On Faith and the Sith

May 30, 2005

Third time's... too depressing to be a charm, but Lucas finally got it right (well, more or less). Revenge of the Sith is a fitting end to a well-crafted storyline. The acting isn't perfect, a few things still seem more forced than they should be, but the story comes through loud and clear. A few hours after seeing the film, I remained haunted by the hunting of the Jedi, by the betrayal of Anikin, and most of all by his near death. And this all led me back to reflection on the nature of faith, my own in particular.

The sequence of movies now makes sense. We began en media res with Episode IV. Beginning with the beginning would have been boring indeed. We see a youth become a man in the great struggle to return power to the democratically elected. We see the apprentice become master of his own fears and passions, though they drive his actions more than they should. And eventually we see the return of selfless loyalty, to family and to society, as the Emperor is overthrown. That was the story of the Skywalker redemption.

Episode I began with an innocent. Episode II saw the birth of twisted confusion and a hidden need for power — power to overcome one's enemies, and keep loved ones safe. In Episode III, we see the young man give in to his fears and passions, placing his faith and trust in the "dark side" instead of that of the good — all so he can cheat death and, in his own point of view, bring peace. But his master truly believes in nothing greater than his own power, stopping at nothing to rule over all.

While most of us (Abu Ghraib not withstanding) do not have the capacity for evil that Anikin-Vader held, his hopes and fears are certainly those of humanity. We all struggle with the question of where our loyalties — our faith and trust — lie. Do we put faith only in ourselves, or do we let go of our own feelings and seek communion with a higher... Being? And in so doing, do we trust our own interpretations of the Will of being, or do we look to our wise Masters for guidance?

Picture I found... of an ancient Zoroastrian temple? Guessing based on the flame within and those above.

Though I can be social enough in my own way, I am relatively happy to go my own way, relying on others as little as possible (relative to what? That is a good question). And so it is that I still find myself at odds with the concept of belonging to an organized religion. What I always come back to realize is that no matter how great I might think my own ideas to be, they do not alone make me feel integrated — with Being, or with being... human. Being human, how can one be at peace with suffering in the world? If one is not at peace with the suffering, how then at peace within oneself? Lucas's answer is the answer of all organized religions: through submission.

To what do we submit then? In deed and word we choose to what, or whom, to give our loyalty and faith. "By their fruits ye shall know them." My own fruits do not convince me to follow myself. But the fruits of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings, of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's servitude and reverence, these convince me that my own submission must be to Bahá.

We must all question our Masters. So blinded was he by the lust for power, Anikin did not bother to question his new Master's motivations or fruits, even as he questioned those of his former Masters. Though I be headstrong at times, though I question and may be tempted to follow my own path, I cannot imagine losing belief and trust in the Will of Being as most recently personified in Bahá'u'lláh.


beautiful, stephen. funny how a movie that we all acknowledge as somewhat lacking in writing, acting, etc. can still provoke such powerful parallels to reality and inspire reflections about such primordial questions. i quite liked this film, too. and yes, there are many lessons to be found in it--thanks for sharing yours. :)

megan and i watched "return of the jedi" over the last couple of nights. i think it's the first time i've seen it since seeing the special edition re-release back in 1997.

seeing it now after having seen "revenge of the sith" makes "jedi" a much, much deeper movie -- at least the parts involving luke, vader and the emperor. the redemption of anakin is much more moving now that we've seen his fall. i was also struck by the fact that the emperor holds out the proverbial carrot to luke -- "give in to the dark side and you'll save your friends," much like how he did with anakin in epIII (although anakin had more reason to trust him than luke did, obviously.) it also shows how close luke came to following anakin's path -- even wearing the same clothes in "jedi" as anakin did in epIII, but throwing down the lightsaber when he saw what he was becoming (seeing his own mechanical hand, seeing the wires and such coming out of vader's stump.)

Funny - though I found Sith better than epI & epII, what really bothered me was that it didn't make Anakin's struggle real enough. I also didn't like the black & white of it - it reminds me too much of Bush and his "war against everything". Either you are good or you are evil. A good Christian pro-Bush anti-terrorist or a bad atheist liberal who is "soft" against ax murders by not supporting the death penalty.

Anikin's struggle did seem very compressed. From what I've heard, it makes more sense if you see the Clone Wars series from Cartoon Network, where you see more of Anikin in the war (and also see why Gen. Grevious wheezes and hunches).

Seems that most people think the b/w viewpoint thing was a direct dig at Bush & company. What/who do you see as "a good Christian pro-Bush anti-terrorist" (and the the opposite) in the movie?