In Star Wars, the Jedi Order has never been perfect. It doesn’t matter who was in charge at the time; there have always been flaws. Many faults of the Jedi were exposed in the emergence of The Clone Wars, where Jedi abandoned their peacekeeper philosophies to act as generals in battles they may have known would never lead to an overarching victory.
Ahsoka Tano witnessed the shortcomings of the Jedi when she was framed for a crime she was not responsible for. Immediately, most of her fellow Jedi turned on her, refusing to believe she didn’t deserve punishment. They were prepared to exile her and hand her over to the Republic government for even harsher punishment up until the moment she was proven innocent.
When the Jedi offered up their apologies, Ahsoka responded by deciding to leave on her own terms. She had always believed she needed the Jedi to navigate the galaxy, when in reality, it was the Jedi who were stifling her worldview and holding her back.
The Jedi Order was all Ahsoka had ever known. Joining its ranks was never her choice — she was found and trained beginning when she was still too young to know what she was committing to. She had no reason to believe the Jedi could be corrupt and power-hungry until she saw how they treated her the moment she made them “look bad.” She finally saw through he facade. And she could no longer support what they stood for.
Ahsoka had always learned the importance of peace, justice, and aiding those less fortunate than herself. But here the Jedi were, acting with their own selfish interests in mind. Doing whatever they pleased simply because they had the authority to do so. Taking no responsibility for the innocent beings they hurt along the way.
Not every Jedi in the Order was guilty of such things. But that didn’t mean Ahsoka had to stay. Those who had the purest intentions and the kindest of hearts weren’t enough to make up for the shortcomings of the establishment that raised her. So for the first time, she asserted her right to choose, and she chose freedom.
However, she didn’t leave everything she’d learned behind, which is the most important beat of her story. She gave up her association with the Jedi and its privileges, and she walked away from those who continued to follow the ways of the Order. But she also made another choice: To take with her the valuable things she had learned as a Padawan and carry them with her into her new life.
She may have left the Jedi. But she continued to embrace everything the Jedi should have been — perhaps even more so on her own than she would have if she’d stayed. Everywhere Ahsoka went after she walked away from the Jedi Temple, she sought only to help those in need and save those she could. She never sought to harm or to assert her Force abilities for the wrong reasons. She didn’t need the privileges of a Jedi to give the galaxy her light.
If for the purposes of this story we’re to call the Jedi Order a religious organization — one that follows an entity (The Force) and whose core principles may have been warped over time to mean something other than their original intent, then Ahsoka walking away from the Order is just like those of us who closed ourselves off from organized religion. It doesn’t mean we’ve said goodbye to the practices or beliefs that comfort us and make us better. It simply means we’re willing to brave the real world armed with the intent to do good … for the sake of doing good, and not to please a council, or some kind of god.
There is strength in choosing your own path. It means you’re willing to trust that you can make the world better without an organization telling you whether you’re all right or all wrong. Or without someone preventing you from doing the right thing because it goes against the set of rules they’ve deemed essential to follow.
To separate yourself from religion is as much a right as it is a choice. Anyone who chooses to walk away from the ways in which they were raised can still take with them the ways they may have learned to do good, to care for others, to make the world better. At the heart of so many religions is, after all, a message of spreading the light, even if those who practice it often take things to the wrong extremes (though not always, and not everyone).
If Ahsoka can do it, you can, too.
Look at all she managed to do for the galaxy after the Jedi had all but vanished. She did much more to brighten the worlds she visited without that label. Choosing her own path, in the end, benefited the larger galaxy more than she may have ever truly known.
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