“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” – Yoda
Grace is a term that brings up many religious connotations. Raised as a catholic I was confused by the term. Grace was a word that was used by the clergy to describe communion. In boarding school we were told that one had to achieve grace in order to ascend to heaven. We were also told that children such as us were beyond redemption and could never acquire grace. One of the Priests would state that it was only by his good grace that I receive six strokes of the cane and not a dozen. A visiting Bishop was called “your Grace” and many years later I heard that he had been arrested for turning a blind eye to the abuse of fostered and orphaned children in his care.
I could never get the word grace and for me it always held dark connotations. It reminded me of the dark halls of the orphanage, shivering in cold dark mornings at early prayers, the scolding of a priest hidden behind a curtain for not understanding the rites of confession and the leer of a drunken Brother who spoke with a thick Irish accent and smelt of beer and cabbage. There are memories of the taste of cold porridge, fights in the school yard, the kick from a nun and the sting of a cane on my fingers. I was glad when it ended. Grace never found me again and I wanted no part of it until I found what it meant many years later.
“My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us.” – Yoda
Don’t confuse Grace with religion. Neither is it a virtue. Grace is a spiritual state of being that approaches enlightenment. To arrive at Grace is to realize the Force within your life.
Grace is genuine and selfless humility and compassion for others. not when they have fallen on hard times but when you have. Grace is putting the concerns of others above your own without seeking recognition. It is to feel one’s own loss while also feeling the suffering of another and accepting it as one’s own. To have grace is to endure the suffering caused by others and to not only forgive them but to love them at the same time. The passion of the crucifixion is a symbol of grace. Jesus chose to accept suffering and death for the sake of others, especially those that were not deserving. Suffering terribly Jesus asked God to forgive those who had betrayed, punished and tortured him. Through grace, Jesus arrived at enlightenment and overcame duality.
“You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda
Is grace the path to enlightenment? I think so. The Buddha lived a life of Grace, as did Guru Nanak and Zarathustra. Their example of a life lived in grace inspires their followers and seekers of truth. Perhaps they came so close to the realizing idea of God while mortal men made of flesh that they achieved a state of perpetual grace.
We are reminded of the power of Grace in the Star Wars mythology. Yoda lived in harmony with others and acquired grace over a lifetime and became “one with the Force”. Obi-wan Kenobi, through a lifetime of pain and sacrifice and years of solitude in the desert found grace in realizing his purpose to protect the “chosen one” from harm. Anakin believed that power and control was his path to salvation but found true redemption and grace by sacrificing his life to save his son. Through the grace of forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love Luke also saved his Father and found Grace. Decades later, Luke chose to forsake his purpose and abandon his destiny but fate forced him to confront it and through grace find the living Force. Han Solo, a scoundrel, found Grace by giving up his life in a failed attempt to redeem his son. Ben Solo found grace in surrendering his life to save Rey. United with his mother, Leia Organa and Ben were united in the Force.
“What do you know about the Force?” – Luke (to Rey)
I have never reached a state of Grace. My life could be best described as having been lived in “sin” and “excess” of alcoholism. I got a glimpse of Grace at the bottom of the dark pit called “rock bottom” but it was from a place beyond space and time. Perhaps I was touched by God. Whatever it was, it led me out of that place and I never drunk again. When I first saw the words “But by the Grace of God” framed on a wall at my first AA meeting it hit me and I finally got the idea of Grace.
Grace is a word rarely heard or written but it still has a place in this world and it is in desperate short supply. One rarely witnesses the losing side in sports or politics accept their defeat with Grace. There are recriminations, protests and harsh words. The winning side also demonstrates arrogance and claims the spoils of victory and a moral superiority over the vanquished rather than seeking to offer a hand of peace and conciliation. Right now the world could use a good measure of grace.
Be gracious to others, stop fighting, put down your Lightsaber.