Part Twenty Three
Sith Empire Insignia
As we have previously discussed, I spent the vast majority of my secondary school years in boarding school. We have spent many lines of ink going over various aspects in varying levels of detail.
My mental state throughout those years was bad; bordering on terrible. The kids thought I was a freak. The adults had no clue how to help me. I was, for better or worse, left to my own devices to sort myself out.
Free, for the majority of the year, from the controlling clutches of my father I finally had a taste of something that I yearned for deep inside of me. Freedom. And space.
I needed time and space to try and at least begin to make sense of what was happening to me. To start to understand who I was in the context of this world. What I was.
As it happened, the school’s library was one of its crowning assets. Even if the school itself failed to recognise this outside of its brochures. Because the internet was a very late addition the library was stocked with everything any child might need to at least do some in depth research on any topic for any project or field of study for offer through the curriculum.
By the time I was in primary school, digitally interactive encyclopedias like Grolier or Encarta were already pretty much a standard amongst children. Preferred for the ability to copy paste anything in a matter of seconds.
Me. I preferred the act of writing it out. That was how I learned something back then. The act of writing it would wire it into my brain. Job done.
That isn’t here nor there. But it does illustrate the point that I was more or less alone in the library. It was mostly used as a meeting up spot for the stoners who would then go out the fire exit and smoke out back. Other than that, kids would walk in, go to the counter, enquire about the waiting list for one of the many harry potter books and scurry off before someone sees them and calls them a geek or something equally idiotic.
I had the fortune of already being labelled a freak. And generally someone to stay away from. So anything I did fell under that freakish banner.
My day was already filled with hours of learning, sports, and a pretty rigorous schedule at the boarding house that left you with very little free time. But I had the nights. Those endless hours in the dark. Awake. Assaulted by the storm that was brewing in my head.
I found that if I filled all those inbetween moments with reading. It seemed to calm the beast in my head. It would consume everything I threw at it. And threw at it I did. A vast array of categories. Unable to construct any imagery for me to enjoy, but fully able to process everything it consumed. Filling me not with imagery. But other things. Conceptual things that are difficult to express with words. I still find myself pulling information and knowledge that I picked up during that time. The things that I had consumed during that time kept me company during the long hours in the dark of any one of my stays in solitary confinement. During my months in the mental ward. While I was homeless.
I found little enjoyment in fiction. Some. But not that much. I was more in awe of reality. The complexity of things. One particular set of books, though, did grab my attention.
There was, in one of the lesser voyaged corners of the fiction section, a particular subsection of novels that spanned the entirety of what would much later on be known (after the Disney acquisition) as the Star Wars Legends. But at the time was known as the extended universe. Books that delved much deeper into the lore and history of a particular far, far away galaxy.
Finding these books was momentous for me. I had seen the movies. The only three that were available at the time. This was still pre-digital enhancements. Just as they were getting ready to screen them in preparation for the new trilogy that was in various stages of production by Lucas. I could take it or leave it. But the books. They put the whole thing into a different light for me.
Because of the way that I am wired I have little in ways of an imagination. What I am able to do is through my understanding of certain specific fundamental mechanics, construct something of a mental image. But it is hinged in reality. I have to have worked with it in my hands. I have to have scanned it into my mind from reality first. that is a double edged sword though. Because my mind will take what is already there and twist it. Adding or subtracting. Skewing my perspective. And it can do this with an unsettling accuracy because of that underlying understanding of those fundamental mechanics. So. The irony that although I myself do not have an imagination but my mind certainly does; does not escape me.
Those books though. They gave me something as close to an imagination as I have ever had. I found myself invested and rooting for the mighty Sith. Who, although cast in a cruel light by the Jedi and the Galactic Republic that would come from them, had a pride and history that spoke to something deep inside of me.
Originally outcasts because of their belief that ignoring emotion did not make one weak. That in fact those very emotions could be sharpened as a weapon and used to amplify ones connection with the living force. That it was in one’s nature to question rather than follow blindly, and that one should be free to question and seek out knowledge in all corners. Rather than sticking to one extremely limited doctrine. If your doctrine threatens to fall apart under the slightest question of faith, then is it not your doctrine the one in need of re-examination?
I connected with this. On many levels. Through many books found various teachings from various ancient Sith lords who had achieved impossible feats. Because of their unique perspective and the vital fact that they went against the establishment and the established norm. Breaking boundaries and forging new paths.
Many times I had tried to imagine myself in a position like that. Being a part of something like that. I wouldn’t want to be a Sith Warrior. Or Assassin. But rather a Sith Scholar. Building off of the teachings of some of the most knowledgeable, if forbidden, Sith that had come before.
The Sith Empire, as it existed during the time of the Old Republic, was one that although had begun showing deep signs of corruption had a deep belief in the assimilation of new cultures into the greater collective. Continually adapting to change while also staying true to the relevant parts of their culture rather than clinging onto the vestiges of a dying religion that was hell-bent on resisting any and all change.
I didn’t know it at the time. How could I have? Realistically speaking. But there would be many moments over the course of my life where something in those books would help me. I have no clue where they got ideas or source material from. But the writers had crafted something special. The Sith approach to emotion helped me get my own out of control emotions under my version of control. It helped me to sharpen those volatile emotions and use them as a springboard or weapon of sorts. Depending on what the situation called for. They were the building blocks of what would later become the foundations of who I am today.
I am fortunate to live in a time and place (and appropriate dimension/universe, depending on your preferred multiverse theory) where following an acquisition of the multimedia conglomerate known to the public as Disney we are literally bombarded with more and more Star Wars content. From books, to a fully realised new trilogy of movies, to endless new streaming content, to lore widening games. The canon is expanding. And it holds a special place in my heart.
I have, for instance, been lucky enough to embark on my own adventure in a galaxy far, far away through the massively multi-player online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic (affectionately known as SWTOR to its many, many users and fans).
I never really got into other games of this type. My friends, at the time, all tried to get me into World of Warcraft, but that was a miss from me. I couldn’t get into the lore and without that, the game was just unappealing with its endless repetition and its very uneven amount of work vs. payoff ratio.
But this game allowed me to explore a new side of the lore. See certain events I had only read about from the inside. See first hand how certain things played out. As well as learn about characters and factions I had never thought of looking into before.
I first picked up the game because it had just become free-to-play. And I was homeless and in need of something to do during my many hours every night in an internet cafe as I waited out the night. Whenever I could afford to, of course. But just surfing the internet made me want to sleep. And there was no work for me to pick up during those hours where everyone was asleep. And to be quite frank, I needed something to keep my mind busy. Something to focus on so that I wouldn’t completely lose it.
That was something Andrei taught me. It was something the Sith taught me too, funny enough.
And it worked. I managed to tread enough water, mentally speaking, to get myself at a place where I could get off the streets. The next two times that I would return to the game would be under similar circumstances. Moments where my mental state was in danger of catastrophic failure. Where I needed something to cling onto and obsess over that was not a human being. Because no matter how much frustration I fling at a game, or how many hours I spend at it, it won’t ever get hurt. It was something for me to do what had zero danger of hurting anyone or anything real or tangible.
When I was very young and the nervousness and tension would build into mind numbingly painful migraines that sent flashes of light into my eyes, and my mind was swimming in static I had this nervous tick thing where I would repeatedly scratch the side of my right thumb with the corresponding index finger. This was the only thing I could do, because the previous things like cutting myself with knives, scratching away deep groves of the skin of my inner forearms with my own nails, or scratching my legs till I bled were not viable options. They were too obvious and would usually be treated with a healthy round of beatings from my father. So this was something that could literally allow me to scratch that itch. I haven’t done it in years and the thought of it has caused me to scratch at it throughout the entirety of writing this. I’ll get it under control again, but it takes time to put the lid back on that particular thing.
In any case. It seemed logical to me that that would be an opportune spot for something that I had previously wanted emblazoned large and prominently on my back. The choice coming to me on the spot when I had been offered a free tattoo from my then friend and tattoo artist while getting another one done.
That man was a good friend during a particularly rough period of my life. I had gone to him to get what I had assumed at the time would be my last tattoo, seeing as I was on month 17 of a 9 month time limit set my my then oncologist. About a year after that I was homeless for the second time in my life, and had bumped into him in the street. After explaining my situation to him he offered me to come by the shop whenever I wanted just to chill for a bit. To be indoors. He understood that need. Just to be somewhere. To have something to do. We spent many hours together. Playing cards. Listening to music. Drinking beers. Smoking weed that he had on hand. And whenever I had any kind of money to spare, like 5 or 10 bucks, he would give me a tattoo. I got 11 tattoos done with him over those 6 months.
It was a rough time. I was going through changes inside of me. Figuring out who to be now that by all accounts it seemed like I was forced to stick around after all. After believing for so long that those doctors were actually right and that I was going to kick it within that 6 to 9 month time frame without their help.
He never wanted to talk about the past. But he did like talking about bikes. And, funny enough, Star Wars.
Eventually we fell out. He had over time increasingly lowered the mask that he had hidden his intense racism behind. And after one particularly bad interaction we had I decided to part ways with him.
I do not feel bad for not holding my tongue. For not speaking out or acting out when I see something fundamentally wrong. I react to blind hate. Of any kind. And I probably always will, way past the point that my physicality becomes an issue. I learned to not feel bad for seemingly having too much emotion when it came to certain things. I learned to not shy from it, but to embrace it. And be strengthened by it. I learned that anger is not just a blunt force object. That it can be tooled to become a precise weapon. Probably the most important among my arsenal for survival. Through the Sith practice of Seething, a form of rage meditation to prepare one for intense battle, I learned to harness that rage.
Everything that we say, do or think is man made. Conceptually speaking, it is all imaginary. Money. Status. Based off the words and teachings of other people that we have probably never heard of. Established to be the norm is the only thing these things have going for them. Over time, the norms change. Subject to the wants and whims of the populace.
Take modern heathenry. As a religion, it is all based on hear say. Cobbled together modern representations and understandings of ancient cultures and things that no one living today actually knows a thing about because no one actually witnessed any of it first hand. Anything we know is found and interpreted, and information is extrapolated using logic and reason. But the key word there is interpreted.
Religion is what you make of it. For me, it isn’t a thing. I used to be fiercely anti-religion. Before that I was a staunch believer. Going so far as to, by my own hand, become a saved born-again christian. My belief did not hold up to any real scrutiny and fell apart the second I was faced with the reality of the real world.
I found something on those pages, though. Somehow I found a greater understanding for my self and for how to control myself. I found company for many dark, lonely and terrifying nights. It is a gift that has continually given me much over the years. An enjoyment I still find today whenever I take time for me.
The Sith may have begun as an allegory for all the darker aspects of humanity, including the very overt reference to Nazism. But in time it grew to encompass a rich history that had unfortunately been manipulated and used to further the muddied intentions of power hungry lessers who were a far cry from their more scholarly progenitors who sook only to further their knowledge and share that knowledge as much as they could rather than horde and monopolise it like the Jedi. Ironic that the Sith that would follow would embody and resemble more of the Jedi that they would inevitably destroy.
From my perspective. Even a made up piece of fiction can potentially teach me something. Ethical and moral reasoning is a big part of what goes into designing enthralling plots for mass consumption. Taking core philosophical quandaries and repackaging them time and time again until they are essentially unrecognizable. To the point that the studio itself that makes said content has forgotten the reason this whole thing started in the first place and instead lean into the only thing that drives anything nowadays. The hunger for more money.