Saturday, May 4, 2013

Intergalactically Enduring Life Lessons

Happy May the 4th! Star Wars Day!

Star Wars. One of my favorite things. Really, it's a problem.

I love the lightsabers, I love the costumes, I love the culture, I love the story. I know way too much about the actors, the special effects, the story, the backstory, everything.

My first acting role was in family friend's fan film (Yay alliteration!). I was a Padawan with a side braid. I got to help drive a space ship that was built in the hallway of his house with a green screen and everything. It was pretty snazzy.

 For this particular May the 4th, I wore a handmade Star Wars skirt, and I also styled my hair in two low twist buns, a la Princess Leia.

I made the skirt actually a couple months ago, but I've been saving the debut of it for today.

Besides the general coolness of Star Wars, there are several life lessons we can take from it. When I was little, I didn't really think this deeply into it, but I can see things that we internalized from the films.

1. Don’t abandon your friends

Han Solo and Chewbacca didn’t have to come back and clear the way for Luke to blow up the Death Star just as Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando didn’t have to risk life and limb to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt. But they all did, no matter the risk — because when it matters most, friends are there for each other.

2. Dream big

There’s a scene early in the original Star Wars when Luke stares wistfully at the suns in the Tatooine sky. Star Wars reinforces that we can breakaway and do incredible things, like rescue a princess from the Death Star or train to become a Jedi knight. Whether it's on Tatooine or Moscow, Idaho, everything starts with a dream

3. Finish what you start

We all steer off course sometimes or start something but don’t finish. Luke, frequently petulant and irritable In The Empire Strikes Back, ignores the advice of his elders and rushes to face Vader instead of completing his training. It’s a bad decision and he pays for the mistake with the loss of some confidence, his hand, and his sense of identity. Luke does recover and learn from the experience, but the films make it clear that what gets him through is that he returns, greatly humbled, and completes his training.

4. Don’t underestimate your opponent

Underestimation is a big theme in Star Wars. Grand Moff Tarkin underestimates the capabilities of the rebels to blow up the Death Star and refuses to evacuate, Luke believes he can handle Vader when he first confronts him in Cloud City, and the Empire (and even the audience) dismisses the Ewoks during the battle on the forest moon of Endor. In all cases, underestimation proves costly, and the examples remind us not to get too overconfident in our own lives.

5. Redemption

One can argue that the entire Star Wars saga culminates in the instant when Vader saves Luke and turns away from the Dark Side and against his master, the Emperor. The moment reaffirms our belief in the possibility and good in humanity. No matter the mistakes or misdeeds, anyone can change, because there is good in everyone. Some days I think we all can use some of that optimism back here on Earth.

6. Judge not by appearances should you

We’re told at an early age not to “judge a book by its cover” and yet the images and messages in our media constantly contradict the old adage. When Luke first meets Yoda, he dismisses the creature as a mischievous and annoying interloper to his mission to find a Jedi master. Leia initially judges Chewbacca as a “big walking carpet," Luke calls the Millennium Falcon a “hunk of junk,” and Han characterizes Ben as an old fool.

7. Quit while you’re ahead (this is to you, George)

The prequel films were major disappointments that diluted the original films. I appreciate George Lucas’ love of the material and desire to add to the saga, but, if I’m being honest, I pretend he never made the prequel films and just retired from the movies after Return of the Jedi.