From Jar to Jar: Change & courage
Introducing "This Is The Way"
Well, hello there. It has been a minute since my last transmission, so I figure I owe you an update — or five. Some of you ended up on this newsletter because you follow Beltway Banthas, my Star Wars + politics podcast. Others keep tabs on my political writing and op-ed’s on news of the day. Then many (most of you actually) came here because you picked up my book, How The Force Can Fix The World: Lessons on Life, Liberty and Happiness from a Galaxy Far Far Away.
Thank you for being here. This hub used to be called PoliticizeMe, and a URL change is pending, but now I am calling this space: This Is The Way. A little motto from Disney +’s The Mandalorian, “this is the way” is uttered by protagonist Din Djarin and his fellow Mandalorian’s who are in the Children of the Watch. Yeah, it’s a cult. It stood out to me though, as Star Wars fans have taken to this tagline as an almost equal to “May the Force be with you.” What is the way they’re referencing? What path does it lead you down? Unsure. But I imagine it’s a good and worthwhile one, because it’s challenging. ICYMI, these Mandalorian’s never remove their helmets in the company of other living people.
That’s commitment. It’s an obstacle. And as you may know from author Ryan Holidays most notable work, The Obstacle is the Way, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is known to have said….the impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
Challenges are how we grow. Change is ongoing. Life is hard. But we overcome, or we wither and die. Stories are part of how we muster the strength to overcome those trials. They embolden us with rousing prose, compelling villains and unsuspecting heroes who by their actions offer a roadmap to triumph. Whether it’s your faith in a higher power, the religion you follow or the pop culture canon you hold dear…. we cherish these things because they show us HOW TO______
Insert: (WHATEVER TROUBLES YOU )
This Substack will be a hub for these stories. Some weeks it may be personal anecdote, or scripture, or a film review.
This Is The Way is a reader-supported publication. Like what you’re reading? You can donate with a paid subscription & have a say in what this newsletter becomes in 2022.
Today I went to church for the fourth time since the pandemic began in early 2020. We discussed this painting by Rembrandt of the prophet Jeremiah, depressed as Jerusalem burned. The light shining on him is the fires outside his dwelling. This associated verse is as follows from Jeremiah 48:11: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another— she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.
I’ll spare you a sermon recap and just say what spoke to me. This passage and this painting is all about the inevitability of change, and the virtue of being ready for it…embracing it…and learning. Wine left “on its dregs” and not disturbed by pouring from one jar to another, goes all syrupy, sweet and sticky. It ceases to become wine, full of nuance and layers. Jeremiah and his people were not fully ready for the temporary nature of things. Their comfort, kingdom and lifestyle.
So too must we be ever-ready, nimble and ready for chances to be chiseled into our final forms. It may involve awful struggle. And we all can talk a big game till the change involves real pain and loss. But this is the way.
December was a period of rapid change for me. Good thing I just wrote a book about how preparing for and embracing change when it inevitably occurs is both prudent and healthy. That’s not to say it has been easy, but when my YouTube show on the Rightly network was cancelled in mid-December, it was a wave that crashed over me. It hurt. My pride was wounded, my sense of self rather shaken. This kind of change doesn’t feel great, and the transformative opportunity is akin to the “opportunity” presented by exile from your homeland. Pack your bags and march!
Below is my final video for Rightly. I titled this monologue “I Have No Enemies” in recognition of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned by Communist China years ago for “subversion of state power” with his free thoughts and words. What was on my mind was whether or not I used to platform I was given for those 10 months...for good ends. Did I go in every week and write a show that challenged both me and my intended audience? Did I do something that took courage?
Google “I have no enemies” and turn to Images, and you’ll find forceful rebukes of the idea that one could have no enemies and have done something worthwhile. The point is well taken. I get it. The world is wicked more often than not, and if you have no enemies in that world then it’s likely you’ve accommodated that wickedness. Not spoken truth to it. Gone along to get along.
Charles MacKay, a 19th century Scottish poet, wrote
“You have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor. He who has mingled in the fray of duty that the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work that you have done. You've hit no traitor on the hip. You've dashed no cup from perjured lip. You've never turned the wrong to right. You've been a coward in the fight.”
Sometimes I feel like that. Don’t you? I know I have been tight lipped on more than one occasion in the public square when vocal truth was called for. But you stay silent, either because you feel the juice ain’t worth the squeeze, or there will always be someone else who can say what you’re thinking. Let THEM do it.
But I’d contend another thing, which is that we live in a time where all forces both economic and political have converged around us to monetize and incentivize enmity and hatred. Is it really brave in 2022 to do a takedown of some fools from behind your microphone or in a perfect Twitter thread? I
If it feels like a knee jerk action, I don’t find it to be very brave at all. And throwing punches today feels like a knee jerk impulse. It is what I was encouraged to do on my show, not by my team necessarily but by friends and allies around me who wanted to see the show gain more viewers. The advice was sincere, market tested and probably wise….be more divisive. Start some fights!!! I’m not an idiot — that would have gotten more traction. It’s possible I might have celebrated Christmas of 2021 gainfully employed if I had done a very easy thing in the months before Thanksgiving and just thrown some rhetorical dirt in the eyes of some people I find distasteful, and of ill repute.
I can be honest with myself and with you and say there were days I thought about doing that. But more often than not, I chose instead to deal in confident restraint. To talk about things I wanted to talk about and speak with guests I wanted to speak with.
Perhaps I come too heavily from the school of Luke Skywalker, where moral courage is to toss your weapon aside before the Emperor and accept whatever happens next.
“Skywalker’s intentional disarmament is, in a sense, his Arthurian moment, or rather his reverse-Arthurian moment. While the legendary King Arthur inherited Britain’s throne by pulling a sword from a stone, Luke inherits the title of Jedi Knight not by grasping and brandishing his weapon but doing the exact opposite, ridding himself of it. With this simple but profound action Luke Skywalker fundamentally changes what it means to be a member of the Jedi Order and elevates heroism to an even greater level, a level which requires traversing a path of nonviolence, compassion, and mercy (even for one’s enemies).” - Imperial Talker
And so, we travel from jar to jar. Being changed both by forces around us which we cannot control, and by our humility to let the changes occur. I don’t know where it is that I am going in 2022, but I know it will be different then where I’ve been. For this reason, think about what the world says courage is, and what courage might look like for you.
Posts from This Is The Way will not usually be this drawn out. Thank you for reading. In the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about a proper schedule for releasing posts and what kind of additional content would make this worthwhile for everyone, especially those of you who signed up as Paid Subscribers.
This newsletter is going to remain free to those who don’t want to chip in. But for those who do, you can expect to have your feedback prioritized for what this newsletter becomes in 2022. I’m listening!