All It Takes Is A Little Leap
I was watching “The Gunfighter” – the 1950 classic western starring Gregory Peck in the lead role – and an exchange between Jimmy Ringo (Peck) and his 8-year-old son Jimmy Jr. near the film’s conclusion got me thinking about Star Wars (what doesn’t?).
Most of the town – including Cayenne’s youngsters – has gathered outside the saloon waiting for something to happen. Famed gunslinger Jimmy Ringo is inside. He’s the current day’s idea of a mega-star. Anyway, Jimmy, Sr. tells the lad he (Jimmy, Sr.) would like the boy to convince the boys to go home, that they don’t belong in the street outside the “watering hole”. Jimmy, Jr. replies: “Well, I’ll try.” “Don’t try. You do it!” Jimmy, Sr. admonishes. Sound familiar?
Yoda’s emphatic encouragement to Luke in “The Empire Strikes Back” is my favorite line from the saga. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda gets a lot of flak from fans about what he says to Luke right before his failed attempt to raise his starfighter from the Dagobah swamp. Isn’t it a positive message that Luke at least tried? Doesn’t Yoda understand that? Isn’t not trying the true failure?
Okay, trying is important. There are times when we try, but the end result does not turn out as anticipated. In competitive contests, both teams take to the field with the intention to win. We all know only one team can emerge victorious. Should the team that comes up short be chastised for its failure to win? Shouldn’t trying – until the end – be worth something? I say, “Yes!”
Yoda’s sternness with Luke was not to imply that Luke would be a failure if he was not able to lift the x-wing out of the swamp. It was Yoda’s way of pushing Luke past the mental barriers that all too often got in his way.
Think about the power of the mind. It can make the difference between attaining your goal or not. I am reminded of my days in the USMC. When I was in recruit training, my fellow recruits and I were participating in a rope-climbing exercise. The other women in my platoon were having a hard time reaching the bell at the top of the rope. Then came my turn. I took hold of the rope the way we were instructed, and began shimmying up the thick, sturdy fiber. I could hear my drill instructor bellowing from below: “Go! You can do it! Keep going! You can do it!” I got within one foot of the bell when I heard her call out: “Keep trying!” I froze. I don’t know what it was about hearing that word “try,” but it had a negative effect on my psyche. I could not budge one more centimeter up that rope let alone 12 inches! I didn’t consider myself much of a Marine as I made my way down the hemp without ringing that bell. To this day, I haven’t come up with a rational explanation as to why I couldn’t make it up that final 12 inches. How could one little, three-letter word sabotage what I had set out to do?
Fast forward one year. In my first physical fitness test at my permanent duty station, I, with my fellow avionics technicians, lined up for our 1-1/2-mile run. Before I go any further, please let me go on record as someone who has never – not then, not now – liked to run. I knew it was part of the Marine Corps regimen, and I accepted it when I signed my contract. That being said, I took to the track. I just didn’t particularly relish it.
About ¾ or the way through the test, my legs began to feel heavy, my side began to ache, my chest began to burn. I seriously considered slowing my pace to a walk (acceptable practice, but doing so would drastically affect my score). Always with me, however, was my failure on the rope. Trying and stopping before I reached the finish line was not an option. I pushed myself past the heaviness, past the ache, past the burn. You can do this, Melinda, I said to myself over and over and over again. I wasn’t going to beat any of my much younger peers … but when all was said and done, I posted my personal best time!
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
While I don’t agree completely with the last part of Yoda’s statement, I understand the sentiment behind it. It is a way to encourage someone to believe in oneself. It’s a push in the right direction. Yoda believed in Luke. The Grand Master of the then-defunct Jedi Order wanted Luke to believe in himself. That’s the last hurdle. Once Luke did that, he really did become a Jedi. Standing tall, standing firm, in “Return of the Jedi”, Luke states with confidence: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” It took a lot of hard work – what doesn’t – but in the end, what brought Luke to that point was belief in himself and what he could accomplish. Yoda had it right all along.
As always, I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at melindaw@coffeewithkenobiPowered by Sidelines