Friday, October 10, 2014

To Be a Jedi

I've been talking a lot about Star Wars lately, between The Old Republic, The Clone Wars, and Stoicism. So, I think it's worth exploring what it is about Star Wars that attracts me so much, even after watching the prequels and subsequently watching Mr. Plinkett's reviews of the prequels.

When I was a kid I had absolutely no interest in Star Wars. I think I can trace this back to my aversion to Star Trek which, as a young kid, was absolutely boring to me. After watching a few TNG episodes late a night, I had a sort of grudge against science fiction that extended to Star Wars, which I just assumed was pretty similar.

I don't remember when I actually watched the original Star Wars, but I know it hooked me right from the start. After seeing the first movie I simply couldn't wait to see the other movies. Luckily, that Christmas I got the VHS Special Edition trilogy which, purists be damned, still sits proudly on my shelf. They are the only VHS movies I still own, even though I have no way to watch them.

Shortly afterward, my mom stopped at a library to return some books or something, and when she returned to the car she had a book she thought I might like to read. Though I often say that my mom never really understood my interests, I always say that at least she tried. Moreover, she actually seemed to be happy that I had interests at all, and she went out of her way to encourage them.

So, even though I was not an avid reader, she checked out a book for me called I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole. After some hesitation (sure I like Star Wars, but do I want to read a book about it?), I finally started reading it and, of course, found myself hooked again. It was the first novel I think I ever read willingly and for leisure, and it sparked a lifelong love of books. That alone is enough for me to be grateful to Michael Stackpole, George Lucas, and, of course, my mom.

I fell quite in love with the concept of the Jedi, particularly as they were depicted in the original trilogy and the Expanded Universe novels. They were defenders of justice, highly skilled, with cool powers, and glowing, unstoppable swords. On a more subtle level, they embodied a mind-over-matter philosophy that resonated with me, and they were literally more powerful the more calm they were. It was, in short, my calling. I simply needed to be a Jedi. I'm not sure how much that ideal shaped who I became or if I became attached to the ideal due to some actual, innate resonance.

I don't truly remember my reaction to the prequels at the time. I don't think I felt quite the same attachment to the Old Jedi Order that I felt for Luke's New Jedi Order, and even then I think I was somewhat bothered by their rigidity. The Jedi couldn't marry or have attachments? They indoctrinated children from a young age, even younger than Anakin? It was a little disquieting.

Still, I remember when, in Episode III, watching Anakin purge the Jedi Temple. I knew it was necessary to make way for my beloved New Jedi Order, but I still shed tears for what was lost. Say what you will about that movie, but it clearly moved me at that point.

Regardless of what Lucas did to the franchise in later days, he still created a world that sucked me in and never really let go. It's hard to put a value on that.


  1. Reading what you have to say about it, it makes sense that Jedi is the fourth most popular religion in England.

    1. It's an interesting phenomenon. I especially like the story about the Jedi who got kicked out of a grocery store for refusing to remove his hood on religious grounds, mostly because the grocery store owner's response was perfect: "He hasn't been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood."

      It's just a matter of time before we start seeing splinter groups within the religion though: orthodox Jedi in conflict against reform Jedi, for instance.

    2. One wonders if the orthodox Jedi's insistence on chastity is actually a religious choice or just an excuse.