Friday, May 25, 2018

Empire Strikes Back: The Subverter

So this is the subverter part of the subversion chapter in the subversion trilogy of the Star Wars cycle, the story center of the Skywalker Saga. So all the stuff that's the most important is right here, right now. So strap in, 'cause it's here that most uncomfortable truths of the entire Saga reside in the most explicit form. Ready?

We start this whole thing off with the cave incident which, if you grew up with Star Wars like I did, is well-known. It's one of the most chilling moments in all of Star Wars. But, as I was sitting down to write about this section it hit me: what's true about Anakin is true about Luke, but the reverse is true. While it's true that there's a bit of evil inside of Luke that means that there's a bit of good still inside of Vader. No matter what Vader, Hitler, Stalin, or a rapist may do there's still a bit of good inside of them. So long as they're here, alive, there's still something inside of them that can be redeemed. You may not be the person to do it but, as Luke says later, no one is ever really gone. And the reverse is definitely true. No matter how good we think we are there's still something that lurks inside of us, angry and vengeful and, unless we address it, it'll rise up and eat us whole. And Luke is very afraid of this.

And it's here that I bring up Vader's conversation with the Emperor, which just confirms what I'd said a second ago. Vader is outright lying to Palpatine. He asks how it's possible for his son to be alive, knowing full well that Luke is his son, already having killed quite a few people to get to Han and Leia. Vader's offer to Palpatine here is completely phony and that's where the greatest twist of the Star Wars saga finally unveils itself: Vader never really gave up. He may have thought he did, but given the chance to get back into contact with his son, he does so without a second's thought. It's not arguable that his means are evil, but the Shadow, when it finally comes back to itself and realizes that there's still some hope, generally doesn't use very good means to get back into contact with the Overworld. It will throw the person's world into complete and utter disarray, demanding attention and relationship. All of its attempts are wrong, of course, but the sad part is that part of ourselves has no idea how to do it anything right anymore, but it must try to reintegrate somehow. Unable to do anything we might recognize, it creates a huge mess, trying to get us to face up to what we truly are. It's a violent attempt to love that may very well break the person apart, but at that point the Shadow doesn't care anymore. Its message must be delivered.

After the failure at the cave Luke begins to improve. Failures can do that to people from time to time. Stimulated and challenged by the limits they hit they push ever harder, thinking that by doing more impressive things they can overcome the flaw that they perceived within themselves.  Yeah, if you think that (and I know I have) you're about as full of it as that X-Wing that just sank. Luke's reaction is pretty typical for someone who's trying to improve himself: this goes completely outside my line of thinking, so what makes you think it can be done? But Yoda shows that the issues that we find ourselves running into are, in the end, inconsequential. If you believe it will happen. And if you don't think it will it won't. It's about as simple as that. But this lack of belief in himself, shown by the encounter in the cave, is rooted deeply into Luke. This is not the first time we've seen it and it won't be the last.

Witnessing Yoda's transcendence helps Luke break a wall of his own: he can now see into the future. But what he sees completely changes his perceptions of what he's doing. His friends will suffer and Yoda tells him he can't go and help them. Reaching enlightenment of any type is always a sobering process. If, at any point in time, you reach a point in your spiritual journey where you think you've hit the top, I've got very bad news: you're deluding yourself. As long as you're in this world all gifts will be measured out with a healthy dose of pain. And Luke's is knowing that something is coming for his friends and there may be nothing he can do to stop it.  The Shadow always reacts to the growth of the Ego and pushes back, reminding the person that there is no growth without a similar amount of pain. This keeps ushumble.  One day we will not struggle, but that day is not this world.

That's honestly what makes Han's and Leia's brief respite all the more painful. Leia knows something is wrong but she's actually learning to open up to Han and be vulnerable... just in time for Vader to show up. But all is not lost. Lando is already regretting his decision and Leia finally figures it out: she loves Han and saying it won't break her. And, mercifully enough, it comes from the left. Unlike her mother, who was too weak to realize when it's a good idea to stick to your well-intentioned promises, Leia realizes that to not say something here, when it counts the most, is weakness itself. Faced with losing Han she makes the most courageous decision any of us can ever make: she loves Han anyway. And then she lets her heart shatter as Han is taken out of her life. It wasn't a very long moment that Leia did the right thing. But it means a whole lot.  The girl who watched her planet blow up right in front of her has finally healed and, as horrific as it is, she walks away a much stronger and better person for it.  Only you can destroy you.

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