This sermon was delivered as part of the monthly live service on 13/1/13.
One night last May, my town was buzzing with the news that a terraced house in the town had blown up as a result of a gas explosion. Pictures of the house showed...well the house no longer existed. The houses on either side were still standing, but between them was simply a hole, and a pile of debris. The next morning I was interested to see that a man in the town had been arrested under the Explosive Substances Act 1883 and a garage, and over 100 homes in the surrounding area, had been evacuated and cordoned off as Explosive Disposal teams investigated further. Of course, you can probably already see where this is going. Conspiracy theories immediately went through the roof. Everyone seemed very keen to link the two events, despite the Police stating that they did not believe there was any link. And with both gas explosions and explosive related evacuations being such rare occurrences in sleepy towns like mine, it was not altogether surprising.
Now I am not using these events to suggest that anyone here is a conspiracy theorist. But it does serve to remind us of the way in which we humans all too often have a tendency to jump to conclusions and work on assumptions.
As Jedi, and as people living in society, we will sometimes be called on to make decisions and judgements based on the facts presented to us. It is part of our duty as guardians of peace and justice to mediate, or investigate, when necessary. Perhaps sometimes we may even be placed in the difficult position of having to decide whether someone has done something wrong, or determine who is at fault for something. Such things sometimes have retribution or punishment of some kind attached to them, and as such it is imperative that we are able to come to the right conclusion with a clear conscience.
So how does this tie in to the explosion related events? Seeing people so quickly assuming that two events must be linked reminds us of the pitfalls of doing so. Jumping to conclusions in this way can lead us to make a wrong decision, or even if no decision is made at that stage, it may influence any decision that we do make. Likewise, freely voicing such thoughts may influence the thoughts and decisions of others.
Within the Temple’s 16 basic teachings of the Jedi, it states that
“Jedi are guardians of peace and justice. We believe in finding peaceful solutions to problems, gifted as we are we remain negotiators of the utmost ability. We never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate. We embrace justice, protecting and preserving the fundamental rights of all living creatures. “
To me, amongst the fundamental rights of all living creatures is the right to be judged on unbiased fact and evidence, rather than guesswork. A guardian of justice understands and respects that justice must be preserved and given through a meticulous investigation of what we know to be true, or false. Justice founded in assumptions is not justice.
The 16 basic teachings also include the following:
“As Jedi, we trust and use our feelings. We are intuitive, more so than others and with this heightened intuition we become more spiritually evolved as our minds become more harmonious with the Force and it's influences.”
Should we therefore discard or ignore this teaching?
There is nothing wrong with listening to instincts and intuition. They can be useful tools, and in many walks of Jedi life they are very important. However, in situations of judgement we may have a feeling that we are right about something. But although it is not necessary, or perhaps not even advisable, to discard such thoughts, it is important to ascertain that we have all the facts. We cannot base such important things as judging right and wrong on feelings, no matter how convinced we are of their accuracy. In essence; listen to your feelings but do not act rashly on them. Perhaps you can use them to inform your investigation. But perhaps approaching them from the standpoint of ‘Can I find evidence to show that I am WRONG about this?’ would be preferable to setting out to prove them.
So, where does that leave us? Sometimes things happen that remind us of how easy it is to jump to conclusions. In examples such the happenings of my town last May, it is often due to the way in which people get so easily carried away with ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. Many of us enjoy the mental challenge of trying to spot links between things. But these links must be carefully thought through. Making links simply for the sake of making links is probably unadvisable. Making links because of intuition and instinct is sometimes unavoidable, but should always be approached with caution and an unbiased mind. If you ever feel the temptation to use assumption to make an important decision, whether that be an decision with major consequences or simply a decision in your own mind, just stop and think, ‘Have I really examined all of the facts available to me? Am I acting as a Jedi should – as a true Guardian of Justice?’