Hope

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” – Opening crawl 1981 Theatrical re-release of Star Wars

He who surrenders hope, surrenders life.”  – “Altar of Mortis, the Clone Wars”

 

March heralds the return of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Trees begin to put out new shoots. Flowers begin to emerge. The sun seems to rise from a place of exile. Snow starts to melt and the days grow steadily longer and warmer.

Since our Pagan ancestors the return of spring has been celebrated and is the most holy time in the cycle of the seasons. The sun has risen, reborn and is ascending to beat back the darkness of winter.

Spring was a celebration of renewed hope and rebirth. The vernal equinox heralded a new year in the ancient Roman calendar and still does in many cultures. Epitaphs of the Goddess of winter were burned to purge the darkness and welcome the return of the life giving Sun. People dedicated themselves to cleaning and purification, a tradition that persists to the day.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is a symbol of victory of life over death and eternal hope. It is no accident that the Early Christian Romans chose spring to celebrate Easter as a time of renewal. Ostara, the ancient festival is still celebrated as the renewed promise of spring.

 

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring” – Bernard Williams

 

The Eternal Cycle

Life is an endless cycle that never ends. Birth eventually leads to death which is followed again by birth. Trees sprout leaves which crown the tree. Eventually the leaves brown and fall to the ground. In time so does the tree and another grows in its place. In the same way we are born, grow from children to adult, age and eventually succumb and return to the Force.

Everything is a cycle. Our planet turns on its axis as does the Galaxy. Stars explode in to life and eventually burn out. The cosmos turns in an endless arc to whatever end. One day our Universe will end and another will emerge to replace it. So is the nature of creation.

 

One should count each day a separate life.” – Seneca

 

 

A Daily Reprieve

Recovery is like a perennial spring day. Every day is a reprieve from a nightmare. Each morning we rise to greet the new day. We put our lives in to the hands of a Higher Power and commit to another sober day.

In the day and throughout our lives we will experience hope and fear, gain and loss, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, fame and dishonor. We wake up every morning and renew ourselves.

By surrendering our problems to a Higher Power we are reborn. In the beginning it felt as if the clouds had finally parted and the sun shone through in all its splendor. My soul seemed to be bathed in a golden light. The gloom which hung over my life seemed to lift. I was filled with a sense of hope. I felt as if I could see the end of the day without a drink. Everything would be OK. Just for today and tomorrow would look after its self. Everything was going to be fine.

Every day we have the opportunity to start fresh. Yesterday is done and there is no recall on the things we said or did. Tomorrow is no guarantee. All we have is today, this now, a new day. Recovery happens in 24 hour increments then so does life if we choose to live in the Now. We can still hope for a better tomorrow if we live right by whatever Higher Power we put our faith in.

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams

 

 

A New Hope

From within the Star Wars mythology springs a tale of hope for the future against all odds. When it was originally released in the 1977 the movie was simply called “Star Wars”. George Lucas could not foresee the unbridled success of the film and had it renamed “Star Wars: A New Hope” for it’s re-release in 1981. The reason was marketing for the trilogy but the title was fitting.

“A New Hope” was chosen because the leading character, Luke Skywalker, was chosen for a greater destiny. Luke didn’t know what his purpose was and neither did audiences.

The hope for the future had been passed on to a new generation. A new star has risen and hope was renewed that the darkness which had befallen the Galaxy would be beaten back. When I saw it in 1977 as a 10 year old it also gave me hope.

In Star Wars, our heroes go through one trial after the other on their journeys. Eventually they reach redemption and where there was confusion, clarity, where there was despair, hope and where there was darkness, light. Anakin, Yoda, Kenobi, Luke and Leia all found the Force in the end. They found their perennial and eternal spring.

 

“Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive” – Pablo Neruda

 

 

A Promise of spring

Every new day is a promise. Each day is a check waiting to be honored. It is up to you how you spend it.

Every March is a reminder that light follows darkness and spring follows winter. The sun will always rise again renewing hope. All things are reborn and death is never final. Our Ancestors knew this inherently; they were part of nature and belonged to the Earth. We have lost conscious connection to the natural Force but it remains deep within us. Accept each day as a gift. Push your reset button and renew yourself. What better time to start than in the spring.

 

Look at this day,

For it is life,

The very life of life.

The realities and verities of existence, The bliss of growth, The splendour of action, The glory of Power.

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision,

But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore to this day.

Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

– Kalidasa

Jedi sense disturbance

32. Jedi can feel disturbances in the Force

If Jedi are mindful and are consciously connected to the Force, they can feel disturbances in the Force. Feeling Force disturbances usually happen after there has been some type of disaster, and/or a loss of life.

(33 Jedi Traits)
Did you ever get the feeling that something had happened to a friend or a loved one? For no reason they pop up in your mind and you just know. The nagging feeling in your gut that you should get an unusual lump checked out and it turns out to be the best thing you did for yourself and your family. These moments happen to most of us and we put them down to “gut feel”, “coincidence” or “luck”, when all we did is listen to that little voice we often ignore; the “sixth” sense.

 

Energy doesn’t lie. Keep sensing it, trusting it, letting it liberate you” – Judith Orloff

 

Remote Sensing

A few years ago I was sitting quietly and suddenly I was struck by an overpowering sense that my Father had died. I did not know why and there was no one I could call to find out but I just knew. A feeling or a sense had passed over me that was hard to shake. I was only able to confirm his passing some time afterwards as we had been estranged for many years. My Father had died a skid row drunk on the other side of the country around the time I sensed it. There is no explaining it in terms that make sense. Sensing loss or tragedy is something we feel deep within our consciousness.

Mothers have a deep physical, emotional and spiritual connection to their children. A young Mother will wake and instinctively know her child is in distress and rush to attend to her. How often have we heard stories of Mothers sensing their child close to them as he lies wounded or dying in a war zone thousands of miles away? The Mother feels the loss deep within her heart and soul.

 

The Web

People have a natural ability to sense when things are not right. We feel it in our gut. Sometimes we choose to ignore it, most of the time we cannot pin point the cause but it is undeniable and it is our deeper consciousness trying to tell us something. We are all connected to each other and to the world we live in, every event ripples across the web of life.

When a forest is cleared in the Amazon it has an impact on the world and we feel it. Call it sensing or a “disturbance in the Force”, it is nature’s way of letting us know that the web has been disturbed. Some of us are just more sensitive than others.

 

Angst

During the 90’s the word “angst” came in to popular use. Angst described an ill at ease generation that was deeply concerned about the world and the way society was headed. At the time my angst was conveniently smothered with lots of booze, dope and grunge. I just didn’t want to know. Today that unease is more poignant and tangible; many people would agree that the world feels like it is careening towards some catastrophe.

 

Swimming against the Tide

It is no illusion that the global environment is in trouble. The degradation is accelerating towards a point of no return. The global economy is controlled by a powerful and centralized elite that is geared towards siphoning the world’s wealth in to the hands of a tiny minority. Governments seem to be working against the interests of the people. Corporate influence and a military agenda drive Government policy. War seems to be a perpetual state.

Our food, water and medicines are becoming over priced, non-nutritious and toxic. Education is being hijacked by sociopolitical agendas and students are taught not to think or question the mainstream. The media fuels an atmosphere of distrust and division among the people. Society has become filled with hate, bigotry, intolerance and rage.

 

“”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 Kenobi

 

If you sometimes feel like you are swimming against the tide and don’t feel a part of the system you are not alone. If there is unease in your stomach and you prefer to avoid news reports, that’s normal. What you are feeling is not imagination or irrational anxiety but an acute awareness that the world seems to be going to hell in a basket. There is a disturbance in the Force and some of us can feel it, we are the lucky ones.

The vast majority of people in the world are obsessed with non-issues, the latest fashion trends and mindless consumerism. Society is sleep walking to the edge of a great chasm completely unaware of the peril.

 

Pay Attention

Being sober and being Jedi has taught me to pay close attention to my surroundings and to use all of my senses. The Path has also taught me to “have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can”. The reality is there is little we can do outside of our own power to change the world. We can still make small changes and do our own part to try to make a better world. Much of that choice is in the way we conduct ourselves and how we respond to emotions.

If society were to collapse tomorrow how would we react? Would we panic and abandon our principles? Do we continue to hope for the best but train ourselves for the worst? Can we face the future with resolve and dignity or will we revert to base savagery to survive? No matter what happens we still have a choice in how we respond to the emotion of Fear. We can choose to be Jedi.

Not God

“It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.” – C-3PO, “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”

In the Star Wars fiction, computers were fitted with a safe guard that prevented them realizing singularity and attaining a God Complex. Imagine C-3PO with a God complex. Scary. Now imagine an alcoholic with one. Its as bad.

As a drunk I did not believe so much in God as I acted as if I was one. I had to be able to control people, places and things and I didn’t get my way I would get resentful and angry.

The God Problem

Many of my friends and associates are Atheists and very few, if any, are religious. Spirituality is not something that is openly discussed. The God topic is something to be avoided.

I was also unsure of where I stood with the whole “God” thing for many years. As a child I had rejected the notion of an all powerful Deity as suggested by my religious teachers in Catholic school. Quick to detect hypocrisy I rebelled and refused to attend Church or any of its ceremonies.

Along the way I adopted a sort of agnosticism that grudgingly conceded I may be right or I may be wrong about it. I kept the “reserve” card handy in my back pocket just in case. Sort of like an emergency hip flask in case I needed a shot of “God” when things really got bad. Seems most people only turn to God when they have no other options available.

Alcohol becomes a surrogate to God for many alcoholics. For other people it might be money, sex, work, ambition, power, family or nationalism. The one overwhelming and dominant factor in your life can become “God like”. Religion in its self is not “God” unless you happen to be religious. In that case your chosen religion becomes central to your life and value system and “God” becomes central to that. For me Ego and Booze was “God” over the years. If there was a redeeming God it certainly felt it had abandoned me.

Rationalizing HP

When I found my recovery I found a “Higher Power”. I knew intuitively that it was there, in me and everywhere. The problem was I could not define it or even conceptualize it. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to visualize and rationalize my “Higher Power”. The word, “God” did not sound right. I mean after all, wasn’t “God” the deity which had made me feel like a worthless sinner in Father Duffy’s Bible study class. Confused, I entered in to a period that swayed between elated Faith to stinging doubt and back again.

My mistake was trying to rationalize something that cannot be rationalized. I am a scientist after all. My background is critical inquiry. I ask questions and I investigate and in order to arrive at a judgement about a thing I seek evidence and where there is no conclusive evidence I experiment. Failing that I simply turn to Philosophy and think it through. You can’t “think” or “quantify” the spiritual through.

Obviously what was required was a complete departure from all previous concepts. I chose to cast aside all ideas and notions I had about “God”. Whether they had sprung up during my early recovery or were religious relics of my childhood I decided to let them all go. I decided to “Let Go and Let God” and just let things happen as they would. At last I stopped trying to run the show and control everything. I started to attain Emotional Sobriety.

The important thing is that I was accepting a spiritual basis in to my life. I didn’t need to do anything more than accept that willingly and have Faith. This is the true meaning of surrender.

Dodging God

The easy thing for many is to dodge the “Higher Power” aspect of the Steps. Many in the Jedi community I have come to know over the last three years also choose to either ignore the concept of the Force or avoid discussion about it. They feel that the Philosophy has no room for a spiritual aspect let alone some “hokey religion” called Jediism.

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” – Han Solo ‘Episode 4: A New Hope”.

Open Mind

No matter what your view is, most can agree that an individual’s spirituality is a personal choice. Some people choose a religion and lead a pious life, others are far more secular. Working among scientists I find that many are atheists, some are “moderate” in views and others are militant emulating Richard Dawkins. I would suggest that having an “open mind” is the hall mark of a Scientist and a Jedi.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

If there is one lesson I have learned after the years in recovery it is I am not God. Yes I am a spiritual being having a human experience; I am an aspect of the Divine, a part of the whole. I believe that the Force is everywhere, it flows through this plane and the next and that I am part of it and shall reunite with it when I die. However I am not God.

Fear

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering“. – Yoda

Fear is a pervasive element in the Star Wars saga. The symbolism of the Death Star is a classic example of fear and terror manifested. Imagine such a weapon; the immense size of the Death Star foreboding alone would strike abject terror as it filled the sky with its ominous presence. The Death Star was also able to destroy entire planets with the simple flick of a switch. It was the Dark Lords ultimate weapon against his enemies and its true power was Fear.

As a child I grew up under the shadow of the Cold War. The threat of nuclear war a was a pervasive fear  that I remember as a young child. It seemed that the Soviets and the West were committed to destroying each other with scant regard for life. It may have been saber rattling and perhaps we came close to midnight a couple of times. I remember laying at wake at night barely 11 years of age imagining that missiles were arching through the night sky toward their intended targets. The thought was terrifying and with world events and the current trajectory we find ourselves in I wonder what my children imagine when they lay in bed at night.

The Black Dog

Being an alcoholic is to live in a perpetual state of extremes.  We are either in a state of buoyant optimism and hope or we are filled with anxiety and ridden with fear. Sometimes both in the same day. Our hearts will leap with a sense of renewed purpose and a sense that all is well and then slowly the cold wind and grey skies of fear and morbid reflection creep in. It’s no wonder that we drink to gain an even keel and try to feel half decent.

Neither of those extremes, false hope or undefined terror, were valid or accurate perceptions of reality when I was an alcoholic. They were simply the symptoms of a diseased mind and a depressed mental state that bordered on bipolarism. The other way to look at it was it was simply rampant imagination. I was simply a victim of the alcoholics ability to create a world in his or her own mind. A perception that is completely untrue if viewed objectively. I would swing between fear, sadness and elation and self medicate with booze to celebrate the euphoria or chase the “Black Dog” away. I would stall in depression for days. Thoughts of hopelessness and suicide would drift in and out like passing dark clouds.

Reclaim your Sunshine

With admission and acceptance of my disease and surrender I started to reclaim my sanity. I had been insane all of this time and now the fog was lifting. Reality had been distorted. Sobriety taught me that the fear of uncertainty is a normal human emotion when it is rational. Fear and dark imaginings can also be illusions. We needn’t let fear rule us and steal the sunshine from the day. When can face fear and watch it melt away like a phantom and realize it was all in our head.

We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

Today things are better. I still get sad, angry or down on occasion but these emotions I feel are appropriate and healthy. I don’t need to feel sad for feeling sad. I can also decide what is real and what is imagined. My disease still tries to play “Jedi Mind Tricks” on me but I’m one step ahead. The monsters have receded in to the background. I view the threat of a nuclear war or the sudden appearance of a Death Star in the morning sky in an objective and rational fashion. One I hope is still highly unlikely and the other is almost (but not entirely) impossible. I won’t be losing any sleep over worrying about either.

Mindful what you Wish for

There was an old proverb his grandfather had taught him when he’d been a boy: Take care what you wish for, Tenn- you might get it. Now he understood exactly what that meant. He had wanted to fire the big gun, and he had gotten to do just that. The only man in the galaxy who had shot it for real, at real targets, and look what it had brought him: misery beyond his ugliest dreams.” – Tenn Graneet “Death Star”.

Gunner Graneet

Tenn Graneet was not a Jedi but he was a career soldier who did his duty and rose through the ranks of the Imperial Navy as a Gunner. Graneet had a military career which included action in the Clone Wars. With the rise of the Empire and the outbreak of the Galactic rebellion Graneet was promoted to Chief Gunnery Officer on the newly commissioned Death Star. This was everything that the Graneet had ever dreamed of.

During testing of the Death Star Tenn Graneet was responsible for the deployment and firing of the super laser system and witnessed first hard its destructive capacity on Rebel battle cruisers. As the weapon was upgraded to be able to destroy moons and planets Graneet began to question whether the Empire could wield such power responsibly. Graneet found himself questioning the morality of his role. Called upon to destroy the planets Despayre and then Alderaan killing billions of sentients Graneet suffers a crisis of conscience regretting his actions yet unable to defy his Commanders for fear of certain execution if he disobeys orders.

During the battle of Yavin Graneet is ordered to destroy the planet from which a Rebel Force including Luke Skywalker has set out to destroy the Death Star. Realizing that the Rebels have unlocked the secret to destroying the Death Star, Graneet freezes unable to fire when the planet presents as a target, giving the Rebels an opportunity. With those few moments Luke is able to destroy the Death Star. Graneet is killed with tens of thousands of other Imperial troops but countless lives are saved.

What do you Wish For?

How often have you wished for something and regretted it later? Sometimes we pursue a goal or a dream and when it is realized we find ourselves disappointed and disillusioned. In some cases we wish we had chosen differently or never had the idea in the first place. The cost of free will is that with every choice, every decision comes with consequences. Our choices may not be as drastic as the example above but they do carry weight on our conscience.

Drinking always seemed like a good idea even when it was obviously not. I could still easily rationalize the consequences of some poor choices if I could not blame someone else or provide a lame excuse. At the end of the day, no one was forcing me to drink. I still had fun and where’s the harm? Then why did I always feel like somehow it wasn’t my fault? Why did I feel like I was the target of a bad joke? How did I wish all of this? I would not wish it on my worst enemy!

Over the years I have said “I want to” or “I’m going to” many times. I wished for a better life, a meaningful existence and a sense of purpose, just something better than this. The problem was how. I wanted an easy end like in the final scene of Trainspotting when Renton (Ewan McGregor) marches off into the sunrise with satchel of money over his shoulder declaring with a wide grin:

“The truth is that I’m a bad person. But, that’s gonna change – I’m going to change. This is the last of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and I’m moving on, going straight and choosing life”.

Of course that’s not exactly how it happened for me but I did start changing. How? Well, I started to wish, actually pray for stuff and it came, just not in the way I expected.

I started to pray for patience and the Universe gave me plenty of opportunities to practice without resorting to anger, obstinacy and frustration;

I prayed for courage and my Higher Power was with me when I started to make amends and face people with some difficult confessions;

I prayed for compassion and I learned to identify with the addict I used to look down on;

I prayed for humility and my Higher Power had me eating humble pie till I got to like it;

I prayed for understanding and in time my eyes were opened;

I prayed for a better life and I learned to be grateful for the life I have.

Learning the truth can be painful and hard as can change. I have also learned the truth in the saying “old dogs can learn new tricks”, in my case it took a bit of work. We learn to shed our old selves and cultivate something new. I have also learned to be mindful for what I wish for as the Universe has a twisted sense of humor. There is a good chance the Universe will oblige.