“When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.” Yoda admonished Luke with that line in a moment of defiance to his age in Return of the Jedi. The venerable Jedi Master was nearing the end of his life, and he still had a little advice to impart on his young apprentice. What else must Yoda have been thinking as he neared the end of his very long life? Even more interesting, what was the passage of time like for Yoda over 900 years? How did it impact his relationships with those closest to him.
Time marches on for everyone. I noticed this recently at a family gathering to celebrate a major milestone birthday. My grandparents have been gone for some time now. For a while, my family only consisted of two generations. Those generations were mine and my parents. However, now there is another generation in the family as my brothers and I have all welcomed children to our families. My parents moved into the role my grandparents once possessed, and my brothers and I have moved into the role of the middle generation.
What does this have to do with Yoda? After all, Star Wars fans have no reason to believe Yoda ever had any children of his own. In addition, if Yoda arrived at the Jedi temple in the usual way, he likely never had the opportunity to know his own parents well. However, Yoda trained generations of Jedi. He helped raise children for centuries and nurture them in the ways of the Force.
It is a tenet of the Jedi order that the Jedi must avoid attachment. Furthermore, Yoda counseled fellow Jedi, including Anakin Skywalker, not to mourn those they have lost. Instead, the Jedi should rejoice for those that have become one with the Force. For someone of his advanced age, that must be especially comforting. Not all races in the Star Wars galaxy are as short-lived as humans. Although, it is unlikely that many, or even most, live as long as Yoda did.
Despite his sage advice, Yoda wasn’t as good at avoiding attachment as he counseled. Remember how he greeted Padme Amidala after the assassination attempt on her life in Attack of the Clones? It did his heart good to see she survived. Or, how about the note of affection in his voice when Obi-Wan arrived seeking guidance on the location of Kamino? He seemed to cherish his partnership with Mace Windu in leading the Jedi and organizing the Jedi Council. In addition, he felt and agonized over Anakin’s pain on Tatooine when Anakin’s mother succumbed to her injuries.
Most telling of all was Yoda’s reaction to the execution of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. Yoda felt the death of his fellow Jedi keenly through the Force. He was reeling as his companions were summarily executed. The shock appeared overwhelming. Despite his grief, he managed to recover in time engage in some self-defense. Fans are left to wonder exactly emotions and thoughts were behind the grim expression on his face after he decapitated the clones that attempted to ambush him.
So, what does all of this mean? The Star Wars galaxy is populated by a variety of races. Yoda had a much longer life span than most. Unlike a human family, in which a person can expect to pass through the generations (child, parent, and grandparent) in succession with some family stability, Yoda found himself stuck in the “final” generation. In fact, he was practically in a generation all his own. He must have seen dozens of generations rise from younglings to Padawans to Jedi Knights, and in some cases, Jedi Masters. Yoda likely saw hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Jedi become one with the Force.
Furthermore, how many Jedi did Yoda train from Padawan to Knight? Did he think of them with any parental affection? His own former Padawan, Count Dooku, clearly felt some affection for Qui-Gon Jinn, who was Dooku’s Padawan once upon a time. Qui-Gon’s Padawan was Obi-Wan Kenobi. Did Yoda have some sort of great-grandfatherly affection for Obi-Wan resulting from this relationship? Or, were such sentiments something Yoda sought to avoid?
It is difficult to say. It would be useful to erect walls in relationships in his position. The doctrine of no attachment would come as a harsh necessity in his position. However, Yoda did not keep others at arm’s length. He counseled any who sought his advice. He continued to train younglings. Then his entire world fell apart when the Sith were victorious with Order 66.
For humans, with our comparatively shorter lives, time is fleeting. The time parents have with their children is so short, and that is why it is cherished so. For a being such as Yoda, that lives more than nine times as long as the average human, the time he had with Padawans and younglings must be especially fleeting. When the fleeting nature of time is coupled with the Jedi forbidding attachment, it would have been easy for Yoda to keep his fellow Jedi and Padawans at a distance. However, that isn’t what he appeared to do.
Finally, perhaps Yoda’s viewpoint can best be seen in how he acted when he met Luke. First, he pretended to be someone else. Granted, he tested Luke to gauge his patience. However, once Obi-Wan revealed his true identity to Luke, Yoda initially refused training. His excuse was that Luke was too old, too impatient, and too unfocused. Were those the only reasons? Yoda had plenty of time in the swamp on Dagobah to himself. Perhaps in that time he grieved the loss of all the Jedi. And, perhaps in that time he came to terms with whatever attachments he made during his long life. With that perspective, he may have sworn never to form another attachment again.
Then Luke arrives. This has always been the plan. When he was ready, Obi-Wan and Yoda would train Luke in the ways of the Jedi. Then Luke could confront Darth Vader. Only now, Yoda is reluctant. He offered all the reasons he couldn’t train Luke, but perhaps he left one out. Here at the end of his life, perhaps he couldn’t bear the responsibility that came with one more attachment. After all, Luke had a daunting task ahead of him, and it was one he wasn’t likely to succeed in completing.
In conclusion, Yoda’s sense of time is difficult to comprehend. If Yoda lived among his own kind, one might suspect that his perception of time was like that of a human. The only difference would be longevity. However, among the many varied races of the galaxy, he occupied a position to which not many could relate. There is an old saying that wisdom comes with age. Perhaps it was Yoda’s unique wisdom that allowed him to balance the tenets of the Jedi Order and the attachments he formed over the centuries.Powered by Sidelines