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May 26, 2005

The Dark Side

There's a lot to be said for the Dark Side of the Force that isn't said explicitly in Lucasfilm's latest 'Revenge of the Sith'. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to play, for weeks, Knights of the Old Republic on XBox.

In that role, you have to attend the Sith Academy and understand the ways of power and passion. Having done so, it puts you in the position of understanding the limits of selflessness. Although this is the philosophical background for Revenge of the Sith, the film does not work out the details in a way that could have made it great.

Anakin faces the same challenge as Jesus or any other Chosen One. Certainly Jesus chose wisest but the depth of that wisdom needs much explaining. You see, to be selfless, one must be dedicated to principle and principle is always broken. What then needs to be the object of your loyalty? That collective you that best upholds the spirit of the principle, those people who have helped you become what you are. This selfless way always requires sacrifice. With any luck, you get to sacrifice those people who have helped you become what you are for the sake of principle. It makes you an asshole, but a principled one. I say luck because this is the thing that helps you understand the significance of Yoda's advice to Anakin which was one of the most profound statements of the film, yet almost thrown away. Yoda told Anakin that you must be prepared to let go of everything.

Sting had that stupid song that played forever and made Hallmark another million dollars. If you love somebody, set them free. This is something you cannot say to a parent. This is not something you can blithely assert because it says love for the one is inferior to love for the many. This is the way of the Jedi and it is why the Jedi are a celibate preisthood. It is also the weakness of Christianity - and why Christianity is not philosophically reconciled with the Family.

The Dark Side gives powers to passion, instinct, deception and our animal wisdom. These are the things that give us the edge over machines, that are worth loving. The way of the Sith gives structure to this philosophy but in the Star Wars galaxy it is done mostly in terms of good and evil. While it is true that there is a certain Machiavellian ruthless efficiency to Sith, it is equally true that balancing the Force requires more than the Jedi provide.

Anakin falls squarely into this gap. His ambition and desire for security come straight from his desire to protect women and children. In that he is pure of heart, it is perhaps his most admirable quality. And yet it is this fear of losing love and family that has made the Jedi Council suspicious of him from the time he was a child. Anakin is not fearless and selflessly dedicated to the way of the Jedi. He wants *his* family. He wants *his* wife. He wants *his* love and he doesn't want to hide his passion. But he must. And this is what drives him apart from Padme as he becomes a Jedi and must hew to the arcane directives of the Jedi Council. Yoda demands that he be emotionally aloof that he be ready to sacrifice all. To be a Jedi Master like Yoda, you must be a solitary sexless dispassionate Seer, fearless, selfless and emotionally unavailable except to the high calling.

This is why chicks go for the bad boys. They don't play that.

There are three episodes remaining, and perhaps Lucas might loosen his grip on the Empire that is the Star Wars franchise so that Leia's adventures might begin. Leia on the Dark Side and Luke on the light, battling for the fate of the Force in the Galaxy would make for an excellent series. This is a chance to review the role of the Sacred Feminine.

Revenge of the Sith is a disappointment precisely because it doesn't express the Yang of the Dark Side in the Sacred Feminine. That falls to the great failure of Padme to act like a real pregnant woman. A real pregnant woman would not allow Anakin to be emotionally distant or traipse off to distant planets to run down some Trade Federation. They don't stand at the window pining away silently at the distance between themselves and the father of their child. They are demanding of comfort and attention, and well they should be. Pregnancy demands that the world stop and focus brought on the home and the baby. That Anakin escapes these demands is a romantic goof and the necessary diversion to reduce the Dark Side to the evil of abuse of power. But the Dark Side is much more than that, and now you know.

Posted by mbowen at May 26, 2005 07:43 AM

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What you called the weakness of Christianity is certainly there. But it is also a strength. All our notions of human rights come from Christianity or Judeo-Christianity. The idea that no one should be a slave or that all people have intrinsic worth are radical Christian ideas, which are still not accepted in other parts of the world. Christianity is a religion of ideals, it's impossible to be a perfect Christian, which is why Christians never have had the self satisfaction and assurance and absolute certainty of Muslims, even in the days when the christian religion was strong. Everything has the defects of its qualities.

Posted by: Anita at May 27, 2005 07:47 AM

No doubt, but this reconciliation with our ideas about family is a resounding hole. Part of this arose when I asked the question of how Jesus would resolve a child custody case? I should bring the issue to the top.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 27, 2005 08:28 AM

Anita, there are some contradictions in your statement. You argue that Christians have never had the absolute certainty and self-assurance as Muslims. But at the same time you appear to be arguing that our entire conception of human rights emanates from Christianity. So on the one hand Christianity is characterized by some doubt and humility...on the other hand Christianity is responsible for more freedom and liberty than any other conception.

Without even beginning to take the story of Hypatia (or the Salem "witches" or the enslaved Africans) into account, I'm not sure these contradictions can be successfully reconciled.

Posted by: Lester Spence [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 27, 2005 09:00 AM

I don't think there's a contradiction, at least not in the sense that makes what I wrote wrong. Nothing is perfect and everything has serious defects. Every system of thought has contradictions within it, including contradictions that could destroy it. Also, the minute that anyone says that you have something to defend, your beliefs, you are at war with those who don't believe the same, even if you judgment regarding who is a threat is mistaken. The fact that christians have done evil things does negate the religion. But the fact that Christian cultures have provided the most liberal systems on earth is a plus for the religion. The doubt and humility of christianity are the source of liberalism, the source of the acknowledgment that others are not necessarily infidels or animals. That is the normal human way of thinking and the way that is still followed by muslims, and most cultures. Bigotry is normal and universal, as is oppression, slavery and cruelty. The notion that such things are wrong and should not be emanate from the christian west. I have never heard of any non westerner taking responsibility for anything they or their ancestors did wrong, whether slavery in Sudan, genocide in Africa, what the Chinese did to the Buddhists. I believe that christianity or judeo christianity is the most effective weapon against human savagery. And I'm not forgetting african slavery, which involved africans selling each other to the europeans, or the holocaust.

Posted by: Anita at May 31, 2005 05:59 AM

I have to think about this a bit. It is clear to me that Christianity develops from the same geographic place as Islam. While we talk about Judeo-Christianity, I think it is probably more accurate to refer to Judeo-Christian-Islam. With that said, I'm not sure what you are referring to when you talk about "Christian cultures." The oldest version of the Bible exists in Africa, not in Europe.

I'd also like to offer a counter-hypothesis. I argue that the reason that slavery was universally condemned starting with the West, is not because of Christian-inspired charity...but rather because the form of slavery practiced by Christians was so virulently horrible as to inspire outrage among enslaved Africans and others.

How is this hypothesis wrong compared to the one you offer?

Posted by: Lester Spence [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2005 07:39 AM

All three religions demand sacrifice and various forms of sexual restraint. Perhaps they cycle around slavery in ways that other religions don't because of these notions.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2005 08:48 AM

You have all expressed some very interesting ideas. However, I feel that I should add my own ideas to this discussion. To understand what I am trying to say, you need to first understand my background. I attended a Christian high school, and I was raised in a semi-religious home. My parents were Christians, but we didn't go to church very often. This may be why I was always open to the ideas of other religions. Either way, no matter how much Buddhist philosophy I studied, or how many different versions of the Bible I read, I couldn't find happiness, simply because I have a very inquisitive nature, and nothing frustrated me more than a question I couldn't find an answer to. I wanted to understand life. I wanted to know what to believe in, and more importantly, who to believe in. Everyone I ever trusted betrayed me , and religion just couldn't solve that. How could I trust a god that I had never seen, and that might not even be real? Everything I knew about this being called "god" was imprinted into my mind through a culture I didn't truly understand. How could I be certain that what I had been told wasn't just another lie? What really bothered me wasn't that I couldn't find an answer. Many things are just too hard to understand. What bothered me was that I knew that the answer itself must be extremely simple, but I would never find it, because it was more more difficult to find this information than to learn it. The truth about life and existance cannot be found on earth. Many people have claimed that they know the truth, but this cannot be correct, because if someone found the truth about something as profound as this, everyone would have to accept it as truth. Therefore, this information is entirely comprehendable, but no one will ever have the chance to understand, because it is quite obvious that universally appealing ideas are impossible to express in any human language. It has been little over a year since I last searched for my answers. Of course, I never found them, but in retrospect, I realize that I everything I have ever read, I read while under a specific state of mind. Reading these thing again, I have gained an entirely different perspective on what the Bible really says. Like all philsosophy, religious texts are both cryptic and specific simultaneously. They are written with a specific subject in mind, and a certain general theme to how it is written, but religious texts mean different things to different people at different phases of their lives. This is the one great failing of all religious followers: they take the words of their prophets and gods too literally. Scripture is a guide, not a set of rules to be followed exactly. Religion does not demand obedience from worshippers, worshippers demand it from themselves, making themselves slaves to system that would ironically not exist without them. This principle is not only true for religion, but also for any other type of be ethics and views. Your morales should, instead of influencing the way you view the world around you, be influenced BY the world around you. Wars are caused by groups of people being unable to adapt and revise their opinions to suit the ever changing world. If anyone has read this far, you are probably wondering what the point I'm trying to make is. What I'm trying to say is that everyone needs to find their own answers. The truth is different for everyone, and conflict is the inevitable attempt of both parties involved to reaffirm their own version of the truth and dispel any insecurities that they may have. You don't have to look for answers. Just live your life, and your answers will find you. Never be afraid to alter your views, because true happiness only comes from the ultimate realization of personal truth. In the end, life is all a matter of perspective, and NOTHING you do can be truly wrong if your reasons for doing it are, at least in your own eyes, right. That is my truth. I hope that you can find yours.

Posted by: MGI at June 8, 2005 07:46 PM