While watching the horror unfold following the terror attacks in Paris last month, I was also trying to write the following blog post. I struggled with what I wanted to say about the topic below but as reports came in from France I kept thinking to myself, “Why does this continue to happen and can't people just forget differences and realize we're all on this planet together for a reason?”
I was reminded of two quotes from two big sources of influences in my life: George Lucas and U2's singer, Bono.
Whenever the world seems to shrouded in hatred and darkness, like how it felt during that awful weekend in November, I recall something Bono said back in 2005 when he was asked what the then current U2 album title meant. Bono said, “How do you dismantle an atomic bomb? With love.” As fate would have it, George Lucas feels the same way.
While watching The Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time, I was drawn yet again to Yoda's ‘luminous beings' speech to Luke. Like so many other fans, this is my favourite piece of dialogue in the saga. As Luke sits dejected by his belief that he could be stuck on Dagobah forever when his X-wing sinks into the swamp, Yoda admonishes him for his failure to understand the Force:
“For my ally in the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship!”
After watching this scene I decided that I would make it the topic for my next article and since it's my favourite piece of dialogue I expected to write it up in no time. With my topic approved by the Coffee With Kenobi editors I sat down to write and…came up empty. In fact I missed my deadline for last month. What does this scene mean anyway? Isn't it just Yoda showing Luke how a real Force user does things? Sure it's that but that isn't enough reason to rate it so highly. I stepped away from my iMac and decided I'd come back to this article. I added my notes to my iPhone in case I sorted things out while at work and have been chipping away at my thoughts for almost six weeks now. I think I've figured it out–for me anyway.
Recently I came across an excerpt of an interview George Lucas did with Charlie Rose last October. In the interview Lucas is discussing the roots of storytelling and how it is human nature for all people to want to connect with others. He finishes his statement with, “…be compassionate and love people…That's basically what Star Wars is.” (George Lucas excerpt from Charlie Rose TV show, October 2014.)
Boom. I heard this and immediately thought of Yoda and Luke on Dagobah. Yoda isn't speaking just about being in touch with the Force, he's speaking about the importance of connecting, of providing guidance and light. In other words to be luminescent. From the first time I heard these words in a movie theatre in 1980 until very recently I believed this scene to be nothing more than Yoda telling Luke how a Jedi can use the Force to do his bidding and to gain access to that “energy field made up of all living things.” Yoda mentions a connection between both animate and inanimate objects which I took as an extension of Ben Kenobi telling Luke, “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” By ‘us' I assumed Ben was referring to fellow Jedi.
“Luminous” is defined by Merriam-Webster.com as:
a: emitting or reflecting usually steady, suffused, or glowing light
b: of or relating to light or to luminous flux
c: bathed in or exposed to steady light
d: clear, enlightening
I'm particularly drawn (like a moth maybe?) to (a) and (d) as they invoke a sense of consistency, of positiveness and of providing comfort. Lucas, speaking through Yoda, is saying that all beings are a light for others. If you are training a future Jedi Knight then of course you would impart on your pupil that it is those sensitive to the Force that must lead by example — Yoda has seen what it can do, after all he's 900 years old.
What type of light should we be emitting to others? Not an ability to wield a lightsaber or move objects with our minds, these are simply storytelling elements. At the heart of it is to provide a light for others. A steady light, as is mentioned in the definition. But what is this light emitting? As Lucas stated, I believe it's simply love for each other.
Yoda's teachings throughout The Empire Strikes Back focuses on being connected to others and by dispelling darkness-literally the dark side of the force. Darkness is the opposite of light and though it may be “easier, more seductive” it is the light side that will prevail. In his research into creating a belief system of Star Wars Lucas must have come across this scripture from John 1:5 (New American Standard Bible): “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” I love this. Not only is light preferable but darkness doesn't “comprehend it.” In other words, choosing to love is to shine a light for others. The opposite is incomprehensible. Picture the Emperor's disgust and confusion as Luke declares, “You've failed Your Highness. I'm a Jedi like my father before me.” It's more than just a wrinkle in his galactic conquest, he cannot comprehend how Luke will not turn to the dark side.
And how should darkness be fought? In the Star Wars films a lightsaber is the literary method of choice and should only be used for “defense, never for attack.” Jedi fight the dark side literally with light. I'm reminded of a great line by Canadian singer, Bruce Cockburn: “Nothing worth having comes without a fight/Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”
In that swamp on Dagobah Yoda shows Luke how powerful the force can be by connecting with a submerged X-wing fighter. The old Jedi Master is also telling his pupil that the force is bigger than the mysterious power that it seems to be. The force is Lucas telling his audience to make a connection with everything on our planet. People were created to connect with other people. That we’re bigger than just ourselves and the result of this connection is a shining light for all to see.
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