Virtue in a galaxy far, far away

I was going through my hard drive, in search of a newspaper article I thought I had saved a few weeks ago, and found a paragraph of text that was cut from the manuscript of “The Other Side of Virtue”.

Just for the fun of it, I’ll post it here for all to see (and be amused by!)

Consider, as another example of modern myth-making and virtue-teaching, the Star Wars series of films by George Lucas. I am old enough to remember when the first one was released, back in 1978, and I remember being inspired to become an astronaut. (And where am I now!) As I see it now, Luke Skywalker’s courage, called forth from him when even he didn’t know he had it (wasn’t he dreaming of leaving the farm, and then reluctant to do so when the chance came?) is fairly sound moral teaching. It shows people how to take initiative when opportunities arise. When I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, I was frightened by Luke’s journey in the cave on Dagobah. Now I see that scene as the most important moment in the whole series. It is the occasion where Luke finally understands that he must ‘conquer himself’. That is, he must let go of hatred, fear, and self-doubt, and trust in the Force (the stand-in for Fate) to succeed. Joseph Campbell, the famous scholar of mythology, had nothing but praise for the original film, and discussed it at length in a series of interviews called The Power of Myth. He saw how the pattern of Luke’s story fitted the general pattern of Heroic mythology, in which a problem of some kind calls for an adventure to put things right. All I wish to add is that the adventure itself calls for special qualities of character to be developed, and this is as much a part of the victory as is the rescue of any princess or the downfall of any empire.

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