Monthly Archives: June 2016

Opie Rant: Why I’m Starting to Dislike “National” Jedi Gatherings

So as someone who has been to many “National” Jedi Gatherings. As well as someone who has met a lot of Jedi individually and been to smaller Jedi meet-ups and regional Gatherings. I am often asked my opinion of such events and what it is like to meet other Jedi. In a recent post on facebook I joked about the ability to deal with your peers in the community and remain sober at the same time. Or to be more accurate I quoted one of my favorite authors Ernest Hemingway, “An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” Out of this someone further asked why I felt that way. So to clear the air. Here are my top issues with current National Jedi Gatherings; which mainly boils down to I don’t like the direction they are taking from what they were.

1.) Location-Centric.
What we concern the First National Jedi Gathering happened in Great Falls, Montana. Two West Coast Jedi went. Two Montana Jedi went. A Chicago Jedi went. And an East Coast Jedi went. While all Jedi went to the Jedi Organization website, they all were a major part of different Jedi Groups. Alora from the JO, Destiny from the Jedi Temple, Manna from a couple different sites, Mindas from the JO but started at the Jedi Academy, Mijan from Temple of the Jedi Arts, and myself which we won’t get into my long resume at the time. This is why we consider it the first National Jedi Gathering (back then called the Annual Jedi Gathering – now National as they are United States held and more than one gathering can happen in a year).

The next year it was held on the East Coast (Pennsylvania) and hosted by Moonshadow, who would become the main organizer for years to come. The year after that, in 2004 it was held in Michigan. In 2005 the Jedi Gathering was held in Loudonville, Ohio. In 2006: Big Prairie, Ohio as well as Lehighton, Pennsylvania. In 2007 the Gathering was in Ville Platte, Louisiana (and another that year in Angelica, New York). In 2008: Lincoln City, Indiana as well as another in Lehighton, Pennsylvania later that year. In 2009: Tower Hill Camp, Sawyer, Michigan. In 2010: Tower Hill Camp, Sawyer, Michigan. – No that is not a mistake. In 2011: New Caney, Texas. In 2012: Logan, Ohio. In 2013: Cosby, Tennessee. In 2014: Almont, Michigan. In 2015: Was suppose to be in Colorado. A year long planning was already in the works. However Chicago Jedi and future Indiana Jedi wanted to host one. So they usurped 2015 and the National Gathering was held in Martinsville, Indiana.

2016 is set for Oregon, Illinois. You know, an hour outside Chicago basically. Have you detected a trend or pattern? 10 out of 15 have been in a very specific area of the United States. I find this to be a form of exclusion. It keeps it to a specific location and group of people. As such you get an insular view and growth becomes limited. It becomes a cool kids club. And evidence of this already happening has been evident the past couple of years – none moreso than the usurping of the national gathering to keep it close and help someone get to knighthood faster. To be fair – this supposedly will be changing next year and routing locations every year. We shall see if Midwest Jedi like that idea.

2.) “Mandatory” Classes and Schedules.
In the beginning gatherings were very organic. No classes and definitely no schedule. Ideas, sure. Thoughts on what we might do at a location? Absolutely. But nothing was planned out. Mostly you went – Jedi got together. Discussions were had. And people would offered by classes and teachings. As the gatherings grew loose schedules were put into place. Someone wants to teach reiki? They say so. And when we have some time – “Hey guys. I am going to show Jedi So-So some Reiki, anyone else want to join?” And bam! Jedi Learning time. Now it is a strict schedule that implies that classes are mandatory – as other events are listed as “optional” while classes are not. Due to this lack of organic sharing the classes have changed a bit in tone and structure. It is a bit hard to fully write out because it certainly doesn’t apply to everyone who holds a class. But there is a sense more of spotlight desire and less on actual sharing of knowledge and technique. The feeling between the 2015 National Gathering and the 2016 California Gathering was night and day. And this was one of the major differences.

3.) Room Assignments.
One of the things that I always thought was interesting about gatherings was how sleeping arrangements came about. Basically it was everyone staying up late, holding discussions on various Jedi topics. Laughing, having a good time. And as it got later, Jedi would slowly bow out and go claim a bed. This automatically helped put Jedi together with a similar sleep schedule. It obviously also allowed Jedi who wanted to stay up and talk to find sleeping arrangements near one another. And if one room was a bit more rowdy they tended to automatically find each other before night time even began. There was no pre-arrangement – no one told you who you were sleeping with.

Now you are just put together according to the whims of the organizer. Which I find silly. You get stuck with people who snore and go to bed early? That is just your lot. You like to go to bed early and get up early? But two of your roommates hit it off and are chit-chatting all night? Tough break. If there is extra beds and two people want to grab a room to avoid disturbing others? So sorry. It is almost like we cannot trust Jedi to be adults. Which brings us to our next issue.

4.) Prohibiting Alcohol.
As the gatherings grew in number, drama became more commonplace. This happens with any meeting of multiple individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. This is not a bad thing. It is part of what makes our community interesting, fun, and educational. Last year a person went around an entire night bad mouthing another “Jedi”, questing if they were worthy of that title. Someone else crossed personal boundaries. As alcohol was present (though neither offender partook of said alcohol) the blame was placed there instead of the individual behavior. This has happened at all gatherings since 2012. Incidents happen which are interesting and some take issue with. And since alcohol is present it takes the blame instead of holding the individual Jedi accountable and responsible for their actions. So places are specifically looked for which prohibit alcohol as a way for the organizers to defer responsibility. “They didn’t ban alcohol. It is the rules of the place.”

I find this childish. Jedi who are adults – who take vacation time to attend these gatherings – should be allowed to consume whatever legal substance they desire. Want to drink that horrible for you soda? Cool. You’re an adult and allowed to take responsibility for your own behavior, training, and life as a Jedi. Want to have a beer or mead? Cool. You’re an adult and allowed to take responsibility for your own behavior, training, and life as a Jedi.

5.) Monetizing Gatherings.
Marketplace. Selling Ad. With no clear indication where said money is going. Maybe to helping other Jedi come to future gatherings? Maybe? Hopefully? But who manages that? What oversight is there? What allows one person to earn that money over another? What happens if the person in-charge of the money decides to leave the Jedi Path? What if they are not involved with next year’s national gathering because it is suppose to change locations (east or west coast)? Not that has been said where the money is going – but I have heard that as the most popular choice – a gathering fund.

More then any of that – Why are Jedi the Charity? Jedi is a lifestyle not a charity. We are suppose to be helping others. If you cannot help yourself than going to a Jedi Gathering should not be your top priority. You save up. You budget. A year out. Two years out. You plan, you save, if it is that important you make it happen. 10 dollars a month for two years. 240 dollars right there. That will easily get you a spot. The average price to attend over the past couple of years has been about 200 dollars. Need to travel there? Greyhound. Save 20 dollars instead of ten. Bam. You are at the 2018 Gathering. Jedi help themselves so that they may better help others. If you cannot help yourself – how can you fulfill the Jedi goals of service?

Be a Jedi. Live as a Jedi. If you do that. If you truly embrace the path fully. I promise you’ll be in a position to go to a Jedi Gathering within a couple of years. No doubt in my mind. Maybe even one – depending. It is withint he realm of possibility. So there is no reason for these things to start turning into money machines for the hosts. It is a service. It is something for Jedi to celebrate being Jedi and sharing their experiences and knowledge with one another. But more and more it is turning away from that. I feel next we will be paying for individual classes of so-called Jedi who purchased a booth to spout their rhetoric. And does that really sound like any sort of fun?

5 Life Lessons from Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker

Life is this crazy, wondrous, beautiful, and ever-changing thing. It is not always easy to navigate its fast and flowing currents and we can find ourselves a bit lost on how to proceed. Often in these times we look to areas which inspire us. People who have attained the goals they pursued. Or characters which we have come to identify with. For many Jedi that has been a lowly whiny farm boy turned confident hero, Luke Skywalker. Here we explore some quotes of the character for a little advice in life.

“It was never too late to correct a mistake.” – Luke Skywalker
It is going to happen – at some point you are going to make a mistakes. Gasp! Shock! Surprise! You will find a choice you made was not the best one and it had an affect on your life. But not everything is written in stone. Often sometimes we can adjust and make the most of a mistake. We can correct our course. We can apply the freshly learned lesson and make-up for a poor decision. Pencils have erasers because mistakes happens and sometimes we can correct them. That correction may take time, it may take years, but don’t just surrender yourself to a bad outcome. You are alive. You are wiser. You are capable of correcting past mistakes.

“Wishing that things were otherwise does nothing to erase memories. Wounds do not heal by ignoring them.” – Luke Skywalker
There are plenty of things in life that can leave a mark. Times we want like to change. But none of us have a time machine. Dreaming and wishing you could change things doesn’t affect anything. You cannot live life looking backwards. It is like driving a forward while staring in the rear-view mirror. Torturing yourself over the past only serves to blind you to what is in front of you. Learn from the past. Eventually accept and come to terms with the past. You cannot change it, but you can use it to help build a brighter future.

“Having more experience doesn’t mean making difficult decisions are easier, but it does let you know that sometimes the tough decisions must be made.” – Luke Skywalker
I have been doing this Jedi thing for, well, longer than most – lets just say that. And there are times in life when it is still difficult to Jedi-up and do the Jedi thing. When you first begin the training you’ll find plenty of obstacles and hurdles, but eventually a lot of those become easy and second-nature practices. Yet no matter how long you live, how long you are a Jedi, there will always be a time when you are faced with a tough decision and it is still a tough decision to make. But experience does remind you of one important thing – not making a decision is still making a decision. When presented with choices, you must move forward as best you can. Use your experience and training and make a decision you feel best.

“It was good for a Jedi to question… Discipline was necessary, but unquestioning obedience was a limiting thing, not a growing one.” – Luke Skywalker
When one first starts out on a path they are taking a lot of things on faith. They are assuming the practices and lessons are made out of experience and will lead to positive and beneficial changes. So not every little thing is questioned and faith is put into the instructors. Such is nice, but one should never follow blindly. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you do agree with soemthing, talk it out. If you something just doesn’t seem right, then discuss it. You can respectfully question material, methods, and practices. You can question traditions and why things are. This is a great tool in learning. Any real instructor will appreciate the questions because not everything is always covered in the lesson plan. Exploration is necessary. So dig into it and should you ever have a question – ask.

“Your overconfidence is your weakness.” – Luke Skywalker
It is absolutely important to believe in yourself. It is important to your know yourself. Your weaknesses, your strengths, and your limits are all core self-knowledge items. Some people will mistakes confidence and self-knowledge as arrogance and over-confidence. Know yourself and hold to it. Humility is knowing your strengths and using to them, not bragging about them. Still you will need to be careful of over-confidence. It blinds a person not only to their own flaws and weaknesses. It starts to rely heavily on assumption and begins to ignore information counter to your own belief. A small danger can become a huge one if you start to believe yourself infallible and untouchable. Over-confidence is a weakness that will cause you to get blindsided a harsh reality. Assume you can do anything and you’ll quickly find out how incorrect that is. Know yourself and know your obstacles and you will always overcome them (one way or another). So be objective, honest, and fair with yourself and you will grow into a very capable person.

Five Steps to Jedi Acceptance

 


First understand that there are different levels of acceptance. This isn’t an all or done sort of thing. Understand that acceptance doesn’t mean passivity. Acceptance does not equal inaction. Just because you accept your boss is a jerk and accept that is who they are, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about your situation. The first step to correcting any problem is accepting that there is a problem. You need to acknowledge and accept the issue then you can begin to work on it. This is the first level of acceptance – that there is something you need to address.

Next step is to understand not everything is about you. When someone is a jerk (using our previous example) that is about them. Even if they seem to only be a jerk to you specifically, it is still their issue. They are the one with the problem and inability to express and communicate like a rational adult. Instead of addressing whatever -their- issue may be, they have decided to act out in a childish manner. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own issues. Once you can accept that it isn’t about you then you can focus on what you can do.

The next step is a bit tricky, because it does have something to do with you. More specifically you have to be aware of your motivations. A lot of our inability to accept something is because we have a very strong desire to be something else. We cannot accept that this person is a jerk because we expect and want them to be better. We expect them to be someone of quality and hold them to our own standards. It is not allowing people to be their normal messed up selves. So we find we cannot accept a situation because we have this expectation. The question then is – why do you have this expectation? What is motivating this desire to see a different reality then the one being presented to you? Try to let go of those expectations and simply accept what is presented to you and work from that rather than an idea of what it “should” be.

This brings us to our next step which is probably the most helpful. Your focus determines your reality, right? So adjust focus on solutions, not problems. You have probably heard that presented to you a bunch of times. The reason being is because it does wonders. When faced with a tough situation turn your eyes toward solutions rather than blame. Don’t look to blame anyone, including yourself, it is wasted effort. Instead find the solutions to the issue. There are usually many options available so look for them. Work through them. Find the best option for you. And if there is no solution to be had – look for the things within your control. What can you do? Where can you put your time, energy, and focus? Accept that you have control over you and where you put your time and energy and then use that ability to focus on more productive and happier things.

Last step is the over-used let it go. Don’t hang onto the past. You do what you do and then move forward. You make your decision and move forward. You don’t have a time machine. You cannot go back and change things, but what you can do is live in this moment to your fullest. You can learn from the past and use it to help create a brighter future. Shouldn’t have skipped that workout? You let that guilt go and when a day comes and you don’t feel like working out, you do a light workout knowing at least you did something. Stepped in some gum? Deep breath, done deal now, scrap it off, and move forward. Should have taken that job offer a couple years back? Keep an eye for a similar opportunity, never too late to take a new direction in life.

Acknowledge, Accept, Act (inaction counts, sometimes patience is the best action), and Move Forward. Acceptance is about realizing that we are always in motion, always moving forward. We have no reverse in this life. So deep breath – what is done is done – the question is now what – then go do that smarter and wiser for it.