Adding Wisdom to Star Wars The Last Jedi

Yoda
Today, I feel like departing from my usual blog post style to talk a little bit about cultural mythology and its power. If this isn't your cup of tea, feel free to check out one of these posts:

Suffering Is Grace

The First Spiritual Teacher for Most People

Awakening (This is one of the main tabs on this blog with multiple spiritual awakening posts.)

Okay, for those of you who are still here, let's talk about the power of cultural mythology and Star Wars, why and how that particular mythology is important; and how wisdom could have been added to it.

And, of course, spoilers. :)


The Power of Popular Culture

Popular culture shapes and reinforces a lot of how people think about a lot of topics and how they develop and maintain their societies. Additionally, video is a powerful medium. The stories told through video can really take hold of our imaginations. There's a lot of concern, for example, with how pornography is shaping how people think about sex and therefore what they expect from themselves and their sexual partners.  

And after more than 40 years since the first Star Wars came out, the mythology of Star Wars still continues to deeply influence millions of people.

But there's a problem with recent editions of Star Wars--they lack wisdom. And this is particularly important because the Jedi/Sith and the Force is clearly a deeply spiritual and mystical mythology. There have been lots of great space and sci-fi movies since the 70s, but they've not enthralled people the way Star Wars has. Clearly, there is something more here, and it revolves around a puppet.


Creative Risks Pay Off with a Wise Green Frog

From time to time, I've heard Georg Lucas refer to Yoda as a weird frog puppet, and that's exactly what Yoda is. But through the magic of movies, he comes to life.

But it's not the lighting, voice-over, puppeteering, etc. that makes Yoda work. It's the wisdom. Yoda is the voice that expands Luke and the audience's understanding of what the Force is, how to be of service, and the process of letting go of attachments--"You must unlearn what you have learned."

Because Yoda is believable and persuasive as a character, the whole of the original trilogy works. He's the center of it all that gives the whole story arc deeper meaning. Otherwise, this is just a big family spat in space with a bunch of fighting and explosions. We get those movies all the time, and most of us don't remember them if we even see them.


Enriching "The Last Jedi"

But in recent years, Star Wars movie-makers haven't really known how to continue to expand upon the wisdom Yoda offered in "The Empire Strikes Back." It's not hard to understand why--because the writers and filmmakers are not wise themselves.

This is not an insult--just a statement of fact. You cannot write about things you don't know. 

However, with "The Last Jedi," there are a couple of interesting elements that could have been enriched and expanded upon, and they would have fundamentally changed the whole arc of the latest trilogy and built upon the obvious spirituality of the Force.

One of those things is the ego versus freedom. Another way to say that is trying to be a somebody versus being a nobody.


Rey's Struggle to Be Somebody

The main heroine, Rey, is already on the path of realization as a nobody, but of course, in modern Western Culture, being nobody is terrifying. It's equated with being walked over and abused, and she basically is in such a position when the audience first meets her. So taking her character from "The Force Awakens" down the path to becoming a somebody would be a very natural first step, and audiences would have deeply identified with her attempt to escape being a nobody. If Rian Johnson really understood the path to spiritual freedom, confronting Rey with the truth that trying to become somebody--to maintain a solid ego identity--is actually the path to the dark side would have been subversive as all Hell.

It would also take the audience down a path that they're unfamiliar with towards revelations that general audiences might actually learn from.

I know. That's not typically the goal of a big budget film.

Additionally, having things set up as this conflict between individual ego and the true selfless nature of awareness works perfectly with the other two key members of the Force club--Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren.

And no, Snoke is not included. He's an under-developed and useless character. I'm sure something could be done to fix that, but for now, there are plenty of elements that could be enhanced with the above 3 characters.


Luke Skywalker--The Big Jedi Failure

If you pay attention to the original Star Wars, most of what Luke does is fail. He fails to recognize Yoda. He fails to lift his ship out of the swamp. He fails to complete his training. He fails against Darth Vader the first time. He damn near fails in the final movie and nearly becomes a Sith Lord by letting his anger control him. He even fails to get the droids out to the fields for his uncle.

In "The Last Jedi," he's failed to rebuild the Jedi Order. He's failed to chose his students wisely, and now he's running away to hide on an island--failing his sister and other people that feel like they're depending on him.

But biggest of all, he has failed to release his ego. He has become a somebody, and he even says it:

"I failed. Because I was Luke Skywalker. Jedi Master. A legend."

He bought into his ego, and his pride led to all kinds of suffering.

Humility and the Prideful Intellectual Ego


Luke's Revelation

However, now is the perfect time for Luke to finally understand that the real freedom is being nobody. Now is the perfect time for him to teach Rey that the thing she is running from--being a nobody from nowhere--is actually the greatest gift if embraced properly. Having him teach from his failure naturally would take him to the next level of his self-mastery and a better understanding of what the Jedi Order is. Or perhaps, he would become a reformist and created The New Church of the Jedi, Reformed. Or maybe the Jedi really would end, and he'd create something entirely new from his deeper understanding of the truth.

Anyway, Luke is the perfect character to discover and share this revelation that becoming somebody is a trap. He could even have a powerful ego death climax as part of the movie. But he doesn't need to ACTUALLY die in this movie. That doesn't make any sense.

Be Nobody

If the movie had established this clear point about Luke's failure and the power of being free of the chains of being somebody, the counterpoint to all that becomes so much clearer. It sets up Rey to more fully understand the conflict that Kylo Ren will ignite in her--the path to being a somebody.


Surrounded by Massive Egos

It's not hard to see how Ben Solo who changes his name to Kyle Ren would be subverted to the dark side if that path is seen as the path to the ego. He's surrounded by MASSIVE EGOS! Leia, Han, and Luke are legendary war heroes. And of course, he's also related to Darth Vader--the most infamous villain of the galaxy.

When someone is surrounded by massive egos, they often feel pressured to chose an ego to define themselves in allegiance or defiance to the egos they see. It's a kind of conformist versus rebel choice that people make. Do you conform to the society and family around you? Or do you rebel against it?

How to Let Go of Your Ego

In this case, Kylo Ren rebels against one aspect of his society and embraces another. Furthermore, he's trying to do the monumental task of upstaging huge egos. Darth Vader is clearly a massive shadow to try and come out of, but so too are the other three people. Whatever the backstory and reason for the character's choice, "The Last Jedi" shows him deep on the path to establishing himself as THE ego of the universe.

What does it mean to be THE ego? The ego likes to get its way. It likes to impose its will on others to greater or lesser extents to protect itself and achieve its goals. To do so often requires oppression and order, which is what The First Order represents. But social order and the ego do not truly exist. They are mental constructs that need CONSTANT reinforcing. Thus the dictator/ego is never actually secure in their power. There are always elements that want to break away from that order. That insecurity tends to lead to more brutal oppression.

Rising Up to Face Abuses of Power


A Radical Change to Understanding the Jedi Order

I'm sure I'm ignoring tons of built up Star Wars lore, but once again, I'm interested in adding wisdom to a mythology that my one day be an established religion.

Yeah.

Stuff like that happens. 

If given a few hundred years, the Jedi religion could be a significant cultural force (pun intended), and that's why talking about such a mythology could be really important. Or just a fun diversion for today. haha :)

Anyway, if we go further with the nobody versus somebody theme, then the Jedi are not about maintaining order--which is what they've been presented as doing. Star Wars is largely an argument about which social order to have. But that's not actually that interesting from a spiritual perspective, and it is, in and of itself, an endless social argument, as people keep trying to change and tweak the practices and construction of society.

Being nobody is beyond that. It is an embrace of the fluid dynamics of life, death, and rebirth. Having "The Last Jedi" establish the Jedi religion as about that embrace and the letting go of individual egos makes the conflict with The First Order and the Sith way more interesting. Because their positions are clarified. Now we understand more deeply that the Sith are really about being somebody and having things their way.

That's pretty enticing isn't it? Kinda makes you want to go over to the dark side now, doesn't it?

When two opposing sides have equally compelling positions, the conflicts in a story become meaningful and engaging.


The Choice to Be Somebody

I won't go into what could have happened in the next movie after "The Last Jedi," but ending on Kylo Ren's offer to Rey to join him would have been immensely powerful. After re-crafting Rey's time with Luke to be meaningful, Rey would be understanding the nature of the choice before her. Instead of wanting to know her parents, realizing that what she really wants is to be someone with a place in society and also knowing that doing so takes her on the path to the dark side, now there's a real decision. Now's there's a major conflict, and because the audience will identify with both sides to different degrees, there's truly dramatic tension. What will she choose?

This tension is driven by wisdom. Wisdom about the folly of ego identity establishes choice, tension, and something for the audience to actually learn from a movie! The audience can learn that the true Jedi/spiritual path is about selflessly serving all of life, not selfishly trying to control things to get them to be one way.

All that would be wrapped up in a climactic third movie, which would have had a clear direction to go if these changes were made to "The Last Jedi." And viewers would be given some wisdom to deepen their understanding of themselves, human nature, and life.

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