Post number 4 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

In the west, Conscience is most often symbolised as an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other, locked in mutual disagreement about what the person between them should do. Listen to the selfish, angsty advisor with the red pitchfork, or to the white, feathered one with the halo?

In real life, conscience works a little differently to this. We rarely have such a black and white distinction, rarely only two options available at any one time. We usually have a whole gamut of possibilities before us, and must work to make the best of our situation using whatever assets are at our disposal. This relates strongly to our ability (can I do it?) – conscience is instead concerned with “Can I live with it?”.

It may sound dramatic, but I think it’s a realistic illustration of the principle of conscience. I may not feel I cannot live with my decision to steal a chocolate bar, but small infractions of my moral standards do add up to larger problems with who I am and what that self-sustaining ethical framework can mean in my life. Most of us live with both large and small infractions on our conscience, from minor crimes and white lies to more serious things like affairs and acts of deliberate harm on others.

What rocks (racks?) my conscience may matter little to another. Thus conscience is again a subjective thing, something internal and built through a life, relative to the specifics of the situation. To use my earlier example, were I to lose my home and money, and had to resort to stealing food to feed my starving kids, my conscience would no doubt be somewhat less disturbed by the theft of a chocolate bar (mainly that I didn’t swipe something more nutritious perhaps). If the same act can affect our conscience differently, how can we think of it as a simple system?

The truth is, like the great manifold of the Force, conscience necessarily admits a huge number of variables. Who we are, where we are, who our actions affect and how are all considerations in matters of conscience. Our internal moral compass, and our ability to stray from its bearing into ethically murky areas suggest a mismatch between what we think we are, and what we really are. “I’m not the sort of person who…” can precede many crises of conscience, but the fact we consider something as an option, and sometimes do something we ourselves find ethically troubling, imply that we are ignorant of a degree of our nature.

So what does this mean for Jedi? To be Jedi is to be a creature of conscience. Showing respect for all within the Force implies making only choices which are for the good of all, or perhaps just “the greater good”. In reality, as I said at the start, it’s rarely a “this-or-that” decision, and even when it is we may take the wrong road and have to live with something we find inherently reprehensible.

But, as Jedi, we must work to understand the lessons our conscience teaches us. We may feel uncomfortable with who we have been in our past, but this is the key to becoming better in the future. Our path shows us the direction we have travelled in, up to now. It indicates the direction of our future and allows us to make course adjustments. We are charged with doing good, but what if we do not think of ourselves as “good” people? We make change. We accept what has happened as necessary fodder for our growth and development as human beings. We thank our paths for making us Jedi, and thereby changing our fortune to one which seeks the path of “right”.

And we LISTEN. We show respect to those around us (and to ourselves), by recognising the harm, or good, our actions do. We don’t assume we are right just because we feel we are; instead, we allow the Force to teach us, to change us and recreate us, in the perpetual act of change which is the action of the Force. Conscience compelled some of the “worst” people in history to do the things they did. It’s rare a person sets out to do ill, but rather to settle a score, to right a wrong. If our efforts as Jedi create more “wrong”, it’s both our gift and our obligation to bring our conscience to bear on what we do, what we’ve done and hope to do in the future. And we do so not solely by hearing the angel and the devil; we do so in retrospect, in hindsight, making plans to do better in the future, and to always, always keep listening.