I hated the new Star Wars movie. Between what felt like casting more based on identity politics than talent, storytelling that fell flatter than a pancake, and a host of scenes I felt were directed by PETA rather than by JJ Abrams, the film left me not with a feeling of just disappointment, but as though I had sat through a bad sermon rather than a movie.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that. I sometimes think I’m in the majority, just a silent one. It’s not the idea-preaching either, I can enjoy a movie that has an underlying or even overt message. What I can’t enjoy one that voices it’s message poorly. Even with all that, there’s one conclusion above all else that I think remains with me about the Star Wars films. Namely, the Jedi are not good.
I’ve grown to criticize their role as protagonists in the film. Why? Their philosophy.
It’s well known that the philosophy of the Jedi is based on many eastern religions and doctrines, especially one that I adamantly disagree with. Buddhism.
Just today I hosted a philosophical dialogue call on the Eastern religion for Original Path, where I got to talk about why I disagree with the central doctrines of Buddhism. I’ll argue against both of them, chiefly, by saying they are inherently negative. Now, they aren’t negative in the sense that they think the world is doomed. Buddhism and Jediism (it’s a real word, and a real religion) are negative in the sense that the central tenants of their philosophies are based on suffering.
Buddhism famously declares that life is suffering, to be born, is to suffer, to live, is to suffer, to exist, is to suffer, to even be conscious, is to suffer. The Jedi don’t necessarily endorse this, but they do emphasize mental restraint and the withholding of forming attachments. Buddhism too, emphasizes this last point, that we should not get attached to all attachment is suffering.
To betray my introduction, I would say that both of these statements are correct. I would certainly agree with everything said there. That to form relationships with anyone or anything will eventually cause strife. I would say that everything above is accurate, but all of it stops halfway from the truth.
The truth it stops halfway from is “what makes life worth living”? The idea that to be born meant to suffer the action of being birthed is accurate, but are you willing to say you regret being born? The idea that their pain exists in life is valid, but are you willing to say that the pain does not justify the pleasure? The idea that attachments fade and that the breaking of bridges is something that must be suffered is true, but do you forge a friendship, cherish a relationship, love another human being for the inevitable end of the bond, or do you maintain the bond for the sake of the virtues and celebration of their character?
Do you live for the second in which you have to die, or the decades in which you have to live?
Both Buddhism and Star Wars emphasize that yes, life is suffering, and yes, that suffering must be overcome. Either by Stoicism or by meditation, one must shed the pains of the world, and as an expense to find contentment amongst the pain, one must shed the pleasures. Yet it’s for this I disagree.
The horror of pain does not need to outweigh the pleasure. Joy exists and is attainable, and the abstinence of the pleasure and the radiance that life carries is not sufficient does not outweigh the glorious moments that happiness offers.
However, the Jedi have been written with this philosophy, along with countless scriptures of values, both eastern and western alike. The heroes must sacrifice their closest relationships, the most sacred qualities of life, love, attachment, joy, for the sake of compassion towards all other beings. Is the love you feel for those you most adore, even relatively close to that which you feel for a stranger? Is it a just thing to require of another person that they should love you like they love their kin, or likewise of yourself?
Per Buddhism, life may be seen as suffering, but I deny it. Per Jediism, compassion towards all may be seen as the sacrifice of intimacy, but I deny this. Your life is the product of how you live it, both in narration and in action, and compassion is not the abstinence of intimacy, but the allowance of it. One can live as though suffering is the baseline, and with the Stoicism that attachments are not worth forging for eventually they will be destroyed, but I deny this. I deny that life is zero-sum, and while the conclusions may be negative, the duration can be positive.
So I say, in the face of all the philosophies that would tell you to abstain from something: don’t. Life isn’t made worth living by departing from emotions and happiness, but from embracing it. Life isn’t made worth living by finding that life is filled with events of suffering, but to a greater degree, filled with events of joy and pleasure.
You may have found this blog post provocative, in which case, good. If you are, embrace that you are provoked by me, love it, and then tell me why I’m wrong. I look forward to the idea of being so.