Community Service: Start Small, but Start

Usually, when I bring up the topic of community service with a member of the Jedi community, I am treated to a list of reasons why that person cannot engage in service activities. Granted, most of us have some physical limitations and limited amounts of time and money. But I am surprised and a bit dismayed to realize that people immediately think of large efforts as the only way to do service. Or that it is the only type of service that “counts” among the Jedi organizations.

Early in the history of the Jedi Temple, we had a discussion thread devoted to documenting service activities. We encouraged any and every volunteer activity to be recorded as inspiration to others and to celebrate that we were as much devoted to offline community improvement as to online self-development.

In many ways, it was wildly successful. It was a very active thread, where people logged actions as small as returning a shopping cart to its corral and as large as volunteering to building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Most of the actions were in the vein of a “random act of kindness” … but I think it did inspire people to be aware of the many, daily opportunities that present themselves to us constantly. It encouraged students and visitors to be mindful and see what was around them all day, every day. The chance to brighten someone’s day with a small action.

For those of us who are returning to the community and our training, I would like to recommend that you pick up the practice again of doing something, anything, no matter how small, whenever you see the opportunity.

I do not think that there is anything that is too small to count. And I do not think that any of us cannot contribute in some way. My late grandmother, bedridden and on dialysis, crocheted toys for children until her dying day. You, reading this, have something that you can do for another. Find it and do it. Today.

Lucy:
You give up your seat every day in the train.

Peter:
Well… But that’s not heroic.

Lucy:
It is to the person who sits in it.

Turteltaub, J. (1995). While You Were Sleeping. Buena Vista Pictures.

A Jedi’s Life

Last summer, after Michael Bark located me on social media and invited me back into the online Jedi community, I found myself musing on the question of Jedi Knight as a vocation.

It takes time to determine if one has a vocation.  In monastic orders – or ministry – there is a testing period of at least a year, if not more.  Sometimes, before you’re even allowed to enter the novice stage, there is a period of frustrated waiting before you are even allowed through the gate.  

Why?  Because this level of commitment — usually to a community and to service — is difficult.  The trial period is used to determine if this calling is something so much a part of who you are that you can’t be anything else and yet be truly yourself.  In a sense, it can be the lesser struggle at times; at other times, it is the greatest joy.  You only have to read an autobiography of a nun or monk in order to get a sense of this.  Or realize that you told yourself you were going to train as friends go out for an evening without you.  

Yes, the training can be wonderful too, once you get there and get started working with your other group of friends.  Or it can be one of those nights where you are all left feet and frustrated at the end … wondering why you gave up a nice night in the name of maintaining discipline.  

There are few jobs anymore that are considered vocations.  Medicine is one.  Teaching is another.  Like Jedi knights, both can come with a title.  But, from experience, I can tell you that the thrill of being called “Professor” wore off early in my first semester of teaching.  After that point, you really do fall back on something else to keep you going and living up to your principles as best you can.  The vocation – the calling – carries you …. not the title.   

Ultimately, I keep on being a Jedi Knight because I cannot do otherwise. As a student of mine student put it some years ago:

… is there any other way? To the true Jedi, his own way is so obvious, so natural, that he cannot comprehend any other possibility … and for yourself, you live the Jedi Way, the Only Way.

Mark Lipovrovsky, Blue Group, Jedi Temple

So, this month … what there is left of it …. I am considering an aspect of living as a Jedi: service.

As I wander around the various sites and schools, I hope that there is more service activity than meets the casual eye. For, while training and self-improvement is an important part of being a Jedi, using our knowledge and skills for others is – in my opinion – an important aspect of being a Knight.

I think one of the problems is that most people see “Jedi” as a title. Being a Jedi means putting other people’s problems before your own. It means sacrificing getting things you “want” in order to give someone else something they “need”. It’s knowing that you are not perfect and knowing that you will make mistakes, but taking responsibility for your actions and being accountable for everything you do. It means helping everyone, even those you don’t like, when they are in need (a doctor would save the life of his worst enemy because he has sworn to do so).

Naya

Using Fiction to Develop and Assess “Real Life” Character

Long ago and far, far away ….. we used the virtual world of Second Life as a platform for developing and practicing desirable, pro-social personal traits.

At first, I created a sister site, the Temple of the Jedi, in the virtual world. Members of the online Jedi site of the same name would meet synchronously to practice skills such as listening and conflict resolution. Practicing hospitality and coalition building and having synchronous communication removed some of the advantages of asynchronous communication, which allows a person to walk away, reflect, and pick words very carefully. The aim was to help prepare students to deal with real-life conflict, which often happens in a moment without time to prepare a careful response.

Later, groups merged and became the New Order of the Jedi, sharing a common training program unique to the group and to the ways in which people can interact in a synchronous, virtual environment.

Fast-forward a decade or more to the International Jedi Federation’s trials at the annual, in-person gatherings. While that sort of in-person Jedi Trials is a wonderful idea, many people are excluded because of limitations of travel, particularly by air.

Hence, I am tossing out an old solution that may be of use again: Jedi training and testing via virtual world. I am posting our old Second Life curriculum with notes about how the virtual was meant to reflect the “real” and provide not only the opportunity to practice and grow …. but also for assessment purposes.

Keep in mind that Second Life turned out not be ideal, but possibly nothing ever will be. There is also potential for using other virtual or augmented reality platforms for a similar purpose, especially as these tools improve and become more accessible to a broader user base.

MTFBWY

Continuing Formation as a Jedi Knight

I am finally coming back around to an idea that was shared by an anonymous Jedi during the 2022 Virtual Life Reflection Day on January 1st: of having a regular cycle of focused study, reflection, and renewal of practice. As he noted in the presentation, this idea exists as part of continuing spiritual development in mainstream religions, such as the common Protestant Christian liturgical calendar that is used to define a three-year cycle of readings and an annual cycle of celebrations and rituals.

While this site is a Jedi Realism (vs. Jediism) site, the idea of continuing spiritual formation is appealing … especially since we have not, as a loose community, figured out what life after elevation to knighthood should entail.

I am also putting out this idea … I can’t even call it a draft … for those of us who have returned to the Jedi community recently. As a loose community, we could pick a topic per month on which to focus, picking up what we remember, polishing off skills, growing a bit, and sharing what we know with the next generation.

This list is a loose collection, conveniently 12 in number. I do propose that we think about behavior change theory and practice in January, since that is the traditional time for “New Years Resolutions” in many cultures. But for the rest, I am wide open as to what month could be their focus period. Or if there are others that we might propose instead.

  • January – Behavior Change Theory and Practice
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Capability
  • Meditation
  • Conflict Management
  • Service
  • Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Spiritual Formation
  • First Aid and Emergency Management
  • Teaching and Learning Theory and Practice
  • Collective Action and Forming Community

Place ideas in the comments or find me at one of the many Jedi sites …..

Bibliography

“Building a Real Jedi” by Outback Jedi, presented as part of the 2022 Virtual Life Reflection Day available at the Jedi’s Lighthouse YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/WGHqr_a5dtw

Welcome, New Seekers

If you are new to the online Jedi community, I want to greet you as well and offer best wishes for your growth as a person and possibly as a Jedi.

While I recognize that you are here, at a Jedi website, I am not assuming that you are ready to commit to becoming a Jedi. In fact, I think you should look around the various organizations, join in some of the discussions, and consider if this is the right path for you. It can be difficult. It is often lonely. And, in the end, it is what you make it.

As you begin your exploration, there are a few things that I would like to mention. I will note that some of these may not be popular with leaders and teachers of current sites.

Online Jedi are a Motley Crew

While there is some attempt at collaboration and even establishment of standards of training and conduct across sites, the Jedi organizations are all independent and sometimes have little in common with one another other than the interest in the Star Wars mythos and in drawing inspiration from it.

I highly recommend that you explore as many as you can before settling down and picking one as home base. Talk to the teachers and leaders if you can, but don’t be surprised if you do not receive answers. Pay attention to the rank and file community members and see how they treat each other, especially when they don’t understand or disagree with someone.

Religion or Philosophy?

Jediism sites consider Jedi a religion. Some even have published dogma and engage in some practices normally associated with religions, although many governments do not grant them the legal status of religion.

Jedi Realist sites mostly view Jedi as a philosophy that may influence a particular lifestyle. While they hold some writings as common ground, such as the Jedi Code and the Jedi Compass, these are not sacred writings.

I am currently writing down a sort of census of the organizations I can locate and explore and will publish drafts as I go. Again, I encourage you to visit different types of sites, and also remember that many Jedi hang out in discussion forums that may not fully represent their views on the subject.

Training to Be a Jedi

Training programs vary greatly in length and depth. Some can easily be completed in a couple of months. Some may take years. Ultimately, none of them will teach you everything. To begin studying to be a Jedi is to embark on a different type of learning than you experienced in formal schooling in the past. You will need to be an adult, self-directed learner. The fact that you are here is indication that you are ready for this responsibility.

While you may take direction and learn some content from online or (if you are really lucky) offline programs, most of what you will learn is through your own exploration and experimentation. At many sites, you will receive little to no feedback from teachers even if you attain the coveted status of apprentice.

Online learning also is done in a variety of formats and using various online tools. For many lessons and assessments, online education not the best way to learn. You will need to supplement with local, in-person classes and practice sessions.

At the end of a course, you may be awarded the accolade of Jedi Knight, but if you are serious about living a life worthy of the title and in the inspiration, you will always be learning and practicing. You will decide what you need to learn and when you have reached a milestone. If you are lucky, you may find a group of like-minded people who will continue to serve as fellow explorers and an accountability/support group.

Jedi Teachers are Volunteers

We also have to remember that Jedi teachers are all volunteers who have limited time and attention. From formal schooling, we assume that teachers will be attentive to a small number of people that are their students for the duration of their study. It is a particular relationship that is established and reinforced by daily interactions. This is often not the case with online Jedi education. Mea culpa.

The ideal type of student/apprentice relationship may take a long time for you to find. It is possible that you will never find it. I am not writing this to dissuade you from making the attempt, but you should know that it is not unusual to see perplexing choices made while you, feeling like an ideal candidate, are not chosen. If or when this happens, take comfort in the fact that you are not lacking in some essential quality!!! This educational system is strained and severely lacking. Go back to being an adult learner and find something that you can learn from someone, even if they don’t call themselves a Jedi.

There are many books, some are listed on my recommended books page. Frequently, there are also local workshops on everything from meditation to first aid, mediation, and emergency response. Take advantage of what you have where you are.

Finally, remember that most Jedi teachers are not trained as teachers. They are creating curriculum and teaching environments based on what worked for them when they were in school or went through Jedi training themselves. Most of their approaches are more suited for children or college students (who are considered “transitional adult” learners) than for you. The discomfort of the poor fit can be significant … don’t blame yourself that you don’t fit into their schema. You may have to decide what you can endure on the way to your goals.

Finally, Consider Your Goals

What is it that draws you to the Jedi? It’s OK in the privacy of your mind and your computer to brainstorm. Go ahead and do so. Write down the list without self-censorship. Just write for maybe 15 minutes.

Then, once that is written down, look it over for feasibility.

You won’t be using telekinesis or Jedi mind tricks. But maybe you want to discuss philosophy with like-minded people. Maybe you want to develop skills to be of service in your community. Maybe some of both. Whatever it is, keep in in mind as you start looking around at organizations. Ask questions. See how people are treated. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable there …. if you want to keep coming back and holding conversations. Find that place where you fit, where you feel both challenged and supported.

May the Force be with you in your endeavors.

Welcome Back

With the new TV series just released, many Jedi groups are gearing up for new students and returning Jedi. If you are a new student, this post is not for you, but I hope to have something to say for you in a day or two.

For those who are returning after an absence, long or short, I want to welcome you back to the community. I hope you find a niche somewhere among the many sites and schools. While you are getting re-oriented, I have a couple of observations that I hope will be helpful.

Jediism vs. Jedi Realists

The division still exists between those groups that primarily think of Jedi as a religion and those who regard it as a philosophy, path, or vocation. The Temple of the Jedi Order, for instance is a Jediism site, while the Force Academy seems to put itself under the Jedi Realist umbrella. Some, I admit, are a little harder to categorize.

Starting Over

Unless you have some connections, you will be expected to start over as a novice (or whatever the lowest rank may be) with most organizations. At some sites, this is not a major source of irritation, but others have become even more enamored of titles and color coding than those of us who were hounded and harassed because we used the titles from the movies in the early 2000’s.

To the best of my knowledge, no one is offering any sort of re-certification, orientation, or refresher course. I will continue to look while I also start to craft my own over the summer.

Drama

I am sorry to say that most groups have members who are just as quick as ever to take the worst interpretation of a comment and run with it. Now that we have not only discussion forums, Facebook messenger, Discord, Zoom, and Force only knows what else ….. the problem is of greater magnitude.

Insularity

Which brings me to an old problem. Most groups are still operating in isolation with little sharing between them. There is some attempt on Discord to form coalitions, and I hear rumors of cross-organizational meetings of leaders. There is a newsletter that was recently published. But finding a way to learn about groups and get to know anyone has been frustratingly difficult.

A Curriculum for Returning Knights?

In the end, those of us who have been knighted but are now homeless may have to find our own way to refresh our skills and get re-oriented. I’m working on this for myself, and if you want to join me, stop by this discussion forum or drop me a line.

Musings on Chivalry

Reading through the Lecture section of the old Jedi Temple discussion forums, I found a submission in 2001 by Ainar of the Chivalric Code, attributed to the author Arinaga Yoshiakira. I have not been able to trace this writing back to that author, but I did find mention of something similar at an English teacher’s website … along with homework questions: The Code of Chivalry.

Many years later, it has found its way into the doctrines of the Temple of the Jedi Order as part of the 21 Maxims there.

I find it particularly interesting that the teacher mentions in her lesson that the chivalric code would have no real bearing on modern society. As I read through the knightly virtues listed, I can see only one that might need some revision to be appropriate for people of good will today, since few of us owe fealty to a lord … although most have some obligations to other forms of authority.

Environment for Life

It was inevitable, given the past few years, that I would read Morken’s lecture on the narrow band of conditions that support higher-order life on Earth on a day when we have so many natural disasters in the news.

The scope of the problem is mind-boggling. The challenge of reversing environmental damage is substantial. Much does need to be done at decision-making levels that are far above our scope of influence (although, if you live in a democracy, please make sure you vote!!). Yet, ultimately, much of the impact – and the lifestyle changes necessary – will be at the individual level.

Today, consider what you could do to reduce the number of natural resources you use or the waste that you contribute. Do one thing.

The Narrow Threshold by Morken

From the NOAA disaster events website:  https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/ showing increasing costs of disasters in the USA

For those affected by recent disasters …..

There is so much suffering in our world these days. Some is human-created. Some is the result of “natural disasters” (quite probably increasing in severity due to human actions). All in all, it often seems too much.

I’m still working on an article about how we can respond to these events as (Jedi) Knights, but in the mean time, I offer some ideas on how to respond in compassion.

One item I am adding to my day is to say the Litany for Those Lost to Climate Change from the UUA. Say it slowly, with intention and let the words sink into your soul.

Another idea would be to say the traditional Metta prayer with the areas recently affected as a focus for your prayer. If you are not familiar with this prayer, a 5-minute guided introduction can be found at Wildmind.

Finally, you may want to join the Jedi Community Action Network in a healing meditation (virtual) session.

Living as a (Jedi) Knight

I’m still thinking about paths and vocations, and so I present a few articles on how to live as a (Jedi) Knight.

While I agree that self-improvement is important, especially maintaining one’s health, I think we eventually – as individuals and as a community – need to reach out and address the needs of the world around us. What you choose to do – where and how you serve – is entirely up to you. But I hope you will find some way to serve others. These articles are offered as a way to start thinking about what you can do.

A Jedi’s Role by Steffan Karrde

A Jedi’s Role in the Community by V’tor and Ogion