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The force is with Chicago Jedi Order

(Photo courtesy Chicago…)
April 24, 2012|By Taylor Ervin, RedEye

Gabriel Calderon isn’t just your run of the mill “Star Wars” geek. The after school tutor's devotion to the films goes beyond dressing up at conventions and building scale replicas of the Death Star. He shapes his entire life around the ethos espoused by the films’ Jedi knights.

Angelus, as he is better known by his peers, is the Master of the Chicago Jedi Order, a group of Chicagoans who, according to their website, “see a core of truth in [the Jedi] philosophy that is worth bringing into the world. “

The flashy light saber work and force powers showcased in the films initially attracted the group to the Jedi lifestyle, but these days the group meets twice a month to meditate, practice martial arts and discuss the philosophy surrounding the more nuanced aspects of the Jedi lifestyle. Nailing down a precise definition of the Jedi philosophy, however, is not always easy.

“There’s only so much we can gain from the movies and the books and then we realize this is all fiction,” Calderon, a West Lawn resident, said. “There’s also only so much that exists there that exists here. The rest we basically have to translate to what we do.”

Discussion surrounding the interpretation of the films can get heated. One scene that remains a topic of constant debate occurs in the “Empire Strikes Back,” where Luke enters a cave possessed by the dark side of the force.

“Some saw that scene as a much more spiritual awakening, so we decided that’s got to be part of what we do,” Calderon said.

The group also focuses on aspects like martial arts training and meditation, which member Ross Greenberg said draws heavily on the Samurai tradition of ancient Japan. As a martial arts instructor, Greenberg said the Jedi mindset comes naturally to him.

“To me, it’s really about the martial arts. I teach [the other Jedi] a lot,” Greenberg said. “But everyone who is a part of the group contributes what they know.”

The group comprises a surprisingly eclectic range of members that each brings something to the table. Many of the group’s members are pastors and ministers from various religious traditions, which helps inform the group’s relationship to the force.

“We do talk about the idea of the force. The way we approach it is, it’s our conception and understanding of divinity,” Calderon said. “By labeling it the force, that sort of gives us a connecting point; a way to relate to each other without treading on each other’s religions.”

But perhaps even stronger than their relationship to the force, is their relationship to each other. When this band of real world warriors formed almost five years ago, they would meet once every couple of months But the bonds between the members became so strong that they now meet twice a month and sometimes more.

“It’s like coming home and seeing your brothers and sisters. We treat it exactly like a family,” Calderon said. “As soon as we see each other it’s like we never even left.”

The group will host their annual regional meet-up on Saturday May 5 in Plainfield. For more information visit their meet-up page.

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