Archives for posts with tag: jediism

Post number 33 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

This is the final exercise in the progression, and tellingly it asks me to examine patterns. Why study the Force? Why examine that which is chaotic, as the chaotic nature of the thing makes it virtually impossible to predict and practically unlikely that the fruits of our labours will produce lasting change? That’s what chaotic means, right? Luck? Only being able to trace causation after the fact?

The reason that’s not the case is that even massively chaotic systems show patterns. I’m going to talk a little bit about fractals and a little about strange attractors. Here’s a definition of the latter:


strange attractor
noun MATHEMATICS
an equation or fractal set representing a complex pattern of behaviour in a chaotic system.

Strange attractors are elements, subsystems within chaotically large systems which, whilst not really “predictable” to a classical degree, still give us a working model of the likely state of things. They are the limits of the chaos, perhaps. For example we might not be able to say Bob is in his seat, but we may be able to reasonably, heuristically (an important concept which I touched on long ago), assume he is in the office. This is a massive oversimplification but it gives the general idea – plot the path a person takes 50 times, they’re unlikely to set foot in the same atomically precise place even once, but we get a consistent pattern that they moved from roughly point A, to roughly point B. The chaos of them doing so has predictable constraints. Bob is unlikely to be 15 feet outside the 3rd floor window (unless it was a really bad day).

The universe does this, too. We call these roughly predictable patterns “strange attractors”. Things are attracted to certain courses and certain trends of behaviour. Once we realise this, we learn that the system in question is complex, that is, very very hard to predict with meaningful accuracy. But it is not random, nor is it so chaotic as to be entirely unpredictable.

This is a model of a strange attractor:

Strange+Attractor

There is a pattern above. There is a lot of “blank space” and a lot of coloured space. The “results” form the coloured space, and the blank space is therefore fairly predictable. It’s not a line chart, not a simple two-dimensional map of probability. But it shows a trend, a disposition (this is an important concept); a pattern.

What we learn about the Force is similarly rooted in strange attraction. We learn the dispositional facts of the universe, and of our interactions with things, and with others. We learn the “basic principles”. Sure, when people try and pin us down to this or to that, we may err. We may not know if we are on the upswing or the down-stroke, the in or the out, the draw or the release. We may learn to predict these things and recognise them, however, and we may learn to accept and understand their limitations. We can learn the rules of the game, even if we can’t predict the actions of every player well enough to win a bet on the superbowl.

Moving on to fractals:

fractal
noun MATHEMATICS
a curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. They are useful in modelling structures (such as snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth and galaxy formation.

Fractals are complex and definitions vary, but the essential principle is that they describe elements where the very smallest aspect of the system mirrors the very largest. This macro/microcosmic symmetry is inherent in strange attractors, too. Strange attractors and fractals are intimately linked.

 

The strange attractor at the heart of this is not a simple thing. For instance, the moon orbits the earth, and the earth orbits the sun. These orbits are regular and predictable, round things going in round orbits around other round things, with limited interference from other strong external forces. But bouncing a tennis ball on a pebbly beach introduces a huge number of variables. The round thing is affected by many semi-round things, by gravity, by angles and winds and shapes and the whole thing becomes chaotic and unpredictable. That’s not to say we wouldn’t see a trend, if we bounced the ball roughly the same way a million times.

Now. Fractals are like the pebbly beach. They have something non-simple at their heart (the strange attractor), but that doesn’t mean they are chaotic. They aren’t. They are deterministic and to an extent, therefore, predictable. And, crucially, they are symmetrical. What’s true for the wider system is true for the subsystem, down to the tiniest, finest-grained level imaginable.

Whew. Still with me?

Jedi are tiny, tiny specks in the vast expanse of the wider Force. They are crystallisations of the whole, in a specific space and time, for a while. Grains of sand on a beach as wide as time itself They live and die, much as the universe lives and dies. They face the pressures of change and stagnation, of push and pull, in and out, yin and yang. They change, they grow, they meet entropy and then they pass on into a new form. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. “As above, so below”. What is true of the whole is also true for part. Each tree models a leaf, each leaf models a tree.

By learning about ourselves, we understand the Force.
By learning about the Force, we come to know ourselves.

This concludes this Progression.

Thank you for reading, and may the Force be with you, always.

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Post number 32 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Stagnation is something we are wise to understand and be on the lookout for. Stagnating systems are entropic; the less something is enabled and allowed to change, the less relevance and responsiveness it can have. I’ve said many times that “the action of the Force is Change”, and that’s true here. The opposite of that action is stagnation; concreteness, rigidity, inflexibility. Trying to hold back the river will generally not work, and will never work forever. The river flows where it must.

Stagnation is a topic I rarely see tackled here at the Temple and my post yesterday spoke largely of a frustration with the stagnation inherent here – hierarchically, procedurally, personally in those at the top of our “tree of learning”. I’ve spoken many times about the danger of feeling one has “got there”. There is no “there” in the journey of our lives, of our continued existence in the Force. We have nothing but our path, onwards, ever onwards. Our path strips us of our possessions (but furnishes us with more), of our relationships (but allows us others), and eventually of our memories (though we are allowed our experiences still) and even the flesh on our bones (although this, too, is deliberately and necessarily impermanent).

We trust the action of the Force when we allow things to change. We overcome our fears, the “what if”s and the “but”s, allowing our unknowing to take priority over the known. I’m resisting the urge to bring in great swathes of text from Krishnamurti’s Freedom From The Known here, but the whole text speaks to this same flexibility, openness and potential for change, and is rightly required reading for Seminarians wishing to increase their understanding of and connection with the ways of the Force.

Instead of retreading that ground, I’ll discuss a different model. Last night I went to a talk on the Cynefin Framework, by its creator Dave Snowden. He provided the following graph, showing the four types of systems and how we can find our place within them:

Cynefin-1024x928

Dave described the “Obvious” segment as “where ideas go to die”, and for me that is inherent in their stagnation. Things which are set in stone, unchanging and monolithic (word of the week) are inflexible, and therefore simple in nature. They have few moving parts and they don’t grow. They are “known”, they are the “givens”. They are rigid, fixed, and that is why they become outdated, no longer the best possible values. They stagnate.

He also mentioned the idea that if a new apex predator is introduced to an ecosystem, they have a stabilising influence, however incompetent their behaviour becomes after that initial success. A new big name will always resettle the marketplace, but that stabilisation, that lack of chaos and complexity, the movement from unknown to known, will always create entropy and, eventually, decay – stagnation.

Dave gave examples of major IT firms who stagnated and mentioned IBM in the 80’s, Microsoft in the 90’s. These were the “big players”, but they allowed what they did to become too fixed, too stagnant. Now they both seem fairly incompetent and are fighting an uphill battle for relevance. Another issue he touched on was the current state of Silicon Valley, where everyone wants the 18 month start up business which can then be sold off at a profit to the Googles, Apples and Samsungs of this world. No-one is interested in becoming the next Google, the next Apple. So what happens when the relevance of these “big firms” crumbles, as time suggests it must? The scene is stagnating.

We can relate this to our understanding of the vastly chaotic system of the Force. Its beauty is in its unpredictability, not just in its patterns (although these are incredibly beautiful too). There is simply too much going on for us to meaningfully comprehend and follow it all. That unpredictability, that openness and understanding that even our best guess will sometimes (often) fall short, is a great reason to limit stagnation, to get stagnant things moving. To shift things up and allow the changes which could make things better to happen. To take the risk.

Stagnation is the opposite of what Jedi put their faith in, what does this mean in practice? Does it mean we must challenge everything, nihilistically breaking down whatever we see, enabling the dissolution and reformation of all things? Certainly not. All things have their time, and stagnation is a necessary element of the cycle of change. Think of it like an engine. A certain amount of pressure must build to fire a piston, and so stagnation can serve as a waveform, a “drawing back” before a release. However it is sensible to be mindful of these drawings-back, in order that we can adequately prepare for the firing ahead.

The good archer draws back, too – but whilst he does so, he keeps his eye on the target ahead.

Post number 31 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

For once, I can vary my intro! This is not a very obvious choice for Jedi to consider and not something which will be relevant to all paths. Woo! I didn’t say “This is very important for Jedi to understand” for once!

This is something of an oddball topic here, it seems to me. Distance plays a part in all of our live, all paths. A path exists to bridge distance between things; therefore, walking our path is putting certain things in the distance behind us, and bringing certain things in the distance up ahead a little closer.

Another interpretation of distance is the distance with which we view the behaviour of others. As I spoke about in the previous assignment on perspective, the way we view actions and words is not universal and the provision of each of us with a unique perspective creates tensions and difficulties in our interpretation of others. If we can retain our awareness of this, if we can keep our gut reactions at something of a distance, we may be able to find more clearly the true intent of the person we are interacting with.

This is a distance from our own perspective, which is sensible for Jedi who wish to avoid the knee-jerk reactions which land people in hot water so often. But there is a balance to be struck. I have spoken previously about instinct and its use for Jedi, and that knee jerking is absolutely a kind of instinct. There must be some filtering, some awareness and some responsibility taken for ourselves, our actions and our reactions. Whilst there are situations where people are intentionally and deliberately rude, thoughtless and hurtful, often we cannot blame the world for our feelings and emotions; we should not, at least.

All that said, we should not sacrifice the authenticity of our reactions and experiences, our intuition and who we really are for this objectivity. We are allowed to feel, we are allowed to have opinions, and we are allowed to be hurt, sometimes. Jedi are human! That is a good thing. We are an aspect of the Force, as are our emotions, our reactions, our pain and our pleasures. The key is (drumroll please…) balance! Isn’t that always the way? Between the opposites we find our path. Yes, sometimes our emotions are valid and must be accepted, held close, and given light. Other times, we may chose to hold them at a greater distance, to not let them have such a direct influence over our actions and our perspective. We must accept what we can, and not what we can’t.

Distance means something when Jedi are spread so few and far between across the globe. Our Temple is digital, meaning we can interact with Jedi wherever they are in the world. My apprentices live in North America, and we’ve never met. My master lives in France, and likewise, we’ve never spoken face to face. Yet I feel these people are large presences in my life, whatever the distance. The Force allows us to communicate across these large distances, the Force in the form of human ingenuity, telecommunications, wires and waves and 0s and 1s. The Force allows for many strange things, and few are stranger than the kind of quantum entanglement of human hearts the internet and telecommunications in general provide for.

Distance has played an interesting role in my life. I grew up in a tiny rural village, fairly cut off from even the nearest town. Most of my friends lived there, and I was alone a lot. When I was 16 I struck up a relationship with a girl in Sweden over the internet, and we had a long distance relationship for 11 months. I learned that across those distances, communicating mostly via text, we learned a lot about one another’s interior lives, in a way I’ve rarely experienced with a less distant acquaintance. Similarly, when I was at university my girlfriend and I kept our home town romance going, so there were 3 more years of a long distance relationship there. And more recently, since splitting up with her, I now have to live with distance between myself and my kids.

Universally distance has taught me that we are more likely to appreciate that which is scarce, rarer, not our “everyday”. My relationship with my children is ironically far stronger than it was when I saw them almost all the time, even seeing them for around half a week now. My relationship with my ex was far stronger when we had a mutual adversary in distance. And my relationship with my girlfriend in Sweden was one of the most intense of my life. The reality is, distance can create closeness, in exactly the way we as Jedi might expect; things become their opposites.

Post number 30 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Jedi in the Star Wars universe are accustomed to confrontation. The first time we hear of them, we hear of their trademark weapon – one more suitable for severing heads than changing minds. The majority of Jedi life seems to be spent either in battle, or training for one; the calm moments are just there so that our heroes can catch their breath, hone their killing powers and resume their attack. This is a form of confrontation: that is, meeting aggression with aggression.

OK, perhaps slightly overplaying it! But the Star Wars Jedi are certainly more accustomed to confrontation than most real-world Jedi. In real life, we seek to be peace-makers, mediators, those who bring harmony to chaotic or hostile situations, rather than the opposite. But that is not to say Jedi never engage in conflict; indeed, our doctrine and codes specifically provide for it. Jedi must confront that which must be confronted, because we are engaged in an authentic life, experiencing with the wide systems of the Force, applying a balanced approach to our strategies and techniques. Conflict is a colour on our palette.

Confrontation is, to an extent, unavoidable. In life, we may not choose to confront things, but may still be confronted by or about them. Confrontation has a way of finding us, however far we attempt to remove ourselves from it. But our response to confrontation is ours alone, and we do not need to let it rile us. Indeed, confrontation can be mellowed into discussion or debate, or even left as a disagreement. There’s no need to meet fire with fire, and as Jedi we understand that a healthy dose of ice can quench the flames of another’s anger. Balance, as ever, is key.

Sometimes, however, confrontation is necessary. There are situations which Jedi cannot be bystanders in, and where a purely docile, gentle response is unlikely to have a positive effect. If I felt someone was harassing another person, I might choose to confront them. This is certainly not the only option in this scenario, of course, but sometimes a quick, abrupt reminder of the iniquity of a person’s actions can be the most effective way of communicating the impropriety of their behaviour. However, the further I go in my path the less I feel a need to use confrontation as a tool; it speaks of a certain tempestuous quality of our own passions and our own emotions, to feel the need to bite back. And biting back is the key element that turns a disagreement into a confrontation.

In confrontation, it is very easy to lose one’s composure. Our passions are riled and our instinctive “fight or flight” response has often been triggered before we enter into the “fight” of a confrontation. But it is possible to retain our cool even in these challenging situations. We can temper our emotions and only allow ourselves to confront things as far as we choose to go – that is, we can attack the behaviour, without attacking the person exhibiting it. We can confront things with a smile on our face, a jovial and friendly attitude in our hearts. We can show others that whilst we expect better of them, that is because we think highly of them.

In my life I have confronted many things, and this has not always been a positive thing. I have been argumentative, passionate and heated. I have also been cold, distant and dismissive. I have a distance still to travel when it comes to confrontations. I don’t like conflict; I grew up in a family situation with frequent, aggressive confrontation on a daily (perhaps hourly would be fairer) basis. I’ve spoken about my discomfort around conflict in therapy and I’m still very much on this side of the fence: if I could live without confrontation, I would. But I’ve confronted myself, and that’s important too. I’ve spoken with myself about my drink issues, with my anger issues even. I’ve addressed a failing marriage and I’ve applied a little pressure on myself to become a better parent. At the end of all this, my drinking and the worst of my anger are firmly in check. I am happy with a new partner, and my relationship with my children has never been better. This “internal confrontation” is therefore an extremely useful tactic, if not as harmonious as we Jedi might prefer.

Jedi should not shy away from the truth. We should confront that which needs to be confronted, but we should not overestimate quite what that is. In life, we have many approaches to choose from, many of which will yield better, more harmonious results than confrontation. Confrontation reminds me of the rushing flood meeting the rock, and smashing into a thousand pieces – the result for one side is likely to be devastating.

Post number 29 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

A set of nested lenses, perspectives come in all shapes and sizes. They are subsets of subsets of subsets, tints of tints of tints. They are necessary individual, necessarily grouped, necessarily in some senses universal. Perspectives are what allow us to make sense of things. They describe a basis for perceptions, a map of preconceptual ideas and concepts which enable one to understand at all. Our perspective defines our reality, and that is doubly true for Jedi: The Force, after all, can be most meaningfully described as a perspectival concept, that all is in reality, one.

Jedi need to understand perspective in a number of ways. Firstly, we must understand our own perspective. Think of it like the fish who does not know he is in water. He goes his whole life without breaking the surface, and doesn’t understand that there are other ways of seeing the world. The fish misses a lot! The birds, the sky, the fisherman on the river bank. Without an awareness of the limitations, biases and other inherent traits of our own perspective, we are lost within a vortex of experience with no compass. If we know our compass points us “North”, we can begin to define South – and, with work, we can extrapolate East and West, too.

Secondly, we need to understand the perspective of others. For our “North” may not be everyone’s North, just as our fish in the pond may encounter a bigger fish. Is the bigger fish friendly, or a predator? Is the viewpoint of the “Other” likely to help or harm us? Jedi are engaged in the process of compassionate awareness, of empathetic service. It’s hard to adequately provide for the needs of others if you do not understand, in some limited way, the experience, desires, feelings, perspective of others. A great message on this understanding of the difference of perspective for others is the African proverb of the Monkey, who decides to save the fish from drowning by taking him up a tree. What is medicine for one is poison for another – without an understanding of perspective, Jedi would therefore stand to do significant harm to others, even with the best intentions.

Thirdly, we need to be able to adjust our focus and change our perspective in certain situations. Limited awareness, limited focus, or perhaps too narrow a focus (or too wide) can impact our ability to understand and deal with a situation. There’s little sense in gently chipping away at a boulder with a rock hammer when what we need is a pneumatic drill, and vice versa on the delicate fossil. Our focus, our ability to act appropriately depends entirely on our ability to adjust our perspective to the relevant state. This isn’t always easy! Sometimes we under or overestimate things, going too far in some directions, not far enough in others. The best state of mind is one of openness – that is, ready to change our focus, to understand things another way and to allow our perspective to change. Who hasn’t experienced those moments of “Oh!” when we suddenly come to new understanding, a paradigm shift in our thinking? Those tend to be some of the most powerful moments in our lives; all of them hinge on a non-rigid, mobile perspective, capable of expansion or contraction, where relevant.

Finally, we must also accept that all perspectives are but facets of the one overarching viewpoint: that of the true nature of reality, the underlying perspective behind all things. The Force is all that is. The understanding we have of different scenes and scenarios within that wider tableau should not deprive us of the “universal perspective” – that is, all that is, is in flux. All that is, changes. All that comes, goes, and all that goes, returns. All that is here now, was here before, or will come after, is one thing, one “happening”. This is the underlying “perspective” we must work to adopt, behind whatever situational perspective is most relevant in our daily lives.

Perspective is essential because we must understand that it is an inherent quality of all things that can be perceived, that someone is therefore perceiving them. All “someones” have perspectives; preconceived ideals, concepts and notions which colour everything they encounter, like a red lens in front of a camera. To be perceived perspectivally is an inherent quality of everything, including that understanding! So to understand anything, we must know something about perspective. For Jedi, we must understand that our perspective is coloured by our knowledge of the Force. Perhaps this makes us more patient, less attached. In reality I’ve often found the opposite to be true! Perhaps, aware as we are of the perspectival nature of things, we “lean back” into the old ways more?

I’m not sure. And that allows for my perspective to grow, as my understanding does.

Post number 28 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Gulping a breath, he approaches, treading on the outsides of his feet with eyes fixed on the prostrate shape. At two yards he crouches, and watches, watches, a full three minutes. Deciding the time is right, he walks forward, noisily now. Under his breath he gives thanks to the spirit of the creature and prays it reach the hunting grounds of its ancestors, before reaching out to retrieve the spear.

His hand is a foot away when the whiskers twitch. His arm snaps back, the beast’s claws tearing red lines in the skin of his forearm. “Aah!” he yells, grabbing the sharpened flint haft in his belt. The axe comes down on the creature’s throat, just once. A pool of dark liquid pools into the dead leaves, as he thanks the spirits of his fathers for the gift of foresight, of knowing, and of teaching him to dance with the deadly moments of this life..”

We haven’t always been taught to ignore our intuition, and it has got us a very long way. Perhaps it is time we learn to trust this old skill once more?

Post number 27 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Delusion is, as I seem to say at the start of every topic in this sequence, an important topic for Jedi. It is delusional for us to think of ourselves as isolated, delusional for us to imagine our actions and words (and even our thoughts) have no or limited impact. The role of Jedi is to make these realisations of the delusional nature of perception into action – to share a compassionate experience of life with the other elements of the Force, mindful of the consequences of the things we send into the wider system.

As such, it’s fair to say most people spend much of their lives deep within delusion. They believe themselves “islands” and are thus greedy, selfish, offensive, hurtful. People assume their actions do not affect the wider world, resulting in the kinds of “I’m Alright Jack” mentality of those who are complacent enough to feel if it doesn’t affect them directly, they need have no interest in something. This attitudes creates situations like those of the people I see at the homeless shelter – no-one was directly affected but them, so no-one cared to do enough to keep them off the streets. Happily many do not feel this way and organisations like the night shelter exist.

Delusion impacts us in other ways. Above, I undertook a reading of Musashi’s book of Void, wherein he spoke of the delusions suffered even by those who walk their paths in the pursuit of a noble and sincere goal. We see this even amongst those who walk the halls of our Temple, for instance those who suggest it is others’ problem if they are hurt by intentionally hurtful barbs or insults. It’s challenging to relate to people who cannot see, how backwards this is. That it is the onus of each actor to take responsibility for the entire play, to cooperate, to collaborate, to “raise up” others, whether it is convenient to do so or not.

Another type of delusion we see here at the Temple is that of rank; that one who has gained a badge is somehow worth more than someone who has not. Or indeed length of service, that someone who has been here a long time, has been walking the path a long time, is somehow better at walking than someone who has only been doing it a short while. The truth of this situation is, more often than not, it seems, that the longer a person walks, the further they stray from their home – from the foundations of their training and the reasons they set out in the first place.

I think of one long-standing Jedi in particular here… someone who takes great pleasure in recounting their length of service and history within the community. Whenever this person posts, boastfully proclaiming themselves an expert, my only thought is “You have lived with these values of egolessness, compassion, harmony for that long – and you have learned so little?”

One way we can tackle delusion, therefore, is to remember where we came from. To never see ourselves as experts. To never “get there”, to never harbour any idea of “getting there” in fact. There is no “there” on the journey of our lives, besides death. And that is only a perspectival thing, too – death is not the end. In life, we must fight these delusions. We must continue to cultivate our beginners’ minds. To listen to the words of beginners as a truer wisdom than the words of jaded “professionals”. We must seek to continuously integrate the good ideas, to improve things whenever we have the opportunity to do so, and to discard the old which persists “because it has always been this way”.

Jedi must work to rid themselves of illusion, but they must not lose it altogether. We must understand that many of those around us will be working from this framework of “!righteous selfishness”. That they will see no connection and that they will not understand the wide consequences of their actions, words, thoughts. It sounds a little pretentious perhaps, but I’m reminded of the film The Matrix – most of the “plugged in” people cannot see beyond what they are shown, to the underlying nature of their delusory reality. Those who are aware, still have to navigate their actions, thoughts, feelings. And as Jedi, this is doubly true – we are not ass-kicking, gun-wielding badasses; we are figures of compassion an understanding, devotion and service.

Human, yet the Force.

Post number 26 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Sincerity is the extent to which we mean what we say, or to which we are authentic in our actions. Sincerity speaks to our ability to meaningfully commit ourselves to things, to how “truthfully” we can fulfil our obligations, and how honestly we can face the things before us. Without sincerity, we are insincere – that is, we cannot meaningfully, honestly or truthfully conduct ourselves. To do things in an insincere way speaks to a lack of faith in ourselves or others, or in our actions. To do things without sincerity is an abstraction from the true act; it is illusory, and we are creating the illusion.

Sincerity is a quality of our intentions. If we have sincere intent, then what we do will come from a place of honesty and authenticity. It’s a factor in our motivation; to be moved by “the pure motive”, as our doctrine describes, we must do so inherently, instinctively perhaps. Maybe we find some task unpleasant: then we learn it is beneficial. To act with sincerity, we then undertake the unpleasant task, knowing that the motive for doing so is to accomplish the benefit, to do the good by enduring the bad. Sincerity doesn’t always require us to do “bad things”, of course; but to do “bad things” for the benefit of others always takes sincerity.

Sincerity is a very important quality for Jedi. We are engaged with the Force at the most fundamental, “knowing” level of being. To exemplify this connection it is very important that we commit to that which we do. It is similarly important for us to work to understand our hesitations and the difficulties we face in making commitment to things. We need to understand what it is about ourselves which is saying “No”, “Not really”, “I’m not sure”.

Likewise we have an obligation to serve others. We must do so willingly to truly live as Jedi; to do something “to save face” or for the sake of appearances is a weak, actually rather deceptive way to approach the path. If we want to live the values of our path, we must conquer the internal hurdles we can, of course; but we must also face our own limitations, the areas we need growth in beyond our current capacity to reach, to leap to. We must accept that we are never “there”, and as such we must always have more room for growth.

To elaborate on the illusory nature of insincerity: when we do anything, to an extent we give the appearance of doing something with sincerity. If we act at all, surely we must mean it at some level. But the truth is often people do things half-heartedly, without authentic effort, without sincerity. That expresses a lack of commitment, a lack of faith and the outcome is rarely good. Better to honestly say no, than to dishonestly assent to something we will only half-do.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of authenticity in what we do, and I feel I must refer to that again. If we are authentically drawn to the path of the Jedi, it is no hardship to allow that to flow into our intentions. We may not want to, as I’ve recently tasked my Apprentices to, go out into the street in winter and pick up trash. But if we remember why we are doing it, if we accept that it is the role of Jedi to do that which others don’t do, but which is for the benefit of all, then it becomes easier to see the value in doing it. We can thus “engineer” some sincerity into our intentions, by understanding their relationship to our overarching goals and aims.

I think about applications of this logic at our Temple, and it makes me both smile, and a little sad. We meet many people at our gates, many of whom speak to being great and noble Jedi, others who acknowledge the mountains they must climb, others who speak to reforming our practice with their wonderful ideas. These people regularly come with sincere intentions, but without the sincerity of commitment to achieve them.

How frustrating, that things are not as easy as they seem. How wonderful that people are motivated to try – and again, how sad that people give up the ghost, before making it to the summit. It is sincere to recognise these emotions, these conflicts and shades of grey. To see that what is, what is meant, can change over time. That what can be the most sincere goal one day, can become embarrassing old news as soon as the next day. And that, knowing all this, we must work with it, rather than against it. That is my sincere response, today – to see the insanity of it all, and carry on anyway. Because in my heart, I believe in climbing these mountains.

Post number 25 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Suspicion is our capacity to judge the motivation for other’s actions, primarily their negative intent, from what they do, say, or their general tone or demeanour. Suspicion is important because it allows us to detect that others are not always benevolent, or that even if they are, they are not always as capable or sincere or committed enough to ensure no harm will come to us, or to others. Suspicion is a double edged sword, however – like many things, it is a useful tool when applied in situations where it is appropriate, but if applied too widely or too rigorously, it can become a tool for creating pain or negativity in its own right.

Suspicion is something I’m fairly familiar with, but I haven’t always been. As a child, I guess I could be described as gullible. My brother often used this trait to make a fool of me, mock me and otherwise pull the wool over my eyes. As I grew I came to suspect him more and whilst that allowed me to avoid situations where he was trying to amuse himself at my expense, it also made me realise how unkind he had been to me for a long time. We don’t really speak now, and I don’t really feel bad about that. Interpret that how you will – you may see that as a failing, personally I see no reason to close doors behind which we have confirmed, time and again, only pain lies.

As a teen I was quite cynical. I was suspicious of school, of the fellow students there. Of the government, religions, the conception of history we commonly share. I was overly suspicious and it was no better than being overly credulous. It closed me off to some of the possibilities which were genuine, and to some friendships with people who were sincere. Suspicion was new to me, and like any new toy I was over-using it. I realised this when I arrived in sixth form, where I became a more sociable and outgoing person again. I started a band, met and got with a girlfriend (who eventually became my wife), I started going out with friends in the evening and learned that what was out there, wasn’t as bad as my overly suspicious and cynical mind had suggested it would be.

Balance. Need I say more, at this stage?

So. Where is the place of suspicion in the Jedi mindset? We need to have a healthy attitude to threat detection if we can hope to support and defend those around us, and to defend our Temple and ourselves. We must accept that the world is not a purely “fluffy” place – wars are fought, aggressors exist, and every day we survive innumerable dangers just navigating our streets and homes. Suspicion clearly has a position in our tool belt, and we’d be foolish to discard it entirely.

How can that be? We are supposed to be the brothers and sisters of all creation. Why would we treat anything with suspicion? This is akin to the argument that we do not make choices if we believe in a deterministic, wholly-causal universe. It’s false – we do still make the choices, and our process of making those choices is essential to their being made at all. It’s just the outcome of those choices is, in a fundamental and utterly impractical way, predictable. It is predetermined that we will make certain choices. And it is fundamental that some elements of the Force will be worthy of our suspicion.

We must be circumspect when dealing with that which could cause harm, because to do any less would be irresponsible, and at a deep level inauthentic. The hippy who goes to hug the wild tiger might mean well – but he’ll get eaten and do no further good to the cause of spreading peace and love. Also, the tiger will likely be shot. So, what good was achieved by the “loving hug”? Surely it is more loving to be suspicious that a game warden with a gun will likely kill the tiger that mauls us, that it is in the tiger’s nature to maul?

As Jedi we find the beauty in all things, feel the unity with all things. That does not mean we must be victims to all things that would harm us. We can understand that the tiger’s fiery temper is a mirror of that we find within ourselves. We can accept the good intention of the warden, that man-eating tigers should not be free to roam. We can appreciate the tiger from a distance and avoid this whole ugly affair. If we want to do the tiger some good, we can work on tiger conservation. To hug the tiger is to never have loved it at all, to never have truly understood it. To never have found its unique, powerful beauty. And that is a lesson suspicion can teach us.

The truth can be ugly, but because it is true it is beautiful. The Force is in all things, even our illusions, our misapprehensions. These too are beautiful, in their way. But they are like beautiful gauzes over the masterpiece – ephemeral, transient, obstructive of something much greater. As Jedi we work to apply suspicion and other concepts with balance, to promote harmony, exerting our understanding and wisdom to produce our best possible outcome.

And what’s that? Nothing more than the entire universe, and everything, everywhere, everywhen it contains.

All as one.

Post number 24 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Comfort might be seen as the life goal many people pursue. Comfort doesn’t imply a great deal of excitement or adventure; rather, i t is found at home, behind the wider world, in our own space. Comfort may be something we associate with a place, or with a person, or a group of people. For me, comfort is something I look for (and sometimes find) here at our shared Temple. Pleasure and exhilaration are as far from Comfort as sorrow and despair; comfort provides neither peak nor trough, merely a happy medium. A home cooked meal, a new duvet, a warm cup of tea – these are comforts.

One of my favourite untranslatable notions is the Danish one of “Hygge” (pronounced something like “who-geh”, but more like “hugg-eh”). Hygge is often translated as “comfort”, but hygge is more than that – a gathering of friends can be “hyggelig”, a picnic in the sunshine or a meal by fairy light, a bath with scented candles or a night in front of the TV with good food and blankets. Hygge is something close to the heart of Danes, and part of the national character in the same way “Lagom” is for Swedes, and “Sisu” is for Finns. Hygge is something I try and create in my home space, and the lives of my loved ones, wherever I can. One of the translations of hygge is “a complete and profound absence of anything extreme, whether extremes of discomfort or of pleasure”. A nice, balances, Jedi sentiment, if ever I saw one.

Comfort may also be defined as an absence of “discomfort”, which often manifests as hurt, pain or fear. Jedi have an active role in alleviating discomfort and in making others feel “well”, that is, comfortable where they might otherwise find themselves in one of these uncomfortable negative states. I think of the dark alley, and the fearful person walking alone down it, hoping they won’t get stabbed. A Jedi stands beside them with a lit torch (and, possibly, a clenched fist). The person homeless in the cold. A Jedi sits beside them, a warm blanket and cup of hot soup in hand. The person facing an emotional breakdown. A Jedi puts their arms around them, and tells them “Everything will be OK”. Simplistic examples, of course. The beauty of service is that for each person, each situation the boundaries, goalposts and stressors are unique. Any “boiling down” will only leave bones.

Comfort is also something we can think of as a kind of complacency. If we become too comfortable in our views, we can exhibit the same symptoms described in my previous response, about “certainty”. To be rigid and fixed in our mode of thought, to “rest on our laurels”, is to be over-comfortable. As Jedi, we participate in the adventures our paths bring to us. We do not rest, and the place of the Jedi is not the same as the place of the chubby house-cat, comfortable on the radiator. There is wrong in the world. There are problems. It can make us uncomfortable to admit this, and it should. This discomfort motivates us to find a solution we are more comfortable with.

I come back to that same, mantra-like point: balance is key. If we are too comfortable we stagnate. If we are too uncomfortable it can cause us pain. We should work towards the middle ground, comfortable “enough”, but also uncomfortable enough to enable ourselves to have goals, aims and adventures. We should not baulk at the prospect of discomfort. I recently arrived at some wisdom I’ve been helping my partner apply: nothing worth having comes easily. The stress of maintenance, of learning and growing is necessary. We do not grow strong muscles by using them once, and we do not come to comfort by only achieving it once. It comes and goes, those familiar waves of the cyclical nature of the Force.

In the final analysis comfort is not something we need to get too comfortable with. As I’ve said repeatedly, the place of Jedi is not sequestered away in a cloister; it is in the world, supporting our fellow people, learning to live in harmony with and promote harmony within the wider Force. That’s not to say we must spend our lives in pain or difficulty, only that we are wise to understand sitting still for too long “because it is comfortable” leaves us flabby, inefficient and rather poor Jedi. It does not only matter “what we’ve done”, we need to continue to apply these lessons to fulfil our vows as Knights. One good deed does not imply a lifetime of passive comfort as reward.

I will add, I do not believe this lesson is widely understood by some here at the Temple.