Post number 23 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Certainty is our ability to convince ourselves that we are right about something. Its opposite, then, implies we are open to the possibility of being wrong, or of learning more later. Of seeing things from another point of view and in new lights, depending on our growing, developing understanding. What I “know” today, I may only “believe” tomorrow, and may actively “doubt” the following day. There’s a wide range of possibilities, if we remove the notion of concrete, fixed “certainty” – but only one, if we accept it.

As Krishnamurti discusses at length in Freedom From The Known, the human desire for rigid, fixed understandings which are permanently and objectively true, misapprehend the universe we find ourselves amidst (and part of). I have said many times in this journal, the only constant in the Force is change. This is truer of human understanding than of most things; indeed, it was only a few hundred years ago we believed slavery was OK, and that the earth was flat. A couple of centuries later Guion Bluford was orbiting the earth. The fact is, what we believe to be certain and fixed “because it works” is only ever part of the story – the truth of the matter is far, far away, and still as uncertain as can be.

What am I certain of? I’m certain that I am sat at my desk typing words into my computer. So. I’m inserting words into my computer? Is it not truer to say my fingers are hitting keys, which in turn send electrical impulses into the processor, resulting in pixels on the screen changing colour? And what is a word? And hang on, fingers? Those are part of my hands, right? Or of my body? They’re part of the human race, too… and what is it which makes the arrangement of materials before me a “desk”, exactly? Isn’t it rather similar to a table or a bench?

The point is, certainty forgets the in-situ nature of all understanding. Here, today, practically, I’m typing at my desk. From a few hundred thousand miles away, I’m part of the bluey-green blob. Both are true, but they depend on our viewpoint. Truth is usually like this – like the old (and very useful for Jedi) phenomenological concept of Dasein is not just “Being”, but “being-there”, truth is only ever “truth-perspective”. It is always contextual, it is always perspectival. It is always uncertain, if we accept that certainty with regards to knowledge suggests that the truth, the understanding, is fixed.

“The first thing to ask ourselves then is what is fear and how does it arise? What do we mean by the word fear itself? I am asking myself what is fear not what I am afraid of.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

I lead a certain kind of life; I think in a certain pattern; I have certain beliefs and dogmas and I don’t want those patterns of existence to be disturbed because I have my roots in them. I don’t want them to be disturbed because the disturbance produces a state of unknowing and I dislike that. If I am torn away from everything I know and believe, I want to be reasonably certain of the state of things to which I am going. So the brain cells have created a pattern and those brain cells refuse to create another pattern which may be uncertain. The movement from certainty to uncertainty is what I call fear.

In the passage above, Krishnamurti tackles an important motivator in the reason humans crave certainty: the removal or placation of fear. It’s scary for us to open ourselves up to the unplanned, the unknown. We only want the good, never the bad. We try to know because it is as though we are imposing a structure on reality, allowing us to predict what will happen and minimise that which may come about and be negative for us or those we care about.

The reality is, those structures fail us time and again, yet we continue with the futile task of trying to categorise, predict and otherwise “tame” the wild Force which moves through all things. Jedi recognise this pattern, and understand that what comes, is what’s right. That is what trusting the Force means: understanding the uncertainty of a system so wide and wildly chaotic as the Force, but refusing to be intimidated into unhelpful, rigid modes of thought. A Jedi must trust they will have the skills, the allies, the resources to tackle these negative uncertain elements, when they come about – and not before. Now that doesn’t mean avoiding chances to prevent bad things from happening or taking precautions, but it does suggest the nature of a “failsafe plan” – at any point – is flawed. Every plan can fail, somehow. We can walk in one direction but we can always be pivoted.

The Force is the way. Not only our way, but all ways. In accepting the uncertainty at its core, we open ourselves to its possibilities. To live… to undertake adventures. To grow. No growth is possible encased in concrete, and the metaphor holds up: no meaningful growth happens when our beliefs are too rigid, too fixed. Think of the stubborn people in your life, the stick-in-the-muds, the jobs-worths. The sticklers. How much are they learning, each day? How much do they grown in a year?

Jedi move with the currents of the Force, rather than sticking rigidly in their views. Does that “rigidity”, to remain uncertain, to remain open, imply a degree of rigidity and inflexibility in and of itself? Well yes, it does, and as such it’s sensible for us to take a balanced view here as well. Be flexible and open, but also trust yourself. Be uncertain, but let yourself be certain within it, to a degree. Follow your intuition, but be ready to be proven wrong.

Certainty, yet Uncertainty.
Trust, yet Openness.

Those look a little healthier, to me.


Post number 22 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

A secret is something we know, but cannot tell. Secrets are something all of us have at some point in our lives. Be it a regret, a surprise, or privileged information about another, all people have moments where they must “retain” information rather than share it. As a member of the Clergy, I am entitled to take confession and as such have voluntarily gained secret information from various members of our congregation. Because I am in a position of trust, I take the privacy/secrecy of this information very seriously.

Jedi work with secrets sensitively, exercising compassion. We understand that a person would be distressed if we were to transgress their wish for secrecy, however compelling our reasons for doing so may be. I’ve also worked in job roles where secrecy is a necessary factor – for example in former roles interviewing kids with criminal convictions for college or work-based training courses. In that instance my access to privileged information was something I earned by proving my trustworthiness and professionalism. I see it similarly in the Jedi community. I was not “given” a whole load of confession material just because I completed Seminary; I was given it because people learned they could trust me.

And what of the secrets people don’t tell me? I’m sure I’ve brushed against many in my time, either directly, inadvertently, or simply by applying my intelligence and intuition to the situations I encounter. “We don’t know what we don’t know”, after all, but we may suspect or assume much, and that can give us a good model of understanding things which are otherwise kept secret. Any such assumption must be recognised as such, however, and not mistaken for true knowledge. Perhaps it is more akin to a personal form of wisdom about someone else.

Secrets are also implied as part of the learning we undertake to know the Force. The Great Mystery is a secret, of sorts. It is something which is there, but withheld. We cannot “break through” the universe and come to the information within; instead we must work around, with, through the secret of the Force. We know nothing but the Force, any yet we can never conceptualise it fully. It is there, right before us; it is hidden in plain sight.

When people arrive at our Temple, much is hidden from them. Forums, conversations, attitudes, problems. Many arrive and judge things at face value, others arrive and are transfixed by a desire to know “the secret”. So what is “the secret”? Perhaps only that there is no fundamental secret. Jedi Knights and Masters are nothing more than human beings; fallible, at times weak. The Temple itself is a glorious hodgepodge of the efficacious and the broken. Things get better as you climb the ranks, and they also get worse in other ways. The truth is not necessarily hidden, because an alternative to what new arrivals see is only “hidden in plain sight” – but it is not well understood that as Jedi, we do not seek to “stand apart” – merely to stand together, side by side.

Is there a benefit in keeping these kinds of secrets? Sometimes, it’s not so much about effort to maintain, as a lack of effort to understand, or to communicate fully. Some secrets aren’t really secret, but they require a certain key of understanding or perspective before someone can appreciate them. The reality of the Force is a secret, viewed this way. I mean, it’s right there, but people don’t see it. They would need to have their eyes opened to its possibility; its probability. Its essentiality. For some who see, it is a reasoned thing, but for many, it simply “pops out”, like the hologram when the card is turned to a proper viewing angle.

And what of my secrets? There are things I do not say, or only speak of to a few of my most trusted friends. Details of my former affair, for example, are not widely known, and that is largely out of respect/consideration for the other participant in it. It is my habit to face my demons, to deal with my secrets and to find a way to be honest and authentic about who I am. This is something my path has taught me: it is only by baring one’s soul, that one learns how resilient it is. And it is only by baring one’s soul, that one learns where one’s weaknesses lie. Secrets are for other people, not for me. My path is one of honesty, of truth, of facing harsh realities because they are reality. Better the cold truth than the warm fuzzy lie, and better to move past the painful honest answer than take a detour around the obstructive secret.

We have but one life. We have our paths. We feel what we feel. Why pretend otherwise?

Post number 21 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Resentment is something which many of us find instinctive. It can be hard to let go of things which affected us personally, which hurt and which caused changes in our lives. Resentment can lead us into unhealthy modes of thought; obsession is a flavour of resentment, resenting that which we don’t have (or that which we do).

To resent something is to feel negatively about its place in our life. The challenge for Jedi is, our paths are what we have. They are what we need. They are everything in our lives. The bad stuff can certainly be good, if viewed from a different perspective. For example, is the flat tyre a major annoyance, or an opportunity to learn about fixing one’s own car? Is the divorce a crushing defeat of our expectations, or an opportunity to go out and find something better? Resentment says the former, in both cases.

Resentment has affected my path many times, but today I feel that it has largely loosened its grip on me. I need some more work in certain areas, but the reality is, what happened to me led me here, and today, I am fine. I am bruised and dented, but wiser.

It’s interesting to watch the odd flavours of resentment in others which they characterise as resentment in me. For example I get the impression my wife feels I resent her new boyfriend, because I had some concerns around him meeting our children. What she considered resentful in my actions was actually driven by a healthy concern for the welfare of my kids. It was her resentment of me, her belief I did not wish her to be happy which created the spectre of resentment in me.

In fact, I left my wife. I am happy in a new relationship and I want nothing more than for her to be happy and my kids to be safe. Is that a resentful position? Thinking further on this I allow this man to stay in a house I co-own rent free. I let him spend time I could otherwise be spending with my children, because I value his relationship with them. I do a lot to promote and facilitate his relationship with my ex.

I find this a lot in my life, and watching the lives of others: time and again, it is the person who is unable to let go who blames the other for holding on. The other is not necessarily holding on; the one who harbours resentment necessarily is. In most people this is an expression of their lack of self-awareness. They are not, after all, Jedi. I do not expect the same standard of character from someone who has not sworn to our path, and that I suppose is the burden of the Jedi: to see the best in others, even as they perceive the worst in you (the worst they can imagine, not even the worst they actually find).

Did I say “burden”? This is another resentful statement, and it does not reflect my true feelings here! That’s another problem, language is subjective, personal. The person who resents will read the statement “I hope you’re happy!” as sarcasm, whereas the (comparatively) objective observer would find only a positive affirmation of another’s emotional well-being. The “burden” in this case is being free from the resentful illusions which cloud and obscure the reality of our situations. To lose one’s resentment at the expense of having to be around resentful people can certainly be painful, but it is authentic. It allows one to see things for what they are, including the way others “use” us in their resentful attitudes. We become the figures of blame for the deficiencies in others, in other words.

There’s a piece of advice for those with anxiety, which goes something like “Don’t worry what people are thinking about you – chances are, they aren’t”. Resentment speaks to a degree of selfishness or perhaps narcissism Jedi are wise to avoid. The idea things are done “to spite you” implies a kind of egocentric view that the behaviour of others revolves around you, when in reality the behaviour of others often revolves around them, or their loved ones, or those they seek to support. As such, it’s important to work from a position of genuine humility, in understanding that our ego and the go of others are but two aspects of the overarching unity.

What is more Jedi than accepting that the Other is the same as ourselves. Does the left hand resent the right? I don’t feel that makes any sense. Even if it’s hard, even if it doesn’t come easily, it is our place to drive down to the understanding that resentment is illusion; it gets us nowhere. It leads down a blind alley.

“For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”

Post number 20 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

When I started this response, I had to take a while to understand the relevance of both elements to my Jedi path. We have a kind of Socratic teaching method, here at TOTJO, which implies a wide range of questions and answers. The Master sets a question; the student answers it. From there understanding grows. So to start with, that’s the kind of question/answer I’ll explore.

Questions allow us to interrogate either others or ourselves. They enable us to pull apart what we perceive and inform our understanding. Questions can be used as a tool to lead someone else to an understanding they lack, whether we have the understanding ourselves or not. The right question can offer a window or a mirror; they are “empty” and that is what makes them useful. What the question reveals to us about ourselves, about others, about the questioner, too… this is valuable information.

Answers are different, in that not every question has an answer. Plenty of answers exist for some questions, each with a differing degree of validity. Answers are tricky beasts, because they ask us to solidify our opinions or feelings into a single, crystalline moment. They rely on language (as do questions, to be fair) to communicate something which may not be, itself, linguistic. They ask us to make concrete assertions in some direction.

Returning to the teaching method here at TOTJO, the Master sets lessons (questions), and the student answers them. The student may have questions themselves. It is a poor Master, in my opinion, who gives “answers” to these questions. The business of what we do here as Jedi, engaged in self-reflective study, in the cultivation of self-knowledge, and the genesis of wisdom, does not deal in “answers”. The mystery cannot be meaningfully contained in them. The mystery asks more questions, falls deeper, and it is in that repetition of questioning, that endless cycle of shifting understanding which exemplifies the Jedi approach to learning and growth.

In life, some questions do have very firm, solid answers. 2 + 2 = 4. It’s something we can try a billion times without variation, and get the same concrete response. Those kinds of questions are valuable, in a “knowledge” sense. They ask us “What’s there?”, knowing full well that something is there – there is a goal, a destination. An end.

In metaphysical matters, questions are “ends” in and of themselves. What is the meaning of life? There are a million answers (in fact, many billions). Why does something exist instead of nothing? Again, many millions of responses. The point is, many important questions (and arguably all metaphysical ones) do not have definite answers. Asking questions like this “creates” something conceptual in another person’s mind. When I say “Does God exist?”, you can’t know the answer for sure. You can have strong feelings one way or another, but you can’t say with certainty. But what that question does, is create a “God” in one’s mind. An omnipotent, omniscient being.

So metaphysical questions call on our imagination. Even considering the Force, whilst I can perceive it all around me, in me, of me, I can’t “introduce” the Forcely perspective on the world without asking questions of the unity, without picturing the totality (which I can only see part of), and without forming some concept of what the Force really means. I might be wrong and reality might be fundamentally different from how I understand it, but this question is another question without an answer – as I type it, I try and imagine what that would mean. A universe of more than one “universe”. Antimatter? The Yin to this universe’s Yang? Perhaps the Yang to this universe’s Yin? Who can say?

Questions lead us into some interesting areas. So what of answers? It’s unfair to write them off as metaphysically “stagnant”, because some of the “answers” led me to understanding the question “What is the Force?”, “Does it exist?” and “Is real world Jediism something worth pursuing?”. Answers just need to be handled carefully, understanding that each person handling a question will bring their own answer, and that will be “true” from their perspective – true of their path, of their experience. Answers tell us who a person is, questions show us where they’re going, perhaps.

I am philosophically minded, and questions fascinate me. I like the idea that for each question, there is a personal answer. I think again of things like epiphenomenal qualia, that for instance even the 4 in 2 + 2 = 4 means something different and subjective for me compared with your concept of it. Questions acknowledge this. They are humble; they are wise. They always say, “look again”.

As Jedi, we are wise to do so.

Post number 19 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Service is at the heart of the life of Jedi. The term means, literally, to serve others, and the provision of this service is one of the core differentiators between Taoism and Jediism, for me. We are not passive, we do not watch the other stumble with a wry smile; rather, we are there to help them up, to create a splint and to see them safely on their way again. We serve others in any way we can, creating fellowship and supporting those in need. We are not “above”, or “too dignified” to perform even the smallest or most menial task. Service is the core of what it means to be Jedi.

For me, this was the fundamental draw and debate around becoming Jedi. I saw that Jedi were “Heroic Taoists” in many ways, believing and acting in accordance with belief in the unity of all things, which is my fundamental world-view. But Jedi used that as cause to support and serve others, which is distinct from the usual Taoist practice (at least as prescribed by Lao Tzu). The “Sage” helps others, certainly; but the Sage is no hero. To serve is to make oneself a hero; to dedicate oneself to becoming the change one wishes to see in the world. For me, Taoism was always too inclined to passivity. Whilst we prize serenity, passion also has its part: I was looking for a faith to inspire and give a vehicle to my passion for supporting those around me, expressing my compassion in service.

Our doctrine speaks of service often, not least within our Creed where we are told that “it is in giving that we receive”. For me, an understanding that rather than being two distinct individuals, myself and another are linked, unified, “the left hand meeting the right”, it seems obvious that my cause should be to serve the other, where possible. I am not giving of myself, I am giving to myself.

In my opinion, service should be a higher priority in the minds of many Jedi. I find that many here are still somewhat egocentric, thinking first of how something benefits themselves, rather than of how it disadvantages someone else. I think perhaps this is expressive of a certain immaturity of belief – not that the people are immature, but that they haven’t followed their beliefs to their logical conclusion yet. If we are all moved by the same Force, we are all the same in a fundamental way. We are the Force. We are meeting other faces, other facets, but we are meeting only ourselves. It is nonsensical to take from others without giving. It creates imbalance which we ourselves must pay for; imbalance we ourselves must suffer.

Service is therefore a central aspect of my approach as a Teaching master, and has been a central aspect of my life as a Jedi as well. I serve as a member of our Clergy, providing services to the wider Temple., I have served in offices in this capacity before now. I serve the Temple in other ways, for example serving as the main point of contact when new members wish to be considered for Novice status in the Order. I also produce items for the Temple’s facebook page, and maintain backups of the Temple’s member map. But this is stuff I do for the Temple – it’s obviously inward-facing, it’s something that benefits myself and my friends here. It’s not the same thing as serving the wider community.

And so I do that in other ways. For example, I have spoken now many times about the service I do at the homeless shelter in my town. I work the least popular shift, as overnight team leader. Whilst other volunteers serve by having dinner with the guests, cooking for them, playing board games and watching films with them, making tea or driving equipment around, I and my team have to act as police, ensuring guests don’t take illicit substances and actually settle down to sleep. We are the ones who most frequently break up fights. We are the ones who load the often sweaty, sometimes soiled bedding back into bags and load it onto the minibus in the morning. And, most often, we are the ones who give up a night’s sleep to support and serve the guests. These are not people I know, and as most of them are asleep whilst I work, they are unlikely to become friends. I do not get any great notice or praise for doing what I do there. I do it because it is right; it is consistent with my beliefs. It is a gap which needs to be filled; as a Jedi, I fill it.

Service is a favourite topic of mine and I could write about it all day. As I said earlier, I feel it is not given enough focus at our Temple. I’d like to see something about service in the IP, something requiring time and effort. I’d like to see more Teaching Masters setting their Apprentices tasks which require some effort in service to their wider communities. I will say it one last time: Service is at the heart of the life of Jedi.

Post number 18 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

This is an interesting topic, and I’ll get to my deliberations on why they have been presented together after a brief discussion of each.

Justification is the extent to which we can justify or make a case for action. This may be our actions, or the actions of another. We do this by weighing our values against the perceived or expected consequences of an action. If we have no expectation, how can we meaningfully justify something? So, the just action is one we feel proportionate to our expectations. For Jedi, we know the Force is a wide and chaotic system. We may therefore choose to only make small justifications, perhaps confined to our own actions rather than in judgement of the actions of others. When we believe an action is justified, we take a stake in its consequences.

Condemnation can therefore be defined as the extent to which we feel an action was unjustified, and the appropriate response to it. We can condemn our own actions or the actions of others. We can feel that an appropriate account of risks, consequences or expected outcomes was not undertaken. Condemnation implies an element of punitive justice: we typically use “condemned” to describe someone whose actions have been deemed so unforgivable, so unjustifiable, that they are being sentenced to death. But this is an extreme case of condemnation. We also condemn the tasteless joke of a friend in an inappropriate situation, or the driver who cuts us off in traffic. Condemnation is not especially becoming of Jedi; I recently posted an apology here for condemning the condemnation a few new members levelled against the Temple. It was hypocritical and rather ironic, and drove home the lesson that to condemn is to fail in our duty of compassion.

So as Jedi, must we always search for justification in the actions of others? The paedophile, the murderer, the rapist? Our Temple boards often see messages from people who believe in the right to bear arms against others, and for myself and many fellow Brits this idea sits VERY uncomfortably with the values of Jediism. That degree of condemnation, to take the life of another, seems wholly incompassionate, utterly against the respect for life and the Force that Jedi take oaths to respect, defend and cultivate. Such condemnation is not expressive of a commitment to harmony.

But does that imply a justification of the actions of others? We might instead elect to focus on our own justifications; can we justify the actions we take against the actions of others? Can we justify putting the rapist/murderer/paedophile into prison to prevent more people from being attacked? Certainly. Can we justify it more than we could justify leaving them free to offend again? Again, certainly. It’s not a grey area. But there is a more acute need for balance in less extreme cases. We might justify that we love our gold, so if someone tries to steal it, we are justified in killing them. This is clearly expressive of an imbalance

Condemnation is most rightly viewed as the dark side of justification. We justify detracting from another to produce an advantage for ourselves; this condemns the Other because of our personal gain. We are entitled to safeguard some essential liberties: our lives, primarily, and the lives of others, as well as our/their freedom from extreme discomfort (it feels horribly reductive to describe rape as “extreme discomfort”; hopefully the inclusion of this note demonstrates that I realise the inadequacy of the term in some cases!); but when it comes to things like property, or asserting our beliefs, we should not be at liberty to condemn others.

What then is property law? Does this mean that Jedi should be against the imprisonment of burglars, for instance? No, no… it seems fair that a social contract be made whereby those who offend against it forfeit their rights. They are entitled to self-justify their actions… it seems cold, callous. The drug addict caught shooting up heroin resting in a cell, did they really exert “choice”? For me, that is one reason for the decriminalisation of drug possession offences, and of prostitution actually. People who are forced by one bad choice into a slippery slope of other bad choices, or walked into corners, should be helped out of them, rather than being “made examples of”. I believe that is the compassionate, Jedi approach to criminality; those who pose a threat by being free should justifiably have their freedom restricted. Those whose only risk is to themselves should receive some other treatment.

Whew! So this was quite a workout in the end. Justification and condemnation are actually rather closer than I initially thought; I wondered how these would blend, but now it’s rather transparent: to justify against another is to condemn them. Better to justify FOR another: that is the truly “just” act.

Post number 17 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Avoidance is the extent to which we remove certain things from our lives (or remove ourselves from the life of things). I spoke at the end of my last essay of the fish swimming in the river, choosing to swim left or right but unable to choose what floats downstream towards it. Avoidance is like swimming back downstream to avoid that which is coming towards us. It can speak of an attachment we have not yet been able to let go of, of a lack of courage to face what’s really there. Or it can be a conscious decision to tackle problems with resolutions, rather than open-ended and circular situations.

Avoidance can therefore be both positive and negative, and relies on our judgement for its correct use. Balance is key; we are wise to avoid the dragon which will surely eat us, but wise also to tame the one who we believe we can master. How do we know which is which? Experience is one teacher, our own self-knowledge, the extent to which we have developed our dragon-taming abilities. And sometimes we just have to take a gamble on the dragon we think looks most recently fed. But there’s no getting away from the fact it’s the foolish man who runs from all dragons, when he has the capacity to tame some.

It’s a grey area, I think. There was once a time where I would avoid things which were hard for me personally, because I was afraid. And these days, I have the courage to avoid that which would do me harm however inviting it is. I’ve spoken a few times in this journal about my struggles with alcoholism, and that was a form of avoidance. It allowed me to escape the unhappiness of my situation, to slip into chemical oblivion each night and ignore the mess my life was becoming. Now I avoid alcohol (or at least restrict my exposure to it). That avoidance is a healthy one, educated by my experience of addiction.

And to think of another personal take on avoidance, I have removed certain negative or poisonous influences from other parts of my life, and continue to actively avoid them. I think of this as a kind of resolve, not control as such, but I suppose control of the channels coming into my experience. I can shut doors if all that lies behind them are more dragons. Again, judgement is key here, and it’s clear avoidance is a double edged sword – on the one hand it can be a tool for weakness, and on the other a tool for strength. Back to the fish, swimming left or right to avoid the shallow water is a good thing. Swimming against the current to avoid it is not – eventually the fins will tire, or the current will increase, and the fish will drown.

As Jedi we must learn to accept our paths. As I said in the previous essay on control, we cannot avoid that which is meant for us. But neither can we hold on to that which is not meant for us. We learn of our personal weaknesses and sometimes, we can train them into strengths. Other things may always overwhelm our intentions, and in those cases we are wise to avoid even that which others are wise to pursue, to face, to live with. In recent years I have felt I have made errors in discerning one from the other, but as I grow, I mature into the understanding that… this is my path. It always would have been. I am responsible for it, of course; it would be avoidant to suggest I didn’t make the choices I made, cause the pain I caused. I am wholly responsible for it. But it was always mine to own. It was always here to teach what it has taught. And the lessons continue.

Finally, what am I avoiding right now? There are things I avoid speaking of out of kindness and respect for others, things which I could use for my own personal growth but which would expose others to humiliation or difficulty. And that is another form of avoidance, the avoidances we make out of integrity, out of our own capacity to take something on our own backs that others won’t have to carry it. To do anything is to avoid something else; to do good is to avoid something bad. I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace. I will continue to work on doing good.

Post number 16 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Control is something many strive for, but few achieve. The Force is a wide, complex and impressively chaotic system, which means “the best laid plans” almost always find some way to go amiss. Control is often thought of as an externalising force to bring reality in line with one’s expectations. It can take a great deal of effort to exert even a small controlling influence on things.

Does that mean we are foolish to seek control? Well, not necessarily. We might aim to control our own response to things, for one. We cannot meaningfully control our emotions, our feelings, the things which happen to us or the things others say or do, but we can learn to have a measure of control over our response to these things. Think of it this way; if someone insults me and I punch them, or if someone insults me and I smile, which exhibits the greater control? My instinctual lashing out does not speak to a high level of self realisation: it lacks control. On the other hand, being able to regard insulting behaviour as just that exhibits a degree of control over our reactions, which implies an understanding that we cannot control how we feel, but can control how we respond.

Control is a useful idea in the early stages of one’s development as a Jedi. It can help one come to terms with the difficulties we face in honing our responses and the understanding behind them. If I can control my behaviour, I learn to differentiate between “right action” and its alternative. However as one progresses along the path, control gives way to trust as a priority. We can trust ourselves, our core ideals, our values and our training. We learn to trust in the Force, rather than applying concrete notions of control to it – “No, it should be done MY way” gives way to “I see, that’s how this works”.

Another aspect of control is the extent to which other people, ideas or values control us. We have a lesson in the IP about cults, and one key aspect of a cult is that it is controlling, coercive, and dominating. It’s important that we don’t allow strict adherence to the values we prize to exert this kind of coercive force over our lives. How can we describe our response to the lessons our path brings as authentic is all we ever do is weigh them against the filter of doctrine, for instance? We first learn to see the value in the doctrine, then we let it exert its quiet influence over us; never do we submit to its control. A Jedi must live engaged, aware, awake. Not as an automaton under the control of this Temple, its doctrine or a teaching master.

Jedi in the fiction are shown to be controlling presences at times, performing mind tricks or otherwise coercing behaviour from others. Whilst I believe it is within the remit of Jedi to be persuasive, to counsel towards a value of harmony and unity, I suggest the Jedi mind trick exerts control against the beliefs of Jedi in the same way swinging a lightsaber at someone exerts violence against Jedi beliefs. “Extreme times call for extreme measures” would be one way to characterise this; let us not forget, the Jedi in the fiction use their coercive powers in times of war, in situations where they face mortal danger. Is it better to go against what we believe in one moment, and survive to do greater good for our beliefs in the days, years, decades to come? Whilst each situation must be assessed individually, I believe it is something we must at least consider.

Control is something we are accustomed to seeking in life. One of the foundational lessons of the Force is that whatever control we might seek, whatever control we might exert, in time we will lose it. It will have consequences beyond those we perceive, because the Force is a vast and chaotic system. And in the end, all structures of control crumble when the Force exerts its transformative, transcendent power. Time marches on; all things must pass.

For me, the central lesson we are taught about it by the Force is that we must loosen our grasp in order to open our hands. That to get what we are due, we must be prepared for the unexpected. We cannot pick and choose what our path presents us with: life is all or nothing, and no denial will change that. Think of it like being a fish in a river. We may swim left, or swim right, but the current brings what it brings. To be filled, we must first become empty.

Post number 15 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Guilt and shame are related feelings, which let us know that we have done something we feel is wrong. They are relative, and whilst some may feel no guilt or shame at certain actions, others may be eaten up by them. But if we understand them, if we recognise the opportunity they present to learn something valuable out our beliefs below the surface, guilt and shame can be useful opportunities.

The Force seems to know no guilt, no shame. The Force simply “is”. So why should Jedi think of guilt and shame as worthwhile experiences? Well, for a start Jedi are part of the Force. If we feel these things, then at some level they are of the Force, and the Force does feel them: through us. But going deeper, they teach us about our relationship to the wider world; to our actions.

Guilt feels like a primarily external emotion, a negative feeling about something we have done that will affect another. I’d actually prefer to describe it as an internal feeling, because in reality most of the times I’ve felt real guilt have actually produced a more pronounced emotion in myself than in anyone my actions have affected. Others are kinder than we realise, often “writing off” hurts as unintended, or just a fact of life. What’s that old adage… “Do not worry what others think of you. Chances are, they don’t.” I think that is wise, and we can realise that instead of being something caused by actual hurt, most of the guilt we feel is a consequence of the hurt we perceive our actions could possibly cause.

If I push a trolley out into traffic, I might feel guilt at being so careless. But more often than not people will avoid the trolley, slam on their brakes maybe. They might be annoyed, but not hurt. However, in my mind I might imagine a 10-car pile up, ambulances, fires, the whole shebang. Guilt takes the worst possible outcome we can imagine and pushes us to feel responsible for it. As such, it reveals more about us and our true attitude (that we should be careful when pushing trolleys, for instance) than our actual behaviour does.

At the same time, guilt can sometimes be a valid response to hurt we cause others. I genuinely feel this is far less common, at least for Jedi who approach the world in fellowship and collaboration and therefore act with strong intentions and dignity, than we might ordinarily believe. In all situations, guilt is a compassionate force, asking us to appraise how our activities affect others. Only if we take it to an extreme, that is, to begin to feel that what we imagine is what has actually happened, does it become problematic.

Shame would ordinarily be thought of as an internal emotion, and again I want to flip this around. For me, shame is more about external comparison. We feel ashamed of that which we feel doesn’t measure up to other people’s standards, expectations, values. We feel shame that we are not as good as, or that we are actively worse than, other people. A baby knows no shame, nor does a toddler. They haven’t learned to understand anything other than that which they themselves believe to be true, as truth. Their opinion takes priority in their minds. If someone tells my 2 year old daughter that playing with lego isn’t cool, it is a meaningless statement to her. She doesn’t evaluate in that way.

Evaluation is key, with shame. We weigh up ourselves, our own actions, against those of others. We find we don’t make the grade, and we feel shame. It is not a wise practice to engage in, because in reality we should not hold ourselves up to any standards other than our own. We have our own strengths and weaknesses, and so does everyone else. Each of us walks our own path. Intention, for me, is key. So long as our intention is pure, and we have the sense to learn the lessons of our occasional failures, we should not be discourages into shame.

As you can see, I believe the subtle differences between guilt and shame actually separate them quite easily. It is our confusion over the positioning of the elements which is key. We should never feel ashamed of who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve done. We should perhaps allow guilt to modify our behaviour in the future. Guilt can teach; shame can only punish. In the Force, we recognise we always have room to improve and more which we can learn. By embarking upon our quest to live better, we recognise there is a better way to live. And we should not be disheartened, ashamed, if we feel we are not “getting there”.

The path is the destination, forever and ever. When we trip, the best thing we can do is not to waste time chastising ourselves for falling down; it is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and walk on, the wiser.

Post number 14 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

I’ve been rather looking forward to this topic, but now that I find myself approaching it I’m not quite sure where to start. Dignity is a bit of a trap, in some ways; it is after all rather undignified to suggest one knows more about dignity than another. But in general terms…

Dignity is the manner in which we conduct or hold ourselves in our dealings with others. One who has dignity is composed, polite, not arrogant and generally pleasant to deal with. One who lacks it can be challenging to communicate with those lacking dignity; they are prone to engaging in petty, or mean, or angry, or otherwise unpleasant behaviour. Dignity is therefore a useful trait for Jedi to possess, because we must approach others in a manner which allows us to engage with them. Being petty or mean as a Jedi is at odds with what being a Jedi means; for me, it is ethically inconsistent for Jedi to act without dignity.

But dignity is an ideal, and as I said previously, ideals are only there to dive us a heading, they cannot be truly attained, never fully embodied, at least for no more than small moments. Each of us has our undignified moments… how did I put it before, we paint the masterpiece and wipe our arses with the same pair of hands. It’s wise to remember that dignity is not a replacement for integrity, or for compassion, or for wisdom. It is a single aspect of a meaningful whole; one good trait out of many. There’s not much sense in remaining dignified if you are arrogant or petty in another way

Dignity implies a slight “detachment” or remove from that which is going on at the most viscerally present level, in the sense that we are not responding with the “violence of the moment” and instead tempering our deepest impulses in our outward composure. This makes me question if it is truly authentic; where some think of humility as modesty, others see it as a genuine application of empathy, and likewise dignity can either be a sincere understanding that engaging with the world in a certain way benefits everyone, or simple protocol. A perceptually similar but ethically opposed trait to dignity is passive aggression, where one aims to give the appearance of dignity, but applies it in an ironic, insulting manner. Passive aggression, marking one’s disdain with dignity, is absolutely one of the least dignified manners of conducting oneself.

Dignity is something I expect from Jedi, but I guess like any community we each have our undignified moments. I find I have little to say on the topic without stretching myself; I inherently understand what it is, I know there have been times when I have lacked it, and I feel I now have a better grasp of it. i do feel dignity, composure and a certain internal stoicism are important traits for Jedi, and can think of some of our number who could benefit from a little more of all those things. But I guess it’s quite hard to talk about, and that makes it hard to impart or to teach.

Saying that, I’m certainly not like those conceited old American socialites who intone “Class… you’re either born with it or not”. I firmly believe people can learn to conduct themselves with dignity if they apply themselves to the task, and as I think I’ve made clear here, I do believe doing so is a worthwhile exercise: it facilitates better communication, it makes a Jedi more authoritative, more capable under pressure, more likeable in general, and all of these are useful traits for those who would be compassionate, effective members of their communities.

Jedi must also be open to communicating with those who lack dignity of their own. We should not stand on ceremony when people need help, whoever they are. I suppose a perception of the homeless is that they lack a degree of dignity, personally I’ve met some extremely dignified homeless people, but had I stuck with that initial perception so many share I would perhaps not work to help them. The same is true of those who are outright rude to us, but I suggest we must be cautious in this space; both in terms of defending ourselves from aggression, and of wasting energy on those who we have no capacity to help. It’s a judgement call – is it a road-blocking lack of dignity, or a need for help which renders a person undignified?

Dignity is something all Jedi should consider, and have an understanding of. If nothing else, Jedi represent our religion, and our Temple. If we cannot communicate and conduct ourselves with dignity, we lose an important part of what it means to be Jedi: that is, to act with humility, with compassion, with kindness.