My late Uncle Paul introduced me and my siblings to Star Wars many years ago. I still remember that day me and my sister went with him and his friend to watch The Phantom Menace like it was yesterday. And from watching those movies, I have come to enjoy all manner of science fiction, fantasy, and other types of stories. I noticed something recently though, after watching the movies leading up to this here May the 4th.
For one thing, the characters of Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker represent all manner of mental roadblocks and impediments. Anakin is seen initially as a naive youth that is adventurous, reckless, and someone that strives for more then being a slave. When he is discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn to have untapped potential, he is freed as a slave and gives him a chance to be a Jedi.
Anakin’s ambitious nature is admirable, but it also corrupts him because all he speaks of is becoming more powerful, and being recognized as a competent Jedi. He sees little in gratitude, or being present, both of which are qualities that Yoda, the unsuspecting Jedi Master, says are what makes a person a Jedi. The Jedi don’t want more, nor see an opportunity to be stronger; they instead revel in the present and seek balance and peace of mind. But Anakin’s insecurities, jealousy, ambition and ego all cause him to want more, which leads him to Palpatine, who feeds into all of his traits and sows the seeds of distrust. As displayed, all these triggers affect Anakin so much that he loses himself and falls down a path that can’t be followed. He becomes the symbol of greed, power, hatred and an overly ambitious nature: Darth Vader.
In Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker is introduced as a young adult that seeks more then the life as a farmer on Tatooine. Ok, pretty similar to Anakin. but his path ends up being very different. While Luke carries many of the same traits as Anakin (Ambitious, impatient, adventurous), he learns that perhaps taking a moment to settle the mind and being present is important. The famous scene where Yoda prompts Luke to lift the X-Wing with the “force” is interesting.
Luke says that it is too big and that it is impossible, but Yoda says it is no different then lifting rocks, and that it is in his mindset. While Luke is initially impatient with Yoda’s lessons, he starts to believe and let’s himself go. In a very Zen-like way, he absolves himself of power and his ambitions when he confronts Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, even saying “I am a Jedi, like my father before me,” an indication that be doesn’t need more to be what he already is, which leads to Anakin’s change of heart and redemption. The force ends up being a representation of the connections we have with everything and everyone around us, and the Dark/Light dynamic are representations of the inner workings of our mind and how we react to everything around us.
All of this talk of being present, removing mental obstacles that were never there, and seeking compassion reminded me of Jim Carrey. He has a speech at Maharishi International University that contains many lessons that stem from the guise of Yoda and Obi-Wan. In the speech, Jim Carrey says:
“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.”
He speaks like a wise man, like Epicurus, like a Jedi Master that is offering a path to peace of mind. In The Last Jedi, Luke finds himself on a path that is indicative of his lineage, he displays cowardice, insecurity and anger. He, like Anakin, lashes out against his predecessors and the teachings that “failed” him while in seclusion. However, Yoda reminds him of being present, he has someone (Rey) that can learn from his mistakes, and that failure is a great teacher, one to always learn from.
Luke let his insecurity and ego get the better of him, a sign that even the great people in our lives can make mistakes. He finds peace when he reconciles with his sister, and the one he let down, Kylo Ren.
There is something to be said about the Star Wars films. You can say they are great science fiction fantasy stories, a gigantic space opera, or even Shakespearean in the story-telling (except Rise of Skywalker). But the thing that links them all together is the struggle with being secure in your convictions, and maintaining the ego. Insecurity, which is displayed by Anakin, is like a pest, telling you that you aren’t good enough and you must do more. Jim Carrey has an answer to this as well:
This is the voice of your ego. If you listen to it, there will always be someone who seems to be doing better than you. No matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an incredible mark on the earth, until you’ve achieved immortality. How tricky is the ego that it would tempt us with the promise of something we already possess.
The Dark/Light side dynamic isn’t about good and evil, or following a moral compass; it is about letting go of those burdens of the mind, and freeing yourself to the possibilities of the universe, or succumbing to the insecurities and letting fear control your every decision. It can be summed up as love or fear.
“Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”
Amen Jim Carrey. Amen.