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Friday, January 1, 2016

You Always Had The Power


So of course we saw Star Wars because it's New Year's Day and it's our tradition to go to the movies.

We are a very traditional family. We are also strict, like many other Jewish people we know, about going out for Chinese food on major holidays. (And Sundays, and pretty much any day off when there's time.)

In the beginning this wasn't a movie I wanted to see. I would have been happy with a comedy, like Sisters with Tina Fey or Daddy's Home, with Will Ferrell. But the viewers at IMDB.com were not very kind to either, there were 40 bucks involved for all the tickets and so in the end we went with probabilities.

"The comedies will come to VOD in a few months anyhow," said my husband.

"Alright."

Within ten seconds of the movie starting, I was sure my apprehension had been justified. Three three paragraphs of bold yellow block text, streaming backward on a galaxy-type background, tell you the background of the story and where we are now, and I hung my head in misery.

I wasn't alone.

"This is how you start a $1 billion movie?" said my husband.

"They paid $1 billion to make this?" I whispered back incredulously, and also way too loudly.

"No, they've already made $1 billion on tickets," he responded, at which I sat back with my head in my hands.

The beginning of the movie is really slow and bad and I started to shift uncomfortably in the seat.

"Is it hot in here? Are you hot?" I said to my daughter. "Maybe there's something wrong with the vents?"

She looked at me sympathetically and I looked over at my husband.

"This is horrible," I said.

"I know."

"Can we leave, and go into another movie?"

"They track the seat numbers, remember?" he said.

"Oh my G-d. Maybe just this one time they won't notice."

"No."

"Please."

"No."

So I shlumped down in the chair and tried to watch. It was really, really bad.

I tried to tell myself that everybody else had liked it.

Not working.

There was no possibility of doing social media in the theater so eventually I removed my coat, took off my shoes and leaned over. At some point I closed my eyes and as the money we'd paid for the tickets drained away, tick tock minute after minute of movie going unwatched, I let myself drift off to sleep.

"Can we leave now?"

I'd woken up and apparently this show was still going.

"Ask her," my husband said, motioning to my daughter. "If she wants to go, we'll go."

"Rebecca, everybody wants to leave," I said to her. "Don't you want to go too?"

"No, it's alright," she said contentedly and turned her eyes back to the screen.
Well that was it, then, I would have to watch the thing. But miraculously, as it happened, by that point the show had gotten good and I was able to actually enjoy it as well as take away a lesson.

At the highest level of course, the central conflict in Star Wars is really good versus evil. Evil is on a rampage to try and control the world.

"The Force," as in "May the Force be with you," is the idea of universal energy. It is symbolized by light. Blue light is the use of energy for goodness; red is the opposite.

Also there are Nazis, which you probably knew if you are a big Star Wars fan but this is new to me and I couldn't help but be taken aback at the constant reminders of Aryans, "stormtroopers," the "First Order" which is like the "Third Reich" and the constant barrage of propaganda and physical threats and terror used to keep the people down.

And then a light switch went off in my mind.

Why are we drawn to watch these kinds of shows, over and over again?

I realized that they play out a war that is endless through the ages, that takes place on the largest and smallest scales, in our homes and at our jobs and on the world stage, every second of every minute of every day.

It is a war between those who want to save the world from evil, and those who have succumbed and like infected walking zombies, only "want" evil to spread.

The evidence in Star Wars is the Resistance. It's no accident that they are diversity - not just in gender or culture or color but encompassing aliens and artificial intelligence. Good people nurture other people in their uniqueness, like gardeners they water the saplings and give them light and air and eliminate pests so humanity can grow.

But bad people are different. And as a human race we collectively, subconsciously want extremely badly to thoroughly eliminate them from our lives.
  • Bad people try to control other people by telling them there's only one way to be, one way to think, one way to look, and inevitably it is very similar to them. They take pleasure in bullying those who are supposed to be "lesser" than them, but who are actually far more capable.
  • Bad people are selfish - they try to take everything for themselves. They don't believe "it's a big planet and let's share" or "the pie gets bigger when I give you half." For them, the only acceptable outcome is ownership or dominance of everything. 
  • Bad people take pleasure in not caring who or what they hurt. And when they go on the warpath, they take great pleasure in going beyond whatever might be necessary. They laugh at other people's suffering; it is fun for them to watch.
  • Bad people are emotional and physical vampires. This is worse than a narcissist, who just doesn't see that other people are real. Bad people are very much aware that other people have value, and they seduce and connive their subjects to effectively suck all the value out. As Harrison Ford (Mark Solo) says to his son in the movie, the bad guy "only wants to use your power and throw you away."
So we pay the 40 dollars, again and again, to watch movies like Star Wars and others. For we live in a world where justice is rarely done, and we desperately need to see justice.

A truly evil person only stops doing bad things when they're dead.

And how often does that happen?

But more deeply than that, on some cellular level, we also understand we have a role to play in the war between good and evil.
  • A war that is very vivid and clear, if you look at things closely enough.
  • A war that plays out all the time, on every inch of the our globe.
  • A war that is largely unarticulated, because we all are so embedded in our own little worlds.
Most people are focused on practicalities. So how would we even talk about this war, without sounding carried away?

In Star Wars the answer is hidden in a piece of advice from a good woman to a girl. In effect:

"Close your eyes, and feel the light, which is your power."

The lesson for me, in the end, was:

You always had the power.

Remember The Wizard of Oz?

Dorothy made a really long shlep in a foreign land, when all the time she only had to close her eyes, concentrate and click her heels together.

Today is January 1, 2016. New Year's Day, and it's become a joke but not-a-joke that if you can keep your resolutions for a year, then you'll be "powerful," because you'll respect yourself.

But even if you aren't totally focused on New Year's...doesn't it always seem like there's some reason why you can't do what you need to do?

Do you ever wonder why the things you know are important in life, somehow always get submerged under things that matter quite a lot less?

I guess what I got from Star Wars, what made it worth the ticket, was the reinforcement of a notion that already lived in my head, but which I needed to see on the screen, and in the presence of other people who had collectively paid $1 billion for the privilege.

What you choose to do - every minute, no matter how minute - matters. It matters quite a lot.

Don't let anybody else dictate those choices to you, or for you.

You always had the power.

________________

Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Photo credit: Michael Newman/Flickr (Creative Commons).