Knowledge and Defense

By L. Christopher Bird, originally posted at The Jedi Path

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

At first glance, it may appear that the realm of knowledge and the realm of defense are two separate concepts, but in the path of the Jedi, one supports the other. The primacy of knowledge is enshrined in the second line of the Jedi Code, “ignorance, yet knowledge” but what is the relationship to the role of defense?

A Jedi is called to defend. We defend what is right, we defend what is just, and we protect others from those that would do them harm. To see the path of the defender clearly, we must have knowledge of both what is a threat, and what precisely is at stake. To fulfill our role as defenders, we must have both clarity of thought and clarity of vision. We cannot allow our views to be clouded by ignorance and untruths. We must go beyond how things appear, and perceive how they actually are. We gain this insight through training ourselves to think critically and relying on trusted peers that can help us see things we may have missed.

And when we see something that is a threat, be it physical or existential, we must intervene. A Jedi places themselves between the threat and the threatened, bodily if need be. Defense of those that cannot defend themselves is an imperative task of those who would want to call themselves Jedi. In the world in which we live, oppression is on the rise both on a systemic and interpersonal level. We must ask ourselves if we are truly committed to the values of peace and justice, which we realize through knowledge and defense. Guided by compassion, we must do much more than just feel compassionate, we must do more than thinking compassionate thoughts, we must take compassionate action.

Our philosophy is inspired by what some would call escapist fiction. Where in the end good triumphs over evil because of the heroic actions of someone named Skywalker. But we live in the real world, where these divisions are not so clear, and victory is by no means guaranteed. We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent and wait for a hero to come along and save us all. There ain’t nobody that is going to better at saving you and yours than you. Fantasy worlds are appealing if you are the chosen one, or of the chosen few. But unlike the Galaxy Far, Far, Away, in this world, being a Jedi does not make you anyone special. We do not have a special destiny that awaits us. No, being a Jedi is a choice to live a hard life, to train hard, make difficult decisions and do difficult work to make ourselves better people and to make our world a better place. It all begins with knowledge. Knowledge of the path, knowledge of self, and knowledge of what needs to be done.

The civil rights activist Jimmy Webb learned a saying from his father, “If you see a good fight don’t run from it, run to it”. If you are committed to being a Jedi and walking the Jedi path, when there is something worth fighting for, our place is not on the sidelines. To be a Jedi means to be comfortable with operating within a conflict, and through our words and actions, resolving it. Conflict resolution is only possible with knowledge and defense. A Jedi to be effective in the work of peace and justice needs to cultivate their knowledge and train in the arts of defense. These are not always physical arts, for defense can take the form of education and diplomacy. A strong guiding philosophy of defense, informed with knowledge, will serve both in the linguistic arts and the arts of the body.

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