What Does Star Wars Mean?

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

  • Yoda, Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars isn’t just a fantasy story spanning a fictional galaxy and decades of my life. It’s not just a movie, nor is it just six movies, nor is it anything that can be explained by describing the pieces. Star Wars, as a whole, is a formative experience, and integral part of my being. I think many people in my generation, and the generation before mine, and the generation after, share this feeling.

I must have been a toddler when I first saw Star Wars. I honestly don’t remember the “first time” I saw A New Hope, or The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi. They have just always been part of my life. Part of how I define myself.

When you’re a child, you almost actively look for idols, for role models, for people whose way of being strikes you as right, just, and good. The way you want to be when you grow up. Aside from the obvious role models (who have all contributed to the learnings and influences I mention below) like my father, my mother, all of my family, the garbage man, and fireman, from a very young age I remember wanting, more than anything else, to be a Jedi.

Sure, that sound silly and just like a four-year-old to think and want, but I want to break it down a little bit more. Sure, lightsabers were cool and being able to make rocks float was a neat idea, too, but what appealed to me, and a lot of children like me, was the sense of ultimate good a Jedi represents. Though not without their flaws and falls from grace, the Jedi in Star Wars lore are peacekeepers, they are allies to the downtrodden and abused. They are heroes, and heroes who sacrifice much in the name of helping others.

Plus they get sweet lightsabers. Did I mention lightsabers are awesome?

Like I mentioned before, Jedi are not without their flaws. As the addage from the movies goes, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” To borrow from Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, this also takes the same tone as “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

These flaws are important; they taught me that being and doing good is not merely a decision, not a label. It is the sum of your actions, actions which you must actively and continually re-assess against your moral ruler. You must continually work to be that which you strive to be, and that effort is unending.

Patience and calm under stress is an aspect I struggle with at times, and I think we all do. Of all the influences in my life I draw from, I think the Jedi philosophy has taken me furthest when it comes to managing and coping with stress in my life: emotional and mental control being of the utmost importance.

Star Wars has a fundamental role in who I am, how I treat people, and how I lead my life. That’s one part of what it means. Parallel to that is the connections it has fostered between me and other people.

When I imagine my life without Star Wars, I see friendships never forming, friendships with people who I can and do call some of my closest lifelong friends. Whether it was video games, or Lego, or running around in the back yard with toy lightsaber, the friendships strengthened – or sometimes built – by Star Wars are incredibly special to me.

My good friend Nathan and I would convene every weekend in the summer to ride bikes around our neighborhoods and play wiht Lego. The two of us each had a vast collection of Lego, both Star Wars and non-Star Wars. We’d look through the Lego catalogs and yearn for the latest Star Wars set – the AT-AT, the X-Wing, the Collector’s Edition Imperial Star Destoyer. But we’d also use our imaginations and build new things, inspired by the universe we loved so dearly. We’d have imaginary starfights with our Lego, probably at too old of an age to really be playing like that, but it was fun!

Another friend, Alex, and I, would come together to choreograph saber battles in his yard. Pretty silly, yes, but what fun! Learning to work together to do something with high precision and acrobatics was pretty neat. We’d have long discussions about the Jedi, and the Sith, and about what it all means. When the prequel trilogy was in production, we’d speculate about what would happen next, scour the internet for details and leaked set photos and footage, and collectively freak out at the latest trailer. (We’ve started doing that again!)

My father, though not nearly as zealous as I am about the saga, even catered to my near-obsession when I was a child. As a surprise, on a Wednesday in the middle of the school year, my dad pulled me out of class to go see The Phantom Menace. The first new Star Wars movie I would see in a movie theater; giving me what I’m sure was an experience he had when he was 18 in 1977 of experiencing something like that. Though clearly Phantom Menace is no one’s favorite Star Wars movie, I think I like it a little more because of that.

So, yeah. Star Wars means a whole lot, at least to me.

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