I vividly remember sitting in a small theater in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina with my soon-to-be-husband Thom watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977. The innovative film technology brought the classic story of good versus evil to the screen in a visually exhilarating way. That summer we sat enthralled by the movie seven times and since then at home, probably a dozen more. Fast forward to 2016. After all these years the Force has been reawakened. Not only does the new Star Wars revive pleasant recollections of all the space adventures we’ve witnessed during the last 39 years, it also reinforces timeless lessons that are now simply part of our culture. Regardless of whether you are a fan or not, and irrespective of your age, Star Wars offers, at least, five big ideas that can lead to a happy and SMART life.
#1. “May the Force be with you.” A primary directive from the Star Wars collection is that there is a Force in the universe, and it is available to us all. An aspect of every Star Wars movie, the Force mostly appears as a benevolent feature of nature, or energy, flowing through and binding everything together. It is mostly available to those receptive and open to its influence—but there appears nothing to keep any of us tapping into and using it to accomplish extraordinary things. The more sensitive a person is to it, or the “stronger” it flows within us, the more likely that person will find it either leading them to the light or the dark side. Regardless of whether each of us sees this Force as just an aspect of nature or something far more spiritual, the presence of something bigger than ourselves alone can be ultimately rewarding. Or as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “Remember, the force will be with you….always.”
#2 Each of us uses the Force for good or evil. One of my favorite folktales is the one about choosing to feed either the good wolf or the bad wolf. In a nutshell, the one we feed is the one that grows strongest. In Star Wars the Force is always strongest in those who train to first be Jedi Knights, and then those who go on to master the Force and call themselves, Jedi Master. The oldest and most honored Jedi Master was a character named Yoda. Yoda said, “…to be a Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off life or darkness…. be a candle or the night.” And while having an awareness of the Force within offers us certain advantages, unless we train and practice to perfect our craft, we will likely fall toward the Dark Side like Darth Vader. As Yoda says, “If you end your training now—if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did—you will become an agent of evil.” With great power comes great responsibility. What we feed, grows.
#3 “Do or not do, there is no try.” This timeless message isn’t new. Its delivery from a small and seemly inconsequential Yoda reminds us that wisdom often comes from hidden sources. Yoda uses this expression, and others, when teaching young Luke Skywalker how to use the Force flowing through him and exhorts him to stay focused on the present moment. Over and over Yoda teaches that fear, anger and hate are all paths to the dark side. Ultimately Yoda proves that size does not matter and that it is essential we believe we can, or, “That is why you fail.”
#4 Help always shows up in unexpected ways. One thing I have always appreciated about the Star Wars movies is that no matter how dismal things appear, help usually arrives in ways you least expect. The lovable scoundrel Han Solo does it again in the latest episode. Plus, the current Jedi Rey is saved several times by the unlikely hero Finn. While not everything turns out perfectly, and yes there is sadness, the overall theme of Star Wars is that the Force continues and that there is always hope for the future. Yoda yet again offers words of wisdom with, ““Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”
#5 Age, color or gender doesn’t matter when it comes to saving the Galaxy. While the first Star Wars movie made it clear that the Jedi Masters were wise elders like Yoda and Obi-Wan, the current Star Wars makes it clear that women, men, and even unexplainable species are essential at any age. The deciding factor is always the direction of the Force within and the willingness to be of service
The reviews for this latest Star Wars movie have been only marginally positive. Of course, as time goes by it becomes harder and harder to impress us with action sequences. And movie story lines usually take a back seat to technology these days. But a young boy of seven named Jack lives across the street from me. Jack has already seen the new movie twice since it’s release. Plus, according to his mother he’s seen the original Star Wars on DVD at least 50 times. So, regardless of whether I or other critics think the latest Star Wars movie is better or worse than the first, what matters is that young Jack and others like him are hearing the wisdom of Jedi Masters. I’m betting that the Force is “strong” in Jack, and like us all, hoping he will be guided to choose the light over the dark. That is a timeless and SMART message we can all use every day.