It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
— GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I’ve been scarce the last few months. Life has been busy, and complex, and overwhelming, and occasionally discouraging and disappointing. I find myself daydreaming about running away somewhere where life could be quiet and simple–somewhere away from the complexities and ambiguities that bring out the worst in me.
I find myself dreaming of running away to Ahch-To.
Ahch-To is the isolated island where Luke Skywalker lives in the Star Wars sequels. He has retreated to the island to hide from the rest of the messy, complicated, warring galaxy for reasons which I’ll discuss a little further down. (Spoilers!)
I saw The Last Jedi in the theatre with my family over Christmas break, and enjoyed it overall. There are several obvious continuity and plot problems with The Last Jedi, but it’s been interesting to see that one of my favorite aspects–the development of Luke Skywalker’s character–has been one of the most controversial, with fans complaining that the character they loved from the original films has been “destroyed.”
You see, the Luke Skywalker of The Last Jedi, the bearded hermit with the knowing eyes we saw in the last frame of The Force Awakens, the hero of the original trilogy and, by every movie trope, the man meant to graduate into the mentor role to pass the torch on to a new protegee–a new hero, the girl waiting for him to say something to bring hope and make sense of it all…
He throws it away.
Like, literally throws it away. He takes the lightsaber Rey offers him and tosses it across the rocks.
He doesn’t want it.
Luke doesn’t want the mentor job. He doesn’t want to pass on his Jedi knowledge. He doesn’t want to be looked up to or imitated. Gone is the wide-eyed farm boy of A New Hope. Gone is the brash, idealistic acolyte of The Empire Strikes Back. Gone is the recklessly loyal and indomitably brave hero of Return of the Jedi. This Luke is tired, cynical, petty, bitter, and self-doubting.
So. No continuity of character at all, right?
Except that’s not what I saw.
I didn’t see the destruction and betrayal of a well-loved character. I saw a character whose evolution is wonderfully consistent with his early self-pity/whining, his youthful idealism and proneness to rash judgment and action, and the natural progression of seeing your early hopes for transforming the universe ground down by the reality of historical forces.To borrow a phrase, he has “sinned and grown old.”
It also is very much in keeping with the repeated Star Wars themes of the always-present possibility of both corruption and redemption. Our very strengths can turn to weakness and our weakness can become strength.
I know people who have swung from cynical to idealistic to cynical just in the past ten years as our college friends have gone from 20-somethings to 30-somethings. We never really leave behind our besetting faults. We have to battle them over and over again.
In Luke’s case, his besetting fault is not cynicism, not really–it’s a love for what is big and dramatic over what is careful and unseen, and a rashness of action and decision that exasperates more prudent and knowledgeable mentors.
Luke wanted to be a hero.
And Luke, the Last Jedi, repudiating the Jedi order for its failure to bring about lasting peace, for its role in fostering the very darkness it exists to fight, who dramatically runs away from the teaching role that he tried to adopt despite being unsuited to it–despite never having received the complete Jedi training himself–the Luke who is so weary of the unending fight between dark and light that he is ready to burn it all to the ground to save the universe from future Jedi failures…
He’s not so different. He is still trying to be something bigger, do something bigger. He is still rash and drawn to dramatic gestures. He still wants badly to believe he can, by his own action, change the very way the universe is.
He is still trying to be a hero.
The Last Jedi’s portrayal of a Luke grappling with older, more worldly/experienced forms of the same old flaws struck me as very good characterisation. It is so very Luke Skywalker to think that he could destroy the Jedi and change the course of history by hiding on an island and torching a tree. It’s so very Luke Skywalker to contemplate destroying and then saving the sacred texts that Yoda goads him into admitting he has never read.
It is also very Luke Skywalker to be pulled back in to a fight, pulled out of his disillusionment and despair, by the love of friends.
Similarly, it is love that pulls me out of my daydreaming and self-pity. Motherhood, the Church, the challenges of modern life all call for more than I feel I have to give, and it is overwhelming taken altogether.
But, for love, I can take one more step, wake up one more morning, read one more story, cook one more meal.
For love of my children, my husband, my friends, my Saviour, I can even forgive myself my failures and leave Ahch-To.
Image by Jibi44 (Own work) [ CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons