Chaos Theory of Star Wars and Life

Chaos Theory of Star Wars and Life

chaos theory As the new Jurassic Park movie thunders into theatres, Dr. Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) chaos theory discussion from the first film comes to mind. It fascinates me that chaos can be defined by something as simple as a droplet of water which rolls down a woman’s hand in different ways depending upon the most miniscule variables on and around her. Dinosaurs over here. Delicate lines in her hand there. Chaos, then, is more intricate than its textbook definition, “a state of utter confusion or disorder.”

My life at the moment is in a state of chaos. A disclaimer before I go on because I have been called out on this too many times. I am fully aware that the major sources of chaos in my life are due to the fact that I am, indeed, very lucky. But luck doesn’t silence the ruckus, doesn’t calm the knot in my stomach, doesn’t allow my tattered nerves to rest.

We are in the midst of major renovations on our house. Most of what we’re doing is by choice, but it wasn’t a choice that set this chain of events in motion. In the eighteen plus years my family (five kids, one husband, three different cats, one dog, a fish, and me) have lived here, we’ve done very little to this place, but that didn’t stop Mother Nature from finding her way in. Water had all but destroyed our basement by the time this odyssey started last fall. That project was first, completely gutting and waterproofing the basement then making it habitable again. And it got us thinking. Perhaps it’s time to get windows that open without a stack of Legos holding them up. Maybe the flickering lights in the dining room mean that there really is an electrical problem. How about those holes the dog dug into the walls during his restless, old age sleep many years ago? No working range hood? No problem! Prop up an old desk lamp with a penny-laden flower vase and open the windows a lot to replace the inoperative fan. You get the idea. Nothing worked. Things were dangerous. And it was time to restore order. If I happen to get a beautiful kitchen backsplash in the meantime…you know the saying. So be it.

And so we live in chaos, in utter disarray. Our first floor was gutted down to the two-by-fours, sinks, doors, toilet, everything…gone. We live in that lovely new basement which is also doubling as a summer kitchen at the moment, or we retreat to the upstairs bedrooms, walled in with a zippered, plastic tent at the top of the steps to help minimize my rather nasty allergic-ish reaction to the chemicals in the drywall dust. Yeah. Just discovered that with the basement project. Not fun.

This project is scheduled to take place through August, so two and a half more months of not only the physical chaos, but also the distraction of decision after decision and meeting after meeting about this insanity and the constant interruption of having anywhere from 3 to 15 different workers in my house on any given day. I try to get some work done up here in my second daughter’s old bedroom-turned-office while shutting out the sounds below me as best I can: drills, pounding, sanders, demolition, blaring music and the workmen who sing along; the project leader, God bless him, yelling up, “Hey Pam,” on a regular basis; the one dude who was here the other day, loudly discussing what a pain in the hiney it is that I am allergic to the drywall dust.

And then there’s all the rest of the life of a mom of five mostly grown kids, four of whom are scattered about the country, and the wife of a man who travels most weeks. Everyone’s got a thing going on, and I feel pulled in each and every direction.

Oh I know, I know. #firstworldproblems. I get that. I have a dear friend whose son is dying from cancer. I KNOW that my issues are ridiculous in the face of real problems. I never lose sight of that.

But, hmmm…what about the chaos in the GFFA and the subtle, beautiful moments that temper it? These are the kinds of things I hold onto as I slog through this summer of insanity, and as I so often do, I look to Star Wars to remind me of those kinds of moments. Each film has them.


In Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, Shmi Skywalker asks sweet, young, Anakin, “What does your heart tell you?” when he queries her about the possibility of ever seeing his mother again. It’s a sad, beautiful moment that touches off a saga to which we’ve already seen the ending, but it’s the kind of thing that a mom simply must ask her child in many situations. I’ve asked this, but I never had to do it amidst the chaos of a Trade Federation blockade on a system not far away and increasing political unrest of galactic proportions. Shmi asks her son to listen to his heart, knowing that the two of them had lived in slavery for so long. Listen to your heart, no matter what the chaos that surrounds it.


Anakin and Padme’s wedding on Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones grounds the turmoil of the burgeoning Clone Wars and the insidious spread of the Dark Side in a humbling, beautiful reality that we can all relate to. We’ve all been to weddings, and it’s comforting to imagine that even in a galaxy far, far away, a ritual as simple as the exchange of marriage vows not only exists, but is felt so strongly by Anakin and Padme that they defy their otherworldly positions in order to enter into them. Order amidst the chaos.


There are few tranquil moments in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and the one that comes to mind is the oft-maligned flirting scene between Anakin and Padme on Padme’s apartment balcony on Coruscant. Sure, it’s cheesy. Passive aggressive games of who loves whom more. But isn’t that the way we are? Isn’t that deliciously human and real and light-hearted when the galaxy is about to explode with Darkness? Would Episode III’s turmoil punch us so hard in the gut without those moments of sheer frivolity? Not for me. I cling to Padme’s bedroom voice and Anakin’s lusty looks as liberty dies, as reason disintegrates. It’s all we have as Anakin burns.

family meal

Star Wars” Episode IV A New Hope begins in desperation. A frightened princess makes a plea to someone she calls, “her only hope,” as weapons blast around her. It was an exciting start for those of us who saw the film in theaters way back in 1977, but we were soon treated to one of the most grounded scenes in the entire saga: a family meal at the table of Owen and Beru Lars and their teenaged nephew, Luke Skywalker. Few images resonate so strongly as that of a shared family meal, for many, the ultimate escape from the chaos of life.

I know

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back was my least favorite of the films for a very long time. Few people admit that, I realize, and many list it as their favorite of the six. I just found so little subtlety in menacing Imperial Walkers, Darth Vader’s insistence upon Force choking his admirals, and Han being frozen in carbonite. It’s the moment just before the latter that reaches the heart of the saga for me, a brief conversation that should be considered as cheesy as Anakin and Padme’s exchange in Episode III but one that escaped criticism. “I love you,” says the frightened Leia. “I know,” responds her doomed beloved Han. We know, too. We know.

Darth Vader brings Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to the Emperor's throne room on the Death Star in RETURN OF THE JEDI. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

© Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

And then there’s Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and the exchanges that cemented my fandom to Star Wars forever. Luke and Leia in the Ewoks’ treehouse catwalk on Endor. “Do you remember your mother?” “Images really. Feelings.” Those things that tint my world every day of my life. Feelings. The Death Star has already been positioned to obliterate the very moon they stand on, but Luke and Leia discuss their mother and the feelings that surround her. Shortly thereafter, Luke shares the moment with his father that begins to draw the wayward Anakin back to the Light. “Father.” “Son.” The acknowledgement of the love they can’t help but share changes the galaxy forever, even as the subject on the surface of that conversation on the Bridge on Endor is Vader’s turning his son over to the Emperor. We all know how that works out, the Emporer’s crackling demise at the hands of Luke’s father. Chaos dies in chaos. Fitting.

I know that my life will soon begin to resemble the “normalcy” it once had. The shiny new first floor we’re remodeling will be in place, and the workers who have come to be the primary source of conversation I have with adults in any given day will all go home for good. Chaos will quiet. Or maybe that droplet of water will roll in yet another unexpected way, and the dinosaurs will roam again.

What are the grounded, simple moments in Star Wars that allow you to escape the chaos? Or, just tell me about your remodeling projects. I can talk for hours on the subject.

And remember! This IS the podcast you’re looking for.

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  1. Sylvia Seal
    June 13, 2015 at 10:07 Reply

    Love the article! Thanks for sharing your life!

  2. Jay Krebs
    June 13, 2015 at 12:19 Reply

    First off, I can’t begin to give you enough ((((hugs)))) for all you’re dealing with, but what an amazing — and I’m sure cathartic — way of making parallels between your experiences and those in Star Wars!

    I really like how you opened this piece — so timely, with Jurassic World just opening this weekend!

    You have pointed out some of my favorite scenes overall in the saga, and it actually makes me stop and wonder if its WHY I love those scenes so much – they are the ones that are most centering; the ones that bring the humanity of the story to the forefront!!

    The bridge scene in ROTJ; you know how much I love that one…

    I also think about the scene when Luke pulls of Vader’s mask as he’s trying to get him off the Death Star. There’s so much chaos abound, yet Luke and his father share a pivotal — and “private” — moment of redemption. *sigh*

    So much to love in this piece…

    By the way, if you must hold up a window, Legos aren’t a bad way to go 😉

    Much love….

  3. Erica
    June 13, 2015 at 14:17 Reply

    The chaos of having your home in disarray is such a special kind of chaos. Your home is literally torn up–and that is supposed to be your safe place, your refuge.

    I love your discussions of ways chaos and order happen in Star Wars. I always like to think of characters different responses to chaos. I think of Anakin at the end of episode 3, encountering intolerable upheaval and responding to that with an attempt to control life and make things “the way he wants them to be.” Then I think of his son, Luke, right after he finds out who his father is and how he just lets go and falls into the pit not knowing where his fall will lead. For me that moment is a tremendous example of letting go into the chaotic unknown and how it’s in the letting go that we come out on the other side.

    Love this entry! And it’s very well timed for the chaos in my life too! Good luck with your renovations!

  4. Becca Benjamin
    June 14, 2015 at 19:30 Reply

    I honestly, don’t know how you do it! The way you handle life’s chaos, as you so put it, in such a calming appearance, even if that’s not how you’re feeling on the inside. To me, it always seems so effortless with you, you just take it all in stride. I’m envious of that calm and cool collectiveness way about you and even in this, with your articles, you never cease to amaze me.

    And again, I cannot wait to see the finished product of all this ‘chaos.’

  5. Pam Bruchwalski
    June 14, 2015 at 23:13 Reply

    Thank you, Sylvia!

    Jay, I’m sure that those scenes are part of the reasons I love Star Wars so much! The one you mentioned is awesome, too, and you’re right. So much chaos while Anakin and Luke have that touching, private moment. Thank you for the love (back at you) and understanding, which you know I need. xoxo

    Erica, it’s interesting that you said that my home is supposed to be my safe place. I’m such a wanderer, as you know, and home is rarely defined by walls for me, but just today I found myself feeling…looking for a good word…protective of my space and not wanting to relinquish it again tomorrow, if that makes sense. Rare for me. Very intriguing thoughts about Luke letting go unlike his father, who tried to control things. (((hugs))) for the chaos in your life, too.

    You’re always too kind, Becca, but it makes me smile that you see calm in my utter chaos. I don’t know that I’ve been handling things particularly well, but writing definitely helps. Thank you so much for your kind words, and hopefully you’ll get to see the finished product soon 🙂

  6. Melinda
    June 15, 2015 at 09:42 Reply

    Dearest Pam, you have no idea how much I needed this this morning.

    MTFBWY — Always. And may your remodeling projects go as smoothly as humanly possible. I hear you! 🙂

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Pam is a writer, editor, mother, fangirl, and self-proclaimed geek from Pittsburgh, PA.

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