Friday, May 4, 2018

A New Hope: The Subverter

Kinda funny that we're going to an entirely artificial world, kinda like Coruscant, isn't it? But this is part and parcel for what we're going to run into with Star Wars: remixing previous images and, by doing so, creating new meanings within us. Most mythologies do this with words: Joseph the foster-father of Jesus, the son of Jacob, has a dream about Mary's child being the Messiah while Joseph, the son of Jacob, has a dream about him saving his brothers, thousands of years previous. Hercules kills snakes as a baby and is killed by Hydra venom, ending his earthly existence. Padme went to an artificial world looking for help, escorted by two Jedi and someone out for himself. Padme's daughter Leia has been captured by an artificial world and two Force-sensitives along with a guy out for himself go to rescue her. Yes, I just said that Han and Jar Jar fit the same archetypal space.

I hope you feel as... happy... about that as I do...

But that's a digression. Leia's captivity sheds more light on what's actually going on in The Phantom Menace: Padme was Palpatine's puppet and she was truly out of her element, a virtual prisoner on Coruscant. But Ben, Luke, and Han are allowed to see the captivity for what it is, unlike Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Jar Jar.

All of a sudden Obi-Wan is in his element. His teaching style has completely changed since Anakin. Gone is the self-conscious and prideful Obi-Wan that would snap at and publicly embarrass his padawan. In his place is an older, wiser, sadder Ben. His rough edges have been sanded off in the harsh desert of Tatooine in his contemplation of the Force. Ben lets go of Luke in a rare showing of emotion in Star Wars. Having finally met Luke and, giving him the few words of wisdom that he can, Ben heads off to save them all. This is the first good subversion of the entire series: everything actually works out.

Even this
I rag on Obi-Wan a lot. I make no secret that he's one of my least favorite characters of the series, and for good reason: about 95% of the time it's him screwing things up. But not this time. This time Ben steps up and demonstrates that he has finally embraced the present moment, just as he was told to in Episode I. I genuinely believe that Ben could have taken Vader here. That is a hill I will gladly die on. Honestly, what's changed since the last time Vader and Ben fought? Yeah, Vader's a cyborg, so he doesn't tire as easily, but it's proven in ROTJ that Vader can be overpowered and he can be worn out. And Ben has learned new levels of patience since ROTS. So yeah, given enough time I think Ben could have beaten Vader again. But that's not what's needed here. Luke is the Chosen One (another hill I'll gladly die on). Whatever Luke decides to do will work and balance will be achieved. Ben would need a lot of time to get a more cautious Vader into a bad situation to take advantage of. It's implied by this scene that Ben could have become one with the Force at any time he chose and, looking at Luke, he does it to show Luke that there is something more to this life. This act of being utterly present removes Ben in a way that we can interact with him.

Does Luke any understand of what we talked about? Of course not, he's 19 years old! When does anyone actually understand much of anything at 19? But there's a sense of catharsis with Ben's death that-

"Run, Luke, run!" And Luke hears him.
Look at how lazy he is, re-using his images!
He couldn't possibly mean something more by it, right?

Let's remember: Ben had to be taught to commune with Qui-Gon. Ben was no slouch, having been put on the Council at an early age. But Luke? He hears Ben like it's nothing. In a world where there is no known afterlife Luke not only hears Ben but trusts what he hears, without question. "I can't believe he's gone" is not just the mournful saying of a boy who lost his father figure; he literally can't believe that Ben is gone because the guy was just talking to him! This is the best news we could possibly get. Not all subversions are bad and, since we spent a whole trilogy around a tragedy, this news that Luke is actually spiritually aware is the best we've had in all four movies so far. Everytime I get to this point in the series I almost just turn off the movie, because everything that I personally would have wanted in a narrative is complete. Ben, the true moron of Star Wars, has finally ascended. There is peace for someone, somewhere, in the middle of this mess we call life.

And that's true here, as well, in our world. From Mount Athos to the Himalayans there are people who have figured out how to be at peace, and what happens? The most tragic thing of all: we ignore them. Like Luke we don't even comprehend that things like world peace are not only possible but probable, if only we were to imitate those around us that have had to leave our depressing world in order to find a place where they can find real peace. We just run onboard the Falcon and barely comprehend what's going on.

But this time the subversion ends on a seeming sour note: Darth Vader let the Falcon get away and he's tracking it. But where is Leia taking our heroes? Alderaan has been destroyed, all is lost. There is no place of peace left. (The following was Andy Hauge's idea)

So, pop quiz: without looking it up, who can tell me which one is Earth, Alderaan, Endor, Yavin 4, and Naboo? If you can you're missing my point. By way of imagery Lucas shows that goodness is invincible by way of analogy. As said in "Meditations on the Tarot": "Analogy is not a tenet or postulate... but is the first and principal method (the aleph of the alphabet of methods) whose use facilitates the advancement of knowledge." (pg. 12). Analogy is how we link these five worlds together. Are they the same worlds? Of course not. But are they similar? Absolutely, and by analogy we can lump them together.  And it's by analogy that Star Wars draws us across the movies and it's by analogy that we enter into the myth and advance interiorly. Far from being an "inferior" sense of knowing analogy is the support that we place all other forms of knowledge on, especially for our own inner lives. And since green is usually associated with life and life with goodness these worlds represent the goodness in all of us, somehow. And it survived the fake world blowing it up. Nothing that happens can wipe out anything good in any human being, ever. It may have to morph or change a bit to adapt, but ultimately that spot in the heart of every human being lives on, regardless of what we think happened to it. It just may have moved, that's all.

And in the case of Yavin 4 it may have finally figured out how to weaponize itself. If evil is the weaponization of your pain against yourself and the world how can good possibly hope to win out over evil? By finding the weakness that powers the evil inside of us and removing it. Evil can't subsist on its own, there is no objective evil in the universe. And it doesn't take much, once we figure out what the weak point inside of us is that allows us to move past the vice that threatened us for so long.

I only semi-did that on purpose.

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