The familiar score fires up and the screen fills with black and pinpoints of light meant to be stars in the night sky. Words stream across the screen, updating the audience on the storyline that began some 40 years ago, when I was a little girl, on the edge of my seat in a movie theater, when times were simpler, when we were easier to please.
The other night, we joined the masses across America in watching the new Star Wars film, and by the end of it, I was pleased I went. I didn’t expect any other outcome – for this franchise is one that is intrinsically American, so much a part of my legacy and identity of growing up in America over the last 40-some years.
It was storytelling and suspense at its finest. It was culture on the big screen, hopes and dreams, insecurities and confidences.
I saw the retelling of the classic story theme of good vs. evil, in the black and white of the Storm Troopers, the heel-clicking militance of The First Order. Reminiscent of the Nazi regime and its desire to eradicate good from the earth in a neat and orderly fashion, it’s no wonder the planet was covered in snow and darkness, the humanity of its people hidden by heavy masks mandated to always be worn.
And in contrast, the rebellion, the goodness, thrived among abundant water and greenery, lush growth and beautiful surroundings. Even the forlorn Luke Skywalker, banished to a tiny outpost at the edge of the universe, stood atop a green island outcropping in violent ocean, his face a map of all the emotions of a life long- and well-lived, and the inevitable disappointments that come out of the many good moments.
I felt that I had to see it, had to be a part of this happening, this fervent passion for a piece of our popular culture that seeks to understand our place in the annals of history, in the ongoing saga of humanity.
For that’s what Star Wars is, nothing more and nothing less.
We as humans take our talents and our technological innovations and, over time, tell and retell the same stories with new aplomb and passion, with new twists and turns, new characters and settings. But the stories remain the same.
Good vs. evil.
Love vs. hatred.
Mass following vs. ingenuity of thought and leadership.
We repeat these stories in our lives, too, but when we go to the movies, we can set aside, for a couple of hours, the very real woes that plague our days.
I live among a valley of goodness, with days filled with love and passion and kindness and happy faces. But I tell you, I affirm, there is hatred in my midst and it does not dissipate.
I have my own light-saber sort of battles, fought on the landscape of email and simmering resentment, and while I try to banish the ugliness from my consciousness, it does seep in. I cannot help it. I am human.
What spoke to me most out of this beautiful film was the idea that goodness can be a foe, that bitter and unhappy individuals can want to stomp on everything that is good about the world as a way of redeeming their inner hatred.
When we are lost and lonely, we want everyone to mirror our pain. I know people like that. I don’t much like them, but I must endure their travails because none of us are free from the narrows of unenlightened folks.
Still, we can immerse our lives in light or we can shroud ourselves in darkness. It is a choice, which is apparent in this movie. The rebellion of son to father, aligning with his grandfather’s path, for a moment, we hold the hope that he will turn away from the darkness and embrace the light of love that shines so prominently on his unmasked face.
But no. He resists. He clings to the promise of what darkness holds for him, for no clear reason, nothing that good people can understand. How often do we cling to the sadness, the glass-half-empty perspective, the woe-is-me?
Sad to make that choice. But I wash my hands of other people’s bad choices, other people’s lack of kindness, lack of love, lack of depth and compassion and worldliness.
We live in a time of extreme hatred and extreme love. Like no other time and like every time before us. I see tragedy mounting in what’s happening in Iran today, what rages in Syria and Iraq, the forces of evil trying to control all thought and action and eradicate what does not mesh with their limited world view.
I experience that in my own life, in people who cannot surrender to the abundance of possibility in a world filled with beauty.
I will not let evil win. I cannot. None of us can. And so we watch a movie where good triumphs over bad and we maintain our hope that the world in which we live will triumph in good, and banish evil. It’s the hope that saves us, the hope that makes our lives possible.