Redundant

Use your time. You’ll find one day that you have too little of it.” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-wan Kenobi

Star Wars is not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.” – Joseph Campbell

 

When we set off on a journey eventually we come to a cross road. The path branches into two or several directions. Some of us choose the way forward quickly, some take their time. Others look back at the road they traveled and don’t choose at all. As we move through life we also find that doors will close behind us and others open. Some of us stare longingly at the doors that have closed and miss the infinite possibilities that life presents. It is the past that haunts us and the fear of redundancy that holds us back.

 

Individuation does not shut out one from the world, but gathers the world to itself” – Carl Jung

 

Redundant

Currently I find myself in a weird dilemma. I’m redundant but I’m still employed and getting paid. This means I get up, go to work and find very little to do. Any meaning or purpose in my job has dried up. The weird part is no one seems to mind. To keep me hanging around I even got a pay rise and a glowing performance appraisal. Naturally I feel a tension between the need for stability and an inner yearning for self-actualization.

 

I can sit back, take the free ride, get paid well, take leave and bonuses and keep my mouth shut. My basic needs are being exceeded. Wouldn’t most be happy with that? The alternative is to take a risk, get out of my comfort zone and find a job that provides purpose and meaning.

 

I was 10 years old when Star Wars first came out. By the time Lucas released “The Phantom Menace” 20 years ago I was 32 and married. Now my children are grown up and view my ailing passion with Star Wars with a mix of humor and sympathy. Despite my efforts they never embraced it past the third grade. The truth is I’m getting old and holding on to the past.

 

I’m fast becoming redundant both at work and at home. I have become a prisoner of my own design. Stuck in a job that is no longer meaningful and has an expiry date. Meeting obligations that will within a few short years no longer be required. By that time the years will have settled like the sand on Tatooine. I will be as old as “Old Ben”.

 

“Jung’s concept is that the aim of one’s life, psychologically speaking, should be not to suppress or repress, but to come to know one’s other side, and so both to enjoy and to control the whole range of one’s capacities; i.e., in the full sense, to “know oneself.”” – Joseph Campbell

 

Kenobi

I can relate to Obi-Wan Kenobi. If Star Wars was a depiction of true events I wonder how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt exiled and alone on Tatooine for years. Were there pangs of loneliness and regret as he stared toward the two suns dipping below the horizon at sunset?

 

Did Kenobi feel a sense of fear and anxiety in his advancing years and mortality? Was there a sense of unfulfilled purpose as he waited the years out for a prophecy to eventuate? Did he ruminate over past mistakes, missed opportunities and losses or ponder over how things could have been done differently? I wonder how he found meaning in that long limbo of his life. Did Obi-wan Kenobi feel redundant even as he stayed to protect Luke?

 

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” – Carl Jung

 

Doors

Alexander Graham Bell said that “as one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Every ending heralds a new beginning. As one opportunity closes another presents itself. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi believed his true purpose whatever it was meant to be would some day present itself. Obi-Wan could find meaning in the years of isolation, loneliness and danger of exile.

 

 

“Individuation’ is Jung’s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions that, even while bound to the cross of this limiting earth, one might open one’s eyes at the centre, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge”. – Joseph Campbell

 

The Monomyth

Carl Jung said that to know who we truly are we need to be complete. We must integrate all aspects of our being in order for the true self (the totality of the psyche) to emerge. The process is called individuation. Since completeness is impossible to achieve in a life time the best way to arrive at meaning is to allow ourselves to grow through life experience. One must be fully engaged in life’s journey including the struggle and suffering that comes with it. We create our own Monomyth. Each human contains within the a subconscious map of the “Heroes’ Journey”.  This “collective unconscious” is expressed in myths, including Star Wars.  They exist to help us realize our true self.

 

The ego prefers comfort and safety and resists integration. The ego will throw barriers and obstacles in our way to prevent or slow the journey. We sabotage ourselves and spend a life time looking at a closed door that we miss the doors that open for us. We stand at the cross roads immobile, rooted to the past.

 

Individuation is to divest the self of false wrappings” – Carl Jung

 

Layers

Wisdom is a product of time and experience. As wisdom accumulates we become conscious of the role of the archetypes in our lives. The archetypes are symbols that manifest themselves through the long process of individuation. In other words, we never stop evolving in to the person we are meant to be. Change is a constant and we grow in to it as the layers of our persona peel back to reveal our authentic self. The best years of our life lie ahead beyond the horizon.

 

The only choice we have is to choose and to move. In doing so we evolve.

 

I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.” – Carl Jung

 

Archetypes

Obi-Wan Kenobi evolved through the archetypes in his own “Heroes Journey” in the same way that Luke Skywalker did. Along the way Kenobi experienced joy and suffering, gain and loss, pride and shame, fame and infamy, success and failure. Exile on Tatooine completed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years the redundant Jedi Master outgrew the person he had been and was transformed spiritually in to something transcendent. All aspect of his conscious and subconscious were united through the experience of a lifetime of struggle and suffering.

 

The Apprentice who became Jedi and then Master and finally a Hermit was all and none of these archetypes when he met Luke, he was something far more. All Kenobi had left to do was step in to the open door and meet his destiny.

 

So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers.” – Carl Jung

 

Paths

Paths may end at crossroad forcing us to take another direction. Doors may close requiring us to choose other doors that open. I walk the high road sober. I can walk through open doors a free man. No need to lie in the coffin of my comfort zone. Meaning can be found in a new career or I can find ample opportunity in my “weird dilemma” to apply imagination and innovation. A parent is not one dimensional but can be mentor, guide, teacher, protector, support and friend to their children in adulthood. Kenobi dedicated decades of his life to protect the child Luke while remaining hidden in obscurity. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi I can find meaning in my own exile. Like he, I can view the storm from above even though I stand within it. Life, even a redundant existence, can still mean something.

 

 

Further Reading:

 

Luke Skywalker’s Individuation” by Steve Gronert Ellerhoff. Jung Journal Culture and Psyche, Vol 9, 2015 – Issue 3.

 

The Myth is with us: Star Wars, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Journey of the Mythic Hero” by Jacqueline Botha (M. Phil Thesis in ancient cultures at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Available:

 

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation” by Bud Harris ( A good introduction on the process of Individuation)

Changed

You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting” – Shmi Skywalker, The Phantom Menace.

 

Do people truly change? I was once told a leopard never changes its spots. Do we then remain essentially the same person our entire lives only modifying our behaviors and ideas? Is permanent and complete transformation even possible? Despite walking the Jedi Path and being sober, have I changed?

I used to think a certain way. My actions conformed to my thoughts. Today I think a different way and my actions still conform to my thoughts. What changed?

I used to be a practicing alcoholic now I’m just an alcoholic. I removed the booze and opened myself up to change. . I’m still the same man but I have changed. People can change.

 

Who we are never changes, who we think we are does.” – The Clone Wars “Bounty”

 

Saul of Tarsus said “we are changed by the renewing of our minds”. You also hear people say “people don’t change”. Which actually means people can but won’t change. Mohammed Ali said “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” This is true.  Fear, complacency and rigidity are the things that prevent change and stifle growth.

Change can be hard. For some it’s almost an impossible proposition. We all want to change for the better but find the effort too great. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with what we know and stay in our comfort zone. For an alcoholic seeking a way out, change is the only proposition. We are compelled to reflect, learn, modify, adapt and change.

 

None of the stories people tell about me can change who I really am.” – Luke Skywalker

 

Has the last six years of sobriety taught me much? Am I better person? Are things really different now? Have I really changed? Can I be pleased with that progress? Has the effort paid off?

I’m sober now. Seven years ago I wasn’t. Does this make me a better person? I’m not really sure. Perhaps in certain ways I am a better man. In other ways perhaps I have replaced one obsession for another, one fault for another. Sometimes we are blind to our own faults especially when we believe our lives are virtuous.

At times I catch myself falling into old habits and patterns of thought. I still feel resentment, anger and fear. They are echoes of the past. Shades of the person I once was are still there in the background. I look in the mirror and see the same eyes I’ve always seen. My hands bear the same scars. They are the same hands that have carried a rifle, held a new born baby, treated wounds, loved and grasped at a bottle. Only now my hands are steady and my eyes do not betray the fear that once gripped at my soul.

So perhaps I am the same person today but different. I’m just someone trying to stay sober. Thinking about change and doing life in your head does not lead to change, changed thinking and behavior does.

 

Obi-Wan. Now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long, long time. A long time” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Obi-wan Kenobi is the eternal archetype in the Star Wars mythology. Kenobi is compelling because while he changes over the years from a young Padawan to an aged Jedi Master he remains essentially the same character. Despite a lifetime of war, tragedy, loss, defeat, exile and isolation Kenobi remains the same man. Kenobi had a dry sense of humor and a sarcastic wit yet he was also humble and sensitive. At times audacious, headstrong and defiant Kenobi was the calm in the storm and rarely lost his cool or moral compass. While Anakin could show outbursts of emotion and impulsiveness, Kenobi was patient, objective and cautious in his approach. The Jedi Master developed tact and a measured countenance seeking diplomacy before the Lightsaber as the preferred solution.

Kenobi could be described as Stoic but not stoic. He was bold and cunning yet conservative and reliable. Wiley yet honest. The affection he felt for others was real yet it did not blind him to his duty. Duty also did not excuse him from doing what he knew was right. Kenobi was sworn to the Jedi Order but did not blindly and rigidly follow orders. Remaining true to self, Kenobi never compromised on his principles but was prepared to bend the rules when necessary.

When we first met Obi-wan Kenobi in a “New Hope” he was the mysterious Hermit living in the harsh and hostile wilderness of Tatooine. The “crazy old Ben” was seen as an eccentric loner, a wizard who avoided others. This old man survived on his own and seemed to be tolerated and feared by the “Sand People” who lived in the desert preying off travelers and settlers. Obi-wan Kenobi was older but remained the same Jedi with the same character we met in the prequels. Still there was something different; Kenobi was a deeply changed man. Kenobi was scarred by the past but he was also at peace with the past and his destiny. A life of pain, loss and suffering had bought him to final acceptance and a place of peace and serenity.

 

 

Disobedience is a demand for change.” – The Clone Wars “Tipping Points”

 

Change is constant. When I arise tomorrow I will not be the same person as the man who went to bed the night before. A man never steps in to the same river twice. Leopards do change though their spots remain the same. So change is inevitable and we only guide that change to an extent. The world also changes us. Life changes you. Your thinking changes you.

The neural pathways in your brain are constantly reorganizing themselves in response to change. A “renewing of the mind” can lead to a healthy life, spiritually, physically and mentally. How you go about changing your thinking and thus your inner world is up to you. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, meditation, mindfulness based therapies and counselling are all different paths. They won’t change your outer world but they will change how you think. As your inner world changes so gradually will your circumstances change.

 

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Real change happens inwardly. We literally renew ourselves by the changing of our minds. We are made to change and adapt and continuously learn. How we perceive the world and frame our reality is everything. That perception will change with time. The way we saw things then are not how we see them tomorrow.

Change is inevitable. You can submissively go with the flow or you can swim against it screaming and be dragged. The third option is to direct how you change despite the changes around you. Have the courage to change what you can, the serenity to accept what you cannot and the wisdom to know the difference. You steer your own path. You become the change you want to see in the world. This starts by caring for yourself.

 

Further Reading: Change