It’s been a rough couple of weeks on the global front, and to say Houston “we have a problem,” would be an understatement. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons, typhoons and torrential rains are in our news feeds every day. The floods in Southeast Asia have killed thousands with millions being forced from their homes. In India over 30 million people have been flooded out of their homes. These global disasters could happen anywhere and as they say, “by the grace of God,” we are spared, at least for the time being. Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific, I think we always have in the back of our minds that these possibilities exist, especially as hurricane seasons come and go each year.
I have been wondering how much to share about these current situations with my son. He is nearly 6 years old and currently lives his life without thinking that his world could come crashing down on him at any movement. I think about all the boys and girls in Texas, Asia and India, who were not expecting to lose their homes and sense of security overnight. I want my son to have a sense of compassion and caring for the situations at hand, but I don’t want him to live in fear. His birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I am planning his birthday party. He is so excited to be turning six, losing his first tooth and going to Kindergarten, it’s a big year for him. He has been choosing friends he wants to invite to his party, asking for his favorite cake and hoping and praying for his favorite Star Wars toys. This is the nature of a six year old, not that much different from my own sixth birthday as I recall.
My son is entrenched in everything Star Wars at the moment, well for most of his last year. We have watched the eight Star Wars Movies, and the Netflix Clone Wars cartoon series on a pretty constant rotation. The Lego Star Wars games are his favorites and he has action figures which fill his imaginative play most of the time. Yesterday, as he was telling me about why Commander Cody was one his favorites, we had a conversation that went something like this:
Daddy: Tino you know that Star Wars is not real right, it’s a story?
Tino: I know that it’s not real, but it could be real.
Daddy: What parts do you think might be real?
Tino: The Force is real. Like Anakin Skywalker, he started out learning to be a good Jedi, but then he felt so much pain that he made a bad choice to use the force for darkness. The same thing happened to Kylo Ren. Sometimes people choose to use the force to make bad choices and hurt people rather than use the force to do good things. You can actually use the force to save the world.
Daddy: That is very true Valentino, we really have a choice about how we act in the world and how we use the force within us. How do you think that we can use the force to save the world?
Tino: I don’t know yet, but when I grow up, I am going to use the force to do good things. I might be a doctor or a scientist.
Daddy: (Taking advantage of the moment) You know Tino, remember Anakin was just a boy when he learned about the force and he had to learn from a master how to use the force and how to do good things in the world. Even though you are just a boy, you can start to learn now how to use the force for good.
Tino: I know.
I could see that his attention to the conversation was starting to drift so I moved on. But it started me thinking about if he is ready to understand some of the perils of this world. The recent natural disasters seen in Houston and elsewhere haven’t been a part of his young life. As his parent, it is I who must become his Yoda – his Jedi Master. But is exposing him to real world at his age the wise thing to do? I can hear Yoda say, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Thanks Yoda. This Jedi thing is harder than I thought. I do think it’s important for him to appreciate how abundant his life is. Tino, like most of us, are very fortunate; we have food to eat and warm dry beds to sleep in, while at the same time there are countless families around the world who have lost everything and have no place to go.
Unfortunately with global warming, we will see more people displaced in the years to come. I realize this is a big concept for a six year old, but since his brain is now more than 90% developed, I think it would be a shame to under estimate his potential for compassion and empathy. “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is,” again I hear Yoda in my head. I realize that my son understands the concept of the force and it is my responsibility to demonstrate the force in action. To show what it really means to be a Jedi, a person who uses the force for good.
Of course this brings me to remember a valuable lesson from my own Jedi Master – my Father. My Father was a Buddhist and this is how I was raised. I remember one time that he told me that there was no such thing as good or bad. I was very puzzled by this as he referred to these more as judgments rather than truth. He told me the following story and it has always stayed with me.
Who Knows? The Farmers Son – Fortune or Misfortune?
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he let his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land and prosper?” The farmer replied, “Who knows? We shall see.”
Two days later the old horse came back rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the old farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” Again, the farmer softly said, “Who knows? We shall see.”
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son attempted to train the new wild horses, but the he was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, how will you survive? You must be very sad,” they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, “Who knows? We shall see.”
Several days later, a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who knows? We shall see,” replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on, his son’s broken leg healed, but left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you!” But the old farmer simply replied; “Who knows? We shall see.”
As it turned out, the other young village boys had all died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said, “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy”, to which the old farmer replied, “Who knows? We shall see!”
The meaning of any event, “good” or “bad” is only relative to the changing circumstances and conditions surrounding it. We do what we have to do to live our everyday lives, but we should not be too attached to outcomes, or spend time or emotion trying to control a future that can’t be controlled. The old farmer accepted that he had to live in the present and that he had to let go of outcomes, good or bad, and move on, because life is many things, most of all change.
So today, in the light of all that seems dark and full of misfortune, who knows what might come from so many people using the force and reaching out to help our neighbors in Texas, Asia and India. And my last Yoda quote, “We must wake!” Instead of hatred, indifference and intolerance, perhaps we as humans will come together and use the force for good in a big way. Maybe now is a good time for us each of us to practice the way of the Jedi. For myself, as a parent of a Jedi apprentice, I will be an example and show him he can “use the force to do good things,” and that he can indeed help make the world a better place.
Jedi Master (in Training)
The 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.
Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.