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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4 Responses to Virtue in a galaxy far, far away

  1. samgillogly says:

    Will twisting my hair into cinnamon buns make me more virtuous? 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Star Wars

    When my oldest son developed a weird obsession with Anakin Skywalker, who becomes Darth Vader, I knew that in his own, non linear, non language based way, he was working through his grief and loss of coming to be adopted by me. I knew that the mythos of this story spoke to him about the kind of person he wanted to be. Now, this identification with Anakin was psychotic, but it also told me of what he thought my spiritual values were like, how he felt pressured to become a hero, and how intuitively, he knows and has a damaged place that has not been able to let that go, and perhaps there is some tension about the role of choice in light of that pain.

    Luke is the one who saves his father, once and now Darth Vader, after experiencing loss and pain. Luke had the strength to go through the challenge at Dagobah; I doubt Anakin could, inspite of his strengths in “acknowledging” the force. Anakin is the wounded man, and Luke, in his strength, could get past pain to wisdom.

    Narrative therapy builds on this kind of thing. We could all assess that his psyche was using the story to find a way through. With his language processing issues, he found expression of his own story. Good stories resonate with us all, some more personal than others.


  3. Anonymous says:

    the other three films

    If this is the case, then I bet the three prequels teach a number of other valuable lessons, such as snark, pithiness, pandering to youth, corruption 101, and how to be naive under the best of circumstances. Teenage Angst: the movie.

    I’ve heard Joseph Campbell speak about the original trilogy, and I concur, he called it a standard formula myth. A very interesting idea concerned a man who is largely regarded as only a minor genius with no stage craft talent by the populace. Similar lessons can probably be found in the Indiana Jones films regarding courage, determination, curiosity, and rightness.

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