Meditating on Doctrine: One Pieace at a Time

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30 Aug 2017 16:33 #300091 by MAGNUS
It's been on by spirit to find a way to bring the doctrine in practice better in my life. I've decided to start today taking a single line of the doctrine, considering what it means to me, and considering that throughout the day as I go through my routine.

Today's line: Jedi Believe in the Force, and in the inherent worth of all life within it.

The Force has been called by many things throughout human history and across various cultures. God, Allah, the Anointing, Enlightenment, Chi, Prana, Christ, the Word, the Great Spirit, Ruach Hakodesh, the Divine. To me these all represent the same thing, sometimes just conceptualized in a different way, and there are plenty of others besides. Regardless of how it's named or perceived, the doctrine describes it as "a ubiquitous and metaphysical power that [Jedi believe] is the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe." Much like it is described in A New Hope, "It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the universe together." Through the Force we are connected to all life around us. It something we are part of, that is also a part of us. My wife and daughters, the wildlife in the nearby wetlands, the little anoles that live on my patio here in my little South Texas apartment. We are all part of the same thing. The Force extends even beyond this planet. There is nothing that isn't interconnected. The Sun orbits the supermassive black hole in the galactic core, the planets caught up in its celestial vortex. The moon just so happens to be trapped close to the Earth as it careens through the heavens, and those two bodies create the tides that made this life on Earth what it is. That same black hole, and the black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy are pulled by gravity to our inevitable collision, connecting our planet, and thus the life upon it part of the universal landscape. It's difficult to see that we are part of everything on that scale, small as we are, but we are.

All the life here on this tiny rock sweeping through the galaxy needs each other. Nothing proves that more than the current crisis the bees face. In all this the Force is at once both a constant, making life a tenacious thing, while also in constant motion and what appears to be chaos. But there is no chaos. There is harmony. There is a balance to all things. When that balance gets tipped things certainly become difficult for awhile. Things like extinction events can occur, there is a near constant threat of impact event, hurricanes are on the minds and hearts of many right now. But since the first signs of life, the budding of the Force, appeared never have we found a gap in the fossil record. When life was at its most fragile the fossil record shows us the Great Dying. The time our little piece of the Universe suffered its biggest loss of biodiversity. But even through that the Force allowed life to continue. It connects us beyond time, to past and future, and to all life everywhere. This is in many ways that very inherent worth of which the doctrine speaks. So it should move a Jedi to nurture, and love all life on this Earth, much like Steve Erwin meets Mother Theresa. For it's through that life, our environment, and all that surrounds us that we are connected, and communicate with the Force.
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31 Aug 2017 11:47 #300155 by MAGNUS
Day 2: Jedi believe in the sanctity of the human person. We oppose the use of torture and cruel or unusual punishment, including the death penalty.

I feel like this goes right along with the inherent worth of all life. If there are features that sanctify humans from more "base" animals, they are complexity of language and complexity of tool use. Of those two, I feel like the ability to communicate is more powerful in sanctifying human persons. Being able to communicate the spectrum of emotions through language can give us a more concise, specific understanding of what another person is going through. We can't do the same with dogs for example. We can read their body language, listen to the sounds they make, and either take them to a professional, if something is really wrong, or do our best to offer them succor. With humans, though, we can understand exactly how another human feels, we can take another persons thoughts and feelings and let them change our own. Our ability to communicate throws open the door for compassion and exploration of how what our friends and neighbors are, so are we.

In some countries it's illegal to operate on any animal with a sufficiently complex nervous system without anesthesia, because it is considered cruel. If we can show that kind of compassion to something so genetically removed from ourselves, then showing greater compassion toward our own kind should be that much easier. And to what end do humans perform acts of torture, cruelty, and capital punishment? Almost universally they involve the act of dehumanization. If you demonize, dehumanize the victim then suddenly your conscience is clear. In war both sides typically do this very thing. It's even illustrated in the Disney version of Pocahontas. "They're savages, barely even human. I wonder if they even bleed?" The acts are justified in the eyes of the belligerent party because the actions or allegiances of the victim have made them into something inhuman. Something less than human. So these are rightfully opposed not because of Jedi dogma, but because dehumanizing closes the door to compassion. If love is to be central to a Jedi's life, then this cannot stand.
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01 Sep 2017 12:58 #300219 by MAGNUS
Day 3: Jedi believe in a society governed by laws grounded in reason and compassion, not in fear or prejudice.

I've always found the 'Jedi Believe' portion of the doctrine to be more dogmatic than the following parts, but I've started approaching the realization that there is a compassionate reason for each apparent dogma. So what about this line? What has leaped out at me ever since the first time I read this line of the doctrine was that "Jedi believe in a society governed by laws." Followers of Jediism, if adhering to the doctrine religiously, would unquestionably refute arguments in favor of peaceful anarchism. But the doctrine doesn't stop there. It says "laws grounded in reason and compassion." I personally don't believe that this has been accomplished by many, if any, modern nation-states, and certainly not here in the U.S.. To label my political leanings I would call myself a liberal libertarian, so forcing another person to act compassionately against their will seems, on the surface, like a violation of personal liberty. But the statement goes beyond that. This implies a society sufficiently compassionate that it would go so far as to codify it. And not just compassion but reason. Taking a research based approach to things like environmental concerns. I think a prime example of laws grounded in both reason and compassion is what Portugal has done with its drug laws. Possession and use of drugs are no longer criminalized, and addiction is treated as a public health issue rather than a legal issue. As a result addiction has actually dropped, because addicts are getting the help they need, rather than being thrown in a cage and treated like a statistic. Another good one is what Finland has done with its education. Students are given less school work, and less home work, but they're passing other nations in STEM fields. Kids and parents will be happier, compassion, and students seem to be learning better, reason. So if a nation took a look at what other nations are doing that works, and helps people, it gives an implication about just what kind of nation this is. And the people who come from these surroundings will, I think, be more inherently comfortable with laws encouraging a compassionate society as a whole.

As for laws grounded in fear and prejudice this might include things like banning refugees, or travelers from nations with which a government has an ideological conflict. Or refusing to allow individuals that are not of a certain religion from entering a particular city. Maybe moving from single-payer healthcare to a multi-payer system, or drug testing people who have had to resort to public resources to not starve, while not testing the people who make their entire living off of public resources. Sadly, we're just not there yet.

Regardless of whether the society in which we live writes more laws grounded in reason and compassion, or more laws grounded in fear and prejudice, it is not the place of the Jedi to despair at such things. We adapt and change to the world around us. Love is central to our lives. We are guardians of peace. Changing our societies for the better doesn't start with the creation of laws forcing us to behave a certain way. It flows out from us, as every action we take is designed to improve the world around us.
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02 Sep 2017 10:28 #300336 by MAGNUS
Day 4: Jedi believe in a society that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or circumstances of birth such as gender, ethnicity and national origin.

I feel like this is one of the more obvious and self explanatory parts of the doctrine. At its fundamental level it says do not make assumptions about other people based on anything beyond their control. It evokes serendipity in a way. Anything beyond a person's control is to be celebrated as an opportunity to explore our world and learn new things about the people who live here with us. This isn't the first time since I began these meandering meditations that I come back to teaching 12: Jedi believe that love and compassion are central to their lives. We must love and care for each other as we love and care for ourselves; by doing this we envelop all life in the positivity of our actions and thoughts. We are providers and beacons of hope. That last sentence brings me to consider that maybe simply by not judging, not discriminating based on circumstances beyond another person's control: Is it possible that by showing compassion to someone who has experienced a dearth of compassion before that a Jedi could give hope to another person? Hope that they won't be treated, and don't have to be treated as they have been in the past. I'm not trying to build we Jedi up to something beyond what we are which is humans trying to become our best selves, but even the possibility that we could live up to being a provider and beacon of hope for another human, reinforces the value of this teaching.
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04 Sep 2017 11:11 #300518 by MAGNUS
Day 5: Jedi believe in the ethic of reciprocity, and how moral concepts are not absolute but vary by culture, religion and over time.

I read this, and I think of the British Empire. One of the ways they justified their conquests was to look at a society, see how wrong it was according to their own philosophies, and step in claiming to be acting for the benefit of the local population. In time it stretched so far that civil unrest seems the natural conclusion. They would come into a person's home, criticize their morality, and try and tell them that being British would be better, then try and make them British.

I'm something of a gamer, and another good, if fictitious, example is the Dragon Age universe. One of the things that struck me while playing through that game was that the "moral" choice didn't always seem like the right one. This is because the game's version of morality stems from the game's version of the church, which much like medieval times wielded substantial political and military power.

But how do we apply this in life? I feel like the answer is to accept people no matter one. Carry a universally inclusive ideal with you at all times. Every person is to be celebrated, appreciate people's backgrounds and where they come from. And if their version of morality differs from yours, accept that too. If their morality compels them to attempt to compel you toward their own way of thinking, be polite at least, and hope it doesn't reach a point where you need to be firm. As Jedi this can certainly lead to conflict. If someone's morality compelled them to hurt someone who could not defend themselves we should certainly act. Conflict is Maxim 19, it's an inevitable part of our existence, but entering into a conflict should always be for the greater good. But maxim 18 is morality. Knowing that this very conflict compels us to search for the most peaceful resolution. This is the extreme case, but perhaps the best we can do if such a situation arises is trust in the Force that we will be able to find peace in it.
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05 Sep 2017 10:44 #300633 by MAGNUS
Day 6: Jedi believe in the positive influence of spiritual growth and awareness on society.

I don't know if I still consider myself a Christian. I was for close to 20 years, and it was during that time that I successfully internalized some of the dogma of American Christianity. This statement does not specify anything about religion. If someone seeks the Force, by any other name, in the name of peace, for the sake of love, to help them find harmony in their world, and grow as an individual, then whatever other words or titles they use to do it shouldn't matter. Objectively I know this to be true, but there are moments I still find myself struggling to accept things. Almost 20 years of habitual micro-judgement are hard to shake off, but I usually manage to successfully reserve judgement because I know that my prejudices are based on ignorance.

Disclaimer aside, the doctrine speaks of the influence of spiritual growth and awareness on society, not on me. I once spoke to my grandfather about persons seeking something greater than themselves, that is part of them and which they are also part of. I think that's ultimately what spirituality in any form is about. The more people doing that the more there are aware of that something greater than them. I leads to humility, it leads to harmony. It helps us forgo ourselves for the sake of each other. Society fits that definition as well, so when dealing with such entities becomes habit, in the name of peace, in the name of love, naturally society benefits.
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06 Sep 2017 11:05 #300724 by MAGNUS
Day 7: Jedi believe in the importance of freedom of conscience and self-determination within religious, political and other structures.

I never thought too hard about the last two parts of 'Jedi Believe.' Today's section is actually written into the founding document of the country I live in and was raised in. I've taken these freedoms for granted, but that isn't the truth the world over. The first two places that come to mind are Saudi Arabia and North Korea, but ultimately denying humans these rights is oppressive. I think I'm going to examine religious and political structures individually.

Denying the freedom of conscience and self-determination within religious structures to me sounds like Saudi Arabia. I've worked in pharmacies for the past several years, and at one point worked with a pharmacist whose father was part of the Jordanian military who once went to Saudi Arabia for a while. He said that at the designated prayer times, if his father was not at the embassy the mosque guards would herd people into the mosques with sticks, and they were not allowed to leave until the prayer time was over. No one was exempt. Then there's the non-existence of women's rights as well. This is just an example, but what does that mean for the people? It's almost incomprehensible to me. This carries over into the political arena though. Sharia, as laid down by Mohammed, is the law of the land. Even if you don't follow, or don't believe as they do, you still are forced through the motions and the state enforces it.

Regarding these freedoms in religious structures, I'm reminded of the video that has circulated the internet of the young girl who fled North Korea with her family, escaped repatriation in China, and eventually crossed the border into Mongolia. Saying things like she believed for a many years that the dictator could read her mind. That sedition is punished across generations to ensure silence. These ultimately come down to the very concept of self-determination. The individual is not who it chooses to be, but who it is informed to be. I'm still working through the Alan Watts text, but it evokes the double-bind he speaks of, where society compels you to act a certain way, but only considers it valid if it believes you chose to act that way yourself.
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07 Sep 2017 10:32 #300839 by MAGNUS
Day 8: Jedi believe in the separation of religion and government and the freedoms of speech, association, and expression.

This is another one I always took for granted, and to me it does more to reinforce the previous statement than anything else. The two are deeply interconnected. If religion and government are not separate, you get a fundamentalist state where from birth you are informed who to be, not by the natural progression of society, but by a religious doctrine. The same with inherent freedoms, it boils down to suppression of the individual, rather than celebration.
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08 Sep 2017 10:48 #300971 by MAGNUS
Day 9: Wisdom is the sound application of accrued knowledge and experience through patient, good judgement.

I see this as what is to be striven for at all times. Patient, good judgement should be applied to every action taken. This is a call to not be reactionary, but to exercise restraint in the face of emotional stress. Reserve judgement until you can make a decision with a clear mind, or in situations of dire straights to do what is needed without delay.
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10 Sep 2017 10:21 #301134 by MAGNUS
Day 10: Knowledge can be acquired by focusing on the task at hand.

The three tenets are interconnected to each other. I'm going to try not to elaborate too much on the focus element here and instead focus on knowledge, and how that can relate to skill.

I have a personal story regarding knowledge and skill and its acquisition. I have every intention of entering the field of particle physics. This is going to involve some complex math that I don't yet have the knowledge base for, but I've been studying with this goal in mind for a few years now. When I set on this path I was working as a pharmacy technician, and had been for a couple years, supporting my family. I figured I would have to go back to school at some point, so I took a practice math SAT. What I found was that I had lost the knowledge to do any problem that I couldn't turn into a proportion, which I did regularly at work. So I started relearning a lot of algebra, started learning trig and statistics, and I'm still studying calculus. I don't know everything I need to yet, but my mathematical knowledge, and thus my math skills, have improved to the point that I'm really good at it now.

My work hasn't been consistent, but my growth has, and I continue to learn and study more. It's difficult to elaborate on knowledge without acknowledging focus, but I'll have more to sat on that tomorrow.

Unrelated: I didn't realize there was a forum for meditation journals, which is kind of what this has ended up becoming. If any admins happen across this and could move it there I would be grateful.
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