This morning I was thinking about the end of Return of the Jedi, and it occurred to me that in the story of that film one can not only find comparisons to people today but also derive lessons on how to be better people in general.
05 March 2023
Star Wars and Life: An Observation
When Luke defies the Emperor and tosses aside his lightsaber, Palpatine begins to punish him by blasting him with Force Lightning. He is punishing Luke for not accepting his terms and principles. He's attempting to destroy a person who didn't agree with him and who defied his evil attempt to dominate and control.
This is comparable to the mobs of today going after people to cancel them for thinking differently or trying to end their livelihoods for doing something displeasing to the mob's standards. Whenever someone acknowledges a mistake but doesn't conform to the demands of the persecutors they are blasted and punished. The mob is a horrible tyrant bent on destroying everything that won't give in to its demands and designs. It goes beyond addressing a wrong to enacting a petty and cruel exercise in unjustly eradicating the person behind the wrong.
The mob, like Palpatine, in committing its tyranny, demonstrates that it is a great evil.
Another thing we can find in Return of the Jedi is the beauty of humility and the glorious power of redemption.
The end of Darth Vader, the powerful and dangerous Sith Lord who slayed and destroyed many and cruelly furthered the plans of the evil Empire, is the revelation that he is actually a ruined and meek old man. An old man who is dying from his failings, and who, at the end, is humbly allowing his facade of strength and power to be stripped away so that he can free himself of the wicked burden he fashioned; one which ultimately destroyed his life.
As the diminished piano plays out the Imperial theme we see our hero, Luke, trying to save his enemy, his dad. Vader, Anakin Skywalker, is laying there, impotent and gasping for life. He tells Luke that it is too late for him, accepting the end he earned through his misdeeds, and he surrenders the only thing keeping him alive so that he can see the son he wronged with his true eyes and use his own voice to convey a beautiful message. He tells Luke that he has saved him and that he was right about him. In spite of all of the horror and violence, the cruelty and the evil, inside was a good man who became lost. There at his end, looking with failing eyes upon the son who couldn't abandon hope for his fallen father, he achieved redemption and powerfully, quietly passed away.
Humility is not only necessary, it is powerful. To humble one's self is to demonstrate a strength very few seem to possess anymore. It communicates a control of one's emotions and a willingness to value things other than dominance, defense, or even the presumption of equivalency. It is the ability to surrender to objective truth and reality. It is also an expression of hope.
Redemption is sorely lacking in the world today. It is a gift that is absolutely necessary, and it is a challenge more people need to undertake. The ability to forgive and the opportunity to be forgiven are heavenly. By forgiving someone you are not losing or surrendering ground, but you are acknowledging the humanity you share and placing the value of ideals above the predictable failings of mankind. To be forgiven requires ultimate humility and sincerity, and when you receive it you can feel renewed. You may still have to pay for your misdeeds or make things right in some way, which is vital, but the gift of forgiveness can restore you in ways beyond imagining. Forgiveness heals both the forgiver and the one who is forgiven, and it can be an outstanding way to conclude an interaction, relationship, or dark period of one's life.
Personally, as I get older, whenever I watch the end of Return of the Jedi and see Luke holding his dying father, forgiving him and witnessing his redemption, I tear up. I get emotional because I have looked into the eyes of my dying father and felt similarly. I didn't realize how close to death he was at the time, but I know that in that final interaction he was truly sorry for things he had done and I was more than willing to forgive him. I relate to that scene so hard it almost destroys me.