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
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.
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
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