What is a Code

Before I begin this lecture, I’m going to ask you to ball your hand into a tight fist, and keep it that way while you read. If your fingers grow stiff or tingly, release the pressure just a little bit. I’ll talk about your fist again at the end of the lecture.

Both of you have heard the Jedi Code—that deceptively simple four-line stanza written by Kevin J. Anderson. You have already spent time studying this. For now, however, I want to take a step back in time. Forget that you have ever read those words. After all, the best place to begin is at the beginning.

So, where is the beginning? It starts with a question. What, exactly, is a code? In the simplest of terms, a code is a grouping of principles. It is a belief system—a set of ethics—that a person accepts. Like the color of your hair or the clothes you wear, codes become a part of you. They reflect who you are and how you choose to live your life.

Because of its connection to the individual, there is no possible way for codes to be enforced. Codes do NOT represent laws. They cannot be enforced simply because they are a way of life and, as any way of life, would cease to be that as soon as a person tried to force it to a specific set of rules.

Instead, codes are more guidelines than anything. They are words that you keep in the front of your mind with every action taken. They are advice givers and direction providers. Codes suggest what virtues to prize and what flaws to avoid. In the case of the Star Wars code, it provides instructions on how to become a Jedi. But in everything, how closely these lines are followed rests in the hands of those following the code.

Of course, not all codes are alike. Codes appear more often than people may realize—they just aren’t always referred to as codes. Many countries, including the United States, have adopted a Code of Rights, better known as a Bill of Rights. These codes protect people’s inalienable freedoms. A Code of Honor, on the other hand, tends to deal specifically with individual respect in regards to rules. Here’s an example of an honor code from Texas A&M University: “An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Another type of code is known as a Code of Ethics. These are standards of conduct designed to be applied to, and accepted by, all members of a specific group. This type of code should sound familiar from its definition—this is what the Jedi Code is. In Star Wars history, all Jedi were expected to know the Code not only by words but also by heart. This code represented everything a Jedi should strive to be.

Okay, go ahead and open your fist now. Look at your palm. You should see your fingernail marks impressed upon your skin. This is the way that a code affects your life. Even after you have opened your hand, you can still feel the marks your fingers left. Codes may not leave a physical print on your skin, but you can always feel their presence. That presence lies at the heart of what a code is.