Jedi Code: Emotions

There is no emotion, there is peace.

The Jedi Code

The first line of the Jedi Code is one of the most difficult for new students to understand and accept. Stated as it is here (there are other formulations), it seems to argue that a Jedi should not have emotions. But as many Jedi teachers have written, this is a misunderstanding.

Human beings have emotions. That’s simply a part of being a healthy person, and Jedi value being healthy in mind, body, and spirit very, very much. To deny emotion and try to remove it from our lives would be a mistake. So what is the point to this line … the first line …. of one of the most iconic facets of the Star Wars mythos, one that has its foundation in both Samurai maxims and Stoic philosophy?

This line calls for reframing the relationship between a Jedi and their emotions. For so many people, their emotions are considered things outside of their control that not only seem to have a life of their own but that also color and frame the interpretation of events … and that call for specific actions and responses to events.

If someone is running late for an event because of traffic on the freeway, for instance, they think it is inevitable that they will become angry and maybe even honk their car horn or shout at people around them. They may even carry that anger with them through the day, letting it affect their responses to unrelated situations and people, getting even more angry at minor frustrations and blaming the traffic for making them angry and ruining their day.

Yet a Jedi would point out that the emotion did not come from the traffic. It came from within the person. At its most fundamental level, the emotion is an ephemeral chemical reaction in the brain in response to a challenging situation. And, ideally, a Jedi would recognize that momentary anger or frustration, acknowledge it, and then decide what to do. The emotion is not in charge of deciding what happens next; the Jedi is. Ideally, the next steps might be to do some deep breathing, mitigate the effects of being late (informing someone of the late arrival), and letting the frustration evaporate so that it does not bleed over to cause misunderstandings during the rest of the day.

But it is a big step to go from our society conditioning (“the traffic made me angry”) to managing our emotional life. The advice I hear from too many Jedi to “just be emotionally disciplined” comes from good intentions, I hope, but is not useful at the beginning of training. So, I have included an idea from Naya’s shamanic background (The Path to Anger) that I recommend you add to your training program, especially if you are already keeping a journal.

Recording your emotional responses and analyzing what might have evoked them is a good way to beginning to change your relationship with emotions and grow as a Jedi.

Published by

Barbara Z. Johnson

Barbara Z. Johnson is a professor of computer science at an undisclosed small, liberal arts college and also has taught in education and media arts/game development departments at several universities. She is also a sci-fi/fantasy geek who researches the educational uses of video-games, fan-fiction, and online simulations. Currently, she is researching science education in Minecraft.

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