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Thursday, January 21, 2016

In a galaxy far, far away an imagination was born

It was the spring of 1977 and my parents took me and my brothers to see this little space movie. We packed up in our Chevy station wagon and went to a Drive-in just off the Boston Post Rd, Route 1, in New London, CT. We sat through some other movie that I don’t remember, what I remember vividly is the 20th Century Fox fanfare and the screen went dark. We held for a breathless moment and then with an orchestral explosion the words Star Wars appeared against a star field and slowly faded back until a crawl of words explaining the situation rolled up the canvas and when finished the camera panned down and sent me into a world, a galaxy that would irrevocably, indelibly change me.

I lived a thousand adventures in my mind wishing so hard that I could move objects with my mind, bend the will of the weak minded and swing around a sword made of light. I would defend the helpless and fight great battles. I would take my place among the heroes of the galaxy and I would never feel weak or powerless again. It was a pretty good dream for an eight year old boy. It was a formative age in a time when I didn’t understand the world around me very much, but knew there was plenty of people that could use the help of a Jedi Knight.

I recently came across a booklet I wrote. It had to be the 3rd grade and we had to write things about our lives. In the section that asked what I wanted to be, I wrote: Luke Skywalker. It would take me a little time to figure out what a whiny little shit he was and that I really wanted to be Han Solo by the time I hit my teens and pretty much through the end of my 20's. I lived in this space. I was a rogue, I was irreverent, I got myself into trouble and didn't always get myself out. I was cavalier about most things. These were times I surrounded myself with like-minded scoundrels, we were on the hunt for adventure, love and to find our place in the world. Han Solo was my totem, my spirit animal, my hero.

After the prequels came out, who I really wanted to be was Obiwan Kenobi, he was the only thing that, in my opinion, was great about the prequels. I wanted to follow along with him on adventures. I think that still holds true. Obiwan is a warrior, an adventurer, a detective, a teacher and a man of thoughtful action. I admire those qualities. It makes him the ultimate bad-ass and he is without ever flaunting it. It felt perfect for me as I was reaching toward 40. I'd come into my own. I had found balance and felt competent and capable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakes multiple times. I’m absolutely a fan of the movie. I like that it’s almost a beat-for-beat retelling of A New Hope. I like seeing the old familiar faces, I really dug the new villains and I fell in love with Rey, Finn and Poe. There’s something familiar about each of them and something new each brings to the table that put us on familiar ground, but I think ultimately will take us to new places in the Star Wars Universe.

I’m going to start with Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issac. He is the hottest pilot in the resistance. We don’t meet him when he’s at his best. He’s on a mission to Jaaku to retrieve a map that will lead the resistance to finding a missing Luke Skywalker. He gets ambushed by the First Order, who are the remnants of the Empire. They have new sleek Stormtroopers, who actually know how to use blasters and hit their targets. They are led by Kylo Ren, Played by Adam Driver, who comes off like a Darth Vader wannabe, but just before Poe gets captured he shoots a bolt at Kylo Ren. Ren then holds the bolt suspended by the Force as Poe is taken into custody.

Darth Vader never did that. Han Solo shot him in Empire Strikes Back. He stopped the blaster bolt with his hand, but didn’t leave it hanging. Kylo Ren is strong with the Force. Poe is taken back to the Star Destroyer to be interrogated Kylo was able to pluck the information out of his mind. Another Force power never seen before.

Poe get rescued by a Stormtrooper named FN-2187, played by John Boyega, who we saw on the surface acting in a manner unlike other Stormtroopers. He doesn’t want to kill anyone and he doesn’t. He troubled and believes the First Order is wrong. He leads Poe out to the hanger bay and the two steal a Tie Fighter and make their escape. In the escape FN-2187 is renamed Finn and they’re off to flee the Star Destroyer. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to outrun all the ordinance shot at them and get hit and crash land back on Jaaku. The two are separated and Finn thinking Poe is dead heads off to continue his escape.

There he runs into Rey, a scavenger picking played by Daisy Ridley, who is trying to help Poe’s droid BB-8 and in a hilarious scene that threw away any gender bias and showed that Rey was tough and the one who could do the saving. As Rey, Finn and BB-8 (BB-8 how cool is he? I think he slayed R2-D2 in emoting and cuteness) flee, the try to make their escape on a ship that gets destroyed in the First Order attack on the surface. This lead them to a piece of junk ship that is revealed to be the Millennium Falcon. They hop in and the adventure begins.

Star Wars has been a very personal journey for me and my perspectives have change a lot as I’ve grown and entered different phases of my life and the Journey has been lifelong. I know I’m not alone. The story is the hero’s journey and aren’t we all the heroes of our own stories? Star Wars tapped into unlocked potential in us all. It was a fantasy and who doesn’t like that?

This is what excited me so much about The Force Awakens. First, it’s another hero’s journey. It doesn’t look like we’re getting one hero, but three. Finn is looking for redemption, Poe is driven to use his ability to its ultimate end and Rey is looking for her place in the universe, mourning a family she lost and is now on a path to find where she needs to be.

I’m also excited by Kylo Ren. He’s got tremendous power, he’s filled with rage that he can’t control. He has an ideal in Darth Vader that he aspires to, but ultimately doesn’t think he’s worthy, he probably doesn’t understand that he may be more powerful. Like Darth Vader, it’s the little bit of light that still burns within that is going to prove the most troublesome. Vader found it in the end, Kylo is desperately trying to extinguish his. I can’t wait to see all of this unfold over in episodes VIII and IX. I think he is what Anakin should have been in the prequels. Adam Driver makes him truly frightening.
I suspect we’re in for some surprises. The most interesting, in my opinion, is who is Rey? Is she a Skywalker? A Kenobi? Something else?

I'm going to turn back to Luke Skywalker. His students were lost. He withdrew from the galaxy. He's looking for something. Will Luke take his place back in the galaxy, or will he always be a man apart. His hero’s journey has ultimately been a lonely one. Who hasn’t felt that in their lives? That no one understands the problems I face, or if there’s anyone that can walk this path besides me? It something most understand. I have a wife, family, friends but I don't want to burden them with the issues I face as far as I'm concerned it's my world, my burden and ultimately I’m responsible for the choices I made and the failures I've had. Successes are great, but ultimately a less apt teacher. I understand that. I'm also an idiot.I need to remind myself that I don't ever have to face anything alone. Community, family, love. These are the things that hold off the dark side. I hope that Rey and Luke take that journey and bring the Jedi back. I think it's time for me to do the same. Maybe my 8 year old self was right, I’m Luke Skywalker and I'm a Jedi. Now, where did I leave that lightsaber?

Where can you find me?

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