Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

A Man’s Need For Adventure

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By Rich Diamond in “Wrestling With God”

Luke Skywalker, a sweet little orphan growing up out on the moisture farm on a desert planet (think about it – that’s got to be one of the most impossible jobs in the galaxy) is a lot like Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz. Luke longs to go over the rainbow and see something besides sand and sky. He wants to be a pilot and fly – like the bluebirds that fly in Dorothy’s song. Something in him wants to know who he really can be. And he knows it isn’t to be found around here.

So fate, the gods, whatever – in George Lucas’ universe, it’s the Force – sends him messengers from the sky to invade his safe little world and tell him who he is. A wise teacher, old Ben Kenobi, comes and guides him to the larger world. You arent just a kid from nowhere. You are the son of the greatest Jedi Knight of all. You have a destiny. The Force needs you.

Well, so far, it sounds great. I’m getting off this dust ball and I’m going on a great advenure. And the original Star Wars in 1977 is that kind of adventure. Sweet, exciting and mythic, it’s all about youth, hope, and literally and spiritually flying. When the movies were later re-numbered, Lucas titled it Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It’s all about hope. Luke meets adversity and gets to blow up the Death Star and defeat the evil Empire. So who wouldn’t want to be part of that? There’s no broken-ness required for that kind of path. You get to stay young.

Lucas understands the deepest myths, the deepest part of what Americans – and everyone else – struggle with: ego. We’re certainly not the first group of human beings to deal with this issue; this is old stuff. These stories have been told a million times in every culture. But for us postmoderns, the issue is even more critical, because we’re not hopeful. We were becoming a very jaded culture in the mid-seventies. So first, to get people to buy his story, Lucas had to enchant us. Our culture is so fragmented and shallow that we have very little hope in anything. So Lucas wooed us with this wonderful fairy tale about the happy story of the young warrior who goes on this adventure with his merry band, saves the universe, and tosses the villain out into the darkness.

Luke’s adventure continues in The Empire Strikes back, only now things get darker. The title tells you that up front. Now Luke and his friends aren’t part of a quickie adventure; they’re officers in a war. It goes on for years. Put yourself in Luke’s position. It’s hard work; you go from one desert to another – sand, snow, clouds. And then it gets worse. You are seperated from your friends, and so you go to meet another wise teacher and get some guidance.

This teacher doesn’t look anything like you expected. He’s a little, grumpy, green thing. Not thrilling or sexy at all. And while you’re ready to race off into the sky to rescue everyone, what does he try to teach you? Patience. Peacefulness. Control. Focus. Prayer.

You don’t have any of that. You hate it. It’s boring. You want to be the hero again, go find your friends, go defeat the bad guy who killed your famous, wonderful, royal father, and get the princess. The little teacher warns you that your father was just the same, and he ended up destroyed because of it. But you don’t care. You are an adolescent. You are post-1960 sitcom America. You are rthe teenager with a huge dose of the Force at your disposal. Why would you want to discipline it? You wanted to be tested, so we can all see how powerful you are. You want to go grab all the gusto, be all you can be, go for it, just do it – fill in the advertising slogan you prefer. Ride ‘em cowboy.

Yoda tries to get through to you by sending you on a vision quest. You go deep into the swamp, another kind of desert wilderness. There’s a lesson there for you. The desert is where you learn and suffer.

Yoda tells you that you won’t need your weapons, but you can’t help it. You take your lightsaber anyway, you want your phallic symbol, your gun, your glass of wine, your bazooka, your S.U.V., your money, your new toy, your well-supported doctrine or philosophy – whatever you think makes you invincible.

You go out, away from camp. You are among the wild beasts, the snakes and the hidden things, just like Jesus and John the Baptist. You go alone. And what you find when you go into the deep dark place – in this story, it’s a cave – is a giant monster, dressed in black, all machine and meace and coldness. This is terrifying. This is a power and mystery you can’t control or get a handle on. This is the dragon, Grendel, savages, Indians, the Communists, the Taliban.

You draw your weapon and strike – and what you see in the fallen helmet is your own face. Your own limitations. Your own sickness. Your own addictions. Your own lies. Your own humanity. Every great enemy shows us the dark side of who we are. The real question is whether we’ll learn anything.

This experience in the cave nearly gets your attention. But you say to Yoda, “I’m gone. I’m out of here. I’ve faced my fears and I’m off to save the day.” Yoda tries to talk you out of it, but you’re not having any. You’re not broken enough yet.

At the end of the movie, you and Darth Vadar are face-to-face, man to monster. You think you can beat him. You attack. You’ve gotten stronger and tougher, and you fight hard. He tells you to channel all that hatred at him. After all, you’re the holy knight on the quest to kill the dragon that killed your king. You are righteous. You are Beowulf, Aragorn, Batman, Mel Gibson, Samuel L Jackson, John Wayne. Kicks his butt. Show him who’s the boss.

But unlike comic book hereos you can’t win. The harder you fight, the more desperate you become. And so, since you can’t control your fears yet – you haven’t spent enough time in the desert – the monster beats you, and to make sure you understand this is real, Lucas has Vadar cut your right hand off.

As I mentioned before, I bet you now people who have ascended too fast and who have hit the wall. They weren’t ready yet. Maybe you’ve done the same thing. I was in such a hurry to grow up and build my career that when I got married and started out, not making very much money and then having a baby soon after that, and having to teach more evening classes to make more money so we could buy a house to put our little family in, I got burned out. I hadn’t learned enough yet. I wanted it all. But I learned that I wasn’t ready for it all. I have a good friend who did the opposite. We went right our of law school, got a job with a well-established firm, never lost a case, became the golden boy. Made loads of money. Belonged to the old money country club in town. Played golf three of four times per week, drove a new extended cab pick-up truck, bought a beautiful house. I was so jealous. This guy had it all. I went to see him a few years into his practice and asked him how it was going and tears came to his eyes. “I don’t know how I’m going to make it,” he said (and I saw my own shadow – my own jealousy and ambition – rise up in front of me). I asked him what was wrong and he said, “the pressure to perform is so huge that everybody here drinks all the time. We work rediculous hours. We have no life. I’ve had a lot of women, but I’m never going to find anybody to settle down with because I can’t invest in anybody long enough to build anything that will last. I thought this was what I wanted.”

When you fly out so fast without learning anything, the monster waiting for you shows you that you’re not so wonderful after all. You can be beaten. And you know what else? That thing that you thought was the enemy? It’s you.

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Written by Ryan

July 9, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Christian, Rich Diamond

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