“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
“The Force Awakens” is upon us, which makes this a good time to reflect on “The Force,” which in my view is the real star in Star Wars. Obi-Wan Kenobi gave us the best definition of “The Force,” when he explained it to Luke Skywalker in the 28 words above (How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, p. 58).
Here are five interesting and enjoyable reasons to consider for reasons why we love the Force. They are in no particular order.
Reason #1 – The Tension Between Technology and Spirituality
“We know that Vader believes the Force to be far superior to the technological power of the Death Star and that he can use it to choke people he disagrees with from across a room. Luke is taught to “let go your conscious mind” and “reach out with your feelings.” He is told the Force “will be with you, always.” Han Solo believes the Force a “hokey religion,” no substitute for a good blaster, but later grudgingly wishes for the Force to be with Luke.” (Taylor, page 58)
Since Star Wars first hit the screen in 1977 a cultural constant has been the tension between technological progress and spirituality (not merely religion but all aspects of mystery in the universe). We enjoy movies which help us examine, question, and try to resolve the existential problems we face.
Reason #2 – The Battle Between Good and Evil
“But Lucas’s intent in the movies had been to distill religious beliefs that were already in existence, not to add a new one. “Knowing that the film was made for a young audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God and that there is both a good side and a bad side,” Lucas told his biographer Dale Pollock. “You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you’re on the good side.” (Taylor, pages 57-58)
While some may be disturbed by the spiritual overtones, there is no question that “The Force” adheres to a fundamental religio-philosophical principle, which is the existence of good and evil. The profound journey in life is to choose between the light and dark sides of “The Force,” and this choice will determine our destiny.
Reason #3 – The Force as a Mystery
“The Force is so basic a concept as to be universally appealing: a religion for the secular age that is so well suited to our times precisely because it is so bereft of detail. Everyone gets to add their own layers of meaning. Lucas, through a long process of trial and error, seems to have deliberately encouraged viewers’ unique interpretations. “The more detail I went into, the more it detracted from the concept I was trying to put forward,” Lucas recalled in 1997. “So the real essence was to deal with the Force but not be too specific about it.” (Taylor, page 58)
The first time I saw Star Wars I held no deep beliefs about anything other than success. I can still remember being “Bewitched” by “Star Wars.” What I mean is I felt the same emotion as when I watched “Bewitched” reruns on television, which is the mystery and wonder of the potential that there might be something beyond human power and ability. In this way, I was step for step with Luke Skywalker in his discovery of “The Force,” and pursuit of its mysteries. Apparently, this is exactly the quest Lucas hoped to encourage his viewers to take.
Reason #4 – The Power of the Force
Luke was able to destroy the Death Star because he puts his targeting computer aside and relies on the Force— you might just as well call it intuition. (Taylor, page 58)
Whether we find science or spirituality most compelling, each one of us believes there are capacities and power we are not yet tapping into. “The Force” gives voice to the sixth sense we all have that there is more power available to us than we are currently using. This makes it exciting to think there is nothing we can’t overcome or accomplish if we can only tap into the “Force.”
Reason #5 – The Force and Destiny
I can still remember watching Stars Wars at age 14. One thing stood out to me more than anything else, which is each one of us had a destiny. Watching Luke struggle to understand his destiny, the path he must travel, and need to master “The Force” was compelling. This “Hero’s Journey” is not unlike the narrative identified by Joseph Campbell as a guiding principle in storytelling be it mythological, religious, or psychological. This capacity to speak to every metaphysical demographic is probably why George Lucas, Star Wars, and especially “The Force” are so universally loved.
May The Force Be with You!