Jedi vs. Sith

I’ve had Star Wars on my brain for a while, so I thought I would write a Star Wars-themed blog post today, the topic being the Jedi vs Sith codes as seen through the lens of someone struggling with mental illness (and, obviously, a nerd – or geek, whichever you prefer). First, I’ll post the two codes.

Jedi Code

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Sith Code

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

Those are the two codes, and reading them, you can see the differences in the philosophies at play. The Jedi favor serenity, harmony, and peaceful contemplation – very Zen, insofar as my limited knowledge of Zen goes – while the Sith favor a more passionate, energetic approach – the passion of emotions gives them the strength to control their lives and futures. I don’t pretend to have done an in-depth study of the meaning behind the two codes, though, I’m just looking at them through the lens of my personal experience. And while I have to admit that there is certainly a place for the Jedi principles, most of what I have learned is that in real life, the Sith Code is far more relevant.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned in my treatment is that emotions are something that you can’t repress – not for long, anyway. They more you push them down, the more they will fight to come up, and eventually they will come out whether you want them to or not. So it’s much smarter to deal with them as they come up and try to work through them while they’re still fresh than it is to try to ignore them. The Jedi that we see in the Star Wars movies are always trying to remain calm, and avoid emotions – thus Anakin getting in trouble for his relationship with Padme, because emotional attachment make emotions too strong and close to the surface. The meaning of the code may not be emotional suppression, but that’s how it seems to be used in the movies – and we see how well that goes.

The Sith Code was actually created by Bioware, for their computer game Knights of the Old Republic. It emphasizes emotion over suppression, and using that emotion, that passion, to your own gain. Through passion, eventually you gain freedom – to do what, it isn’t clear, but it seems like it could be the freedom to essentially have control over your life. And as someone with a mental illness, I find that very appealing. Now, I have no plans to don dark robes, cackle maniacally, and try to take over, create, or otherwise rule a galactic empire. But I do want to be able to control my life on my terms, And so I prefer using my emotions over suppressing them any day of the week.

Like I said before, though, the Jedi Code has its merits. It does value knowledge over ignorance – something I am also a big fan of, because I’ve seen a lot of passionate things done without enough information, and that can go really badly wrong, really fast. But saying that there is no emotion, only peace, is doing the emotional lives of humanity a disservice. Ultimately, though, I think both codes could be read both positively or negatively – you could just as easily have a Jedi dispassionately ordering a campaign of galactic genocide because he felt that only certain people were evolved enough to handle the Force as you could have a Sith putting his or her passion to work to help others – real altruism, from what I’ve seen, requires that one have a real passion for what they do, something that the Jedi Code fails to take into account. Either could be used for light or dark purposes – it’s only due to movies needing consistent bad guys that the Sith have become the stereotypical bad guys in the Star Wars universe.

As a bonus, here’s a video tour of my Star Wars: The Old Republic characters’s galactic stronghold, decorated all fancy-like because company is a-comin’.

I apologize for the poor sound. My microphone apparently doesn’t know how to do its job.

Inspiration

Well, my day got better, as I was able to spend part of it with friends, and hopefully tomorrow (or rather, today) will continue that trend. But I was looking for some things that help me to express my emotion – I find that a lot of the time I keep things pretty bottled up, and I don’t express myself well. There are some things that can help trigger that; I thought the most easily appealing to an online audience would be things that you can see and hear.

Longtime readers might recall the impact the Mass Effect video game series had on me emotionally (if not, you can read it here.) This particular song always hits me with all of it, square in the feels, and as a bonus, you can (and I certainly have) reinterpret it as learning to deal with depression.

The next one I always just thought was powerful – everyone around is running from something, and then we see the one guy who decides to go towards it – and we find out it’s a dragon.

Star Wars has always been a favorite of mine, and even if I could argue about the virtues of Jedi vs. Sith all day, the trailers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, released late in 2011, always seem to make me feel very strongly.

And as much as I love gaming, that’s not all that can tug on my heartstrings. I won’t lie, I was kind of a mess seeing the most recent Les Miserables movie in theatres.

And finally, one of the most powerful speeches I have heard on TV, or in a lot of places, really. From a 90s sci-fi show called Babylon 5, when the human race is looking at extinction – and spitting right in its face.

 

These aren’t cheerful, by any means – many of them are heartbreakingly sad. But they are prized by me because, for whatever reason, they can force an emotional reaction out of me, even when I don’t really want to have one. Holding things in for too long can cause some weird stuff to happen, and so every now and then I have to break these, or others like them, out, and use them as a sort of pressure release valve.

Bad Day

Yesterday was not a good day for me.

It really started Sunday night; sometime around 9 or 10 PM, I started feeling intensely sad and lonely. At that time of night, there’s really not much that cane be done for the lonely part, and the sad part didn’t really seem to have a cause – it was just a rush of emotion that came out of seemingly nowhere and just made me feel lousy. Then Monday started, and things got worse. I went to work on Monday morning, and while I was boxing up books to send back to the publishers, I just kept feeling these waves of emotion. It was always sadness, and it happened pretty regularly, every 15-20 minutes. I would be doing just fine, and then bam, sadness, and I felt like I was about to start crying – which would have been hard to explain at work. That happened basically all day, and while I was on break I told a couple friends, but they were either working shifts that started before mine ended, making them unavailable, or having their own issues, which might not have made for the best company. So I just had to tough it out, go home, get dinner, get in touch with some people, and hope for a better day today. It probably didn’t help that I was turned down – again – for certified peer specialist training, which I only got notification of as I was coming home from work; that’s something I really want to do, but they keep telling me that the people they give preference to are either working or volunteering in the field. I wonder how, though; every place I’ve talked to that deals with mental health and accepts volunteers doesn’t have anything like a certified peer specialist area, and apparently volunteering with NAMI, while the right general area, doesn’t count. It’s really frustrating, especially since the next session of training won;t be offered until next January.

I’m not really sure how today is going to go, though it hasn’t started so well – I’m not normally up at this time, but I just woke up at around 5:30 sweating like crazy and didn’t feel tired anymore. One of my friends had recommended journaling as a way to try to work things through in my head, and while I just didn’t have the energy for it last night, right now is a different story. I’m not really sure what brought on these erratic waves of emotion, but I have been feeling kind of lonely for the last few days; the work schedules of me and my friends have been clashing this last week, so they seemed to be working whenever I wasn’t and vice versa – and Calla has been busy with family from out of town, which is leaving her stressed and frayed and without much time to herself, let alone to hang out with me.

I’m writing this knowing that my mother, at least, will read this, and probably my sister, and some other friends. I know that my history in this area has been pretty bad, but I’ve managed to make it here for over a year, and I don’t think a couple bad days will affect me long-term. I’m going to try to meet up with a couple friends after work tonight, and I hope that will help out; traditionally, being around my friends always cheers me up, even if we’re not together for long. And tomorrow I go to see my therapist, which will also help; he’ll probably have some ideas on what might have brought this on. If nothing else, I can always try to go see my psychiatrist and ask him what he thinks; this may just be some odd kind of seasonal issue. I’m feeling bad right now, but I’m not feeling particularly worried; one or two days of badness does not a pattern make, and as someone with depression, I know that occasionally there will be days like this. Generally, though, I hope that they won’t be on days when I work, because trying to explain to my fellow employees why I just started crying for no apparent reason is not something I look forward to.

Hell, it might just have been a Monday thing. Maybe, like Garfield, my psyche just hates Mondays. I guess I’ll find out.

Delaying Tactics

Man, 11 days since my last post? I had no idea it had been so long. Time flies, I guess. It’s been a busy 11 days, so hopefully I can be forgiven for neglecting my blog for so long. When last I wrote, I had just been to church for the second time, and had just finished my first week at my new duties in the receiving area of my store. Things have definitely gotten more interesting since then.

For one thing, I actually managed – with the help of a good friend, who deserves all of the organizational credit, because I would have trouble planning my way out of a paper bag – to run my first session of an RPG called Dungeon World, which I’m sure I have mentioned int he past. The first session was at a nearby game store, and it was me, my friend, and two gals he knew from work (we all work at the same company, just different stores). I thought the first session went really well – people made fun characters relatively quickly, the system didn’t get in the way, and I felt like I was able to improvise pretty smoothly, all fo which seemed to lead to a great first session. I say first, because this week we got together again, this time at my place, and two additional gals showed up – making the demographics 4 women, 2 men, which is weird, but awesome. The two new players again made up new characters quickly, and we finished up the adventure that had been started in the previous session, finally killing the Spider-Witch Florimel and returning some very traumatized children to their families. It was a lot of fun, and a big confidence boost for me, because I had been really worried that I wouldn’t pull it off very well. hopefully we’ll have another game soon.

Also, my birthday was this past Sunday. I turned 35, which sounds like a lot now that I think about it – so usually I try not to, because then it involves me trying to work out how close I am, percentage-wise, to becoming a Steve Carell character. You know the one. I celebrated thusly: on Saturday, after having nabbed the second Captain America movie on Blu-Ray earlier int he week, I started watching all 9 Marvel movies, in in-setting chronological order. I managed to get all the way up to the Avengers before calling it a night, then the next day, my birthday, got through Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 before going out to dinner with three friends, all of whom are awesome. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chao, and if you’ve never been to such a place, let me tell you – it’s like a festival of meat. They have a salad bar, but mostly, you sit at your table, and you have a little thing at your place setting – one side is red, the other green. When you flip it to green, servers magically appear with all variety of meats and give you pieces, until eventually you are so full that you get what one of my friends called the ‘meat sweats’. Then, for dessert, two of my friends, both women, rolled out a dessert they had constructed especially for me – a three-tiered pyramid of donuts from various places around Houston. Let me tell you, I was very full at the end of the night, and very happy. If any of y’all are reading, let me say this to my friends and family(both those who were present, and those present in spirit): I love you guys, and each one of you has helped me to have a life worth living. You have made my life so much better by being a part of it.

As for my professional life, I’m mostly used to working in the receiving area of the store now; my back still aches from being on my feet and carrying boxes all day, but it’s far less stressful than customer service for me. And I get to listen to audiobooks, music, and podcasts while I work – so far I’ve made it through Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, all of the On RPGs podcast, and most of the podcast episodes of the Knights of the Night group dealing with their experiences with Dungeon World. At home, I’ve also been reading through a good book, through it’s taking longer than it normally would because I tend to read before bed, and my new job means that when I get in bed, my body tends to prefer sleep to reading much of the time. The book is called Friendfluence, by Carlin Flora, and it is about how friends influence us, change our lives, and can actually have an impact on our physiological well-being. It’s a pretty good read, and I look forward to finishing it (mostly so I can point out to my friends exactly what their presence is doing to my brain, which seems fun to me). I am still waiting to hear back from the Via Hope group on whether or not I will be accepted into this round of training for Certified Peer Specialists, and I should hear back from them by the 22nd.

All in all, it’s been a busy week and a half, but in a good way. I’ll make an effort to keep my blog more updated, because I know it’s something I have been neglecting, and I have some ideas for other things to write, but right now my body is telling me it was a bad idea to get up this early, so I’m going to listen to it and relax on my day off.

Religiosity

Yes, I’m aware the title isn’t a real word. But I like it, so I’m using it. In any case, what I’m writing about right now is my recent experiences with religion and faith, and the realizations I’m coming to about my own faith. In the last week or so, I’ve been going to church with Calla – last Sunday and this Sunday, to be exact. I grew up Catholic, then spent a long time as an atheist, and Calla’s church is a Methodist church, so it’s been an interesting journey.

One of the first things I noticed about Calla’s church is that they’re a relatively young congregation (at least, at the services I’ve been to), and they’re very energetic. For someone who grew up with solemn Catholic hymns and the smell of old incense at church, in buildings most often made from hard stone and bare wood, the Methodist service was practically exploding with energy. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Catholic service, it’s just a very different feel. It was kind of nice, actually, feeling all that energy in the room. I got the feeling that the people there really meant what they were praying for and singing – and the music was much more upbeat, too.

Being at church has had me thinking a lot about my beliefs. I’m pretty sure I don’t fall under the wings of any particular denomination; I’m Christian, but that’s about as far as I can go. Instead, my faith is kind of a grab-bag of things; some deism, some Christianity, some other bits and pieces – I think at one point I was seriously referencing the “Godfellas” episode of Futurama. Essentially, it all boils down to this: I think that there is a god, but due to the immensity of his/its likely power, intelligence, and abilities, there’s no real ability for humanity to seriously understand God, because we just don’t have the perceptive abilities to encompass him. And once God ensured we had free will, and the ability for rational thought, he stepped back, letting us find our own way, and watching as we tried to understand. Eventually, though, God decided that our understanding was important to him, and so he sent a messenger, one very important to him, to act as a conduit for our understanding – that being Jesus. And while we have free will, and God doesn’t often step in to act directly – because that would contradict our free will – we might never know if he does, because, quoting from the aforementioned Futurama episode, “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

For the most part, I think that my particular version of Christianity is pretty chilled out – we’re supposed to be good to the people around us. We’re supposed to give aid to others in need, especially if we have more than we can reasonably use – if I have 600 sandwiches, and you have none, it doesn’t cost me much to give you food, but it might mean the world to you. But we’re supposed to give not for praise or acknowledgement, but because we think it’s the right thing to do. The belief should be matched by works – some effort, large or small, to help our fellow man – because words need to be backed up by deeds for faith to be taken seriously. I don’t know that I feel the need to actively spread my faith – if people are helped by what I do, then that’s good enough. I don’t need to proselytize; if they want to know, they’ll ask. Christianity isn’t a secret, hidden religion anymore – it’s the biggest faith on the planet, even if it is broken up into dozens of denominations.  And my faith is my own; I don’t have, or feel the need to be identified as, anything other than a Christian. I don’t think  my faith has any bearing on the faith of others, either – my beliefs are mine, and given that I can’t possibly know that God is real for certain, who am I to say that my beliefs are right? All I can do is act like a good person, and believe what I believe, and go from there.

As a nerd, this is the metaphor I’ll use. Imagine a computer – one so big that its internal working are so immense that we couldn’t explore them all within our lifetimes, or even affect them in any meaningful way. We can look at the code, but it is billions upon billions of lines long, and in a language so complex that we can’t even start to understand more than even the most basic functions. We can understand that it is some kind of vast intelligence, far more complex than our own, but our communication is limited – until one day, we investigate and find an interface that seems designed for us. It lets us interact with the computer, make inquiries, and try to understand what everything is about. The computer is God, and the interface is Jesus. We still have extremely limited understanding of how things operate, but at least we have a start – and that can help us to expand our understanding on our own.

My views aren’t terrifically sophisticated, but given that I’ve only had my own faith back for a few months, I think it’s a decent start. I still have a ways to go, but it’s my faith. It’s not anything I’m certain of, but then, that’s part of what faith is – I can believe in God, but I’ll never know for certain until I die. One of the things I do believe very firmly is that once you go from belief to certainty, then you have passed through faith and into something different – and that something different is something I often find scary, because absolute certainty is something that only the most zealous people have, and they can do some pretty extreme things because of that certainty.

And hat’s all I have for now. Sorry for the gap in between posts – my move to the receiving room at work has left me less stressed, but more physically exhausted, which is a win in my book, but it means I also don’t always have the energy to think up and then post something here. But questions and comments are always welcome, especially on this topic.

Stress Relief

So I started at a new area at my job today; I’ve moved to the receiving area at my store – which basically means that instead of working behind a cash register or at the customer service desk, I instead unbox and sort all new book and media deliveries. I don’t have to interact with customers at all, and even though it’s a little more physically taxing than the other work, I feel so much less stressed afterwards that it is easily worth it. I’m more relaxed at home, I can talk to people without getting frustrated, and I just feel much more at ease.

It’s weird how change of one thing can make such a big difference. I don’t know how this will pan out in the long term, but for at least right now, it’s a big relief to me. Also, yesterday I went to church for the first time in… well, probably since Christmas. I went with Calla, who is making a lot of progress and is coming back into her faith with a passion I haven’t seen in her in a while. It’s good to see her so excited about something; I think it’s an indication that she’s getting back to a stable place. Even if our relationship doesn’t go past friendship, it is still good to know that things are getting at least a little better for her.

I have another friend who just moved to a new place, and she seems to be settling in; it might take a while to get used to a new place, but from everything she’s said, it sounds like a good place to live, with a pretty friendly, it eccentric, mix of people in her new apartment building. I got to visit her this past Saturday, and while she still has some unpacking to do, it seems like it has a lot of promise, and will let her express herself much more authentically than her old place. I’m hoping that it will be a first step to her moving forward with other things in her life, because she’s a good friend and it’s hard to watch her go through what she’s had to live with.

Sadly, not everything is great; I have another friend who’s been in the hospital for the last week. I haven’t had a lot of contact with her – which is on me – but it’s not the first time she’s been there, and I wish I could do more to help her out. There’s a lot in her background that probably has played a part in her problems, but it’s not my place to say; I just hope that this is the time that really helps her turn a corner.