Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Star Wars and Freedom

Anakin slew his mother’s captors with bitter rage after she dies in his arms. Risking the safety of Queen Amidala, he breached strict orders and returned to his home-planet Tatooine. We see him take things into his own hands and rebel against the wise mentoring of Obiwan. Even to the point of self-puffery about how ‘I exceed my master in many ways.’ Finally we see him break the ethos of the Jedi and openly indulge in his love for Padme. Episode II of the Star Wars saga sows the seeds of Anakin’s spiral into darkness. Pride. Greed. Attachment. Darth Vader is in the birthing.

Creator George Lucas explains the evolution in TIME: “He turns into Darth Vader because he gets attached to things. He can’t let go of his mother; he can’t let go of his girlfriend. He can’t let go of things. It makes you greedy. And when you’re greedy, you are on the path to the dark side, because you fear you’re going to lose things, that you’re not going to have the power you need.

This Sunday I will leave Kota Bharu to work in Penang for 3 months. I will stay in a barebones houseman’s quarters. Though I’ve been in Kelantan only 2 years I’ve grown very comfortable here. I’m addicted to my abode (which I fondly dub ‘The Refuge.’) Soothingly lit and acoustically pleasing, it’s also furnished with choice electronics, musical instruments and audiovisual equipment. Not forgetting my books and CDs.., how can I possibly leave all that behind? Perhaps, that’s why this break from my ‘comfort zone’ is healthy.

Movement is important in our lives. Changes and transitions keep us from harboring unhealthy attachments or ungodly ties. Like, I can be more interested in tweaking my PC than using it to bless people. I can become obsessed with reading and forget to translate it into life-change or teaching. I can become so concerned with managing my funds and lose sight of using it for the Kingdom. I can become so comfortable with the acceptance of a few close friends I no longer desire larger community. Traps I often fall into. Maybe not exactly the slippery slope to the dark side, but I do grow way too attached to things.

Thomas Merton says of freedom and obedience, ‘Obedience is meant to make a person supple, free from attachment to self will.’ ‘In the death and resurrection of Christ, there is a completely valid and unchanging truth in the fact that we have to die to our own will.’ Regular detaching is vital for spiritual freedom. That’s why I like the stories of Abraham, Moses and the Magi so much. Abraham left all that he knew not knowing where he was going. Just a promise from God: ‘I am your great reward.’ The Magi chased a faint star from east to west to reach the King swaddled in Mary's embrace. And Moses! Moses was knocked pretty hard wasn’t he, to be barred from the Promised Land? Abraham, Moses and the Magi of Scripture all left things behind to embrace God more fully. Anakin of Star Wars chose attachment and self-will to find himself banished to the dark side.

May all our losses, changes and failures do its intended work – help us let go of things and die to our self-will. Turn my whole being to God and find fullness of freedom there.


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