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This sermon is written by and published for tzb


The Saw
By tzb

My son is two. Like a lot of little boys, he likes to copy what I do and pretend to be his Daddy. At Christmas he was lucky enough to receive his own little toolbench, and it's quickly become his favourite toy; he has a great time with it, even if he's not able to use it "properly". He pushes the legs into the bench but never remembers to fix them on with the nuts, he taps the orange nails with the claw of his red plastic hammer, and twists screws back and forth with his little screwdriver, wondering why they never work their way further into the wood.

He's also a bit baffled by the saw. I'm not sure he's ever seen me use one, as he tends to be kept safely away when I'm doing more than minor repairs. At the moment, he takes the serrated edge of the little plastic tool and pushes it along the wood once, enjoying the sound but never staying with it for long. If it were a real saw, he'd be making some great scratches, but never actually cutting anything.

The Force is the driver of change, change that never stops. Even at times of seeming inaction, the universe is moving, morphing, growing and decaying all around us. Sometimes this continual change can make our lives can feel like a pattern of light and dark, up and down, movement and stillness. We can feel thrown around by the changing weather of moods, and the great turbulence we sometimes perceive in the Force at times of real disturbance can even lead us to question if we are on the right path at all.

One of the main roles of Jedi is to increase harmony; to find synthesis between seemingly conflicting ideas. We take these back-and-forth extremes and find a harmonious middle ground. For example:

Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.

All of these lessons come to the same point: if we ever hope to bring things into balance, we must accept them as they are. We must accept our emotions, the limits of our knowledge, our passions, the chaotic nature of reality and our own mortality. We can't take away any of it, but we have the capacity to adjust our outlook. We can learn how to work with the change which goes on all around us; we can focus on what's important, cultivate knowledge, and work towards wisdom.

Repairing a broken fence a few weeks back, I had to saw down a post. I set up my workbench, set the post in a vice, measured and marked the wood. The saw's teeth moved backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards until I cut through; the saw was usually either extended or drawn back, but all the action of "work" was exerted on the wood at the centre. Most work is back-and-forth like this; we push the needle one way and pull it back another. We plant the seeds and harvest the crops. We repair what's broken. It's a cycle, with the "work" taking place in the centre. We send out, and pull back. We give, and we receive.

As Jedi, we must accept our paths are rarely straight. We face zigzags, hairpin turns and apparent dead ends. We must learn to stop seeing these as detours but rather as important parts of our path. Our work is to maintain our centre; to see that like the saw, we sometimes have to go backward as well as forward to achieve our central goals. It can be frustrating, we think "It's just over there… can't I just cut this corner?", but by travelling the longer road we experience more, we learn to face these setbacks as opportunities to learn. We start to enjoy the scenery, and we start to appreciate the work. Without the travel required to "get there" there would be no awe, wonder or fascination along the way.

We shouldn't expect to be comfortable with these constant changes from day one. One of the skills we have to learn is that life, learning and the Force are about the backwards and forwards action of "work". One day, my son will learn to fix the nuts onto his bench, turn screws in one direction and saw with a back-and-forth motion. It's not a problem that he can't do this yet, he's still brand new to it, and whilst I'm sure he'd love to learn to use a real saw, he's still having a lot of fun. In his imaginary world he's chopping wood into tiny pieces and building houses, and with time, patience and practice he can cultivate the skill to do this in the real world – but first he must learn to push the saw forward, pull the saw back, to work from the centre.

If all our movement is in one direction, we can only ever scratch the surface.