This I Believe

James - Portland, Oregon
Entered on June 28, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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“The Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” How will I know the good side from the bad? “You will know. When you mind is calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

I didn’t need to cue the DVD to these scenes in order to quote them. I didn’t need to refer to my battered copy of the Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, though I did, just to make sure I punctuated correctly. Are Obi-Wan’s pauses indicated by periods or semicolons?

I believe in the Force. Small t, capital F. As in Yoda, lightsabers and Luke Skywalker. Call me a nerd, a fool, or a sucker. Since my mid-1970s childhood the Jedi religion has captured my spirit as Catholicism never could. The heroic chivalry and lightsabers initially attracted me, but over the years I became more engrossed in the respect for nature and the monk-like discipline espoused by the older, wiser Jedi.

Very early my parents guided my love for nature. My family often camped, hiked, canoed. We owned forested land in southeast Indiana, where we cut our own trails and collected water from a spring. These activities influenced me without text or preacher.

When I first met Yoda he had been living for years on Dagobah, a primitive but wildly diverse planet. I think he chose this planet not just for its remoteness, but for its astounding, as Luke says, “massive life-form readings.” It’s a planet where a Jedi practicing the Force could mature: “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.” This spirituality through the natural world sustains me now as an adult.

I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, an absolute environmentalist. In a forest I find purest peace, revitalization and relaxation. This guides me toward clarity, humility and compassion. Inexplicably I return home with an urge to watch a Star Wars film.

And like all religious followers, I consider my path purest. On a spectrum of fans, I’m a fundamentalist. Sola scriptora—the original Trilogy (capital T) only. No video games, comic books or toys. If it’s not in those films, I don’t believe it.

The more recent prequels? These apocryphal narratives presented a dangerous and unexpected doctrinal hurdle. Suddenly a Jedi’s ability to feel the Force was based on a blood-borne microscopic life-form, the midi-chlorian (correct spelling in the databank.) Genetic luck equals strength.

A friend of mine turned her back after The Phantom Menace mired the religion in pre-determinism. But how could I not see the next two prequels? And I did, 12-14 times each; and I own all three on DVD. But I recognize them as movies, not films, for they’re too self-indulgent. I often partake in the indulgence, knowing the moral distraction a kick-ass prequel lightsaber duel presents. “Quicker, easier, more seductive,” warns Yoda.

Otherwise I salvage what meaning I can and wonder where my once-purer faith has gone.