Trust Your Feelings…Darth?TERRY MATTINGLY
No wonder Anakin Skywalker seems so confused. Every time the Jedi apprentice turns around, a spiritual master tells him to trust his feelings, search his feelings or follow his feelings. Trouble is, the young super-warrior in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is a tornado of feelings. He feels love. He feels hate, ambition, desire, frustration, fear and fury.
when he follows his heart, the Jedi tell him to set aside his desires and do his
Well, do feelings trump duty or is it the other way around?
"I don't know what it says in the Jedi handbook, but it's obvious that George
Lucas hasn't answered this question," says Catholic writer Roberto Rivera, who
is best known for his pop-culture research for evangelical leader Chuck Colson.
"It's especially interesting that the characters that represent the good
side of the Force like Obi-Wan Kenobi stress the importance of
following your feelings. But the characters that represent the dark side
like Chancellor Palpatine are also telling Anakin he must learn to trust
his feelings. Why do the good guys and the bad guys agree with each other?"
This may sound like the geeky Star Wars nit-picking that thrives in cyberspace,
where legions of Lucas acolytes circulate catechisms detailing how many Jedi can
twirl on the point of a light saber. But these are not meaningless questions for
the generations baptized in images from the original trilogy and its sequels.
The grand finale looms ahead on May 25, 2005.
Like it or not, what Lucas
says about God and man is important.
"Star Wars is the closest thing
many Americans have to a myth by which I mean the stories that help us
make sense of our lives and the world around us, and the traditional means by
which cultures transmit their values and beliefs," argues Rivera, in a Boundless.org
essay called "Love, Sacrifice and Free Will in Star Wars."
matters if Lucas has created a myth that makes any sense, even on its own terms.
It matters if the Force provides a coherent framework for the actions of his characters.
It matters if Lucas is stuck somewhere between karma and Calvinism, spinning morality
tales in a universe ruled by an impersonal "energy field created by all living
things" that somehow has a will and a plan for the souls it controls.
After all, notes Rivera, it "was Lucas who called Star Wars the story of a man's
fall from grace and his subsequent redemption. These are terms with moral, if
not religious, significance."
The key is that Lucas created a pop faith
the same way he created his monsters. He took the head of one creature, attached
it to the body of another, stuck on the tail of something else and enlarged the
result to awesome size.
"I didn't want to invent a religion," Lucas
once told journalist Bill Moyers. "I wanted to try to explain in a different way
the religions that already existed. ... I put the Force into the movie in order
to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people more a
belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system."
bottom line: "The conclusion I have come to is that all the religions are true."
Yet Lucas wanted an epic story of good and evil, darkness and light.
His films center on the life of an anointed one who "will bring balance" between
the yin and the yang of the Force, yet Lucas never defines his terms. He never
says what is good and what is evil and why. Heroes and villains alike have to
follow their feelings.
"There is zero evidence in the Star Wars films
that anyone is ever taught anything about what is right and what is wrong," notes
Rivera. "We don't even know why the dark side is dark. It's a mystery. It's a
concept with no meaning. ...
"Everybody is supposed to do the right
thing, but nobody wants to stop and give any serious thought as to how a person
is supposed to know what is the right thing to do. That is a rather important
question to leave unanswered, if you stop and think about it."
Terry Mattingly. "Trust Your Feelings, Darth?" On Religion
column Scripp's Howard News Service.
All columns are the sole property
of the author. Reprinted with permission. Reproduction is prohibited.
teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic College and is a senior fellow for journalism at
the Council For Christian Colleges and Universities and a member of Holy
Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, MD. He writes a weekly column for the
Scripps Howard News Service.
Copyright © 2002 Terry