate strongly the qualities and virtues of a “Jedi of quality”. Likewise in the recovery community we often disagree on what constitutes contented sobriety and perfect recovery. Alcoholics in the 12 Step community cannot even agree on whether one can call themselves “recovered” or not. We are left wondering if we are good enough and whether we can arrive at the standard others expect. There are no Gurus here,  your inner voice is the true guide on this path.

 

The point of recovery  is not to reach a state of perfection or even reach some arbitrary standard set by others. Being sober is often enough. Being Jedi is no guarantee of achieving the rank of a Master. Demonstrating the virtues of courage, wisdom, moderation and justice and maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul is often enough.

 

The goal of anything is to improve incrementally over time and hopefully make some difference along the way. There are no Gurus in the recovery program and no true “Jedi Masters” exist in the real world. There are only people doing the best they can for themselves and those close to them. We all want to live a good and meaningful life. We all want to make some positive difference in the world. True heroes are normal, everyday people getting on with life and overcoming obstacles along the way. They are not fictional characters achieving impossible and daring feats.

 

Buddhism has its Bodhisattvas, those who approach enlightenment through dedicated practice but never achieve it in a life time. The Bodhisattvas cultivate good karma for the benefit of all living things on their life journey. Enlightenment, the achievement of “nothingness” may take countless lives to achieve. In the Vedic tradition Gurus also accumulate wisdom and knowledge in the divine. A life time of practice and application may lead to a state of spiritual bliss but enlightenment occurs once in a hundred generations.

 

In the west, Christianity has its rare saints who have achieved oneness with the holy spirit through a life time of dedication, self-sacrifice and piety. Islam and Judaism also have a spiritual ideal that equates to enlightenment.  the Socratic philosophies speak of the Sage who has lived a life unblemished by the concerns and distractions of mere mortals. The Stoic Sage perfected the virtues of courage, justice, moderation and reason in every aspect of life. The state of perfection was known to be unattainable however this did not prevent the Stoic from living those virtues to the highest standards possible. The end result was the attainment of a “good life” through compassion and service to others.

 

Failing to achieve  enlightenment in a lifetime does not make one a bad Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim or Jew. If a person works hard to make life more fulfilling for themselves and others in a meaningful way, regardless of their religion or school of philosophy, they are a being a good human. They are living a good and meaningful life. The saints, prophets, prophets, gurus and sages provide a sign post and a platonic ideal we can all aspire to.

 

Mythology also inspires. Stories describe the human experience as one in which the Hero will pursue some holy pursuit in order to transcend himself and benefit the world in some way.   The Star Wars mythology is no different. All of the main characters are involved in a journey of self-discovery and self realisation. Their actions somehow lead to a better state for themselves and others. The consequence of those actions ripple out across the galaxy. On rare occasions our Jedi hero achieves enlightenment and transcends to the Force. Their journeys inspire us through the medium of fantasy.

 

The goal of the fictional Jedi is to become one with the living Force. In doing so the Jedi arrives at the perfect states of serenity, peace, harmony, knowledge and unity with the Force. In the real world we can only hope to work towards this platonic ideal. The reward is in the work we do to progress down the path. Helping others, becoming better versions of ourselves and in some way making the world a better place, not enlightenment, are the desired outcomes. The goal of the 12 Steps is to stay sober and live a measure of contended sobriety, to grow spiritually and help others on their journey. The common theme is to improve, grow and serve not to become a Guru to others.

 

Philosophy is not about accumulating fancy quotes and devouring literature to satisfy our thirst for knowledge. The point of philosophy is to learn what is useful and apply the knowledge, skills and tools required to improve our lives and the lives of others. We are not here to be “philosophers or scientists”, but to deal with reality and be better versions of ourselves every day. That’s what being Jedi is.

 

Every day is a new chance to rise up and step forward, one foot at a time on this life journey. Eventually we will come to the end of the road and look back on a life that is spent. The question is will you look back at a life lived well? If you do you will have realised your purpose and come to know yourself. That’s more than most people can lay claim to.

 

As we come to the end of another year, ask yourself “Why am I on this journey?”, “Where do I want to go?”, “How can I be the best version of myself?” and “What do I need to do to achieve my goals?”. When you can answer those questions, get to Work.

Ashes

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-wan sensing the destruction of Alderaan “A New Hope”

“No one’s ever really gone” – Luke Skywalker “
The Rise of Skywalker”

In the more than half century I have been on this planet I have always noticed change in the world around me. In 1977 Star Wars was released and climate scientists claimed the world was entering another ice age. This year the ninth and final episode of Star Wars is being released and the world is warming. Everywhere I look I see change and one thing replacing another. Ashes and memories remain.

Star Wars is one of those things that has changed and evolved over the years. The teaser for the last installment of the last trilogy of Star Wars has been released. “The Rise of Skywalker” is the final act in a mythology that has been loved for more than forty years. The teaser is a welcome distraction from the chaos that seems to be pervasive in the world at present. I also feel sad because Disney has stated that it has decided to enter a hiatus with Star Wars. Many herald the “Rise of Skywalker” as the end to the saga. Many fans will now have to struggle with further change and loosen their attachments. Even Star Wars has to end someday.

“It matters which side we choose. Even if there will never be more light than darkness” – Qui-Gon Jinn


Burning Temples

While I write this the fires at the Notre Dame Cathedral are smoldering. I spent much time in Paris and admired the cathedral more for its longevity than its religious symbolism. I can’t help but take notice and feel emotion of loss and regret. Why? Distraction, impermanence and attachments all lead to suffering. Lately we have seen a lot of suffering in the world. Why should I feel nostalgia for something that will soon be rebuilt and perhaps in better condition than before? It’s just a building of stone and wood after all.

Many Jews lament the loss of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and that memory runs at the heart of the long running Israeli-Arab conflict . The destruction of the Temple of Artemis by the Greek arsonist Herostatus for notoriety is also still remembered and gave rise to the term “Herostratic fame”. Many of the worlds greatest shrines are built over the ruins and ashes of destroyed places of worship, including Notre Dame.

In Star Wars Jedi Temples across the Galaxy were destroyed by the Empire. The Great Temple on Coruscant, built on the ruins of a Sith Temple, fell and became the seat of power to the Emperor Palpatine. The Temple that Luke Skywalker built was destroyed in revenge by his own Nephew. As I contemplated the Notre Dame engulfed in flames I wondered how the Jedi who survived Order 66 felt about the loss their Temple on Coruscant after thousands of years. Did they care? The Jedi who survived put their emotions aside and continued to resist the Empire.

I remembered how I reacted to the Planet Alderaan being destroyed in the original Star Wars release in 1977. The theater reacted in horror and awe. Princess Leia, possibly the greatest Force sensitive ever, reacted to the destruction of her home in true Jedi fashion.

So why should concern myself with the loss of an old stone building? Change and impermanence is nature.

 

Old for New

Is a vintage car that has been continuously restored for decades with new panels and engine parts the same car as the one which was originally built? Will the rebuilt Notre Dame be the same as the one which was constructed 850 years ago? Much of the structure of the building has been replaced over the centuries during renovations and to think it is the same and original structure would be incorrect. Notre Dame has been on fire before.

The Spartans kept a Tireme, a battle vessel which had fought in the Persian Wars, for centuries to remind them of the glorious victory. Over time the Tireme was completely replaced and not a fiber of its wood remained from the original vessel. Has the Tireme then not been completely replaced? Is it nothing more than a physical memory, a mere replica of the original? When it was finally destroyed did they lament an object that no had longer existed in the first place?

 

Boiling Frogs

People are attached to objects and to the “way things are”. Because change can happen so gradually we often fail to notice until we sit down and contemplate it (see Negative Visualization). When something happens that is confronting and transformative we are shaken and reminded of impermanence. It hurts badly. The death of a loved one, the mortality of our own flesh, sudden illness, the loss of a treasured possession and the sweeping change of events that shape human society are constant reminders of impermanence and our own human fragility.

The fable of the boiling Frog reminds us that we can tolerate and accept change in our environment gradually but not suddenly. This can be detrimental as it leaves us blind to reality.

The premise goes that if you place a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately try to jump out because the shock is too sudden and survival instincts kick in. If the frog is placed in a pot of tepid water and allowed to slowly boil it will remain in place until eventually it dies.

The premise is false, at least for Frogs that is. Humans fall for it all the time. Amphibians are more receptive to changes in their environment than humans. Biologists use frogs as “canaries in a coal mine” as an indicator of ecological damage from climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Frogs will move or die when conditions become adverse. Humans tend to react when things become unbearable. Rather than adjust to warning signs we miss or ignore them and slowly boil in our own ignorance.


“I’ve seen what I become… and I cannot let that happen.”
– Anakin Skywalker on seeing a vision of his role in the destruction of Alderaan

Gone Forever

In the time it takes me to write this sentence 38 acres (15 hectares) of rain forest were removed permanently somewhere in the world, never to regrow in human time scales. Did anyone notice? Because deforestation is progressive like a slow spreading cancer we barely notice until the “frog in the rain forest” vanishes. The “canary” is in trouble but the world has its eyes elsewhere. 21 children under five died of starvation and preventable illness in the time it took me to write this paragraph. No one noticed that either. Unlike frogs in a slowly boiling pot of water we are sleep walking to our collective destiny.

Yet we lament and donate a billion dollars to a Cathedral owned by one of the richest institutions in the world. Palpatine would be cackling in delight. Jesus would be appalled.

 


Wake Up

I know something of the “boiling frog” principle. My career as an alcoholic was time spent in a pot of slowly boiling water. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, changes creep in to our persona as our character slowly morphs. All the clear warnings are ignored. Eventually a slippery slope evolves and we are carried away. For many the spiraling free fall is terminal. For the rest of us there is the chance of recovery and redemption. Having been through the wringer and spat out finally humbled, we are wiser for it.

The Boiling Frog is a metaphor warning people to never be complacent and to be mindful of the consequence immediate and long-term of gradual change. This includes our own decisions and behaviors. We can’t allow sudden and catastrophic events to spur us in to action alone. These events can be a late sign or distracting from the real problems. We must be constantly vigilante to gradual change and question it.

 

Think again

Distraction is a modern day problem. Humans are becoming less attentive and aware despite the greatest accessibility and wealth of information available in history. We are becoming more reactive. As a result civilization is literally the frog in the slowly boiling pot of information. We tend not to see the forest for the trees and we feed from media misinformation like pigs at a trough rarely questioning what we are being fed. The digital noise is incredible and distraction has become a postmodern drug, to our collective detriment. Information is in abundance yet wisdom is scare.

Distraction is dangerous for an Alcoholic. It leads to unruly emotions and bad decisions. In recovery we are taught the “think think think” mantra as a way to pause and center our attention when we become distracted by thoughts or things that trigger us. We think our way out of a drink by being aware of what we are doing, about to do or have done. We have become wiser as a result.


Distracting Injuries

I kneel next to the patient and start a rapid initial assessment. “Hello can you hear me?”, “Can you tell me what happened”. “My arm… it hurts” comes the pained reply in short breaths. This means the airway is open and the patient is breathing. Eyes open means level of consciousness acceptable for now. Move on to a rapid trauma assessment. There’s a tear in a sleeve and a bone is protruding from it. The radial bone has fractured clean and there’s not much blood. The injury is not pretty and draws my attention. The patient groans. I begin to create a padded bandage to place around the bone before immobilizing with a splint and tell the EMT to get an IV set up so I can manage the pain. The watching on instructor stops me.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m doing my trauma assessment and treating as I go”

“Are you sure that’s the most serious problem he’s got?” she points her chin that the arm.

I look at the patient, again and think hard, his breathing is shallow, lips are blue, he’s pale and he is not really with it anymore.

I take a quick blood pressure and pulse, the instructor tells me its “80/40” and “140 but feeble”

Bloody hell he’s in shock! I need to move! my mind races.

I bare his chest and there is a large smudge of moulage that would indicate the massive bruise from a sudden and catastrophic impact of a chest with a steering column during a head on collision.

I auscultate his chest with my stethoscope.

“Breath sound absent on the left side. You see a unilateral rise in the chest and tracheal deviation” the Instructor says

“Patient has a tension pneumothorax and is going in to shock, probably internal injuries” I say feebly feeling sick.

“And….?” she is getting impatient, prodding me.

“Treat the tension pneumothorax with needle decompression, manage shock, priority 1, treat on route to Hospital” I respond.

“Crack on” she smirks and moves to the next Paramedic student working on his patient in this motor vehicle accident scenario.

My patient winks at me and grins “Gotcha!”.

Damn! I think to myself. Rookie mistake, distracting injuries!


Accept, Adapt, Act

One of the strengths of a Jedi is that she is adaptive to change and never rests on her laurels. The Jedi must be ready to modify her behavior with changing circumstances and be ready to adapt quickly as the situation remains in flux. Distractions are recognized and filtered out. Small tell-tale signs are considered, nothing is ignored. Her life may depend on it.

A Jedi holds no attachments and quickly accepts loss even when it is painful and final. Without reservation the Jedi accepts the impermanence of all things. All that is belongs to the Force anyway and returns to it. Everything that is will one day cease to exist in physical form. Nothingness is the only true reality.

Princess Leia quickly accepted the loss of her home Planet, Alderaan, when it was destroyed by the Death Star. The loss of her friends, family and the home she loved were felt but it did not break her resolve to resist Vader. As tragic as it was for Leia she did not let it compromise the Rebel mission to destroy the Death Star and save countless other lives in the Galaxy. Luke also felt the loss of Obi-wan Kenobi and expressed his remorse openly but accepted it. Ironically Obi-wan was still with him and had not died. The Force is constant and does not change.

 

 

“Nothing is lost where the Force dwells, and the Force is everywhere.” – Obi-wan Kenobi


Ashes in the Mouth

When the Notre Dame was burning I was shocked and saddened at seeing the images on the screen unfold. Then I put it in to perspective. No lives were lost, the event was likely an unfortunate accident. Paris has endured far worse. It’s a building and can be rebuilt. Do we allow the impermanence of things to upturn our lives when they are taken from us suddenly? Do we allow ourselves to be distracted by small scale events that we would normally ignore if they weren’t beamed to us live via the internet while remaining oblivious to the creeping destruction of our planet, injustices and starving children?

It suddenly struck me that the loss of the Notre Dame was not the problem. The real problem is that people (myself included) have trouble accepting change. We are afraid of the sudden demise of things that are familiar, safe, secure and solid because our lives are fragile in comparison. Humans are insecure. If great monuments and institutions can fall what chance do we have? We start to sense chaos, the darkness crowds in and with it our anxieties and most base fears emerge.

The Buddhist Monk Ajahn Chah one day held up a tea cup “To me this cup is already broken. Because I know its fate, I can enjoy it fully here and now. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.” The lesson here is to enjoy what life offers but to accept it without excessive remorse when it is gone. Uncertainty, randomness, impermanence and loss is a part of life and we must accept that if we are to have serenity.

All temples eventually crumble to dust. Do we grasp at our attachment to things that only carry the meaning that we give them? A church does not contain God. The Force is everywhere and most of all it resides within us all. Let nothing distract us from that.

Remember; accept the impermanence of things, loosen your attachments and avoid being distracted from what’s really important.

 

Λόγος

Λόγος: Logos (reason / meaning)

 

“I want to be a Jedi, like my Father” – Luke Skywalker to Obi-wan Kenobi “A New Hope”

 

“Being a Jedi is a hard life” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Anakin Skywalker “The Phantom Menace”

 

Is being Jedi an occupation, a job, an avocation, a lifestyle or a discipline? Can someone really call themselves a Jedi or claim the title of Master? Is being sober a lifestyle choice, a path, an avocation? Is it an actual job for some? Do we seek meaning in the things that we do or do the things that we do give our lives meaning? Do we give our lives meaning or the other way round? Are we nothing more the total sum of our existence at any given moment? Are you merely your job, possessions, responsibilities, car, where you live, your clothes and the image you put on for others or something more?

When Luke saw the bodies of his Uncle and Aunt and the smoking ruins of his home on Tatooine he knew that everything had changed. There was only one thing to do. Luke’s destiny was to become a Jedi and his actions from that moment would resound across the Galaxy. Being a Jedi was his calling, his purpose and the meaning he gave his life. Luke embraced his destiny. Being a Jedi was more than a Job it was the very essence of Luke, his purpose and calling.

Anakin was rescued from slavery. Anakin was a mere boy when he met Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi. Because Anakin was special he was taken from his home and mother to become a type of Galactic “Janissary” and serve the Jedi Order for life.

From the day he was born Anakin knew Fear, now he would learn to be a Jedi. Being Jedi was not what Anakin really wanted. A conflict between his heart’s desire and his duty raged relentlessly within Anakin. The imbalance tore him apart. Anakin was meant to be the “chosen one” but how could he? That’s what others wanted, not him. Anakin could not save himself let alone those he cared for. Eventually Anakin turned against the very people that bought him out of slavery and he destroyed everything in his path.

Luke found meaning as a Jedi. Anakin failed as a Jedi because he found no meaning in it other than the mission at hand. Anakin was never meant to be a Jedi.

 

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

Fight Club

Recently I read “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk it remains the defining novel of my Generation. A “Catcher in the Rye” of Gen X. The story got me thinking about things. In many ways “Fight Club” is also a meditation for those in recovery from alcoholism. We lived in an illusion that was self imposed. We knew that that our lives were a shambolic prison. Like the Narrator we sought “something different”.

In the Fight Club the narrator is attempting to escape the hollow materialistic and hedonistic world he is bound to as a mindless consumer and wage slave. The Narrator is completely unsatisfied with his life and finds no meaning it any part of it. In his insomnia induced psychosis the Narrator creates an alter ego, Tyler Durden, the man he wishes to be. Tyler Durden is contemptuous of society and wants to destroy it and create a nihilistic utopia from its ashes. The consequences of letting Tyler in to his life are devastating for the Narrator.

The “Fight Club” is a call to our inner primordial self, a place where one can be completely unfettered. My alcoholic self was my alter ego, a personal Tyler Durden who eventually took over every aspect of my life. Like the Narrator I became hateful and I wanted to fight everyone and everything. In some ways it was a bliss, a refuge from the mediocrity and meaningless of living in the modern world. Complete abandon. In my aggression I thought I was enlightened. Booze set me free but like Tyler’s persona in the story it was nothing but a delusion, an escape from reality. I was riddled with angst.

Tyler forced the Narrator to end himself but in doing so he ended Tyler. The Narrator emerged a new person, a transcendent version of himself. He awoke to reality at last. My Alcoholic self tried to destroy me and I found my Higher Power and also emerged stronger for it. I also awoke to reality, not a utopia full of rainbows and unicorns but a cold hard slap in your face reality. It was pure relief.

 

Today is the sort of day where the sun only comes up to humiliate you.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

A Living

I work for a living. Since I left school I have worked first to provide for myself and then to support others. In many ways my purpose in life has always been to work. In the absence of alcohol my career took precedence. Work became a surrogate for booze in sobriety. Often my career came at the expense of things that matter more. Now I realize I am not made to work. I do not live to work, I work to live.

We put so much emotional investment in to defining and shaping our identity. One of the first things people ask is “what do you do (for a living)? Your answer will usually set the impression that people will have of you. Their profession defines who they are and your work defines you if not something else you spend a lot of time doing.

Meaning and status are vital for the human need of social acceptance. People need to know where they reside within the social hierarchy and what their purpose within it is. A profession, career, work provides all of these things. Those who are happy in their work and find meaning and purpose in their position are more likely to have positive emotions. Those who are dissatisfied with their position, their work and their status are more likely to carry negative emotions. Those that find themselves in an existence that conflicts with their inner purpose are conflicted within themselves.

 

“This is your life and it’s ending one moment at a time.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Lobsters

Having status within the hierarchy is a human need rooted in a biological imperative that is hundreds of millions of years old. We have evolved to seek to climb the hierarchy and when we arrive at our potential we guard it against threats and defend our position from attack. This same behaviour is noted in every social animal from Humans to Wolves to Lobsters. Jordan Peterson in his seminal work “12 Rules for Life” talks a lot about Lobsters and describes this human need for self actualization in detail and how much of our emotional health and well being is tied to our social standing and our work.

The Human need for existential meaning goes beyond the need for a place within the social hierarchy or as Peterson call it the “Dominance Hierarchy”. We are more than Lobsters. Humans most of all yearn for meaning and seek purpose in their lives.

Even in the midst of calamity and tragedy a meaning to one’s suffering can be derived. This fundamental truth of human nature kept the Vienna Psychologist Viktor Frankl alive during his darkest years of captivity in the Nazi concentration camps. Because he deeply believed that he could define meaning from his suffering.

Commander James Stockdale spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison suffering torture and the worst of deprivations but yet came out of it morally and spiritually intact. Despite the years lost, Stockdale claimed that the experience was life transforming. They found meaning through their experience and survived against the odds.

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”  ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

Finding Meaning

Viktor Frankl relates in his book “Man’s search for Meaning” the story of a leading Viennese Doctor who arrested by the Gestapo began to proclaim his many credentials and qualifications. Showing the Nazi Officer his papers the Doctor emphasized his point that he was a man of great esteem and standing in the community. The German Officer took up all the papers and tore them up stating “Here this is all you are now! You are nothing!”.

The Doctor striped of his suit, his identity, dignity and privileged position in society died soon after in Auschwitz. The Doctor lost the will to live as he could find no meaning and purpose in life. In the Hanoi Hilton the communists did the same to their American prisoners and those who abandoned hope and lost meaning in the experience and purpose to their lives soon succumbed.

Those who shared the same experience but accepted it as an opportunity to find a deeper meaning and purpose survived and even thrived. They may have been beaten, tortured, starved and constantly humiliated but they kept possession of their mind and inner self. The Jailers could break their bodies but not their spirits. The prisoners had something that their tormentors could not take away; their will to meaning.

 

“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”
– Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Logos

Frankl went on to publish his treatise on “Logotherapy” a therapy based on the “will to meaning”. The fundamental truth that people seek meaning in their lives to survive and grow. Self actualization through meaning is the leading motivator in a person’s life. Inner conflict and negative emotions are assured when an individual fails to find a sense of meaning in their life or when it is frustrated. It can also result when a person is forced in a direction that conflicts with his inner purpose, like Anakin.

Logotherapy was the result of Frankl’s experience in the camps and came together from scraps of paper that he kept hidden within his prison uniform. Commander Stockdale finished his career in the US Navy and contested the US presidential elections. The experience of his internment never stopped him from achieving his goals and made him a better person.

 

“The lower you fall, the higher you’ll fly.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

 

 

Trudging On

I work for a living. I have a career. One day I will stop working but life will not stop. Hopefully I will be able to retire to books and gardening. Perhaps there will be Grandchildren. In time the memory of my working years and the importance I placed on my position, education and career will fade. They call this retirement.

Tomorrow I could also get a call from my employer telling me that I have been made redundant. Like anyone else I could find myself on the street without position, status, money or a home. I could remain unemployed for months or even years and fall in to destitution. Would this loss of security and upending of my plans for a long career diminish me as a person? Am I my job, position, the model of car I drive, the clothes I wear and the house I call home? Do these things have any more meaning than what I give them?

 

“I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.”Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”

Down but never Out

Although I’m ashamed of many things that I did as an Alcoholic in active abuse I have to concede that I’m glad I went through that and came out sober. Those years taught me a lot about my self. I had to fall to Earth to fly higher than before.

My career has provided a certain degree of financial security and pride in my abilities but it is my recovery that has and still gives my life real meaning. If I lose everything I can still choose to be sober. I can still find purpose and meaning in a Higher Power. Although they are all important, I am not my position, my status, education, property, relationships and I am certainly not my job.

 

“Look up at the stars and you’re gone.”Chuck Palahniuk,“Fight Club”

Be You

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I work for a living and I don’t work to live. I have to remind myself to loosen any attachments I have to my job, position, status, property or relationships. Any of these things could end at any time. A bad day could trip me up and find me back to drinking.

Being Jedi has meaning. Frankl said that the meaning of life is to find meaning and purpose in it even on the darkest of days. We have to start by taking responsibility for ourselves and for others. Jordan Peterson was also right in suggesting we should always stand up straight with our shoulders back. Tyler Durden ultimately had it wrong. The Jedi Order was definitely wrong about Anakin.

I have to be like Frankl or Stockdale and accept that the winds of fate may not blow in my favor but they will blow me somewhere. I should know they will and be prepared for that. That is the nature of Logos. I may call myself many things in this life, I will be many things but I am and always will be a recovered Alcoholic in training. That’s where I find meaning and purpose every day.

 

I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”