Johnnie Moore

Loss, play and learning

Powerful learning can happen when we are open and playful
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

A surprisingly touching moment in the game, Jedi: Fallen Order, and what it tells us about learning

Transcript of this video:

So, occasionally, for a few days or weeks, I get addicted to a video game. And then I might not play a game again for months at a time. But the one I played most recently is probably my favourite video game of all time, and it’s “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” And I smile slightly embarrassedly as I admit, yet again, to my Star Wars fixation.

I appreciate Star Wars isn’t for everybody, and some of the franchise output is considerably less exciting than other bits. But this is a great game and it has had great reviews.

I was thinking that one of the things that really marks it out for most other video games I’ve played are the cut scenes. So, the cut scenes are moments in the game where you pause from fumbling the controls to fight things and solve puzzles, and you just watch part of the narrative arc of the game being played out by actors who have been motion captured.

Generally speaking, in video games, I sit impatiently through the cut scenes because they’re often rather badly written, with rather convoluted plot points that aren’t of interest to me. And I just want to get back to shooting and fighting things.

But the scenes in “Fallen Order” are actually often really rather well-written and very well-acted. And the main character in the game, Cal Kestis, a young Jedi, is played by the very charismatic young actor, Cameron Monaghan.

Cal is a character who, as a kid, is training to be a Jedi when the empire rises. And he has to witness the murder of his master by stormtroopers, an incident for which he feels guilty and responsible, although he’s a child and he isn’t really. And he has to go escape and go under the radar and hide from the empire as he grows up.

The story of the game is partly the story of him processing the trauma, and the guilt, and the sense of responsibility that he feels as he develops his skills and goes through the game. And this is played out in some of the cut scenes between him and a dream version of his master. Now, it’s not really his dead master, it’s really a version of his own guilt.

So, his master accuses him of having caused his death and says he’s not a proper Jedi. Really, these are all just manifestations of his own inner trauma. But as he goes through the game and becomes stronger, these scenes change in quality. And eventually he has a dream in which he is fighting his master in a final duel.

And in this scene, Cal stops fighting, puts away his light sabre, and just stands there vulnerable, looking up as his master, who is a giant creature, rushes towards him, his light sabre over his head, and swings it down as if to cut Cal in half. But the sabre pauses, buzzing an inch above Cal’s slightly upturned forehead, as he looks up to his master and says very calmly,

“Master, I will never forget. The loss has become a part of me.”

And as I sit there, I’m just watching this video game, you know, waiting to go back to fiddling with the controls and fighting and light sabering, and I’m really moved by this line and surprised by this line. And I can almost feel my body and my mind stirring in response to it because it really resonates strongly for me.

Afterwards I reflect on it and realize that I suppose what this is very deeply embodying is a practice that I’d heard about and I have tried before as a way of processing traumatic memories. Now, like many of us, I have some of those, and I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night remembering things that happened in the past, sometimes in the distant past.

And going over in my mind, alternative outcomes, things I could have said, or would like to say now, or wish someone else had done in those scenes. And on one level, it’s as if my mind is trying to solve the problem, and in another way it’s simply staying stuck and perpetuating the trauma. But what “the loss has become a part of me” points to is a different practice. One which, if I try to describe it is not trying to fix that trauma as if it’s a problem to which there’s a solution, but just accepts it. Accepts the strong feelings that go with it, they’re uncomfortable.

And the practice is perhaps one of allowing them, and can I just really allow these feelings without being panicked, without trying to run away from them? Can I perhaps feel them in my body, notice where I’m feeling them, and sometimes can I feel them in more of my body?

Now, that might sound very alarming, like, why would you want those feelings to spread? But another way of thinking of it is, can I recruit more of my body to hold and contain those feelings and get to the point where the loss becomes a part of me? And implicit in that then is the sense that there is a me, or a self, or a consciousness that is outside of the experience. That is, if you like, bigger than the experience and is able to hold it in a different way.

When I’m able to do it, and I’ve had more practice since feeling that line, it’s actually a much more satisfying, creative, human, humane, and compassionate place. And I’ve mentioned this experience and this story, and this scene to several of my friends, and I sense they’ve had a similar somatic, felt response to it.

So, it’s quite powerful in itself. And I also want to say that I think it’s characteristic of many of the more profound experiences in life, learning experiences, if you like. That they happen to us not when we’re trying to solve a problem, not when we’re trying to make something happen on a schedule, but when we have, for whatever reason, become more relaxed and open. And we are able to notice something in the story, real or fictional perhaps, of another person and allow it to stir us and for a meaning to be made out of it.

And in a world where there is so much effort made to make things run efficiently and on a schedule and for us to learn things in an order, and on time, and effectively, let’s not forget that we are, perhaps, open to the most useful and powerful learning not when we’re trying so hard, but when we are receptive, and open, and playful.

Photo by Cade Roberts on Unsplash

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