Force and Faith: Luke’s Lonely Exile and Hopeful Return

Force and Faith: Luke’s Lonely Exile and Hopeful Return

Some very fun and creative parody accounts are on Twitter, spoofing Kylo Ren’s maudlin behavior, or the loneliness that Luke must be feeling. Whichever comic geniuses were behind them, they had me laughing many times. (And I make no endorsement of any blue material I may be overlooking). They took these iconic characters and looked into their psyches for incredible comedic results. But the online world of Twitter, Facebook and the like can actually lead us to feeling isolated, which is very similar to the loneliness that Luke must have felt on the heights of Ahch-To. Luke was a man who grew up in a family, surrounded by friends, and joined the vast rebellion with its camaraderie. In his exile, he must have experienced a profound loneliness that affected him.

A while back, I looked at the monastic island of Skellig Michael, the real world place standing in for Ahch-To. The early Christian monastics who resided there lived solely for God, but always in a community of brothers. In the single-minded relationships, focused on the Ultimate, they forged a community of support and love. This was not the case for Luke, as far as we’ve seen. You know, Coffee With Kenobi is about discussion, analysis and rhetoric – we shall leave the speculation for someone else. So, as Rey mounted the long steps to the Jedi Master, she found a man standing at the edge of an abyss. He was contemplating the vast distance, and the familiar Corellian freighter. What would it mean for him? Would it call him back to his community? Or confirm in him the despair that appears in severe lonely isolation?

In our minds, he has been up there for two years! We have no idea how long he has been there, but it was not an insignificant amount of time in his experience. What happened in that time? What can happen to any person the longer they face isolation? Further, what is it that creates that feeling and phenomenon of isolation? It is not the lack of other beings in the area, and we will discuss that later. It is the internal emotional and spiritual struggle, the curving in of the soul into itself, that is the true loneliness.

Do the porgs offer companionship to Luke? I don’t know. However, for my money, the best creature in the galaxy is, of course, the tauntaun. See my very reasoned and persuasive argument here.

Luke was driven to the far off exile as a result of some failure in his vocation, for which he took the tremendous burden of responsibility. His departure from society was self-imposed, or so it seems. He left of his own accord, but without the distant support of family and friends. And for us, loneliness can come from the internal conversation we have with ourselves. Sometimes the loneliness is imposed from without – attending college in a distant city, confinement in prison, transfer of employment. But these things are nothing like the exile of one’s heart from the world regardless of the population where one is found. We can find isolation on the streets of Manhattan or in our own living rooms. Loneliness is the reaction of the person (who inherently yearns for connection and community) to either rejection, internalized pain, or harmful choices one may bear in him or herself.

Now, feelings of loneliness can come from mental illness. When someone has a true mental health condition they can feel like they are different from society at large. This is clinical, and something that is beyond my training and expertise to touch upon. If you or a loved one feels isolation, loneliness or alienation as a result (or suspicion) of a mental health issue, seek help from properly trained clinicians immediately. The stuff we are discussing can become much more dangerous when mental faculties are involved.

Perhaps our interconnectedness through modern means makes us believe that we are closer to each other than ever before. We Tweet and wait to be notified of a retweet. Hey, Pablo responded to my canon question! We post that killer meme on Facebook, and brag about the number of shares and comments. And yet, these vapid victories do not in the end deliver the injection of community, but highlight our neediness for true connection to our brothers and sisters. Many global movements have created communities that are quick, nimble and inclusive. But in these communities, the interpersonal relationships are truly lacking. The loving touch from one human soul to another is lost through digitization and disparate physical locations. That other person is gone from the equation. And the one thing I want everyone to take from everything I have ever preached, written or exemplified is this: Love is about the other. Love is about the other, life is about giving as an act of love from the truest place in our hearts. A soul that can give, no matter the size of the gift, is the soul that can find a home in the community.

So the loneliness of alienation and exile has to be combated in order for the human person to find healing and salve in this life.

Find your tribe. Find that community of like-minded people who can give you support within their capacity. I am a runner, and find support in others who enjoy the same healthy habit. Others find a community in volunteering for a community organization like a firehouse or library. Still others find connection through a multitude of other means. But each tribe in which you can find yourself will be beneficial. It won’t subtract form your life or emotional well-being. Rather, your chosen community can carry you on bad days, learn from you on your best days, and be a place of comfort and stability at all times. Know your Circle of Influence. A symptom of our society that causes great isolation and loneliness is understanding our place in it. It is good to protest against the injustices of the world, but what are you doing about it? What can you do about it? In Hair, the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, we are challenged to act well to our brothers and sisters with these words:

How can people be so heartless…
Especially people who care about strangers,
Who care about evil and social injustice.
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend? I need a friend.

I will tell you that these are very important questions. What actions you can take in any given situation will help you find the fulfillment that leads to connection to the other people in the world? There is an injustice in the world that needs to be fixed. Can you provide all of the aid to the area ravaged by a natural disaster? Probably not. But these things are concerning, and that is good. This is your Circle of Concern. Within that is the Circle of Influence. This is necessarily smaller, but provides a place for the moved one, the lonely one, to interact with the world and give of oneself. Was Luke’s lone X-Wing the only vehicle of victory for the Rebel Alliance? Could he save the galaxy through his own Academy? No. Can a single person end world hunger? No. But we can each cultivate our gardens, and thereby feed the neighbor. We can each give love to the tribe in which we find ourselves. And that love, realized in a community, will grow exponentially, not additionally. This releases us from our loneliness and fulfills our deep need for community and acceptance.


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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at, occasionally at as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the Coffee With Kenobi podcast!

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  1. Melinda
    November 3, 2017 at 19:51 Reply

    Like the song says: “One is the loneliest number…”

    I hope you aren’t criticizing Luke for seeking refuge on Ahch-To. Since we really don’t know for how long he was in seclusion there, it is unwise for any of us to be critical of him for finding asylum in a place that was particularly special to the Jedi. It is important for individuals to take time to reflect, to come up with some sort of plan (if one is warranted), to figure out what went wrong/what can be done so as not to repeat the same mistakes. No man is an island, true, but sometimes it is necessary to be an island.

    As someone who is a loner by nature, I definitely can understand Luke’s desire to go on a retreat, so to speak. Even a Jedi Master such as himself. Even Jesus went into the desert (albeit for a specific amount of time) — to meditate, to be alone. 🙂

    While I am hopeful we will get some answers about Luke’s time on Ahch-To (I don’t want to speculate here 😉 ), I think we should caution ourselves not to be overly critical of Luke and his desire to seek refuge on the island. Luke was part of a family, and I bet he always knew he would return to those he loved. He just had to do it in his own time.

    As always, a great read, James. Thanks for sharing.

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. adelphotheos
      November 15, 2017 at 13:40 Reply

      Well, without having to go back through and reread mu nuances at Luke, I would say that my intention was to identify with some sort of lonely, personal and self imposed exile. For whatever reason. Refuge is often necessary. I think I am more full of questions about Luke’s time there, and can speculate a little about the retreat from what we have seen in the trailers. However, I think my conclusion is that while up there he has contemplated a maturity that is beyond what Yoda could give, what Kanan is uncovering. A maturity beyond the unchallenged, unexamined life. The life of heartbreak creates a stronger surviving heart.
      You do however miss the minor point about Jesus being in the desert. The desert, to the mystic, is blooming with more life than Jerusalem ever was or will. In the desert, the perceived loneliness from worldly concerns, all of the Universe, and indeed Heaven itself, are present. They are able to be heard.
      This is my hope for myself. This was an intensely personal piece due to some life changes. How will we grow through the awful first moments? By looking up and seeing that there is always hope. That in loneliness, there is a good siren song to always return to hope, and to allow that hope to be irresistible to our souls.
      I am not critical of Luke at all. In some way, the Makers have put him in a place to gain wisdom that surpasses even their own real world years. We are truly uncovering eternal truths through our favorite myth and hero.

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