The Problem with Jedi

Movie Philosophy 0 January 12, 2018 71 Lauren

When I was in fourth grade, our science teacher had us seal rotting bananas in plastic bottles for a week. It was part of an experiment– when fruit flies appeared in the bottles, we were supposed to discuss how in the world they got there. There was only one problem:

The fruit flies never appeared.

Instead, there were just increasingly rotten bananas, and we finally had to settle for a discussion something like this: “if we’d done it right, fruit flies would have appeared in the bottles. How did they get there? Did the bananas make them? Did they just appear? No! Actually, other fruit flies laid tiny, tiny eggs in the banana before we sealed the bottles, and that’s where the fruit flies came from.”

I thought at the time this was kind of silly; of course flies didn’t just appear; where there’s a baby fly, at some point there was a mother fly. But as time went on, I realized that a lot of people didn’t understand the very important principle demonstrated here:

Vitality begets vitality. Life comes from life.

Life may decay into death, but only preexisting life brings forth life.

Death cannot bring forth life.

Dead bananas (or dead flies) cannot bring forth live flies; only other live flies can bring forth live flies. Dead earth (or dead plants) cannot bring forth live plants; only other live plants can bring forth live plants. In fact, reproduction is one of the hallmarks of a living thing (also from fourth grade science). Because dead things don’t produce anything on their own; they are only drawn into others’ life.

You may think me a little simple to keep repeating basic facts over and over. But we’ve gotten them upside-down. Just a week or so ago I was watching The Last Jedi and heard something like this from the heroine: “I see the balance between light and dark – the way death and decay bring forth new life.”

Death does not bring forth life.

Vitality begets vitality.

Balance only occurs between existing things. Dark is the absence of light; evil is the absence of good; death is the absence of life (see Plato and Augustine). The tension between good and the lack of good isn’t called a balance; it’s called a deficiency. And we should not allow ourselves to be lulled into accepting and even praising deficiencies.

Why do I make such a big deal of this? Because we have gotten ourselves turned around, and we don’t know which side’s up anymore. And a lot of that is because we think we’re too sophisticated and subtle to actually say “Hey, this way’s up. We should go this way.” Instead we make up some mumbo-jumbo about the balance between up and down and the power of floating in the middle, and we end up depressed because we’re not getting anywhere.

Perhaps it does sound boring and unoriginal to mount an impassioned defense of right for right’s own sake, light for light’s own sake, forgetting balance and moderation and subtlety and all the rest. Maybe I’m a fool for just saying “Hey, we don’t need the dark side. We don’t need balance. Let’s just fight for light instead, with everything in us.” It does sound simple and boring, when looked at in a vague philosophical way.

But please, let’s not look at it in a vague philosophical way. Let’s look at the real world. Think back to Harvey and Irma; think about all those ordinary people (I know many of them) who charged out their doors to help everyone they could and ended up leading relief efforts, ended up saving lives. Think about the aid organizations that were overwhelmed with donations. Think of other ordinary heroes, like people who jump onto subway tracks to pull people out of danger before they’re mowed down by the trains.

And then think of the looters. The people grabbing their stranded neighbors’ stuff and running off with it. Think of the people who have been left to bleed out and die in populated areas because no one bothered to help them or at least call 911 (not to mention the actual murderers).

Are you really going to tell me we need a balance between these things? Because I don’t see balance. I see a huge deficiency in the human race, in each and every one of us. And as much as Star Wars talks about balance, in its finest moments it still wants its heroes to resist the Dark Side, because we all know that when push comes to shove, there is good, and there is evil.

Let’s forget about balance and stand firmly on the side of life.

“Jedi Robes” by Jennifer Feuchter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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