The trouble with being a Jedi …

It is said that the path of righteousness is actually a very difficult path to follow. Those who choose the dark side have it much easier. But, is this really true? After some debate and analysis the result is – yes (sort-of)! It’s actually harder to stay on the good side of the force than the dark side – initially; but, it might not be for the reasons you think. What if following the good path was a challenge because no matter where you went and what you did – it inevitably lead you to the dark side? Does that mean that all Jedi are destined to become Sith, or is there hope?

The Light and Dark Side of the Force
The Light and Dark Side of the Force

The first, most basic principal of choosing right or wrong, good or bad, grey or … not so grey, is based on fear and joy. Unfortunately – joy can come in many forms thanks to our advanced brains that can use thinking errors like justification and burying guilt (and good judgement) to see bad behavior as fun. But fear is not so flexible. Fear is that underlying, basic principal that exists for all creatures in the universe and keeps them from acting out in self-damaging ways.

Why don’t we touch fire? Because it HURTS! Once learned – that pain develops into a “fear” that acts as a primal motivator. All primal motivators, whether born of direct or learned experience, have the most influence on our behavior. So – in the growth of any animal (or Padawan), there comes a choice when a decision must be made – do they stay strong and follow the Light side of the force, or weaken and give into the Darkness? What does that mean? It means – in essence – do they give in to their fears? Their fears lead to more pain – more suffering – and eventually – hatred.

But, here’s the catch: the underlying motivation for following the light side of the force is – fear! Let’s say that you’re a young padawan, ready to make the next step of your journey and you come across a battle-torn field. Dead Jedi lay strewn about everywhere. Your master tells you that they were murdered by the Sith. You get a sickly feeling deep down in your stomach and on the primal level, your brain begins to associate those terrible feelings you have with – the Sith. It’s this type of association that forms our fundamental, behavioral selves. And, on that battle field, you decide that the Sith are terrible and you dislike them because – they murder – and you want to become strong to stand against them because – you fear what they could do to you and your friends.

Darth Vader Lightsaber
Darth Vader Lightsaber

Even once having become a Jedi yourself, you will still find yourself challenged on a non-stop basis by none other than: fear (the Dark Side)!! Every time you see an ally going down the wrong path, you’re “afraid” of what will happen to them. And, we’re not just talking a weak fear like: ‘I don’t want to eat Sushi because I know there’s a chance it could be tainted and it would hurt a lot.’ We’re talking about that deep-seated, gut-wrenching, firm fear of life and death, darkness and light, and the very foundation of your biological being. But, with a fear that comes from your very cells – can you control it?

Most people who have ever faced a phobia understand what it means to have an extreme, nonsensical fear of something that is completely unfounded. However, that fear is so biologically bound to them that these people cannot escape it. Many times however, these fears are not without some good cause. For example, fearing spiders – creatures that feed on the blood of the living by ensnaring them in webs for long-term torture (and that can single-handedly kill a 1,000 pound cow with their venom) – is not an irrational fear. In fact, this type of fear, passed down through the ages, is one of the many things that keeps mankind from wandering into the darkness until extinction takes hold. Does that mean that a person with a phobia, or a long-term, deeply impacting fear is at risk for a lifetime of suffering?

One of the tasks of a Jedi is to learn meditation and relaxation – something that all people, in one way or another, strive for. Think of it as: reducing stress!  Stress is the next step after fear whereby we hold tightly to that fear until it overloads our system and we begin acting out – sometimes violently. If we don’t take the necessary steps to control that fear – it will certainly control us. Why? Because fear is a biological component that is supposed to help – not hurt. Think back to Anakin Skywalker – a young Jedi taken from the only family he knows.

The young man was put into a position of feeling guilt, loneliness, a constant fear of failure, and over time, without properly dealing with his fears, began to let those fears control him. They filled his every thought, building up the stress until he could no longer take it. Biologically, the fear was thoroughly mixed in with his biological functions and he could not escape it! Giving in to the dark side was easy … why? His fears were real because his body told him they were; his conscience no longer had any say. He was no longer in control – fear was always in control of him. To stand against it (in the light), one has to be prepared for accountability, responsibility – and judgement. These are not easy tasks for any creature – human or non!

Yet, on the flip-side, we saw as Ben Kenobi, although faced with the fear of how the darkside could take away his friend and hurt him, chose not to let his fears control him, but heed them as warning signs. He had witnessed his master make rash decisions, and even now, his padawan. He learned not to take on guilt for the decisions that either person made and instead, focus on his own path. But it wasn’t easy. Choosing the good side eventually forced him into solitude. They wasn’t to compete with his body – but work with it. Once we learn that fire is hot and burns – it’s easy to live in a civilized society with fire because we know how to use caution while still staying in control.

Is it ever easy for any of us to see those we love and care about torn down a dark path and accept that it’s their choice? Don’t we all want to intervene? But, that, too, is fear trying to control us. But, as we’ve just discussed – it’s a manageable fear that takes time, and patience. In Kenobi’s case, he did not suffer with the loss of his parent over the years of his life and have the same pressures placed on him as Skywalker did. Kenobi could more easily handle the situation because he was under less stress and had time to separate out irrational, emotional fears from logic. And, while a Jedi will always be faced with the Dark Side, facing their fears over and over again (having to exercise control and strength), the Dark Side is not so easy as it may seem, either. Just because someone’s given up the need for control and is letting the darkness carry them – they too, have a biological component of fear – and it’s just as strong. What does a Sith fear?

Never being able to come back – or be forgiven (loneliness and lack of acceptance).

And, sometimes, that – is the most terrifying fear of all. So, the next time you’re faced with a decision where following the path of darkness would be so much easier than facing your fears – remember – that this isn’t the last time. You will be faced with that challenge over and over again because the path of righteousness inevitably crosses with that of darkness. It will take time and patience to get good at controlling your fears and you will stumble along the way (and your brain/biological sense of self preservation will push back against you trying to save itself and you’ll be …. stressed)! But, if you remember that fear is a good thing and that it’s designed to keep you safe – then you can negotiate with it – not let it control you. And, stop worrying about what others are doing – you can’t control them! The only thing you can truly control is yourself – and whether or not you’re going to let the fear win over you, too.

Just remember – when someone’s making a really bad decision – fear may be acting against them on the biological level and that’s really difficult to control. They’ll need guidance and support to manage the stress it causes. Just don’t be too quick to judge others who do stupid things – especially when fear’s involved. Sure, they could control it – but we don’t know everything that went into it or how long it’s been building inside them!

Now… let’s hope that Disney does justice to the next installment over Star Wars so we don’t have to all be afraid of more, terrible movies!

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