The Kingdom of God

I’ve been sitting and reworking and writing blog posts for the past two weeks that would help describe the changes that have gone on within me but also try to help make sense of the horrible massacre that happened last week. I’ve scrapped almost all of them. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable sharing them, but I also like to keep this blog only about Star Wars. I usually save personal thoughts for one time of year – my year end blog posts.

In the end, this post became a mishmash of personal reflections and also Star Wars, so bear with the scattered feel to it.

Here is the one main change that happened, followed by two other thoughts.

  1. I read a wonderful book called The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg that has changed the way I think about my life and faith in God/Jesus.
  2. The massacre in Vegas happened. It could have been any horrible, human-led event honestly that changed a bit in me, but it happened to be this one and it was a doozy.
  3. These two events culminated in me thinking about the Kingdom of God and where the Jedi failed.

 

Sometimes, the way you stumble upon something can be labeled as divine influence, and that may be what happened with The Heart of Christianity. I had never heard of Marcus Borg before I was asked by a client to go into her Audible account and purchase a book on her wish list. While scrolling and trying to find that book, I saw The Heart of Christianity sitting in there. I clicked the link, read the description, and thought “That’s an interesting premise,” and of course I didn’t think about it for days. But then, one day I did think about it. I’m not sure why. There was no rhyme or reason but something compelled me to read that book.

I got it out of the library and devoured it.

I was raised very conservative, Protestant Christian. The Bible is fact, it’s an undeniable truth, and some people go to heaven and some people go to hell. I call myself a Christian, but…I wanted a fresh take on Christianity. It had gone stale for me. I have had trouble praying, finding God in my life and understanding where this all fits in the big picture of life. That’s not to say I didn’t try – I still read my Bible a few times a week and attempted prayer, but I wouldn’t say Christianity was a daily “thing” for me.

This changed when I read the book by Marcus Borg. I don’t agree with everything he said and there are some parts that are questionable, but I would say I’m a changed person after reading this book.

One thing that really stuck with me was his concept of the Kingdom of God. I was raised to believe that the Kingdom of God was something “up there” or, more precisely: heaven/afterlife. Borg argues that when you focus on the Kingdom of God as heaven, or something for after we die, you miss a crucial point that is essential to historic Christianity (i.e., the time when Jesus was speaking to everyone and the few hundred years following). Jesus argues that the Kingdom of God is the future…but also the present. With the historical context that is often lost on modern day United States – Jesus used the word “Kingdom” because that is the political sphere they were under. They were living under Roman rule, a kingdom under Caesar. When Jesus was telling us to pray “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven,” he was asking us to imagine what life would be like in the present day and moment with God as king.

There is a lot more about the argument Borg makes, but for now, I will just go into how it changed my life. Essentially, when you think of God as our king and bring his kingdom into our daily life, then treating others as you would yourself makes a lot more sense to me. It becomes a community action. You cannot have a kingdom without a community of people. Treating others as you would like to be treated is Jesus’ number two command, after loving the Lord with all your heart. But what if we all did it? By doing so, we make this a social action, a call to arms for this community of people (NB: I did not say believers). Politics within this kingdom would call for being compassionate to others, loving all of creation, perhaps exercising more patience with each person we meet in our daily walk.

This opened my eyes – realizing the Kingdom of God could be in heaven but also here on Earth and we can create it every day.

I realized that this community action needs to begin with us, within our homes. I read a post by epicipseity few weeks ago where he wrote that somewhere in this country, someone is raising their child to have them believe that white people are the dominant and best race. It struck me like a blow. I have a child who is almost a year and a half old and she understands so much of what I say. Within two years I will be able to teach her things that she will take as law and truth without questioning.

So how do I battle against someone who grows up thinking that? I hope to teach my daughter that loving others, even when it’s hard, is the best way to heal this community. That we need to go into our community and make a difference by being kind to everyone you meet, even if you don’t like them.

You might say – oh that’s such a wussy way of thinking. There’s so much MORE you can do.

Oh, trust me, I know there is more I and we can do. But can you imagine if we taught our children love instead of hate? If we really instilled in them that every person could be someone in need of a kind word or gesture? We’d make a community one step closer to the Kingdom of God.

These thoughts piled around in my head when I heard about the Vegas shooting last week. I thought to myself, “What if more people treated this shooter kindly?” That thought alone is weird…I would never have thought that prior to reading Borg’s works. Have we, as a society, become too distant and exclusive? Have we ignored people on the street too much?

The shooter’s brother, said, “Something horrible happened to my brother and whatever happened to him in his head, it made him go over the edge like this.”

Could that something horrible have been something simple, like someone just flipping him the bird in traffic? And that set him off?

Now – how does this relate to Star Wars? It does, because everything in my life can somehow be traced back to Star Wars (is that sad? I don’t know).

For over a thousand generations, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice. In a way, their task was to bring the Kingdom of God to the galaxy. They wanted peace and they wanted fairness and they wanted equality. It didn’t matter what species or race you were, they were there to help.

But the Jedi were wiped out, for the most part. They failed. They succeeded for a bit, but then they failed. It’s easy to pinpoint their demise on Anakin – he is the literal reason for being extinguished. But there was a lot more at work than only Anakin when you look beneath the surface.

One of the strongest reasons why I think they failed was their exclusivism and their way of being untouchable, in a sense. They helped when called upon, instead of trying to step up to the plate to prevent situations in the first place. In a way, they had gotten proud.

It’s kind and wonderful when we give other people help when they call upon us for our assistance. How much more important would it be if we could make it so that no one would ever have to ask for our help because we were always there? It would always be a team effort, like Baze and Chirrut.

I understand that physically, it would be impossible for the Jedi to be on every planet, but why have only a central place on Coruscant? Why not have the Jedi set up shop on different planets in the galaxy? Can you imagine how much more effective that would be? Living and getting to know the people of a planet instead of doing a one-stop help and then peaceing out?

Another reason they failed is that they were brought down by a member from within the Order. Their internal disagreements led to slight fractures. When a member was questioning the Order and not understanding his place, instead of welcoming the discussion, they shut it down.

I see this often at the church my parents attended. There was right (their way, based on the literal Bible) and there was wrong (any other interpretation you could have).

Why have so many people left Christianity? Because from the outside they see it in a similar way I was brought up – all questions can be answered within the Bible, but there is only one correct interpretation. Basically: there is right and wrong. Who wants to join a religion where exploratory questions are shunned?

When Anakin vents his frustrations to Obi-Wan about being put in a position that he didn’t even ask to be put in, Obi-Wan tells him off saying, “But it’s what you wanted!” Anakin continues to question the Order, wondering why things are not the way he thinks they should be. I don’t think Obi-Wan really understand the internal dilemma and battle that is going on within Anakin. If he did, he would know that it was not the right time to ask him to spy on Palpatine.

Lastly, the Jedi failed because they were too much like Mace Windu and not enough like Ahsoka.  Most Jedi lacked compassion. They helped others because they were told to help others. Would they do it on their own without the council guiding them? Because that marks a true Jedi….a little like being told to go to church, do right and help others, instead of honestly believing that being compassionate and attending church to help you to grow as a person will help our society.

They raised their younglings to be separate, apart, exclusive, and distant. They also told them to be kind, to think of others, and to do what was right. But I’m not sure I ever saw real, true compassion in most of the Jedi. I view Ahsoka as one of the best Jedi’s, up there with Qui-Gon Jinn. Ahsoka was one of the most compassionate Jedi I have seen in all of Star Wars. If I had to pick Jedi that could be capable of bringing the Kingdom of God into the galaxy, Ahsoka and Qui-Gon would lead.

If we were more patient with the way we treat others and demonstrate love as much as possible, would there be less shootings and less violence?

Yes and yes. I know and firmly believe this with all my being.

I challenge you to think about in everyday – what kind of Jedi do you want to be? Are you too proud and not compassionate enough? Do you view the world as your way or the highway?  How can you bring the Kingdom of God into your daily life? How can you show compassion? And with those individual changes, how will that bring changes to our society as a whole?

 

 

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Haiku Me Friday! Who is the better pilot?

Buzz droids don’t faze me
I’m the best pilot out here
Don’t worry, Master

Who is a better pilot: Han Solo or Anakin Skywalker?

We are supposed to think Anakin Skywalker. We are told by Obi-Wan that he was the “best star-pilot in the galaxy”. We see Anakin’s amazing skill on display not only in the podracing scene in TPM, but also at the end when he destroys the Trade Federation’s battleship. I think the ending of TPM is one of the most impressive displays of Anakin’s skill as he was so young and not completely attuned to the Force at that time.

Here’s where we hit the tricky part.

Anakin has the Force. As Anakin matures with the Force, he becomes a better and better pilot (though we don’t see much of it in AOTC, we do see more of it in ROTS). Anakin can fly any ship, similar to Luke. That is probably a combination of both skill and the Force.

Han Solo does not have the Force. He has made special modifications to one ship, the Millennium Falcon and flies that for the entire time we know him (though that may soon change…what did Han fly before the Falcon? Does. Not. Compute. Brain. Collapse.). But to say Han Solo is not a good pilot would be like saying people on Tatooine don’t drink blue milk. Solo is an excellent pilot. He flew in an ASTEROID FIELD WITHOUT THE FORCE. Oh, and it wasn’t just an asteroid field…there were TIE Fighters and a Star Destroyer on his tail with the hyperdrive broken. Talk about a stressful situation! If I remember correctly, his odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field were 3720:1. I don’t think Goldenrod calculated the chances with TIE Fighters in hot pursuit, so the odds were probably direr. Oh, and lots not forget this famed Kessel Run which we may or may not see in the Han Solo movie.

But Han Solo has Chewie, who helps him. Does that detract points? Or does it make up for the fact that he doesn’t have the Force, as Anakin does?

 

So, let’s discuss.

Who is the better pilot: Han Solo or Anakin Skywalker?

 

 

Haiku Me Friday! I can’t relate to Obi-Wan

The pain sears through me
I’m filled with horror and shock
I thought I knew him

I can’t imagine what Obi-Wan went through when he realized that Anakin was the one who killed the Jedi in the Temple. There are times, even though this is in a galaxy far away, where I can somewhat relate to the characters.

I relate to Luke staring out at the sunset and yearning for something more. I relate to Padmé’s drive to believe the good in her husband. I relate to Leia’s decisive personality. I relate to Rey’s loyalty to her friends. I relate to Finn’s lies to cover up who he really is.

But I cannot relate to Obi-Wan when he finds out that Anakin has turned to the dark side. Not only turned to the dark side, but killed numerous in Jedi in the temple. In fact, when I think about it, there are very few moments that I do relate to Obi-Wan throughout the saga. I can understand why he is some people’s favorite character, but he’s not mine. The only moment I have ever been able to relate to Obi-Wan is when he is arguing with Qui-Gon about training Anakin. I’m a stickler for rules, so I understand his pushback to Qui-Gon’s stubbornness.

Yet, this betrayal of Anakin to Obi-Wan goes deeper than many of us have ever experienced or will experience. When thinking about the feelings he must feel, the only thing that may come close is if I found out my husband was cheating on me with multiple women and then murdered them all. Gruesome, right? I don’t even like thinking about it but it was the closest train of thought I could go down that might possibly provide the same feelings.

Not only is Anakin’s betrayal a betrayal of the Jedi and a way of life, he was also his best friend. He was someone whom he trusted and loved. And this trust is different from a trust that you or I might have with a friend – they were in situations where they constantly trusted each other with their lives.

I always watch their last exchange before Anakin turned with a pang of sadness. Watch it one more time:

When Obi-Wan says, “Goodbye, old friend,” is the Force that speaks through him that gives him a touch of foreshadowing?

And what about Anakin’s looks? He apologizes for his behavior but as Obi-Wan leaves, is that … defiance? Anger simmering below? Resentment? Conflict? There’s something there and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Obi-Wan leaves with kind, wise words of encouragement in their last conversation. This is his last impression of Anakin before Order 66. It’s so painful. He truly, really believes in Anakin, which is what makes this scene of realization hard to watch. Yoda understands right away, but Obi-Wan does not want to. The denial is there. “Who could have done this?” he asks Yoda as they walk through the temple. Yet, as they continue their walk through and recalibrate the code, he knows. How he knows, I’m not entirely sure. The Force, most likely.

And I can’t imagine how he feels when it’s confirmed. I know there are people in this world who have suffered atrocities at the hands of loved ones, and perhaps they can watch this scene with greater understanding. I am lucky enough that I hope to never, ever relate to Obi-Wan in this scene.

 

How have you processed this scene? Can you relate to Obi-Wan (no need to share)? Have you ever had a good friend betray you in an irrevocable way?

 

Haiku Me Friday! Luke crosses the threshold in The Hero’s Journey

They’re gone. Both of them.
Cruelly murdered for two droids
The shifts of change come

I have always found the scene where Luke rushes back home to find Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen murdered by the Empire to be so interesting. My main reason for thinking this is it’s such a SMALL scene but it changes the entire movie. For your info, the scene is about 13 seconds.

Yet this scene is the step from Luke’s “ordinary world” into the “supernatural world” and as such, it plays a pivotal role in his journey.

George Lucas drew a lot from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces when he created Star Wars. You can see that he almost follows it to a T in A New Hope, where Luke is defined as the Hero.

In the above image, you can follow the beginning of Luke’s journey in ANH. You see that this scene, though short in length, is the moment when Luke “crosses the threshold”.

We have been introduced to Luke on Tatooine, his ordinary world. His call to adventure begins with rumblings to his Uncle about leaving the farm (and the deleted scene with Biggs). Lucas then switches up the order and has Luke meet his mentor, Old Ben, first and then Luke refuses the call. It is plainly spelled out as Obi-Wan asks Luke to journey with him to Alderaan and Luke says no, due to responsibilities on the moisture farm.

Luke is a “good kid” and refuses because he doesn’t want to leave his Uncle without his help, though deep down he wants to leave. How can this problem be solved? The responsibility is taken away from him when the stormtroopers burn the farm and murder his Uncle and Aunt. This enables him to cross the threshold and journey to Alderaan to rescue the Princess.

At times, when I watch this scene, I’m baffled by how short it is and the way Luke reacts. For being raised by these folks since he was a few days old, Luke shows more sorrow over Obi-Wan dying later in the film than his guardians. But…

Here’s where we have to separate Star Wars the story versus Star Wars the film. Lucas did not have the luxury to spend a lot of time with Luke mulling over his aunt and uncle’s death and what to do next. This was no Rivendell, where Frodo got to relax, recover, spend time with friends, and make decisions about the future. ANH had to keep moving and this scene was only used as a pivot point. The Mentor is much more important in the hero’s journey, which is why we see Luke more visibly upset over Obi-Wan’s death.

Does it actually make sense in a human relational context? Not really. Does it make more sense in propelling a movie forward? Yes, totally. So Lucas gives us “tragic Luke” where the wind is ruffling his hair and you can see pain, but then quickly moves on because now that Luke has crossed the threshold, the storyline can pick up the pace.

If you are interested in The Hero’s Journey with other Star Wars characters, let me know. Tricia Barr did some analysis articles in Insider where she went into depth about The Hero’s Journey with different characters.  I’d be happy to take photos and send your way.

And finnnnalllly, I’M TAKING VACATION NEXT WEEK. And the big deal about this is that I’m not really going anywhere. It’s a staycation and I haven’t done a staycation since…2012 (maternity leave definitely doesn’t count). I’m so looking forward to sleeping in my own bed with no real responsibilities, not worrying about too much, and puttering around.

I’m checking out until after Labor Day, so until then – May the Force be with you.

Haiku Me Friday! Podracing

The wind in my hair
I fly by the flat, still sands
Here, I am at home

Prior to this year, I had a daily Star Wars calendar where I flipped each day off and saw something new. It was so fun and some years were better than others, but it was always a highlight of my day. I didn’t get one this year for the simple fact that I didn’t get one for Christmas. It makes my Christmas request list every year and I meant to go buy it myself when I didn’t receive it and I forgot.

The point of this is that these pictures were always what inspired my haiku’s on Fridays. Whatever picture landed on a Friday, that’s what I would end up writing about.

Since I don’t have it this year, instead I make sure to listen to every single Star Wars soundtrack on shuffle on Spotify on Friday’s. When I pull open my blog post, whatever track I’m listening to is what I write about.

Right now, it’s the marching music as they lead the flags out in front of the podracers.

It’s a little coincidental that I am writing about podracing when I had written about my younger diary entries yesterday with the specific podracing dream. OR MAYBE IT’S THE FORCE GUIDING ME. Yes, I like that explanation better.

 

The memories of that dream, which some parts are still so vivid almost 20 years later, made me think about if I have a happy place in my life right now.

Anakin was at home when he was flying. He had never flown a ship before so he had to settle on flying podracers. He had Jedi reflexes which helped him, as no other human had the knack for them.

I realized while thinking about this that Anakin is the only character that we see in the Prequel Trilogy that drives and flies ships consistently. He is close matched to Obi-Wan, but usually it’s Anakin that takes the wheel if they’re together. We rarely see Padmé fly on her own, though we know she can.

In some ways, Anakin reminds me of my husband. He loves his car, it’s everything to him and he is constantly detailing it out in our driveway. He notices the slightest scratch or paint transfer, and God forbid if it has swirl marks! My husband loves doing nothing better than getting in the car and “just go for a drive”. (Whereas I’m sitting there silently freaking out because … I mean … there’s no destination? What? This is SO not organized)

Anakin, too, took meticulous care of his podracer that he built from scratch. He handled other ships with care and you could tell that he did not damage them unless his life depended on it.

One of my favorite moments in The Phantom Menace is when he’s flying the N-1 Starfighter and shouts, “Now this is podracing!” While others saw it as a corny line, I saw it as a line of pure happiness and a boy confident and at home in what he was doing.

Where is the podracing moment in my life? Where is yours? Do we have one? Or is it something some of us lose as we get older?