Arbitrary and Inconsistent: Jedi Philosophy

In my previous article, I talked about how it was possible to defend Star Wars’ Galactic Empire and about all the benefits they brought the galaxy. I won’t be quite so foolish as to try and convince you that the Sith as a whole are sunshine and sparkles. However, I will endeavor to demonstrate how they are more philosophically consistent in their approach to life, the universe, and everything than the Jedi.

9FZRMEnqbpUzF1R0E9kYfqQjt7Q

For your viewing pleasure, here are the twin codes of the major Force using religions. Let’s dissect these briefly.

Jedi

1) The Jedi deny the existence of emotion. This is an impossible goal. All six of the current movies, we see Jedi displaying full ranges of emotion – happiness, sadness, irritation, worry – the full gamut. They talk about denying emotions, but in practice they do not deny themselves emotions with the possible exception of anger. (Even Obi-Wan was guilty of that one, however.) They speak of peace as though it is the utter lack of emotion. Again, this is demonstrably impossible within their order.

2) The ideal for knowledge is indeed a laudable one. However, they are implying that it is possible to get to an all-knowing state. Obviously not the case, considering they couldn’t see the Clone Wars coming. There will always be ignorance, and to believe otherwise is to court foolishness.

3) I take the idea of “serenity” to be at a state of “oneness,” as is the case with many Eastern religions. Other evidence shows that the Jedi are interested in being conduits open to the will of the Force. However, they seem to freak out if they are reminded that the Dark Side is also a part of the Force. How serene can you possibly be if an aspect of the very thing you tap in to and worship may have a will contrary to yours? If they were truly so serene, wouldn’t they accept that the will of the Force may be for the Sith to become dominant? To accept that maybe there was just the Force, and that it could be capricious or simply respond to user motivation?

4) No chaos. No chaos? Really? What galaxy are these people actually living in? They are surrounded by chaos. Admittedly, the Jedi are trying to beat it back. But based on the movies, most of them seem only interested in being in harmony with themselves. Many of them don’t seem to be too concerned with being in harmony with their fellow Jedi. Especially in Episode 1 – Qui Gonn and Yoda seem to be vying for Obi-Wan’s mind. They even enforce their harmony on non-Force users with the Jedi mind trick. All in all this harmony seems to be very…masturbatory and self serving.

5) “There is no death, there is the Force.” Well, maybe for some. It seems if you’re very lucky (or cursed, depending on your perspective) you might get to hang around as some sort of Force ghost after you die. There are three instances of these on film. However, LOTS of Jedi died in the prequel trilogy, and never showed back up. And what about those who have no connection to the Force? Are you going to tell them that there’s no death too?

Okay. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Jedi abandoned that code after the Old Republic era. (These two codes are from the video game Knights of the Old Republic, after all.) What about the Jedi Code in Luke Skywalker’s day? Here’s the code put forth by Luke once he started training Jedi in the novels:

Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.
Jedi use their powers to defend and to protect.
Jedi respect all life, in any form.
Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.
Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.
So, once again, let’s examine these:
1) Guardians of peace in the galaxy. That’s odd. They were generals in a war to prevent systems from leaving the Galactic Republic willingly. How were they the guardians of peace if they refused to allow systems that were brought into the Republic by their own will leave by their own will? How were they safeguarding peace by plotting to murder Chancellor Palpatine in cold blood if he did things the Jedi Council didn’t like? How is it safeguarding peace to join a terrorist group intent on destroying a legitimately established government that the bulk of the galaxy seemed to welcome?
2) Defend and protect. Who or what, exactly? Their own interests, certainly, but with this blanket statement no Jedi could ever do anything to defend or protect anyone. By protecting one, the Jedi would necessarily be opposing and attacking another. How does a Jedi deal with the struggle of natural law and rule by power? There is nothing in this statement that establishes priorities, so by its own lack of definition renders itself useless.
3) “Respect all life, in any form.” Unless you happen to be one of the billions of clones who were sent into battle by the Jedi against the droid armies. Speaking of which, why are the Jedi using human soldiers to begin with and not droids? Could it be that the Separatists in the prequel trilogy actually valued sentient life more than the Jedi and the Republic? Also, how is it respectful to use the Jedi mind trick to make sentient beings do something completely contrary to their own will, self-interest, or beliefs? (And why does it only not work on major crime bosses and robber-baron tradesmen on Tatooine?)
4) “Serve others rather than ruling over them.” So, why was there a Jedi council, then? Why were Jedi sought as arbitrators if they were to have no authority to make or enforce decisions? Both of these questions are highlighted by the completely arbitrary nature of the Jedi Council in the prequel films. Jedi are told to submit themselves to the council, but there seem to be no repercussions for not doing so. In fact, there never seem to be any sort of necessary reports made to said council. Cut off someone’s hand in a bar? Nah, we don’t need to know about any of that. Just listen to us prattle on before ignoring us again. Still though, in all practicality Jedi did rule over people. Nobody seemed to question their authority as long as they had a lightsaber, the maniacs. In actual fact, they enforced rule through the threat of violence. The major difference is they had a better PR campaign than the Sith, and tried to make it seem as though Jedi should use their light sabers as a last resort. Again, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith showed that perception to be false.
5) “Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.” Unless, of course that knowledge or training could be considered dangerous. Unless, of course that knowledge led to the Dark Side of the Force, which doesn’t make any pretentions about being emotionless gurus of “good.”
                                                The Sith
The Sith are always made out to be the bad guys in the movies, games and novels – and based on some of their actions, so they should be. However, an examination of their code reveals that it is not intrinsically evil. More than that their code is shown to be far more realistic and consistent than those of the Jedi. Let us examine them.
1) “Peace is a lie, there is only passion.” This code, we may assume, was made in response to that of the Jedi – as the Sith did not exist until after the Dark Jedi were exiled to the planet Korriban. Based on that common understanding of peace to be lack of emotion, the Sith rightly disdain the idea. An absence of political war may be present, but the Sith recognize that emotions are constantly changing. They acknowledge that there is a constant inner struggle that not only is worthy of being waged, but must be waged if one is to improve by any conceivable metric. The Sith also acknowledge that conflict is not just the way of the hearts of men, but the way of the whole universe. To quote one Sith academic, “Without strife, there is stagnation.” While this can easily lead to snap decisions and brutality if it is interpreted as “do as thou wilt,” it is not a blanket statement justifying impulsiveness. It merely acknowledges that we are all emotional beings, and our emotions will never be gone from us completely.
2) “Through passion, I gain strength.” Because of sentient beings’ passions, they act. They do not sit back and idle away time if they are passionate about something, they act based upon what they believe in – what motivates them. They seek to fulfill or validate their passions, which leads to some sort of strength. This strength may be physical, mental, or hypothetically even moral. Sith see themselves as seekers of new knowledge and experiences, not shepherds to prevent others from seeking their own answers. They do not condemn those who find new paths to strength.
3) “Through strength, I gain power.” Power is a natural outgrowth of strength. It is power to affect change – again through body, mind, spirit, etc. People respect power, but will follow longer if their passions align with their leaders’. This leads us back to the natural progression of passion to strength to power.
4) “Through power, I gain victory.” This victory may be a visible military conquest or an inner conquest of the self. It may be the power to deny yourself an indulgence in order to achieve something greater. These victories may be personal, not just the ones that are visibly shared.
5) “Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me.” This last step is one of self-actualization based upon previous victories. While power and victory are inherently a personal pursuit (as they so often are) there are many benefits that may befall others due to personal victories. The idea here is that boundaries are broken so that the Sith may act as they see fit – even, perhaps, as they should based upon the struggle and its rewards. This is why so many Sith either hate mercy or simply do not show it: they believe that mercy would set one back on the path to victory and self-realization. To not allow something its fight to improve would be as good as killing the being itself to their minds.
All in all, these tenets are self-contained and not contradictory. As opposed, once again, to the tennets of the Jedi. The intriguing thing is, such as these Sith teachings are, they are not in and of themselves evil. While the Sith did do evil things, you cannot argue that their teachings are schizophrenic or that Sith themselves are not capable of following this code. One can fairly level that charge of the teachings of the Jedi.
Only-a-Sith-Deals-in-Absolutes
Okay, so I couldn’t resist that shot again. But when ideological opponents metaphorically put their heads in the noose, it’s hard to not kick the chair.

The Little Girl Lost

Today, I read a book with the Spanish word for hope in the title.

Esperanza Rising, the cover promised.

I read the book in just one sitting,

Glossing over words I easily digested.

I found myself chiding along with Esperanza’s mother:

“Esperanza,” we said, “grow up.”

“Esperanza,” we reminded her, “life is different now.”

“Esperanza,” we told her, “you must find a new way to be happy.”

I started to write a paper, for class,

About how much I disliked Esperanza.

But then I stopped, and thought.

Was it that I did not like Esperanza?

Or was it that I would have liked her had I been a little girl too?

Had I been a little girl, would I have cared more about dust on my doll

Than making a little beggar girl happy?

Would I have scowled at the shack that was my home

Rather than be grateful that I had one?

The answer is, unequivocally, yes.

But, it’s a bit sad that I had to write an 800-1000 word paper to realize this.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve grown just a tad too tall for this.

I am too grown to read stories meant for “eight and up”

Without viewing the words through college-level glasses,

Without sympathizing with the mother over the daughter in a story.

This realization grieves me, I must admit,

More even than I should care to acknowledge.

I feel as though I have lost something that I do not know if I can regain,

That a part of me has wandered off before I even knew it was gone.

This thing, I suppose, is a type of innocence lost.

The child me refuses to stick around.

But perhaps my grief is a bit untoward, and I should not lament

That I have grown to be, like Lewis’ Lucy, too old for fairy stories.

It’s better, I know, to have grown up, and not remained a spoiled child forever.

I just wish someone would have warned me that I would rise so fast.

Where Is Home?

horizon

The setting was a mild fall day in early September. Driving to college on a Saturday morning, I was fresh from vacationing in Florida.

Arriving at Cottingham, the honors dorm, my older brother Joseph (a junior) and I (a freshman) signed in at the front desk, saying hi to the hall director and RA—people whose faces would become very familiar in the coming weeks.

Room 105. The room next door to where Joseph had stayed the previous year. Inhabited by a drunk, and apparently odiferous. Well, the smell had worn off, and after we removed the orange tape from walls, pulled the fork out of the ceiling, and scrubbed the room thoroughly, the room seemed habitable. But it was not home.

Home was at the church that Sunday—saying hi to people I had not seen in quite some time. Home was meeting new friends, becoming comfortable, setting down roots in a place so that I was no longer a stranger but a familiar face. Take away the faces, and I’m alone, far from home. Some days I still feel far from home—homesick, but only because I am far from friends and family. I have made many surface-level friendships, but it’s the difference between stopping at a cozy hotel for the night and being back in one’s own bed. A sense of belonging. My older brother is home. A few others are very close. My mom and dad, my siblings, my grandparents, are all home. I could be anywhere in the world with them, and I would be home.

There is a degree to which I haven’t reached home yet. But there’s so much to be thankful for—that even though we’re dust and ashes, these ashes may still get a taste of the true home.

“…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There God will greet us, “Welcome home.”

_________________________

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11.13-16

The Benefits of Rereading Books

P. G. Wodehouse
P. G. Wodehouse

When I was reading a new book recently, I noticed I was in such a hurry to find out how the book ended that most of the rich descriptions, subtly hidden messages or allusions, and half of the humor was flying over my head as my eyes skimmed the pages.  Even when I tried to slow myself down, I felt quite certain that I was missing parts of the book.  As author P. G. Wodehouse once said, “The first time you read a book, you don’t read it at all carefully; you just read it for the story” (Clarke).  For this, and for many other reasons, reading books again is beneficial.

After having read a book once, one usually remembers how it ends, so the next time one reads it, one can sit back and enjoy the other aspects of the book, not just the driving plot.  And if the reader doesn’t remember the plot, even better!  Now he or she can enjoy the story as if it is completely new.  As Gimli notes in The Fellowship of the Ring, “Memory is not what the heart desires.” (Tolkien 395).  But I don’t really mind that my memory isn’t perfect, because this allows me to have a lot of fun reading stories again.

Reading books again as one grows older can help one appreciate rhetorical devices that authors use and messages that one missed the first time around.  When I was very young and first read The Lord of the Rings, I had little appreciation for Tolkien’s exceptionally good writing style.  In fact, I was only reading the books so that I could watch the movies.  Yet, as I read it again year by year, The Lord of the Rings grows richer.

In addition to better appreciating rhetorical devices and messages, when someone rereads a book, his or her approach will probably be different after several years have passed, and this will help the reader glean new enjoyment from the book.  For example, my mother read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis to me, which I have completed many times, yet I noticed more of Lewis’ allegory this time than I ever had before, and I liked this new “view” that going through The Chronicles of Narnia again brought.

Stack of BooksI am not, however, advocating that one reread every book.  Just as when readers choose a book in the first place, so when reading books again, they must always practice discernment.  If a book is bad, one probably shouldn’t read it again.  Now, if a reader just didn’t like a book the first time round, then maybe he or she should give it a second chance.  Some books require several readings in order to appreciate them. Others will never improve despite umpteen perusals.  It’s up to readers to discern which books deserve to be reread, and which do not.

Like listening to a song, the first time one reads a book, one notices the general beauty and the over-arching message.  Then, one observes the subtle themes and allusions which the author has woven into the story – one hears all the hidden harmonies and intricate melodies that combine to make the story’s loveliness.  As one picks out each instrument, one sees the incredible way in which each part combines to make the complex and rich whole of the song, or of the book.  And as book-lovers reread stories – studying messages and observing rhetoric –, they will grow as both readers and as writers.


 

Works Cited

Clarke, Gerald.  “P. G. Wodehouse, The Art of Fiction No. 60.”  The Paris Review.  Winter

31 Oct. 2014 <http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3773/

the-art-of-fiction-no-60-p-g-wodehouse>

Tolkien, J. R. R.  The Fellowship of the Ring.  Houghton Mifflin Company:  Boston, 1993.