It has been brought to my attention that the our planet has managed to lap the sun once again and we have entered another new year. I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t particularly enjoy setting myself up for near certain dismal failure. It is a coward’s victory, I know, but the surest way to keep from breaking a resolution is to keep from committing to them in the first place. But this year, somehow, is different. I feel like I am at a crossroads in my personal life and I feel like our world is at a crossroads as well. So, I am going to make a resolution this year. What’s more, I am going to issue this as an open letter to my fellow earthlings and lay it out there as a challenge for you to join me.
My resolution came to me last night. Our family went out on New Year’s Eve to see the new Star Wars movie in IMAX 3D. It is a very good movie, which I recommend, but that is another story for another blog. My resolution became clear to me after we got home from the movie. My daughter had never seen “Return of the Jedi”, the movie that was the prequel to this new story. So after we got home, we put in the Blu Ray of that movie and watched it together to help give Molly some context of the back story.
Now, I was never truly a Star Wars geek. I saw them all once, when they first came out, and enjoyed them. Then, of course, I have seen bits and pieces of them on tv countless times over the years since. Never having been a real sci-fi kind of guy, I appreciated Star Wars more for the allegory and symbolism than for the surface story line. There is a lot of philosophical and spiritual meat to be chewed upon in the ongoing theme of the dark force versus the light force that is at the core of all the movies. The historian in me loves to apply that theme to numerous events on the timeline of man. That is the strength of the Star Wars saga to me. It can really set your brain on a good hard workout if you allow it.
Watching “Return of the Jedi” last night, my mind got to wandering and eventually led me to this keyboard to type out a Luke Skywalker inspired New Year’s Resolution…and challenge you, world, to do the same.
The scene that started all this is the climax of the film. Luke Skywalker, the leader of the resistance to the Empire, the last, best hope for the light side of “the force,” has tracked down Darth Vadar, his fallen father…now a master of the dark side of the force. They are met before the evil Emperor who has foreseen all of this and is delighted at the prospect that young Luke will either be tempted and coaxed to cross to the dark side or he will be killed, thus severely crippling the hopes of the resistance. Are you with me? Ok, let’s come back to this a little later.
Our world is kind of a scary place. There is plenty to fear. There is much that can stir within us terrific anger and resentment. What we really are afraid of and/or angry at are simply the symptoms of a disease. We lash out at the symptoms. We curse and threaten the symptoms. We post passive-aggressive Facebook statuses to vent about the symptoms. It is easy to react to symptoms…they are what we see. What we don’t do much is look at the disease that causes those symptoms to flare up. The reason we don’t look at the disease is that it is painful to do so. The reason it is painful is because, when we look at the disease, we must admit that we are a part of it. That hurts. Lashing out in anger and spewing vitriolic rhetoric at the symptoms feels better in the short term, but in the long term, it fuels the disease…our disease, yours and mine.
What is at the root of our disease? Fair question, fellow Earthlings. In my opinion, it is this: Everyone is too concerned about our being right and the other guy being wrong. We each form our own world view. We fine tune and calibrate our moral compasses, structuring a set of values and beliefs that make a comfortable nest in which we exist. Then we spend our waking hours searching out all the people and information that help to validate our world view and bolster the scaffolding that holds it up. All the while we continually alienate ourselves from those who have different world views and have constructed very different kinds of nests to keep themselves insulated. Since birds of a feather flock together, we look for others who have built similar nests and build alliances with them to stand against the “strange birds” living in those “other nests.” We try to recruit others to build nests like ours. This usually takes the form of pointing out the flaws in those other “strange birds'” silly nests. How can they live like that??? Disgusting!
Luke Skywalker is a different kind of bird. He has every reason to lash out in anger at Darth Vadar, his father. But, he has made a resolution. He knows that fear, anger, and hatred are harmful to the positive force that he is trying to master. He also knows that his father was once a Jedi who knew the “light.” Luke senses that there is still light in his father. He tries to bring it out, but Vadar keeps resisting. Finally, Luke is forced to defend himself against Vadar in a battle with light sabers. With the Emperor continuing to coax the the anger and hatred out of him, Luke is locked in battle, not just defending his life, but to stay on the light side of the force. Finally, Luke slashes off the hand of Vadar, rendering him defenseless. Yet, rather than letting anger and hatred take over and finishing his evil father off with a death blow, Luke lays down his weapon saying he will not kill him. Young Skywalker is, even after all this, still looking for the spark of good in his father. The Emperor becomes enraged and unleashes hell in the form of all of his dark force power into Luke, now curled helpless in the fetal position. All the while, racked by unimaginable torture, Luke still refuses to give up on the light and he calls out to his father, still trusting that there is good in him. As the story goes, Vadar is touched by his son’s example of not taking the easy route to anger and hatred. The spark of light still inside him is ignited and he throws the Emperor into oblivion. In doing so he is weakened to the point of death and spends his last breathing moments in his son’s embrace. The very son who’d been his mortal enemy for years.
There it is. That is how Luke Skywalker gave me my New Year’s resolution. He looked for the good in a man he had every right to hate…every reason to kill. He did not let the dark forces of fear, anger, and hatred overcome his light.
What if we birds of a feather start seeking to better understand those other “strange birds” this year? What if we look at their nests with fresh eyes and seek out the good features of them, rather than look for the flaws wondering “how can they live like that?” What if we start living by the norm we share whenever we have meetings where I work and “assume good intent?” What about it, People of Earth? Maybe, just maybe, if we lead by example, those other “strange birds” will take notice and reciprocate. The trick is, someone has to go first. I’ll resolve to start. Will you join me?