I was super caught up in the hype prior to the release of The Force Awakens. I was inspired to write five mussar lessons from Star Wars.
I was in 4th grade when Star Wars first came out, and my father took me to opening night of each of the original three movies. And my beloved wife bought tickets for the whole family to go opening night on Friday. Given that it is hard for me to think of anything other than Star Wars this morning, I thought I would try to do some soul work with my obsessive focus. So here are five American Mussar lessons we can learn from Star Wars
1. The Spiritual is more powerful than technology.
At the end of Star Wars episode 4, Luke turns off his targeting computer, and uses the Force to destroy the Death Star. For all that this forerunner of the franchise is recognized as a science fiction powerhouse, at the end of the day it is the power of something greater, something unseen that changes the world. Technology is but a tool. It is not like Luke isn’t using technology – he is. But technology cannot guide technology, it must be a human hand inspired by something greater.
The Soul Trait in play here is Awe of Something Greater. On my best mornings, I meditate for 40 minutes, and am filled with a Divine energy that powers me through the day. Five years ago I would have bet you a million dollars that I would never write or feel such a thing. But the truth is, that on multiple occasions I have tacked obstacles that I thought were impossible after a deep meditation. The answer was not found out there, but became apparent when I unblocked my Divine Spark.
2. We are driven by the battle between the Good and Evil Inclinations
The first three movies in the series are about the battle within Anakin Skywalker between the dark side and the light side of the Force. Such a battle goes on inside of each of us every day. We are presented with Choice Points, spiritual challenges where we can pick the good or evil path. Each decision makes it more likely that we will make a similar decision in the future, as it says in the the Talmud, “one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah, and one sin leads to another sin.” Anakin does not become Darth Vader overnight. He makes a series of choices that leads him to become the embodiment of evil. Yet the battle still rages within, and eventually the good once again becomes ascendant as he returns to his Jedi roots to kill the Emperor.
3. Too Much Good is Bad
Yoda caused the destruction of the Jedi because he was too Humble. In the third movie, Anakin goes to Yoda sick at heart because he has visions of Padme’s death. Yoda stayed with the party line that “Attachment leads to jealousy”, and advises him to “let go … of everything you fear to lose.” Where else does Anakin have to go but towards the dark side? Yoda was a leader, who could have bent the rules and helped Anakin come out of hiding with his marriage, and helped him channel his strong emotions. Anakin was prophesied to bring balance to the Force, and he did in an sense because he wiped out the Jedi who became detached from human emotion, and then defeated the Emperor who became ruled by his dark emotions. We cannot defeat the Evil Inclination, nor should we want to. When the Rabbis trapped the Evil Inclination, the chickens stopped laying eggs, and no one went to work. The key is to guide our impulses and emotions, and not let them control us.
4. No Victory is Complete
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but a shadowy figure in front of a melted Darth Vader helmet shows that the battle within is a constant one. Rabbi Dessler teaches that one the Evil Inclination tries to lull us into complacency by telling us that we are done (Strive for Truth p 46). We then let down our guard, and become susceptible to the impulses that lead to bad decisions. We need the Soul Trait of Enthusiasm to keep our focus on proactively doing the right thing.
5. Keep Going When It Seems Hopeless
It doesn’t get much darker than the end of Episode 3. We know that things will get better with A New Hope. Rabbi Tarfon taught, “It is not incumbent on you to complete the task, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:16). Moses did not live to see the Promised Land, just as Obi Wan and Yoda did survive to see the victory in Jedi. Each of these great leaders kept going when all seemed lost. And for every Yoda and Moses, there were thousands of people doing their small part in service of something greater.
What do you think of these five mussar lessons from Star Wars? Do they fit with your life experience? Let me know below or on Facebook.
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