I’ve loved Star Wars since I was a kid. When I was little I used to ask my mom to change my name to Luke, to which she’d quickly reply “Luke no es nombre Mexicano!” (Luke isn’t a Mexican name!) And well, that settled that. Imagine my surprise years later when I discovered that Oscar is a Scandinavian name that means “divine spear” or “divine spear holder.” Well, maybe that explains the Viking fascination.
I can go into a geeky rant about why Star Wars is such a cultural phenomenon. How it is the most complete mythology we have as a culture in a society that is starved for myth and imagination. How the spiritual trajectory of the main characters brings up universal themes of trial, initiation, rites of passage, treachery, and redemption. But I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to rant about awesome things I’ve learned from repeatedly watching Star Wars films (and more recently the Clone Wars animated series—which is brilliant once you get past the animation.) And why Jedi are awesome. Here we go:
1.- Service or Power
The Jedi are given two narratives that are at the heart of what goes on in the Universe. There is the Jedi Path and the Dark Side. Both of these exist within and as part of the Force. This is why the Force can be used by both Jedi and Sith. So there are two different paths that a budding devotee of the Force can follow: Service or Power. Let’s not distil this into the simplistic good versus evil just yet. Instead, let’s look at them more closely.
The path of service requires immense sacrifice. It requires the Jedi to learn non-attachment in order to continue a path that promotes the continuation of all life. The Jedi, in this sense, must be the protectors of Life with a capital “L.” They are here to ensure that the Big Story continues.
On the other hand, the Sith are intent on using the Force for personal gain. Their aim is the shortsighted attainment of power through the use of their incredible skill. And, let’s not get it confused, they are badasses. The Sith are the essential Shadow side to all things. They are ego-driven but also maintain a highly elevated singular purpose: to rule the existence of the entire Universe. That’s no small feat, and that kind of power is incredibly seductive. Plus they have cooler clothes and cooler lightsabers.
There comes a point in all of our lives when we have to make the same choice. Will our life be about service or power? This is even more pertinent when we are working as guides, leaders, counselors or mentors to others. Many people will begin these roles almost unconsciously, and the ability to influence and in worst-case scenarios manipulate others is an integral part of who we are as social beings. Some people are conscious of this while others are not. Let’s say that those conscious of it are like initiates of the Force. When you become aware of this you have to choose which side guides you:Service or Power.
2.- Knowledge of the Force Does Not Make You Good
Knowing that the Force exists and being able to use it to create tangible effects does not make you a good person. Both Jedi and Sith know of the Force. Both of them know how to use it. This knowledge in and of itself does not make you a good person. Instead, it is the choice that you make above that determines whether or not you can be trusted to guide others to safety or to a higher awareness of themselves.
As Westerners, we have this ingrained and unconscious belief that a person with spiritual knowledge is by default benevolent. Regardless of your current belief system or spiritual label, that’s because you are influenced by the image of a benevolent Christ. Yup, Jesus. You hear me you pagans, Buddhists, yogis and yoginis? If you assume that a guru, spiritual teacher, shaman or even a psychologist inherently has your best interest in mind because they have some spiritual awareness, it’s because you had that idea ingrained in your brain by a Judeo-Christian notion that spiritual knowledge equals benevolence. Well, it doesn’t. It just means that the person you are engaging with has more knowledge of the unseen world than you do. So don’t go assuming that that person pouring that sacred murky brew into a cup for you to drink and experience God cares how you come out the other end.
3.- Facing Your Shadow
At some point, both Jedi and Sith have to face their Shadow. We all have it. And our individual Shadow is a gateway to a much greater collective Shadow, one that we could never face and survive alone as individuals. The thing is that we will all have to face our Shadow at some point. Some people refuse to do this and so are consumed by the Shadow day after day. The longer you run, the bigger it gets. If you are to cross the threshold from adolescence and fear into maturity and leadership you have to turn and face that fucker. And yes it will ask you “Who’s your daddy?” Your answer will determine the rest of your life. Fight it and it grows. Learn to embrace and integrate it and you grow. And be ready for this fight to continue for the rest of your life. So don’t believe for a second that having encountered your Shadow once and overcome it means it is gone for good.
The Shadow is like the line of the Sith all the way back to the beginning. Chop one in half and another one with cooler armor shows up eventually. Which is another thing about the Shadow. The more sophisticated you get the more sophisticated it gets. So you can’t exactly outwit it by reading more books, or outmaneuver it by learning more tricks. Wherever you go and whatever you learn it is right there along with you. So the answer is not a cognitive one: it is not in your head, it is in your heart. That’s a scary thought for a psychology-driven culture.
4.- Transcend the Hero or You Will Become a Villain
There comes a point where you have to stop trying to be a Hero. Being a Hero will only get you so far and the problem with perpetual heroes is that they need villains to fight. When they don’t have them they will often create them. Which makes them become villains themselves. The way to avoid this is to transcend being a hero. Which means you have to put your ego down and realize that life is not about you. It is about whom you are here to serve. There’s that word again.
In the end being a Hero is about gaining power. While it is necessary at first in order to realize your capacity to overcome challenges in your life, there comes a point where the constant seeking of power corrupts you. This brings us back to the first critical point: you must choose in your life between Service and Power.
5.- Choose the Right Mentor
Be mindful of who you choose as a mentor, their path will always sway you significantly one way over the other. If you make a choice you aren’t happy with in the end it could cost you dearly. And if they’re really pissed off they may electrocute the crap out of you before you throw them down an air duct.
Find mentors that can teach you to find serenity in yourself, regardless of your circumstances. These are the people that will help you develop into a higher awareness of who you are and what part you have to play in the world. They will also challenge you in unexpected ways. Many times, they will not look like what you expected. And they may be rascals at first, but beneath their gnarly little green exterior there is a lot of wisdom and experience that can guide you to places you never dreamed of.
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