A few weeks ago my wife and I went to see the hit movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The film was a joy to watch, and had us interested in revisiting some of the older Star Wars movies, starting with episodes four through six. I should note, I am far from a Star Wars buff, and was blown away by some friends of mine discussing deep theories about things like the facets of Star Wars canon. Although I’ve seen the original installments growing up, it had been a while since I’ve engaged the films from an adult perspective, particularly as it regards my experience in recovery.
There are certainly many themes that can be related to spiritual principles throughout the Star Wars saga, namely the ideas of good and evil, “the force”, and thwarting the efforts of the dark side. As I was watching the development of Luke Skywalker, especially his interactions with the convoluted-speaking Yoda, a Jedi Master, I couldn’t help but relate it to the spiritual training I received (and continue to receive) through my recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. His whiny attitude, thoughts that the world was out to get him, and lack of maturity in the early stages of us getting to know him are not much different than where I was as I began my journey.
Yoda provides wisdom that we all can use, regardless of whether we’re battling spiritual forces in our lives, psychological patterns of negative attitudes and behavior, or an estranged father that is seeking to rule the universe as an ally to an evil empire. When we first meet Luke in Star Wars Epidsode 4: A New Hope, it’s hard to miss his self-pity, impatience, and need to be in control. These traits continue when he and Yoda dwell together in Yoda’s hut before beginning their training together (Episode 5). His know-it-all attitude keeps him from the necessary humility to be fully trained and open to the powers available to him. Many of these character traits are found in those who begin recovery, and failure to let them go can equal quick relapse. In fact, failure to keep them from returning—that is, a propensity for self-pity, the need for control, and a lack of humility—can often be a recipe for relapse even with multiple years of sobriety under one’s belt.
Plentiful, the wisdom that Yoda offers is. Morphed, the sentence structure that the Jedi Master uses may seem. Here are a few of Yoda’s lines that caught my ear along with some spiritual application:
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” This isn’t the first thing that comes out of Yoda’s mouth, but it might as well be the introduction to Yoda’s teaching. So many of us enter into recovery filled with our own ideas and preconceived vision for how our lives are supposed to go. In contrast, however, our best thinking and behavior got us to the point of hopelessness. I relate this to my own belief that my struggles around addiction were a misuse of my own willpower. Rather, it was my over-reliance on exerting my will and unwillingness to submit to God’s that had me stuck in the frustrating, seemingly endless cycle of addiction.
“Beware of the dark side: anger, fear, aggression.” These are the traits that we must continue to recognize and ask God to relieve us from. Often that relief comes from some action on our part as well. Taking inventory, acknowledging the root causes of our fear and aggression, sharing it with another person, and reconciling situations where these dark forces got the best of us are all practical ways of moving towards virtue while participating in God’s grace. Left unchecked, anger, fear, and aggression can drive us towards old behavior and back into the dark cycle of addiction.
“No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” This is Yoda’s response to Luke’s question of whether the dark side is stronger. How true is his response as it relates to the temptations that we battle in our world today?!? The allure of quick, easy pleasure and the seductive lies that the forces of evil tease us with can be difficult to discern against. Cunning, baffling, and powerful. How often are we enticed by the immediate reward that our addictive behavior provides, regardless of how short-lived it is and the consequences that accompany it. The spiritual life requires consistency, dedication, and oftentimes choices that delay gratification, the fruits of which are peace and serenity.
“Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” These words are in response to Luke suggesting that he will “give it a try.” I heard some similar words about a week ago when I suggested to a group of friends that I had been slacking on my physical fitness routine and had been a bit lazy in that regard. “I’m going to try to get into the gym today,” I expressed, noting that it was having an impact on my emotional and spiritual life. “Are you going to try to do it, or are you going to do it?” were the words reflected back at me. These were words I needed to hear, and they speak to a lot of the tasks that we’re asked to take on in our spiritual development. Setting time aside each day to pray, journal, read scripture and other recovery-related material, helping others, and being of service is much different than trying to do any of the above. Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Abundant are the wise words of a green little Jedi Master, Yoda. Perhaps you have been directed to maintain some of these principles in your daily affairs as you maneuver through the spiritual life. When we give ourselves to God, we seek a Power greater than ourselves to direct our thinking, attitude, and behavior. It starts with both surrender and belief. One of the great scenes in Luke’s Jedi training comes when he fails to raise his ship from the swamp. Yoda, after poking at him for a few moments, then elevates the ship and brings it back safely onto land. “I don’t believe it!” Luke exclaims. “That is why you fail,” responds Yoda.