Before I get going, I should explain that we take Star Wars very seriously in our household. Well, okay, not really seriously, but we do get into some rather epic discussions about it for some reason (so expect quite a long post today). This usually revolves around the mysterious Force, what it is (to us, spiritually... none of this Midichlorian whatnot), and how the characters view it and interact with it.
Our Force-related talks are rivalled only by our Mass Effect discussions, but don’t get me started on that.
So, as it’s Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you), I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, and my conclusion that both are closer to each other than Sith or Jedi would like to admit. The best path, it seems to me, is a balanced approach, something that Luke comes closest to, and that I call ‘The Grey Side of the Force’.
|Above: how the Jedi and Sith like to view the Light and Dark sides of the Force|
Below: my view of the Light and Dark sides of the Force
The Sith and the Dark Side
I recently reviewed The Book of the Sith, a Star Wars companion book written by Daniel Wallace, which draws together a lot of information about the Sith from the various Star Wars films, books, games and other tie-in bits and bobs. This is pretty useful for a discussion such as this, so I’ll be using it quite heavily as a reference.
The Sith Order began a long (longlonglonglong) time before the Star Wars films, when certain Jedi rebelled against the Jedi Order, were banished, and fled to a distant world where they encountered the Sith Empire. They took over, and ‘Sith’ became a way of describing these particular Dark Jedi. They were pretty nasty individuals, undeniably, BUT, their reasons for rebelling against the Jedi are actually very interesting.
Let’s take a look at the Jedi Code compared with the Sith Code:
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.
Peace is a lie. There is only passion.
Through passion I gain strength.
Through strength I gain power.
Through power I gain victory.
Through victory my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.
Wow. Take a moment to let that sink in. Far from what we are led to believe about Dark Side practitioners, the end goal for the Sith – at least as we are told in their code – is not power or cruelty or hate, but freedom. Freedom. Strength serves to help gain power, power serves to help gain victory, and victory is needed to release them from their chains. To free them.
In fact, the Sith code is a lot more positive. The Jedi code offers seemingly beneficial things, such as peace and serenity, at the expense of other things that might be devastating for us to lose. The Sith code only offers a way to fight against these restrictions, to be truly free. The only thing we are denied in the Sith code is peace, and not because we shouldn’t have it, but because it is a lie. If we consider that the Jedi are offering harmony and peace through the repression of basic emotions that are impossible for humans not to feel, then it does begin to make this so-called peace look a little unlikely. The illusion of peace, perhaps, with a roiling sea of suppressed emotions beneath the surface, like a shaken bottle of soda waiting to pop. The Sith code comes across (to me, anyway) as, if nothing else, at least more honest than the Jedi code.
In other words, the Jedi Council is just as restrictive and ‘evil’ in its own way as the Light Side. It forced people who wanted freedom into exile, and refused to budge on its own questionable dogma. It didn’t make those Dark Jedi into despicable people, but it certainly pushed them down that path. And this is a mistake that seems to be repeated, tragically, over and over again...
The Light Side of the Force and the Jedi Council
The Jedi really don’t like emotion. Emotion leads to the Dark Side. Here’s the famous quote from Yoda:
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate... leads to suffering.”
|Yoda, by V-kony on DeviantArt|
But these ‘negative’ emotions are not the only problem. Because if we indulge in ‘positive’ emotions too, we are more susceptible to the bad ones. So goes Jedi logic. To feel deep love and passion is to invite in anger and pain and fear when situations take a turn for the worse. A person with no attachments can control their emotions better than a person who has things to lose.
At its best, this Jedi logic makes some kind of sense, though there are several problems with it:
What a sad solution. To deny all emotion and attachments out of fear of the possible consequences. It’s like people who are too afraid to make friends in case they lose them. Or too afraid to enter a competition in case they lose. Too afraid to live, because one day they will die. Yes, a system born out of fear. Now isn’t that what Jedi are supposed to be avoiding?
In other words, we could leave Anakin more or less to get on with things, lid off, and then when something bad happens he might get a little worried, go to his friends for help, maybe even flip out a bit, but then learn from his mistakes. Or, we could put the lid on and tell him he can’t love, and then shake and shake and shake, and then Palpatine comes along and removes the lid and... Yeah, exactly.
The Slippery Slope
Jedi wisdom (and Palpatine’s wisdom too, for that matter) seems to be based on the fact that giving in to anger leads inevitably to the Dark Side. That’s why the Emperor wanted Luke to strike in anger. That’s why Anakin wasn’t allowed to love. Because one slip and you’re gone... down the psychopath slide, it seems.
Only, this is demonstrably not true. Pretty much all Jedi seem to lose it now and again, some worse than others, and many feel rather guilty about it afterwards. Luke himself does. Anakin killed all those Sandpeople, then seemed fine again afterwards. It took another, different, situation for him to go to the Dark Side, and even then it seems only to be because he had no other choice. The Jedi wouldn’t help him, and only Palpatine offered a solution. Add to this the fact that the Jedi are self-satisfied jerks who keep telling him he shouldn’t be feeling what he’s feeling, and I’m not surprised he turned his back on them. What have they actually done for him, really?
|You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...|
by maxmontezuma on DeviantArt
I.e. It’s not being connected to the Force that makes emotion dangerous. Jedi are like normal people. They can get angry and rage and sulk, even turn violent, and then calm down later and regret it. It’s having so much power that makes them dangerous. An angry man with a knife is so much more dangerous than an angry man without one. That’s simple. But the answer, then, certainly isn’t to repress emotion and make this man with the knife feel even more desperate. It’s surely to teach him how to experience his emotions more safely. How to control the urge to hurt others when he’s angry. To support him when his wife is dying, to offer friendship and compassion, to make him less likely to turn to a harmful path out of desperation.
And here’s the Jedi mistake, again and again. Instead of examining and questioning its principles, it pushes away all who disagree. It’s not emotion that created the Sith, and that continues to do so. It’s the Jedi council itself.
The Sith are born from the fear and hatred of the Jedi, and the Jedi are defined by their fear and hatred of the Sith. Round and round we go.
Balance: The Grey Side of the Force
The words Jedi and Sith are not synonymous with the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. There are Force-users within the Star Wars expanded universe who follow both sides, who do not deny emotion, but who also do not seek power at the expense of all else. One example are the Nightsisters on Dathomir, introduced in one of the books (I forget which, sorry), and covered again in The Book of the Sith.
These people may behave questionably to us, perhaps not putting the same sanctity on life that we do, perhaps not fearing death and violence, perhaps with a society that seems baffling to us. They will certainly be very different from us. But fear of those who are different leads to anger, and anger leads to hate and suffering... right, Yoda?
What this tells us, regardless of how we feel about them, is that it is possible to use the Force without having to dedicate oneself to the extremes of either the Jedi or the Sith path. So they’re clearly both wrong about a lot of things.
Which leads me to Luke, Vader, and the
Luke wins. This is really important. Luke wins where Yoda failed. Luke wins where Mace Windu failed. Where Obi Wan failed. Where the entire Jedi Council failed. Why? Could it be because of the strength and support of his friendships? Could it be because of a life of being raised as a normal person, with normal emotions, who truly understands what is at stake – how people live and feel and what’s important to them? Could it be because his father finally turned away from the Sith path, and killed the Emperor... out of love for his son? Because of family. Because of love.
Anakin/Vader was redeemed through emotion. The good guys won through emotion.
Doesn’t that say it all, really?
The Book of the Sith, by Daniel Wallace, which I've reviewed here.
The Jedi Path, by Daniel Wallace, which I haven't read but have had recommended to me.
And, if you haven't already, watch the original trilogy of films!