Will Winter ponders authentic and inauthentic stories, the pervasiveness of betrayal, the passing of the baton to a younger generation, remembering the noble quest, and the importance of listening to “old geezers, crazy people & ragged beggars.” – mg
Star Wars and the MMC: Awakening the Force
“There is no certainty. There is only adventure. Even stars explode.”
~ Roberto Assagioli (1888–1974)
Today, television has become the main “fire” that people sit around. We gather to hear and watch as the modern storytellers spin yarns that we then teach our young. But the TV-tellers, and now the movie storytellers, are not necessarily bound to be in alignment with the true and therefore timeless stories. Many of these are false stories, including stories about materialism, greed, and false power. If one can just get that Porsche, then one will be happy and satisfied.
In contrast, the poet and storyteller Robert Bly has told us that many of the “fairy tales” recorded by the Grimm Brothers are over twenty-thousand years old, honed and polished by time and generations. As a result they can reveal the eternal truths of life. It is said that there are only four or five basic story lines of all humankind. Everything else is a derivation of these primal guidelines of truth. These stories include those about coming of age (initiation), the hero’s journey (there and back again), the struggle of good versus evil, and gaining consciousness through suffering, among others.
This brings us to the latest version of the film “Star Wars-The Force Awakens.” Now if you haven’t seen it or if you will never see it, that’s okay, feel free to continue reading. For one, I’m not going to give away any spoilers, I don’t believe in spoiling anything for anybody. Likewise, there really aren’t any spoilers anyway, because, down deep, we all know how it ends—or at least how it should end! After all, it has not been confirmed that George Lucas, the godfather of this series of blockbuster films, (or J.J. Abrams) is a bona fide teller of the timeless and true stories. We can only hope that he is at least being honest with us, after all, his story is rapidly becoming the best-selling film series of all time. Important, because the Star Wars series is, first and foremost, the story of The Hero’s Journey, one that every single person should know. And, the world as we know it, at least according to the ancient storytellers would descend into hellish oblivion if it were not for the occasional and rare emergence of real heroes. Heroes are not afraid, they are bold, they risk their very lives to bring back the light, peace, hope and salvation. Personally, I believe that George Lucas knows that.
Tatooine or Tunisia?
As a side note, I do find it amazing that people of my generation (old people) go to this new movie and are aghast at how the heroes of the original film have aged! How dare they age, viewers lament! Well, let me explain. They are, um, old. Not only are they old, they have failed. They had their chance forty years ago (in our time) to save the planet—excuse me, galaxy— from the forces of evil, but… okay, one spoiler: heroes will never completely eradicate evil. The bad guy will always escape out the back door at the last second. This is because a world cannot exist without evil to balance good. There is no light without darkness.
In 2014, the Minnesota Men’s Conference Winter Retreat, Into the Belly of Snow and Ice, really gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been fixated on some of the details in the story brought to us by our excellent story-carriers, Walton Stanley and Ben Dennis. And Steve Jensen and I kicked this story around in our heads once we got back. For those unable to attend, the story was “The Bold Knight, the Apples of Youth, and the Waters of Life.”
I’m not spilling any secrets when I talk about what followed at our gathering, and besides, I’m as guilty as anyone else who was there. When we were “feeding the story,” that is, talking about how the story came alive for us, wondering aloud about confusing details or postulating theories, a major theme came up and spread across the room. The theme that the story seemed to evoke was the feeling of having been personally betrayed in life. It was my “door to the story” as well. Again and again, the men’s conference has stumbled on betrayal as one of the four or five basic story lines. Betrayal can be the door to what Robert Bly has called the path of descent. Even though I don’t have any brothers, I’ve been betrayed. Badly, I think. But, as it turned out, so had just about everyone in the room. Men reported betrayal by bad fathers, bad mothers, step-parents, evil brothers, schoolmates, team mates, business partners, coaches, spouses, bosses, teachers, ministers, scout leaders, just about anyone and everyone who wields power. Did I mention bad spouses?
But, I digress. As we entered the Star Wars story, the original heroes, mainly Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo did their best and they set the evil empire villains back significantly. But, those former leaders are only recast in the current movie to hang around, like the other space junk in the background, to give the story some continuity, and to signify that the current story is worthy of telling. More importantly though, it just so happens that they are essential. They must remain alive so that they can pass the baton to others. If they were young, spry, good-looking and competent, there would be no place for the truly young Rey, Finn, Kylo, and Poe.
In the 2016 episode, the forces of the Evil Empire have come back with a vengeance and our former heroes and heroines are reduced to bumbling generals, pilots who can’t even fly their old fighters and impotent, swordless, mumbling hermits up on a mountain. Gadzooks, we find that even their offspring, the children of heroes, have been allowed to degenerate. Even worse than becoming slackers, they have become the new leaders of the evildoers. But the oldsters have not forgotten the noble quest, they have not forgotten the meaning of their super powers. Like the ragged geezer, Obi Wan Kanobi ,who in the first film explained to Luke the meaning of his super powers, they have significant value. After all, Obi was once a Jedi knight, one of the heroes of the previous generations.
Even the earlier robots that yielded help and humor to the former heroes are now portrayed as rusted-out and useless junk. Like the old Apple II computer in my basement, they can barely even get out of their own way.
Will Winter and Luke Skywalker
Apparently much time has gone by without the emergence of a new generation of heroes, and all the former heroes of the revolution have gotten old. Meanwhile, though, the evil empire is back on its feet and has grown like a malignant tumor.
It feels like we here on Earth experienced the same thing following the exuberant hopefulness of the 1960s revolution. The radicals of that time actually had a glimpse of what a peaceful planet could look like. Then we got lazy. What followed was a time when greed, materialism and even war seemed to put one to two generations of youth to sleep. Interestingly enough though, in this film we see that the only thing that wakes up the old robots is the emergence of the new (human) heroes! Once again, hope is in the air!
And now it has come to this. In all the fairy tales—I mean the real ones—almost all of the youngsters who set off on the heroic journey, to save the world, to conquer evil are doomed to fail. Why? Because of one thing. As the story unfolds we see that the true and real hero knows something they don’t. The hero who rises above evil, and who does not get killed or exiled listens to others. He, or she, listens to old geezers, crazy people, ragged beggars perhaps and then learns where the path lies, learns how to use superpowers, learns the true meaning of good over evil.
In the theater today, the new hero, excuse me—heroine—is Rey. She, like Luke before her, comes to the story innocent and basically powerless. Luke was a farm boy. Rey is a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic world. They are less than pawns. But, it turns out that they are the chosen ones, the ones who fate has determined will have a chance to rise up and go on the noble journey. Obi Wan is long gone, as all elders will eventually pass, but there are new ones that she finds. She listens, and she grows in strength.
But we are not in a theater anymore. We are living in a world that is somewhere between near-apocalypse and occurring apocalypse. We oldsters remember how it started. We have seen the varied and repeated face of evil and we are seeing the damage spiraling out of control. Most of us, sadly, are like Luke, Leia, and Han. We are now doddering and dithering, but we remember. The ones who will rise to the top, who may save the day, are out there somewhere. We need to find them, they need to find us.
Follow the Leaders © 2016 Isaac Cordal
Incidentally, the Star Wars story tells us that at least 99.9% of the youth will never arise. They are the storm troopers of the evil empire. They are the soulless, heartless, and, as we see in the film, bloodless droids. They are commanded by the new leaders of evil to try to destroy the heroes. They pile out of space ships and pods in droves to stifle hope and reform. They are “just following orders”. Fortunately, once the heroic powers have been rightfully returned to the heroes, the storm troopers fall like the bloodless dominoes that they are.
The Star Wars story teaches us another lesson as well. If we turn into distracted or dawdling parents our children may go over to the dark side. Even more importantly, old heroes, even old warriors, cannot alone muster the strength to lead the revolution. We must nurture and teach the young. It is only within the hearts of the young that can we find hope. And it is only by listening to and learning from the old heroes that the young heroes can triumph over evil. We all must do our part, and not get confused which part we play.
~ Will Winter
In a Corner of the Sky by Federico Garcia Lorca
shuts her bleary eyes.
wants to paint the night
(In the firtrees on the mountain:
Marty Wilde and Will Winter, MMC 2015
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, and Star Wars: https://beta.prx.org/stories/82985
Isaac Cordal http://cementeclipses.com/Works/follow-the-leaders/
Will Winter http://www.willwinter.com/
Marty Wilde https://warriormedicineblog.wordpress.com