Have you ever read a book that you were really looking forward to reading, only to find that the ending — and with it, months of anticipation — fell completely and dramatically short of your expectations? Were you presented with just another question after attempting to wrap your head around an entire series worth of questions, to the point where you were literally willing, after more than a decade of reading
Star Wars Expanded Universe whatever-strikes-your-fancy novels, to pack up all your books for a yard sale?
You might say that’s how I felt when I finished Troy Denning’s Apocalypse last week. The conclusion to the Fate of the Jedi series didn’t give the hardcore Star Wars fan any silver lining in the uncertainty of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, but rather provided yet another starting point for what’s sure to be the next extended series of conflict, war, and crisis of faith for the citizens of planets like Coruscant and the weakening band of Jedi Knights under Luke Sykwalker. Instead of a happy ending or a silver lining, we’re instead left with more uncertainty and greater instability. How utterly depressing.
Depressing or not, it does hold true to the maxim that art imitates life. Apocalypse especially recalled the times we’re living in now, and the seemingly opposed and polarized worlds that many people (including me) vacillate between in our everyday lives. Caught up in challenging times for ourselves and our country, we often fall victim to demonizing those who don’t think like we do, and all to easily paint ourselves as victims — sometimes hopeless victims — against a society we fear will not have us because of our beliefs and principles. It’s easy to give up during these times, and after another week in which my family has faced health challenges and I personally have continued to feel the strain of this politically charged society, I yearn for a respite. None has come, however. Not in hope for a new career. Not in a friend who can share my nostalgic and guilty pleasure of late-night McDonald’s runs. And certainly not in my Star Wars reading, which once again has left me with a lackluster series making me question why I ever picked up a book following the conclusion of the New Jedi Order series. Deprived of this respite, I feel hopeless at times, and feel like, “what’s the use?” when trying to make my way through the world as both a happy and productive member of society, and a loving, charitable, and still faithful Christian. Especially when it comes to that whole “love your enemies” stuff…
I don’t have the easy answer or the roadmap for how I will get to where I am going, just like I don’t have the easy answer for this country. And that’s o.k., because a lot of very wise people don’t have that answer either, including the Pope. Proving he’s a very real person with the same fears and doubts many of us have, he recently spoke to the uncertainty in both his own life and in the world. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share part of what he said.
“I find myself facing the final phase of my life, and I don’t know what awaits me. I do know, though, that the light of God is real, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world.
This helps me continue on with confidence. This help carries us all forward, and in this moment I thank from my heart everyone who constantly lets me see the “yes” of God through their faith.”
What the Pope said reminded me to what Jaina Solo was getting at during the final pages of Apocalypse. In a nutshell, she affirms that the Jedi will be faced with an even greater war with the Sith in the years to come, and that while society may be pushing the Jedi off Coruscant, the Force continues to call the guardians of peace and justice to serve those even those who place the blame for the ills of the world squarely on the Jedi’s shoulders. It reminds me of how Jesus calls all Christians to live — even when we don’t want to – and how he calls us to show that unceasing love and charity. It’s a message that the best — and only — way to counter the tide of negativity or perceived attitudes is to do only what we can in our small capacity. To live simply, treat all with love and dignity, and offer that hope, those smiles, to the faces we encounter each day. It doesn’t mean not standing up for things, but it doesn’t mean holding out God’s love to only those who agree with us. That’s not the way God acts, and if we don’t even try to follow his greatest commandment, how then can we even call ourselves by the name of Christian? Only by offering that kind of charity and social justice to all can we begin to create a society where people can live with sympathy and empathy, and can we begin to solve the problems in our own lives and in our country. Will we get there? Yes, we will. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I do know that doing those little things we’re called to do build a sense of hope which will help us all through uncertain times.
And that, you might say, is why I find myself writing about Star Wars and God, a crappy economy and another reason for hope, on a rainy Sunday afternoon.