Appearances

“Size matters not.  Look at me.  Judge me by my size, do you?” Yoda

Who am I?

Image is important. People spend a lot of time trying to define who they are to the rest of the world. People seek identity through the clothes and symbols that they wear and the appearance that they keep. Like-minded individuals are drawn to each other and reaffirm their identity through the validation of others. Individuals will carefully choose and calibrate their appearances, their possessions and who they associate with to reflect their own sense of identity. Hair styles, body image, jewelry , tattoos are chosen to clearly state what is important to the person and how they want to be perceived. However are we really all of these things? Do external appearances really define who we are?

 

Trust not too much to appearances” – Virgil

 

The Ideal

Imagine two stereotypes. Firstly imagine a Jedi. What do you imagine a Jedi to look like? A Jedi might appear in your mind as Obi-wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker. They wore Jedi robes or a black tunic of the type that Luke wore in “Return of the Jedi”. At the belt or in hand is a Light saber. Ignited the Light saber glows blue or brilliant white. The Jedi appears in excellent physical condition and radiates quiet confidence and purpose. Because of the Star Wars fiction we have come to expect Jedi to appear in a certain form and act in a certain way. When they don’t our perceptions are challenged and we either reject that image or explore and then accept the new “ideal” of what a Jedi should look like on the big screen.

 

You don’t have to look tough to be tough”. – Ahsoka Tano

 

Ahsoka Tano had a hard time convincing many of her abilities and worth when she first appeared in the Clone Wars ready for battle. She did not fit the Jedi stereotype with her small stature and young appearance. Neither did the enigmatic Jedi Master Quinlan Vos with his irreverence and laid back disregard for dress code and protocol.

 

Well, Quinlan Vos has that effect” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

It is not the uniform or the Light saber that makes the Jedi. These are symbols that belong in the fictional realm. What makes the Jedi is being, not appearance. Being Jedi comes from within. Intent, commitment, discipline and action are words that define a Jedi in the Real World.

 

Terminally Unique

What does an alcoholic look like? Some people would describe a skid-row drunk character taken out of a photo from the Great Depression. A lean body with a gaunt face. Thread bare clothes and old worn out shoes. Hand clutching a bottle in a brown paper bag.

A man down on his luck and living on the street. Another stereotype might be the high functioning type with an office job. Deep lines mark his face. There is worn out look in his eyes and a two day growth. A perceptible tremor in his hands. It might also be the harried housewife dropping her kids off at school barely able to control her nerves. Her make-up hurriedly applied is unbecoming and her voice is raw from drinking. It could just as well be The Teacher that welcomes the Mothers child into the classroom or the Doctor she visits to talk about the pain in her side. Each is terminally unique. Each is also the same at a deeper level.

 

Appearances are often deceiving” – Aesop

 

Deception

I certainly never fit the stereotype of an alcoholic but that didn’t change the truth. Typical of many alcoholics I hid it from others and functioned well enough in day to day life. I made an effort with my appearance. Appearances are deceptive. On the inside I was torn and laid waste. The house of cards was crumbling. It’s no wonder people were surprised when I later admitted my addiction to them. Habits and character traits like obstinacy, dishonesty, belligerency, arrogance, impatience, intolerance and stubbornness did not come across as alcoholic behavior. People look for external signs like a disheveled appearance, alcoholic breath, shaking hands and inexplicable absences or accidents before they draw conclusions.

 

Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.” – Bonnie Raitt

 

 

Recovered

What does recovery look like? It is different for everyone. I can meet a dozen other alcoholics in recovery and note that they look like people I might encounter anywhere. There are men and women, young and old with all body types. Some may identify as gay, straight or neither. Religious and political beliefs vary. Some wear casual clothes, others are more formal while some appear alternative. There are professionals, semi-professionals and the unqualified. Wealthy and poor. All races. There is no stereotype of what a person in recovery looks like. There is something common between us however, something that’s tangible and real. The feeling of a shared experience of survival from despair and addiction.

When I imagine a person in recovery I see someone who is calm, at ease with themselves, humble in their demeanor, attentive to others, honest and forthcoming and less self-centered but also self caring. I see someone who is in some way “spiritual”.  This might fit as a stereotype. Regardless, it is not how many days, weeks, months or years a person goes without a drink but the choices they make every minute and hour of the day which defines recovery. It is not in external appearances but one’s own internal world which defines contented sobriety.

 

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Buddha

 

Life as You

You are not the clothes you wear, your hair style or the symbols that you carry. These things may be important to who you are but they do not define who you are. Politics, religious beliefs and philosophies can guide our lives but they are also not who we are. Status, career, profession, qualifications are all labels we value as a society but they do not mark a person as either a good or bad person. You are not your body, hair, image, possessions or ego. All of these things are transitory.  Our own choices and the common flame that burns within us is what makes us who we are.

 

You are not your body and hairstyle, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” – Epictetus

Right View

First comes the day Then comes the night. After the darkness Shines through the light. The difference, they say, Is only made right by the resolving of gray through refined Jedi sight” – Journal of the Whills, 7:477

 

Noble Truths

In the practice of Buddhism it is vital that a person come to know and accept the fundamental truths of life. Without the knowledge of these truths and the attainment of wisdom a person will surely continue to live in an existence of delusion and grasping attachment of things impermanent leading to suffering.

Buddhism teaches the four noble truths. Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by our own delusions and liberation from suffering can only come about by releasing our attachment to delusions. The final truth is that the path to freedom from suffering lies in the Eight-fold path. Right View is wisdom and understanding of the four noble truths. Right View is the point of depart on the long path to enlightenment.

 

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” –  Yoda

 

According to Buddhism the root cause of all suffering (Dukkha) are the mental, emotional and behavioral states that lead to greed, ignorance and hatred. Right View is the wisdom to resolve this imbalance. Wisdom leads to freedom from suffering and the attainment of nirvana through the Eight-fold Noble Path.

 

Teaching View

The fictional Jedi follow a similar journey as the Eight-fold path in their lifelong training. The point of depart is the Jedi Code and knowledge of self and the Force. Without an understanding of this wisdom there is no becoming a Jedi. One cannot apply what one does not understand. In the original trilogy Luke Skywalker grapples with his understanding of the Force under the tutelage of Obi-wan Kenobi and then Yoda. The Jedi Masters tried to instruct Luke in “Right View”.

 

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda “The Empire Strikes Back”.

 

In “The Last Jedi” Luke Skywalker in turn tries to explain the Force to Rey. Rey misconceives of the Force although it is strong in her. She believes that the Force is merely some sort of tool used to “control people and make things float”. Luke senses this and is reluctant to teach her the ways of the Jedi as Rey lacks wisdom and he willingness.

 

Learning the Force

The Force can barely be described in words but it can be sensed and felt. Luke tries to show the Force to Rey by teaching her to let go of preconceived notions and to simply allow her self to fully sense the Force through the natural energy of the Island refuge.  The Force is the energy that resides and flows through and between all things and all life. But it is more than that.

Knowledge of the Force as it is rather than what one would judge it to be is crucial in the training of the Jedi. Without real experience and mentoring, Right View is difficult to attain. Skywalker was taught by Yoda but failed to properly instruct Rey on Ahch-To. Rey must rely solely on her self to fulfil her destiny without the guidance of a teacher.  What Rey lacks in Right View she makes up for with an indomitable spirit. It may not be enough however.

 

The Real World

Real world Jedi have divergent view of what the Force is as much as the Fandom has on Rey. Unlike Buddhism we do not have the Four Noble Truths or the Eight-fold Noble Path but we do have the Jedi Code. Buddhists also have the shared community of wisdom (Sangha). The Jedi have an online community.  The parallels in the recovery community are the 12 Steps and a global support fellowship. Each is a path to a form of enlightenment through wisdom.

In my recovery, Right View was paramount. Facing the truth was life and death. I had to wake up to my addiction and admit it to myself and others. Self Knowledge was essential as was honesty. I had to accept that I was powerless over alcohol and that I could never drink again if I wanted to survive. As harsh as the truth was, the reality was that it fit into the paradigm of the Four Noble Truths. Acceptance and letting go of attachment was the only way forward. The 12 Steps the path to freedom from suffering.

 

Jedi View

The Jedi Code provides a mantra for living based on Right View. The Jedi Code teaches that emotions exist and are part of being human. We choose how to respond to our emotions and should not allow ourselves to be ruled by them.

We should always seek knowledge and accept that we will never have full knowledge. Our ignorance should not be ignored. We should strive to learn.

Being human we care. However we should not allow ourselves to become so passionate about what we care for that we suffer for its sake. We should avoid clinging attachment and be prepared to let go of what we fear to lose. Serenity is the outcome of non-attachment.

In the midst of the storm we can find shelter. We can be the source of calm and equanimity when everyone else is losing their minds. In the chaos we can find harmony.

We do not fear death and accept it as part of the circle of life. All things must return to the Force.

 

Emotion, yet peace.

Ignorance, yet knowledge.

Passion, yet serenity.

Chaos, yet harmony.

Death, yet the Force.

 

Right View is Freedom

No endeavor worth pursuing can be achieved, no meaningful change in our lives possible unless we are willing to accept things as they are; the truth. This is the essence of Right View.

To fail to seek the truth is to surrender to a live of illusion. With an illusionary view of life comes unhealthy attachments and ultimately suffering. We are swimming against the flow of life and we will struggle.

As we learn more about who we truly are the falsehoods we came to accept as real start to fall away. We start to see things clearly and we stop fighting the world. On that high road is the path to freedom.

 

“When this exists, that comes to be:
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this does not exist that does not come to be,
With the cessation of this, that ceases.”
– Buddha