For many of you reading this title, you may recall it has a familiar ring to it. Some of you will identify the source because the film that featured the lines has been seen by millions of people since it was first released in 1980.
The Empire Strikes Back was a second in the initial series of the Star Wars movies that have captured the attention of viewers of varying ages and multiple generations since it was first released. If you know it well, you recall the movie begins scrolling with these words, “It is a dark time…” and continues a few lines later talking about a brave group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker.
Luke is young and passionate, self-confident, and eager, but his mentor, Ben Kenobi (better known as Obi-Wan), reminds him there is much he does not know to be a great warrior. He tells Luke he must travel and train with the greatest of trainers, Yoda, to become a true Jedi knight to face the evil Darth Vader. Luke seems skeptical but flies off to the planet in search of Yoda.
When Luke arrives to search for Yoda, nothing is as he expects. The planet is creepy at best and the expectation of what such a legendary Jedi knight would look like is shaken when Luke first meets Yoda. (A great way to remind us all not to be shaken by appearance or believe that is all there is to a person, or to a Jedi knight.)
Once the training commences Luke is not always convinced Yoda is as gifted as he truly is, nor does he recognize the wisdom and necessity of the training needed to use the power of a Jedi knight for good and not darkness.
One of the training tasks Yoda implements with Luke is asking him to lift something using only his mind and thoughts. It requires a lack of distraction and a great deal of belief that he can accomplish the task. Luke has some success but gets distracted when his space craft sinks into the water where it had first landed. Luke believes the spacecraft is lost, but consider the dialogue and the admonishment of Yoda in the situation:
“Luke: Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!
Yoda: So certain, are you? Always with you, what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?
Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing, but this is… totally different!
Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
[Luke tries to use the Force to levitate his X-Wing out of the bog but fails in his attempt.]
Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.
Luke: You want the impossible. [sees Yoda use the Force to levitate the X-wing out of the bog and gets flustered when he does it] I don’t… I don’t believe it!
Yoda: That is why you fail.”
You may wonder what that has to do with the usual themes I write. Consider what I have put in italics in the dialogue above.
It contains principles for all who would believe and are called to be warriors for the cause of Christ. (Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit have power far beyond the mythical “Force” of the Star Wars epic series we enjoy.)
We also face an unseen dark force determined to erode any light emanating from the Godhead and shining through us. We (like Luke) can sometimes get ahead of ourselves and not recognize the power available to us is great but can only be wielded wisely as a result of training with a master warrior. Or we can be foolish and minimize the skill and tactics of the dark evil’s attempts to upend us and persuade is to leave the light and go “to the dark side.”
The more subtle weakness that can result in defeat is one less recognized by most of us. Yoda’s message is key: “Do or do not. There is no try.” You see Yoda knows the first step is to make a determined choice to do or not do what must be done. To say we will ‘try” does not show a determined belief and commitment to “do or do not” and that alone will result in a lack of success in battle, discipline, or life itself.
Fictional tales often show us a valuable lesson in life.
We too may see life around us not unlike the words scrolling at the beginning of the film – a dark time – and if we are to be light in the darkness and warriors for the good, our commitment must be sure and our belief unwavering.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”