Thursday, November 03, 2005

The result of Jedi action but not of Jedi design

Is that twist of Hayek's phrase apt when it comes to how the Force influences Jedi?

Chris Masse pointed me to this Slate piece on the entire Star Wars saga, which correctly points out the difference between the two sides of the Force. It's a good article. The author knows Star Wars a lot better than a couple of Slate ignoramuses, and he has good perspectives on how the Force drives the overall Star Wars plot.

Matthew Stover's Episode III novelization, which I briefly reviewed here, superbly elaborates on the differences between the Force's two halves. The good side is passive and peaceful: a Jedi can use the Force to influence his surroundings, but ultimately it is for balance and good purposes. The dark side is aggressive and is all about controlling one's surroundings for any reason, which is why it works so well for the Sith. And Anakin too, not just when finally surrendering himself, but when he defeated Count Dooku. Yoda was right from the beginning: Anakin's aggression, anger and fear were Anakin's gateway to evil. They made him powerful, but more so with the wrong half of the Force.

This I don't deem much of a spoiler, since "Revenge of the Sith" debuted so long ago, and I presume most of you (if not all) have already seen it or are aware of what happens. The novelization also describes at length Mace Windu's own lightsabre technique, Vapaad (named after a powerful and extremely quick predator animal), which itself is almost a gateway to the Dark Side. In a way, he was almost Sith-like in how he used it to channel the Force so powerfully:
Vaapad is as aggressive and powerful as its namesake, but its power comes at great risk: immersion in Vaapad opens the gates that restrains one's inner darkness. To use Vaapad, a Jedi must allow himself to enjoy the fight; he must give himself over to the thrill of battle. The rush of winning. Vaapad is a path that leads through the penumbra of the dark side.

Mace Windu created this style, and he was its only living master...

Vaapad is a channel for darkness, and that darkness flowed both ways. He accepted the furious speed of the Sith Lord, drew the shadow's rage and power into his inmost center --

And let it fountain out again.

He reflected the fury upon its source as a lightsaber redirects a blaster bolt...

He had learned that it is fear that gives the darkness power.

He was not afraid. The darkness had no power over him. But --

Neither did he have power over it.
This could be seen as Jedi-like in its balance. Mace was essentially tapping into the dark side for his abilities, not giving in to evil and also unable to vanquish it -- like a satellite caught in orbit, neither escaping gravity nor falling in.

I do take issue with one thing Wasley suggested, that Star Wars is replete with improbable occurrences for the sake of the story:
Most significantly, we start to notice that the films are an elaborate meditation on the dialectic between chance and order. They all depend upon absurd coincidence to propel the story forward. Just what are the odds, in just one of near-infinite examples, that of all the planets in that galaxy far, far away, the droids should end up back on Tatooine, in the home of the son of the sweet (if annoying) boy who had built C-3PO decades before? Throughout all six films there are scenes of crucial serendipity.
It's not really a coincidence when you think about it. Shmi Skywalker stayed on Tatooine, where she eventually married Cliegg Lars. Owen and Beru Lars stayed at the homestead, taking in Luke while Obi-wan watched from his hermitage. Then in the beginning of "A New Hope" when Princess Leia's ship was attacked, she was seeking help not from the nearest source, but from an old Republic general on Tatooine: Obi-wan, her "only hope" to deliver the droids to her father. Now, what's a definite coincidence is how Owen, Beru and Luke happened to get the right two droids, whose secret mission led to Luke's life changing forever. That's still not terribly contrived, though, compared to other stories. Did Wasley ever read "Chance" by Joseph Conrad?

Much of the saga was engineered by Darth Sidious, prompting his boast to Luke in "Return of the Jedi" that "Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design." But, as we all know, the Emperor's foresight was flawed. It wasn't incomplete, because Vader told Luke in "The Empire Strikes Back" that the Emperor foresaw that Luke would destroy him. Nonetheless, the Emperor thrived in his own arrogance, much like the central planners that Hayek explained lack the knowledge they only think they have. The Emperor thought he had all elements under his flawless control, and that he could prevent or avoid any undesirable predicted outcomes.

But what happened was all destiny, all part of restoring balance to the Force -- or is that the Force restoring balance to itself? Thus the coincidences and the events that build on them are indeed spontaneous order, the result of Jedi action but not of Jedi design.


Anonymous Yoda Muir said...

The placing of the link to DBD appreciated, it is.

Thursday, November 03, 2005 9:15:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Strong with the Force DBD is...most powerful and illuminating it shall ever be.

Friday, November 04, 2005 9:49:00 AM  

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