Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Force Awakens - CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!

So, I've been geeking out about the new movie. I've seen it twice now and am considering starting a countdown calendar for when Episode VIII comes out in 17 months. I've been absent from this blog for too long and thought this was a good opportunity to try it again.

I'll start with what I think the new movie really is: The Force Awakens is a retelling of the original trilogy with a twist. In the modern Star Wars galaxy, the rules have changed. The newest installment of Star Wars is all about letting go of the old and facing change.

It's possible that the film is experiencing a honeymoon period and that later people will pick it to pieces. But I think that it's worth exploring the film's overall theme of accepting change before that happens.

The line that sticks out to me most in the movie takes place at the beginning of the final battle between Kylo Ren, Finn and Rey. Kylo says: "It's just us now. Han Solo can't save you." For me, this statement invoked memories of A New Hope. Luke Skywalker is barreling down the Death Star trench alone. The rest of Red Squadron has perished or retreated due to damage. Darth Vader and his TIE fighter escort are closing in on Luke's Xwing and he drifts back and forth through the crosshairs. Just as Vader locks on to Luke's fighter, a blast from above sends him spiraling into space. Han Solo (and Chewbacca) save the day.

When Kylo Ren murders Han Solo, he removes that safety net. No longer can we expect that Han Solo will swoop in at the end to save our heroes. There is no one to catch them if they should fail. When Kylo incapacitates Finn, all seems lost. Until the moment Rey pulls Luke's old lightsaber to her with the Force and that electric blue blade is ignited.

The movie has set up the franchise and the fans to let go of the past. The future is not in Han Solo or Luke or Leia. The future lies with Rey and Finn. This is healthy for the film series and for the development in the story.

One criticism that I believe is valid is that the movie is just a rehash of much of the plot devices in the original trilogy. While this is true, it wipes the slate clean for the next set of movies. We've been reassured that the series is in good hands. Now the future of the series can be truly unknown and we can be ok with that.

Nostalgia is good, but it can only take us so far. The future is an exciting thing if we open ourselves up to the possibilities.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Race in a galaxy far, far away

"Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.". - Yoda

Recent national events have me reevaluating the content of my favorite mythology. I still love the Star Wars saga and will continue to do so until the end of my life. But it had occurred to me that my perspective is just one light in the dark trying to make sense of the world.

Race never seemed to affect my life, because it was not an issue that I had to think about on a daily basis. As a white man, my experience is what "normal" people live through. It was not until I read some short stories and novels written by people of color that I was able to see how my whiteness blinded me to the whole story.

It was quite an enlightening experience, and has inspired me to examine part of the first Star Wars movie through a racial lens. This may or may not be how a person of color perceives the movie, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

A New Hope opens with a young white woman pursued and abducted by a powerful black man voiced by James Earl Jones. Before her capture, she manages to send her servants to get help.

The servants end up on a desert planet where small brown desert people capture them for sale. The servants are then bartered to the whitest kid in the galaxy and his uncle, an honest white farmer.

Back in space, we learn that the powerful black man is really more of a lackey for the old white man who controls the Death Star. The black man uses his superstition to intimidate rivals, but is kept in his place by the old white man. The young white woman actually mentions that the old man is "holding Vader's leash".

In the desert, one of the servants breaks free and runs for it. The white boy has to chase the servant out into the desert where he is attacked by barbaric, nomadic sand people.

I'll stop here because we're really only 10-15 minutes into the movie and my point will be lost if I go too long.

I don't believe that George Lucas deliberately wrote a racist movie. I do believe that George Lucas was ignorant of the way it could be interpreted because of his whiteness.

I believe that all of us with white skin are insulated from having to think about race. This allows us to be able to dismiss the things mentioned here as nitpicky or coincidental.
Keep in mind that nowhere in the movie are the nomadic barbarians referred to as anything other than " Sand People ". This name has been changed to Tusken Raiders since (as seen in The Phantom Menace).

My goal here is to encourage people to accept other viewpoints. Even though I know that Hotel California is reeeeeeally about alcoholism (I'm right dammit), I can accept that your idea that it's about growing up in the 70s tells me something about you as a person.

When we stop plugging our ears to every voice other than our own, we learn about our fellow humans and grant them the right of acknowledgement. We begin to undo the dehumanization of the past and walk together into the future.

We won't solve racism tomorrow or even within my lifetime. We will begin to understand why it's so persistent though.

Good night!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Becoming Fearless

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- Master Yoda

The words above were spoken by Master Yoda to a very young Anakin Skywalker. I think about them often when I feel negative emotions. I find that I can often trace the root of negativity to my own fear.
Fear of others-
I am by nature an introvert. To this day I struggle to make small talk, shy away from public gatherings, and feel awkward with my relationships.
I don't know if I fear the people themselves or their impressions of me. What I do know is that I've had to go to extreme measures to overcome this. I joined the drama club in high school with the purpose of fighting this fear. Thanks to the great friendships I formed there, the rewards were enough to reinforce social interaction for me.
I'm seeking to find the fear in myself for others that has been implanted by society. I look at the ridiculous paranoia that we have for our neighbors. We allow statistical anomalies to paint our communities with criminals and strangers. We grow more isolated and alienated as we retreat into ourselves. Fearing had become a way of life and it saddens me.
We fear people different than ourselves because of how they look and think. We inoculate ourselves against other points of view and keep a wall against contrary ideals.
Compassion and knowledge are pillars of the Jedi way and fear is the enemy of mental and spiritual enlightenment.

Fear of loss-
This is the most personal fear that we hold. We are hard-wired to desperately cling to possessions, the past, relationships. We resist change, though change is the natural order. We refuse to accept change by creating shields of denial and delusion.
We cannot conquer change, so it doesn't make sense to resist it. We must accept discomfort and unfamiliarity and learn to adapt. We should welcome newness and embrace the entropy.
We won't know what the end result will be, and we have to be okay with the uncertainty. This is what it means to be successful in life. Recognizing when to control and when to submit to change has to be an ingredient to happiness.

May the Force be with you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Jedi Code

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.
—The Jedi Code (Based on the meditations of Odan-Urr)

I recently took up yoga to help stretch my aging joints and muscles. I had anticipated the joys of newfound flexibility and relaxation, not the pleasure derived from learning meditative strategies.
While the other yogis focus on their auras or chi, I myself find comfort in the Jedi code.
There is no emotion, there is peace. 
    I find myself releasing the emotions I've collected over the day with the opening line. Frustration, embarrassment and self-doubt melt away as I straighten my spine and elongate my neck.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
  I look within and visualize the blood pumping through my heart, out to my extremities, back through my veins towards my lungs and kidneys to be refreshed again and again. The chemical energy from am earlier meal is converted to electrical energy which travels through my nerves to end as motion energy when I move through my positions. Yoga has given me an increased awareness regarding the functions of my body and the world around me.

There is no passion, there is serenity.
  This tenet echoes the first, but with new emphasis. It allows me to reconsider the things that I take too seriously. Is that argument really important? What's the most likely outcome if x or y event really happens? What's really important?

There is no chaos, there is harmony.
  Focus on reestablishing homeostasis within myself. How do I work to maintain balance between work and home? What can I do to minimize my impact on our natural world? How do I maintain my relationships?

There is no death, there is the Force.
  I find comfort in the knowledge that when I pass, my matter and energy will recycle into the universe. My organs may help those in need. My energy will move again through the earth, and my matter will make up future humans, animals, plants and minerals.

Well, I'm off to Wednesday night yoga. May the Force be with you.