“For my ally is the Force” – Yoda

vodafone_yoda

This year, I am assigned to teach World History to 120 shiny, freshman fourteen year-olds.  Imagine my dismay when I polled my classes and most all of them had not seen any Star Wars? I’m still reeling five years ago when I conducted a similar poll and students had no idea who George Harrison was. What was once like breathing air has evaporated and time has shifted to another generation who steps in to take its place. If I wait another fifteen years, another round of freshman will sit before me, and I suspect they will not know Harry Potter. How strange to possess two realities–the inside me feels seventeen, but the outside me looks like my mother. Back to Yoda.

Laozi, a Chinese scholar and philosopher, is credited for developing Daoism, around the 6th century according to legend. It is an ethical system embracing the natural order verses the social order. It is nature, not man, that holds the truth of the universe. To live in harmony with nature, rejecting governmental intervention, to seek the Dao,”the Way”, that universal force which surrounds us. Release yourself and allow the Dao to guide you–those are the tenets of Daoism.

I see the same concepts in Transcendentalism advocated by 19th century scholars, Emerson and Thoreau. Henry David, seeing the truths of nature in the smallest creatures like the ants when he spent nearly two years in the woods at Walden PondOr Walt Whitman, metaphorically connecting his soul with a spider from Leaves of Grass:

“A Noiseless Patient Spider” 

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
And Emily Dickinson, whose bees and blue dome were her drinking mates and her pub; they, getting drunk on nature in “I taste a liquor never brewed”. Or, another favorite of mine:
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Their connection with nature lends itself to Daoism.  

Remember the 1996 John Travolta film, Phenomenon? I enjoyed the premise and questions George raised in the film. After seeing lights in the sky, he is hit as if by lightning and wakes to discover his brain’s activity surpasses the rest of humanity. I love his explanation of energy and matter connecting all organisms. Einstein thought the same thing. Another film playing out the secrets of matter and energy as the glue that binds us all was Powder (1995) starring Jeff Goldblum and Sean Patrick Flanery as Jeremy, the poor teenager whose skin color and abilities to harness energy gave him unusual gifts and few friends. I can look past the holes of the film and appreciate the questions raised. I still love the last scene when he runs in the field and the bolts are drawn to him like a magnet. It seems like Daoism is at work here, too.

 

My favorite example of explaining “the Way” is Yoda in The Empire Strike’s Back. Substitute with “the force” and it’s the same.
These examples are but a few. Do you see Daoism overlapping in books, films, and other historical periods?  

38 thoughts on ““For my ally is the Force” – Yoda

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  1. I really enjoyed how Travolta quietly emphasized that his ability was more of a relationship to the other objects rather than a control over them.

    Makes me wonder what the “big” thing will be 15 years from now. :/

    1. I’m so used to thinking of him as a bully/bad guy that to watch him as a tender, sweet man who was enlightened and misunderstood was touching. The big thing. sigh. We’ll have to wait and see 😉

  2. Some interesting ideas, and food for thought, Cindy.
    My nickname in the Ambulance Service was ‘Yoda’. I don’t know for sure if it was because I was older and wiser than most, or because I am short, and have wrinkles!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. I’m astonished most of the 14 year olds in your class haven’t seen Star Wars, but I think more young people will after the new one is released, and they’ll probably go back to watch the original films. I got into SW rather late in my life as well, but I understand what the fuss is about. It’s such a timeless story.

  4. Lucky you teaching 14 year olds. I found young adults at undergraduate and graduate level both stimulating and enjoyable. They doing their best to test the measure of the teacher and find inventive ways to do the least for the highest grade. The test for the teacher is to fill them so full of research and learning to learn they take their studies seriously or drop out of the class.

    1. Ha, ha, Ian. Ah, a fellow veteran. I like working in the trenches ;). They are puppy dogs: messy, loud, eager to please, loving the pat on the head. It makes me feel great when I can tell they trust me as one of the good guys.

  5. Time moves fast. But also geography plays a past. I teach freshman university in Korea and many don’t know or haven’t seen a lot of the popular Western films. Great post though, Cindy.

    1. David, yep, I love the differences between cultures. When I was posted and lived in Scotland, there were so many differences from the American even though we spoke the same language–sort of–and I loved that. How cool you teach at a University in Korea!

  6. All very interesting, and true, but don’t lose all credibility with your pupils by turning into a full blown hippy!!! Seriously, the Pope said recently that you don’t have to be in a church to worship, and I agree with hi? (first time ever). I felt it very strongly when, on our birdtable, we are now feeding the grandchildren of the birds we first fed.

  7. One of my favorite Taoist lines is in the Japanese movie, “Princess Blade.” When the man asks the female killer how she can do what she does, she answers. “It is only a slight movement of the wrist.”

  8. The Force and It’s Agents are still among us I assure you. Miracles are not of the past. Ever present.
    You know this.
    Star Wars is a a Spiritually inspired movie – whereby these Agents took an active interest in it’s making and it’s messages. Lucas will likely reveal that one day.

    Thank you.

    Baraka Bashad.

  9. Hi, Cindy:

    And thank you for dissecting and critiquing a topic out of left field.

    I’ll throw a curve ball and opt for two different, but similar embodiment of the all seeing, all powerful “it!”. The first is ‘Three Days of The Condor;. Where the agency has extraordinary capabilities in tracking, finding and attempting to negating their “rogue agent”, Condor (Robert Redford). And how easily it can be spoofed, played with and infiltrated through Faye Dunaway.

    One of the first covert “Big Brother” paranoia films. Whose present embodiment can be found in Harold Finch’s (Michael Emerson) and his kind of evil tracking “Machine” in CBS’s ‘Person of Interest”.

    Second would be an extension of the premise in FOX’s criminally failed, ‘Firefly’ and its later money making sequel/extension film, ‘Serenity’. Where the Alliance has been screwing around with weaponizing people through subliminal messaging. In the form of River Tam (Summer Glau) and the Alliance’s many blue latex gloved Agents. Who are all too anxious to use sometimes lethal Hyper Technology on suspects to achieve answers they desire in their pursuit the all too curious crew of the “Firefly” class smuggling ship, ‘Serenity’.

    All require close to absolute fealty from their lower tiers and employees. Since all require secrecy to survive.

  10. How strange to possess two realities–the inside me feels seventeen, but the outside me looks like my mother. One of the quickest ways to assess a person’s worldview is to simply ask, “Right now and without thinking about it, how old are you in your mind?” If the answer correlates with the subject’s chronological age, mark them for avoidance.

  11. I remember being shocked when I was having a conversation with some teenagers and the topic of LP records came up. They had no idea what I was talking about until I described what they looked like and how you used them. “Oh yes,” said one of the students, “Records. I’ve heard about them before. Our teacher brought one in to show us once.” I really felt as though I was visiting from an early century.

    1. Aww! Great example. What a time warp. Here’s another–just yesterday in the halls at lunch time, a student was showing his peers a confabulated piece of technology. They oohed and aahed. It was a Polaroid Camera. Magic!
      (It was, wasn’t it?)

  12. Yesterday, I had to explain to my 17-year-old son what 33, 45 and 78 meant when referring to music. I had to crawl into the basement and pull out a box of old records. You’d think he was Indiana Jones discovering a temple full of unseen treasures. God, I felt old.
    Love the movies and poetry today, Cindy. I wrote down a few that I’m planning to hunt down and enjoy again. Especially Laozi’s work. I’m currently reading the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell’s translation) with my yoga class. We’re like a wonky book club on the side after moving through a few sun salutations.

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