Balancing Act: A "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" Prediction

"I only know one truth: it's time for the Jedi to end."

So apparently all it takes for me to finally write on this mostly dead blog of mine is something really, really nerdy.

The new teaser trailer for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is exactly that something. Go ahead and enjoy. In full screen. It's okay, I'll wait.

Okay, now we have that out of the way. I wanted to ta...what? You want to watch it again? Okay by me - it deserves MANY rewatches.


We good? Okay.

There are a lot of things I could zero in on to geek out and obsess over: why is Rey so out of breath? Did Kylo smash Vader's helmet in one of his fits of being super-emo? Will Poe's X-Wing be okay? Captain Phasma coming out of the flames?!? But my biggest reaction is to the last line of the teaser, which I also chose to be the first line of this post. Poetic, no?

What in the world could Luke Skywalker mean when he says he only knows the Jedi have to end? I mean, yes, the movie's called "The Last Jedi," but that can't surely mean the Jedi will actually go extinct, will they? They're the guardians of peace, of justice, of good...of the galaxy, you might say.* Why would they have to end, and why would Luke, who is basically the ultimate Jedi, feel as much?

I think I might know why, and am entering this as my official prediction. I don't know whether it will be correct, so I won't call this a spoiler.**

Though the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now called Legacy) is no longer canonical, I think something several stories touched on late in the game is at play here. In a nutshell, a character with strong ties to the Skywalker lineage figured out there really is no Light Side or Dark Side to the Force: the Force just is, and how we use it determines the light-ness or dark-ness of our actions. That's a contradiction to the centuries-old philosophies embodied by the Jedi and the Sith: the Light Side is all about peace and calm and knowledge and defense, while the Dark Side favors power and strength and aggression. The path of the Jedi is one of patience, deliberation, and wisdom, while the Dark Side calls with a more quick and easy approach, often drawing on strong emotions like fear and anger and hate to grant power and focus.

Classic example: Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul in Episode I. When they get separated by the energy field, notice the difference in how each one reacts: Darth Maul stalks around like an impatient predator, while Qui-Gon uses the time to center himself and prepare for what's coming (not that it does him any good in the end). But the point is the prevailing mindset regarding the Force is that it's polarized, two-sided, black and white.

Some time ago, as I was rewatching the Star Wars saga, I had an epiphany: we're really only seeing this story through the lens of the Jedi, i.e. they are the "good guys" and the Sith are the "bad guys." I am not, by any means, saying the Sith are good guys or are being unfairly painted as evil. I mean, they killed younglings***, for crying out loud. What I am saying is we only really get one side of the story. Nowhere is that more evident in the notion that to bring balance to the Force, the Sith must be destroyed.

That's why the Jedi felt betrayed when Anakin turned to the Dark Side. That's why many felt Luke was actually the one who brought balance when he destroyed the Emperor and Darth Vader (by bringing Anakin back to the forefront of Vader's mind). Fast-forward to "The Force Awakens," and I bet a bunch of people are thinking Rey has to defeat Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, the leaders of the Dark Side. And maybe she does. I hope she does.

But wouldn't that cause an imbalance in the Force? Let me, there is too much. Let me sum up: Yin and Yang.

From the Googles: "In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another."

You can't have darkness without light, and you can't have light and not create darkness. We only know shadows because we have light, and we only appreciate the light because we understand what it's like to be in darkness. If you remove one from the picture, the other ceases to exist because it is without definition.

This idea of opposites being necessary is universal: we only know hot because we know cold, we perceive sweet because we can perceive sour or bitter, and we only understand some things to be right because we understand their opposites to be wrong. Opposition is necessary in all things because it allows us to orient ourselves, to understand where we are.

So what the heck does this have to do with The Last Jedi?

I predict they're going to pull the same philosophical move as the Expanded Universe and posit there is no Light Side or Dark Side inherent in the Force. The word "inherent" is key, because it is a person's actions in using the Force which make them Light or Dark. The Force is inherently balanced, neutral, yin and yang.****

Hey, look! Yin and yang imagery in Star Wars! Isn't that convenient?
Now it may be, as it is in our universe, to stay entirely neutral is neither possible nor even always recommended. I absolutely believe there are right actions and thoughts and desires in the world, and there are wrong ones. It's true you appreciate life more because there's death, but that doesn't mean one should hasten to create death to help us love life more.

But maybe what Luke is suggesting, by saying the Jedi need to end, is it's time to move beyond this polarized view of the Force. Because doing so can help people take things to extremes, which are rarely a good thing. Take yet another instructive example from "Revenge of the Sith."

Here's the thing: those attributes unique to the Light and Dark Sides? They can be both good and bad, useful and counterproductive. Sometimes people are calm and deliberate when they need to be passionate and decisive, while sometimes people are angry and aggressive when they need to be peaceful and wise. When you train Jedi to only embody one side of things, and Sith to embody the other, you push them toward the extremes, where things are much more likely to explode than settle.

Again, I'm not saying, and maybe Luke isn't arguing, that there is no right and wrong in the galaxy or when it comes to the Force. Maybe what needs to change is this positioning on the extremes, which foments conflict and division and enmity. Maybe instead Force users need to be trained on when it's appropriate to channel more aggressive feelings, and when it's appropriate to be calm and patient. Maybe it's time to train them to understand all of the Force, not just half of it. And maybe the goal of training in the Force is not to make one more powerful, but more serviceable to the galaxy at large.

Take away the ideas of "Jedi" and "Sith," take away the zealots like Kylo Ren and Snoke...and Luke. Maybe that's the realization he's come to.

Maybe that's why the Jedi need to end.

I guess we'll find out in December.

*Marvel and Lucasfilm are both owned by Disney, and I'm a Disney fan, so this doesn't break any laws

**But if it's right - I told you so

***I hate this term with the heat of all the volcanoes on Mustufar

****This idea of circles, balance, ying and yang, cycles, etc. is RIFE in the 6-episode saga (Episodes I-VI) - just read the Star Wars Ring Theory, because it's brilliant and amazing.


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