Tag Archives: Rant

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?

You Have Accomplished Nothing (Personal Rant)

My heart is broken in the face of the stupidity of my species.” – Joni Mitchell

A sad reality is that senseless violence happens on a daily basis. The rates of murder (around 45 per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), rape (around 800 per rainn.org), and severe accidents (90 fatal accidents per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) in the United States alone are high daily numbers. Taking a world view, there is someone out there dealing with a very horrific life-changing event. Even with this, we do our best to change the world and provide a bright spot. We encourage people to chase dreams and find happiness. Because Human Beings are creatures of hope. They are strong and resilient. But it seems this constant struggle against the dark side of humanity isn’t enough.

Yesterday attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad added to that tragedy and ugly side of humanity. Which I’ll never understand the purpose of. It has to just be senseless violence for the sake of it. Because any end game or desired outcome surely is not happening. Because despite these horrific acts which take loved ones from our lives humans tend to shine in the dark. They stand together, they stand proud, and see they are not alone. They grieve, but continue on unwilling to be broken by senseless bullies who have the IQ of a brick. Attacks like these don’t divide us. They remind us that the Human Experience does not adhere to imaginary lines. It does not adhere to skin tone, belief, or gender (or any other glass wall). Whatever the intended message was – it is now clearly, Solidarity and Unity. One person’s heartbreak is all of our heartbreak. Empathy, Compassion, and Sympathy is there and being given by the buckets to the survivors (I include family members of victims as survivors of these things, because they have to live with the results). And we see that our petty differences mean jack crap. Violence begets violence. Bombing and shooting people resolves nothing and certainly doesn’t send any damn message. Except maybe the message of – You didn’t win, this won’t break us, and despite our heartbreak we will continue on.

So this is a big F* You to the cowards of such attacks. You have broken and scared no one. Watch as humanity rises together. You have caused tears to be shed, but you have changed and stopped nothing (thus why you have an IQ of a brick). If you actually cared about whatever cause you supposedly fight for, you’d understand that you did nothing for it. Death and “terror” don’t get your point across. It just makes people want to see your life ended (thus the cycle continues). You might get people to ask why – Why do this – and you’ll get a chance to spout your non-sense. But there is no reason good enough for the acts committed. There is no justification to be had. And you only continue to ensure more people will die (most likely the ones you profess to fight for – as is often the case). Because you hide behind your cause. You hide behind your justifications and use them as a shield. You stack up the people you fight for and then use their tragedy for your own sick hate. You are a cancer to humanity, but you will not kill humanity. You will not break humanity, you have done nothing but show the true value of our species. Standing together and overcoming the moronic acts of a select few abnormalities. We are better and stronger than you thought. And we will continue to get better. And continue to show the newer generation that our strength comes from our unity as the human race.

Personal: Failure…

I have been in pursuit of living the Jedi way for some time. I was first inspired in 1990 as a young child and I pursued it as a child would. By the mid-nineties I found the seedlings of what would become the Jedi Community. In 1999 I began to make a name for myself in the Community and present my ideas and experiences living as a Jedi. 16 years later I have failed more times than I can actually remember. Though I do get reminders from some very helpful people in the community at times. There are only two times in my life where I truly felt I failed to the point of I could not call myself a Jedi. Much like how The Doctor (Doctor Who reference here) didn’t consider the War Doctor The Doctor because he felt he had failed so badly. My first time was not only a gradual decline into degradation and complacency, but I failed to acknowledge my compromised state and brought a eager and bright student into my little pit. That was the true failing. Getting beaten down by life and slowly sliding off the path is one thing, but to involve a good kid and ruin their own growth? Unforgivable.

My second true failing was in my divorce. As my marriage crumbled around me I got lost in the emotional turmoil. And instead of adhering to the Path and doubling up on my practices in such a rough time, I wallowed in my mistakes and failures. Instead of waking up and meditating, I’d wake up and open a beer. Instead of buckling down and working not only on myself, but my career, I played video games and pretended to be a Jedi online (which clear as day I had lost my way) – all while drinking as a side note. Instead of reflecting and meditating before bed, I’d finish off a beer, watch some tv, and eventually pass out in bed. All while still running a Jedi website, carrying a Jedi Knight, and pretending I was some sort of Jedi teacher. Another pretty horrendous failure.

During both times I felt the Jedi Community failed me. As Jedi we are suppose to be there for each other. Not for platitudes or blind optimism, but to help each other grow as Jedi. To hold each other accountable and responsible for our actions. We are to live as Jedi. And there are things in life that can knock a person off their track. I can fall back to mental diagnosis I was given when I was younger, but that would just be an excuse. I know this now more than ever, because I have faced even tougher challenges and since I adhered to the Jedi Way I handled them way better. The Jedi Path itself is such a wonderful toolbox. It gives so many tools in dealing with the problems and struggles of everyday life and the not so everyday. Failure and mistakes do happen. They are not fun, pleasant, and we are more often than not more upset at ourselves for failing than the actual failure. This happens and guess what? That’s Okay. What is not okay….

Patting people on the back and telling them they are Jedi when very clearly they are not. Over and over I was told what a great Jedi was. Look at the things I had done. Look at how I kept going. Look at the posts I had written that day. Yes – even in my darkest times I still knew Jedi Information well enough to write good posts. But that doesn’t mean I was living it. And when I turned to the community for support and to help me get back on the path all I got was platitudes, gossip, and optimistic brush-offs. “Oh you are still a Jedi. You are just going through a hard time.” News Flash: You are go through a hard time, want to me a Jedi, wear a Jedi mask, and still not be a Jedi. Being a Jedi is LIVING it. It is waking up and forcing yourself to follow the Five Practices. It is making sure you are adhering to the Five Goals and following the Jedi Rules of Behavior. If you are not doing these things – if you cannot even bother to do a Jedi Code meditation which might take five minutes out of your day (though probably should be ten) – then you are NOT a Jedi. And I was not. Yet the Community wanted to pat me on my back. And so I continued my slide, because that is what happens when you don’t recognize or accept a problem.

One of my bigger challenges was facing how sick this made me and how little I wanted to do with the Community. Of course this I why I always caution Jedi these days – The Jedi Community is Not the Jedi Path and vice-versa. With the help of one feisty Jedi (who happily acknowledges that my lessons were good enough that they help in spite of me) I was able to recognize and finally accept my continuing failure and the disservice I was doing to the Path by calling myself a Jedi. Acceptance is Peace. It was my bottom. Surrounded by beer bottles, liquor bottles, wine bottles, sake bottles, well you get the idea… It was simple – Did I want to truly be a Jedi? Of course. Not only a childhood dream, but I had thoroughly enjoyed myself when I was a Jedi – living the Jedi Way. I had allowed myself to forget that, because pain and self-pity tends to do that.

So I began the very long journey back to being a Jedi. The basis is simple – Jedi Code, Jedi Circle, Jedi Rules of Behavior – live it. Follow through on the practices. It was here that I began doing Spartan Races (as well as Zombie Runs and other mud runs). Spartan Races near me really had that Dagobah feel to them the first couple of years. Wet, cold, muddy, and definitely challenging. It really helped me train more like the fictional Jedi and that of course really helped keep the inspiration alive. To go out and be a Jedi on the course really just brought it to life more me. Much like how lightsaber dueling and cosplay brings it to life for other Jedi. It was indeed a long road back to fully living as a Jedi. I eventually was able to get to a place where I felt I was a Jedi Knight. So I tattoo’ed it on my arm. No going back. No more excuses allowed. It is about a baseline. When you first start the Jedi Path you have a rather low and basic baseline you are held to and can expect to hold yourself to. When you are a Jedi Knight that means your baseline of Jedi Living has increased. Meaning that is your new bottom point. Your worse day will still be a Jedi day. Doesn’t mean it won’t suck, just means your base/natural/instinctive reaction is that of a Jedi. When I have a really crappy day I may want to grab a six pack of beer and escape into a video game, but that isn’t my knee-jerk reaction anymore. Instead as that thought arises as I am already preparing a nice atmosphere to meditate and center myself in. I know what to do as a Jedi and I am already int he process of doing it as old habits and thoughts try to creep their way in and eventually falling away to the core practices of the Jedi. Make no mistake, this took a good amount of time. But it is the by-product of living the Jedi Way. Eventually you get to the place you want to. If you put in the work you eventually become the person you desire to be.

Failure happens. That is fine. Not being a Jedi doesn’t make you are bad person. Realizing that you are off the path doesn’t make you a bad person. It can and does happen. It is Okay. What is not okay is platitudes and false support when you continue not to walk the path. What is not okay is carrying a title and pretending you are a role-model and example of the Path when you aren’t even walking it. These are not okay. These are signs that you are still in the pit and have yet to acknowledge that you are actively keeping yourself there. Community errors on compassion. They will pat you on the back, they will tell you how great you are, all while you are being self-absorbed and dejected. Self-Discipline: You are Your Own Master – So be a Jedi. If you want to be a Jedi, if you feel you have failed, are failing, then be a Jedi. Start now. Start today. Stop giving into excuses, stop wasting time, start right now – Be a Jedi.

I have been at the bottom. I have failed many times. But the best way to guard against that, to avoid my mistakes, is simply to keep to the Path. To live it and honor it the best you can. When you stumble and feel bad for it – shake it off and remember the best way to apologize is to learn from it. Don’t be sorry – just do better. If you want to be a Jedi then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get right back to it. No days off, no moping time. Get to it Jedi.

Your Insecurity is Most Disturbing

insecurity

Courage is not dependent on previous acts of courage. If I am terrified of heights, but climb a tree to help someone down than I have shown courage. It does not take away, diminish, or in anyway reflect the courage it takes to be a Police Officer, Military Soldier/Infantry, Fire Fighter, Search and Rescue, or any other profession which seems more heroic on the surface. Courage not simply something regulated to combat. In fact speaking for peace requires a lot of courage as bodily harm and death are tools often employed against such advocates.

Courage is not allowing Fear to govern your life. Across the world courage has been shown in social issues. Being from the united States we have plenty of examples of Social Courage. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed courage. Jane Addams showed courage. Ghandi showed courage. This does not mean George Washington showed less courage crossing the Delaware. This does not mean First Responders to terrorist events like 7/7 and 9/11 were any less courageous.

It makes me wonder how insecure people are they have to lash out at those being courageous for a fight they don’t understand. Caitlyn Jenner has faced ridicule, threats of all kinds, and continues to be insulted by uneducated bigots. But she knew that. She knew that embracing her own image and doing so while tied to one of the most public families would bring a wave of criticism, attacks, and condemnation. Knowing that, knowing a large chuck of the world was not educated and enlightened enough to accept people for who they are and would lash out, she made a courageous choice. She chose not to be ruled by fear or hate or self-denial. She chose to face real consequences and repercussions for simply being true to her self. That is the very definition of courage. “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

And you want to know something? That does NOT take away from any one who has been, is currently, and will be Brave. The continued comparisons and ridicule people face for social courage only serve to prove how much courage is necessary to stand up. In some parts of the world doing so is in fact a death sentence. That does include parts of the United States. Standing against social ignorance and bigotry is not easy, it is not safe, and it is not a minor issue. So the next time you see a picture of some soldier bleeding and a snide comment about courage – remember they are merely proving the point. It is not easy. You are brave. And one day the world will pull its head from its @$$ and recognize that. It is a long fight. Ask anyone involved in equal rights. You’d think the world would it get already – it is all glass wall non-sense. We all bleed. We all feel. We are alive and just trying to do the best we can. But it seems a hard lesson for the world to learn. So continue to be You. Continue to be Courageous.