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.
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?