“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic….” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
There are a great many quotes throughout the entire Star Wars saga that refer to the role that the Jedi played in the galaxy. Many have discussed the failings of the Jedi Order, but, with the exception of the hardcore Sith among us, most people agree that the Jedi had the best intentions. Though it was a long time ago, and that galaxy is far, far away indeed, we can learn much from the Jedi and apply the best aspects of their Order to our daily modern lives.
My own interest in the Jedi path is largely due to my military career. The Naval service is responsible for my college education, and I have served as a U.S. Marine for the past sixteen years – ten active, six Reserve (two of them mobilized to active duty). I had two combat deployments to Iraq during which I learned a great deal about myself and human nature. To be honest, I have seen and participated in events that I’d prefer that my son not ever have to do. Though some of them were quite distasteful, they all shaped me into who I am today. I discovered that when under enemy fire, dealing with highly charged issues, or even experiencing the death of my own friends and Marines, I possess the ability to detach as necessary to complete the mission at hand. The more of the Legends books I read, and the more I studied the Jedi Order, the more I realized that I was on the Jedi path.
I am not a religious man, though I do respect others’ beliefs a great deal (as I should, since I myself follow a path that George Lucas dreamed up to make a good movie). The Creator did not intend the fictional Jedi Order to be a religion, but he did imbue them with many of the characteristics of Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Judaism, and Native American culture. I shall not go into detail on these specific aspects because I am by no means an authority and do not want to misrepresent them. However, I do value the spiritual aspects and many of their behavioral guidelines.
The Jedi chose not to hate, fear, or be angry. They sought to make decisions while calm & at peace. They accepted events as they happened, not as they wished them to happen. They were lifelong learners. They were physically active and took great care of their bodies. For those of us not living in the galaxy far, far away, these traits continue to be useful for our health and our daily interactions with others, both personally and professionally. While we cannot use the Force as Lucas imagined it, we have opportunities every day to carry positive energy with us and project it to others. Exercising mindfulness, we can monitor our expressions, body language, word choice, and tone when interacting with others. We can make the conscious choice to be friendly to strangers, lift one another up rather than keep one another down, and serve as positive role models for others to emulate. We can exercise, eat well, and avoid excess. We can train in the martial arts. Believe it or not, we may also apply the Jedi way to parenting. That, however, will be the subject of a future blog post.
The iconic image of a Jedi is a stoic, powerful being armed with a lightsaber. Despite their constant quest for peace and their renowned skills as negotiators, the Jedi also knew that there was a time and place for the use of physical force. For my entire adult life, I have lived and thrived within a subculture of America which is granted legal powers by the government to use violence when diplomacy fails – just as the Jedi were. I believe, as many people do, that violence is warranted in some situations. The trick is knowing when that situation is and doing one’s best to avoid getting to that point at all by avoidance, mediation, or compromise, if possible. In the Expanded Universe (now Legends), there are many tales of Jedi being able to do just that. Marine Corps General James Mattis exhorted his Marines in Iraq to be “no better friend, no worse enemy,” meaning to be the best possible representatives of society up until the point when violence was warranted, and then to deal with the situation as efficiently as possible. He also told his forces to “fight with a happy heart and strong spirit,” which I also believe applies well to Jedi. One can fight without malice, without drifting over to the dark side, and with complete control. Doing so, a modern Jedi warrior can carry on with a clear conscience. Bear in mind that there are a great many law enforcement officers and military members who carry this burden daily – to be fair and compassionate, yet willing and able to visit violence on those who would do us harm (credit Orwell).
The mindset to fight only if necessary – but to fight well – can also be developed and practiced in the martial arts. In addition to my continuing Marine Corps training, I choose to train in the Israeli unarmed combat techniques of Krav Maga. I am pleased that I have been selected for training as an assistant instructor; I feel that this will put me in an even better position to influence my training partners to stay mindful and follow the Jedi path (though I may not phrase it as such).
Literal warriors or not, we can ALL add a bit of the Force and the teachings of the Jedi into our profane world. The Jedi way is complementary to most of the religions, as well. I’m interested to know if anyone else follows this path, and if so, how. Please reply below and let me know about your Jedi lifestyle. Until next time, may the Force be with you, and remember – this IS the podcast you’re looking for!
For more information on this subject, you might be interested in the following books:
- Bortolin, Matthew. The Dharma of Star Wars. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005. Print.
- Christensen, Loren W. Meditation for Warriors: Practical Meditation for Cops, Soldiers, and Martial Artists. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. Print.
- Decker, Kevin S., and Jason T. Eberl. Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine. Chicago: Open Court, 2005. Print.
- Mann, Jeffrey K. When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts. North Clarenden, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2012. Print.
- Porter, John M. The Tao of Star Wars. Atlanta, GA: Humanics, 2003. Print.
- Wallace, Daniel. The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle, 2010. Print.