I first watched Star Wars when I was three or four years old. I do admit that I did not understand much of it at that time. Instead, I kept on asking some of the adults watching along with me about some parts of the plot. Looking back at their answers to my questions, it seems like they did not understand much, either. Some of the scenes I saw at that time, however, made an impression on my young mind. While reviewing Star Wars a number of times decades later, I can still see clearly those scenes and feel the hard wooden chair I sat on when I was a child watching that movie.
For a lot of people, Star Wars is just another science fiction movie that takes place a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—a movie that justifies teenagers and even those beyond to tell each other “May the Force be with you”. But for me, Star Wars is something deeper and more real. Their galaxy does not seem to be parsecs away, either. It might not even be out of place within the neighborhood.
Additionally, one may not need to look long and hard to find someone in the workplace or school that matches a B1 battle droid in sheer stupidity. (Roger, roger) A tyrant not unlike Emperor Palpatine might even be behind the government of some state or nation. All within the confines of our watery blue planet without having to board the Millennium Falcon and jump to hyperspace.
I view Star Wars as a story about Anakin Skywalker—the chosen one who has the highest midi-chlorian count of any Jedi, was conceived by a virgin and who faced death unflinchingly to end the suffering brought about by Darth Sidious. Star Wars is not about the good and the bad, the light and the dark, nor the yin and the yang.
It is about one man’s struggle for balance. Jedi Master Yoda represents the Light and Sith Lord Darth Sidious represents the Dark; but again, Star Wars is not about them. It is about Jedi Anakin/Darth Vader who represents both the Light and the Dark. While still Anakin, he might have traces of the Dark Side within him masquerading as fear, then anger and hatred; but even when he was transformed into Darth Vader, there was still good left in him. He was a perfect human representation of the Tai Chi symbol.
The story began when the young Anakin Skywalker was discovered by a Jedi Knight; it ended with his death and redemption. You can say that the prequel trilogy is about Anakin and the original trilogy is about Darth Vader. Others would say that Luke is the principal protagonist of the story and Lord Vader, the principal antagonist. Maybe, but in the grand scheme of things, it is more like Anakin Skywalker versus himself. Luke’s role, in my opinion, is just like his mother before him—a pivot in Anakin’s journey, nothing more.
Star Wars is not only my all-time favorite sci-fi/fantasy movie; it also influenced the way I look at things. Why? Honestly, I have not thought of that until now. Maybe it is because I can relate to it or because it is consistent with my own worldview. After all, if something is totally inconsistent with your worldview then it cannot influence you in any way, right? Or could it? But then, you might again ask whether it really is consistent with my worldview or whether it is my worldview that is concordant with Star Wars as it has shaped my worldview in the first place. That question, I cannot answer you. In a parallel plane,
Plato might have asked whether the virtues are good because they are appreciated by the Jedi, or whether they are appreciated by the Jedi because they are good.
Star Wars is deep—even philosophical. And there are many concepts, instances and conflicts in my life which I can deeply relate to the movie. Like I said, it influenced my thoughts in some ways. I will try to look into a few of them here. But understand that dissecting Star Wars like this could fill an entire book of its own. So let me just tell you as much as I can gather in a sitting or two. Why do I make this connections, you ask? Could it be because I am hopelessly addicted to Star Wars or because the conflicts in Star Wars are so much similar to those in real life? Now, I am not formally trained in philosophy or something, but those who know me know that I do tend to ask questions a lot.
First, I will talk about the high degree of contrast in the morals and dogma that I was initiated into. I was born, baptized, and raised as a Roman Catholic. Our family has more than our fair share of religious ministers—not to mention those in various religious organizations which I do not even know the name of.
These guys masquerade as aunts, uncles, cousins, or what have you. Sort of like Darth Sidious hiding behind the Senator Palpatine façade, right? Wrong. I was just kidding you. My point is, I was already shown the distinctively clear line between what is right and what is wrong even at an early age.
The line was so very clear, then. So clear that when one of those relatives stepped inside my room while I was away and found my books, she asked my mother to burn almost a row of them. Why? Like I told you, the line was very clear and those books happen to stand on the other side of that line.
You must be thinking of dark dangerous books, oozing with black magic and demon invocation, by now. That would have been fun but I am sorry to disappoint; those books were about science—prehistoric times, to be exact. You know, dinosaurs, prehistoric man, continental drift and stuff.
My first major is in the field of applied science so I do not think it is that inconceivable to have those sorts of books. However, it seems like some people are still bent on convincing others that the earth is just a couple thousand or so years old despite tons of archeological digs as old as 1.3 million years staring them at the face. Oh, I forgot: Those fossils were planted evidence by a red guy with horns, hooves and a pointy tail and were calculated to deceive mankind. Right. And I thought the Dark Ages was no more.
In the early part of the first episode of the original trilogy, this clear distinction between good and evil was shown when Darth Vader confronted Princess Leia Organa. One was a menacing seven-foot man in pitch-black armor and radiating pure evil; the other was an innocent-looking petite woman dressed in soft, pure-white cloth exuding goodness. A perfect symbolic representation, don’t you think.
But going deeper into the movie, as in life, you will find moral ambiguity and shades of gray in a supposed-to-be-black-and-white world of Star Wars where everyone works either for the Light or the Dark. I’d like to individually enumerate these instances but sadly, I will be quickly running out of space if I do so. I also do not have the luxury of time. So, it might be better to leave that as an exercise to the reader. As a bonus, it will make reviewing the movie that much more exciting.
But the color of my world or the absence thereof is not the only thing that I can relate with Star Wars. Star Wars, you see, has some depth if you look closely enough. The next time you watch Star Wars, watch out for this phrase: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” In every episode of Star Wars, you will hear at least one of the main characters share this sentiment. I have heard it even in the animated movie and in the television series. Call it a basic expression of existential anxiety. I am sure that at some time in your life, you felt this intuitive response when confronted by an undefined problem. In episode three of the first season of The Clone Wars, the character who said that phrase was, of all things, a B1 battle droid piloting General Grievous’ Ship! Funny; I never thought they were capable of combat without shooting each other, much less existential thought.
Now, Let me share with you a scene from the original trilogy about the possible inconsistency between appearance and reality. When Luke was about to pass out in the planet Hoth (The name is curious as the planet was clearly very, very cold. A contradiction?) because of the cold, Obi-Wan’s Force ghost appeared before him and told him to go to the planet Dagobah and look for a great Jedi Warrior by the name of Yoda. Luke then went to the Dagobah system. What he found in that remote world of swamps and forests is mentally stimulating.
Man is a very visual creature. We lean heavily on what we see. We even demand that “to see is to believe”. I do not think that there is a problem with that unless you already have a preconceived notion of what you should be seeing. Selective perception is problematic, at best.
In a lot times, I find myself in my office when someone comes in looking for me. I would talk to that client and hear her say that she’d rather talk to me. Then I’d say “Oh, sorry. I forgot to introduce myself. I am him.” There would then be that puzzled, unbelieving look in her face that I have seen countless of times in other’s faces. This scenario happens more times than I care to count. Then, my thoughts would wander back to that swampy planet…
When Luke arrived in Dagobah, he was startled by an old, small, green dwarf with large eyes. Being a young warrior, he instinctively aimed his blaster at the little green goblin. The poor thing was now covering his face and whimpering “Away put your weapon! I mean you no harm” Seeing the dwarf as a harmless little creature, he put away his weapon.
Anyway, he thinks, he could probably just kick this thing into the swamp if ever it would try to harm him. After that, the creature acted like a silly, old beggar trying to rummage through Luke’s supplies for food, taste some, and throw away stuff he does not like. Luke had no idea that this thing is the Yoda he has been searching for. When he told the dwarf that he is looking for a great warrior, it just laughed and said “wars not make one great.” Right, and that response came from a Grand Master Jedi whose name, Yoda, means “warrior” in Sanskrit. But surely,
the dwarf does not look like one.
I am not saying that I am a dwarf with large eyes. Neither am I saying that I am a Jedi Master who could wield a lightsaber and do a Form IV as lethally graceful as Yoda does. All I am saying is that it would be a lot better for all if we could only shed our preconceived notions and ideas and freshly perceive the world.
But Star Wars is not only about morality and philosophy; it is also about hope. Since this book is supposed to be an inspirational book rather than a book on the philosophy of some old movie as applied to the life of some obscure person, I saved this part for last.
Darth Vader, as I have said, has been considered by many to be an evil, mean killing machine. That cannot be denied. That said, I hope that all of us can be like Darth Vader. Yes, I said it. You can read that again, if you want.
The truth is that no one in this world could truly claim that he had not gone to the Dark Side or that he will not be seduced by its power. Every breathing human in this world has, at one time, crossed the boundary or will soon be crossing it.
Yes, none of them may have killed another human being for not finishing the Death Star on schedule using the power of the Dark Side in the form of a Force choke to do the deed; but have none of us lied as early as grade school specially during examination time? It would also be very surprising if none of us used or tried to use another person for our own needs, at least once, just like what Vader and Sidious have done.
The problem is, once you have been to the Dark Side, it would be difficult to come back to the Light. And the longer you stay there, the stronger will its hold be on you. Darth Vader declares this difficulty to his son, Luke, when he said, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side, I must obey my master… It is too late for me, son.”
Once you have experienced how easy it was to copy your seatmate’s answers during grade school, it would seem to make more sense to do it again than to study diligently. Then, when you get used to it, it would be more difficult to be rid of the habit in your higher years. It goes on in the workplace and the rest of your life. Doing it the right way is almost always harder. Why else do you think would there be spammers in the Internet and unscrupulous businesses and get rich quick schemes?
When Luke asked Yoda whether the Dark Side is stronger, Yoda replied “No, but it is quicker, easier, more seductive.”
But difficult as it is, Vader showed that it can be done. And if we cannot avoid the Dark Side, or if we have already been bathing in its pleasures, I just hope that we can be as strong and courageous like Lord Vader who was able to search within himself and find the key to make it back to the Light.
May the Force be with you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Luke is called Master Jedi Luke by the Jedi bloggers.
He is also @dezertsnow at Twitter.
His blog is “A Walk in the Dark” or “Law of the Force” which was created when Jan Geronimo of Writing to Exhale insisted that he should have his own blog instead of being a great commentator/commenter.
His first post “About How This Blog Came To Be” earned 77 comments, the first I have seen of its kind yet in blogging. He writes with a discerning and meticulous eye, careful to present the topic at hand in an organized and tapoted manner. Sometimes I imagine him “defragging/defragmenting” his highly technical terms to suit his “technically-challenged” readers – including me.
Each of the Jedi bloggers has a completely unique style of writing that “clicks” with me. For Luke, it is his philosophical mind which tries to merge with his expertise in internet technology and computer science.
This dynamo of a couple is a tandem to beat in the blogosphere.
A toast for both of you, guys!
Photo by futureatlas.com