When the challenges of life come hard and fast, how do you respond?
Fear. Fear attracts the fearful, the strong, the weak, the innocent, the corrupt. Fear.
Fear is my ally.
As part of the advertising campaign for The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm created a series of tone poems featuring several of the main characters. Our early introduction to the villain, Darth Maul (pictured above), was through the poem, One Truth. It provides insight to his grim and malevolent character and his cold and calculated understanding that fear can be used as a very powerful weapon. Fear is his path to power.
Lately, as I read social media, watch the evening news and listen to conversations, I've been thinking of this poem a lot. From time to time, things happen in our lives, either as individuals, as families, as nations, or, over the past two years, as a world, that easily lend themselves to generating a sense of fear. When these events occur, we all have a choice to make. Do we give in and focus on fear, or do we choose instead to focus on hope. No one can make that decision for us. Not our family, not our friends, not our boss, not even, dare I say, the media. You can allow yourself to be greatly influenced by each of these but in the end, you and you alone have the power to decide how you react during trying or desperate times.
Always be aware that during these times, there are those who stand to profit from fear. Darth Maul was simply a blunt-force weapon wielded by a much more sinister evil that lurked unseen behind the scenes, a "phantom menace" as the name of the film suggests. This malevolent force, a Senator named Palpatine, publicly appeared to be a rather genteel, handsome, soft-spoken politician who only sought what's best and good for the people of The Republic. Yet secretly, through political and economic machinations, he pulled the strings attached to those who would do his bidding to sow seeds of dissent, distrust, and fear across the galaxy, all so that he could gather all power unto himself.
Fear can make one feel powerless, helpless; and when fearful, some people will freely give what power they possess to those who promise them help or who promise to keep them safe and alive. We see this clearly play out in Revenge of the Sith, the third installment of the Prequel Trilogy. It's here that Palpatine, now the Chancellor of the Republic, lies to the members of the Senate and misleads them into believing that the Jedi, the heroic defenders and protectors of the Republic, are actually attempting to overthrow the government. In their fear and misplaced anger, the Senate grants Palpatine unlimited powers to protect them from the Jedi and the Separatist army that, behind the scenes and unbeknownst to them, he actually created. It was all a charade to prey upon the fears of good and innocent people in order to elevate himself to Emperor of a new Galactic Empire. The people gave into the darkness of fear instead of searching out the lightness of hope.
Prior to Palpatine's rise to power, Yoda gives a prescient warning to young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace when he famously tells him, "I sense much fear in you. Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." Years later, after growing to become one of the most powerful Jedi in the history of the Order, it will be Anakin's uncontrolled fear that leads him to betray all that he believes in: his learning, his companions, and even those that he loves the most... all in the name of doing what he comes to believe is right, saving the woman that he loves. His fear of losing her overtakes his hope and he loses his way. His weakness is his hubris and his failure to see any point of view beyond his own. He is convinced, in his fear, that without sacrificing all that he knows to be right and true, he will lose his wife. His judgement was completely clouded by fear. Anakin gives into fear and gives up on hope; he sells his soul to the one who should be his enemy for a desperate chance that she might be saved. Yet, like the Senate, he too falls for a lie, offering what power he has to one who only seeks to keep it for himself. He ceases to be the once selfless and heroic Anakin Skywalker and is transformed into the self-serving and malevolent Darth Vader, full of rage, void of hope.
Yet, as we know, all was not lost. The story doesn't end there, because, when days were darkest, there were those who chose to stand up to the fear that spread across the galaxy and focus instead on hope. They became known as the Rebel Alliance and were ultimately championed by a boy, a princess, a scoundrel and their friends. Clinging to hope, they refused to give in to fear. And just like them, we can too. Like these heroes of the Star Wars saga, we can refuse to empower fear and instead keep that power for ourselves as we use it to chart a hope-filled course for our own lives.
In trying times, then, where do you stand? To whom are you listening: the voices of fear, or the voices of hope? Throughout the Star Wars saga, these questions are continually asked. In Rogue One, our heroes are facing insurmountable odds against now Emperor Palpatine's forces of fear and evil. During a pivotal moment of the story, when all seems lost, Jynn Erso implores her fellow Rebels to not give into fear as she calmly and boldly reminds them, "We always have hope."
At its core, that's what Star Wars has always been about. Hope. In fact, you need look no further than the title of Episode IV, the first installment released in George Lucas' epic saga. At a time when the nation, and world, seemed incredibly disillusioned and was looking for answers to the problems that plagued us, Lucas gave us heroes that offered "A New Hope."
"We always have hope." Do you believe that or do you not? If so, then surround yourself with those who trust in hope, and tune out those who love to deal in fear. If you do not make the choice for yourself, those fear-filled voices around you can wear you down to the point that you will allow them to make the choice for you, maybe without you even giving it much thought. In the end, that may be exactly what those voices want.
But as for me, although it can sometimes be a struggle, I choose to have hope.
So, what about you?