Star Wars lightsped it’s way back into theatres this weekend, in 3D no less, so in honor of it’s return, I want to talk a bit about what I, among many, affectionately call “The Wars”.  I’m an unabashed Star Wars fan, a FANBOY if you will.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen the Star Wars films or the Star Wars:  The Clone Wars animated series; I lost count long ago (let’s not even get into the comic books and ever expanding novel collection I have).  The only things that has had a greater effect on me if life are the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my own unique story (and yet Star Wars has had it’s own role in that).  Late last year, a friend pointed me to the “Never Beyond” series that has been created by a group called People of the Second Chance.  The idea is to focus on individuals (real or not) who’ve done things that they should certainty be condemned for, but that even for them redemption is still possible (or achieved in some cases).

Which brings me to Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith formally known as Anakin Skywalker (one of the figures that the People of the Second Chance has highlighted).  The first time you see Vader in Star Wars (only later changed to Star Wars:  A New Hope in a theatrical re-release prior to the release of Empire Strikes Back in May of 1980) you know nothing about him, except that his very presence exudes fear in those that do not know and dread in those that do.  His troops have just wiped out the resistance to their boarding party, and his ship just plain dwarfs the Blockade Runner/Tantive IV.  Watching him threaten the hapless rebel trooper while he lifts the trooper under his own power, choke him to death, and then toss his lifeless body aside like a rag doll, you know this guy is bad news (and this is just the start).  He goes on to threaten/capture/torture a teenage Princess Leia (who he doesn’t know is his daughter), restrain the princess while they both watch Leia’s adopted home-world be destroyed in an instant along with almost two billion people, strike down his former friend and teacher in a duel, and almost kill Luke Skywalker (whom he doesn’t know is his son) in a space battle; and this is just the “first film”.  Except for Episode I:  The Phantom Menace, the Star Wars saga is filled with Anakin/Darth doing unspeakable thing: wiping out an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders after he watches his mother die because of their treatment of her, beheading Count Dooku, killing younglings during the siege on the Jedi Temple, wiping out the Separatist Council AFTER the Clone Wars are over, almost force choking his pregnant wife to death, cutting off his son’s hand (and destroying his innocence), and watching while his son gets tortured almost to the point of death by his Master, Palpatine/Darth Sidious – but I’ll come back to that one.  As an aside to buttress the point of Darth Vader being a bad dude, there is gargoyle of him hidden high on one of the towers of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC; the stone carving  was part of a competition to choose a representation of evil, and Vader won out.

Having established his bona-fides as a baddie, it is sometimes asked, “when did Skywalker become Vader?”.  The easy answer is “when Darth Sidious/Palpatine christened him as such in Revenge of the Sith”  Another might say “after he slaughters the Separatist Council on Mustafar and you see his eyes change to the red/yellow'”Sithy’ eyes that we saw Darth Maul have in Episode”.  The final, and best answer, I think is this:  Anakin Skywalker because Darth Vader to the fullest extent when he lashed out in rage after Sidious lied to him and told him he killed his wife (which, it could be argued was a partial truth).   This of course is forever immortalized with Vader screaming “NOOOOOOOOO” and crushing all the medical machines around him using the Dark Side at the end of Episode III.

Having experienced all of this as a character, not to mention the twenty years between Episodes III and IV wherein Vader actively hunts down and assassinates the remnants of the Jedi Order that escaped Order 66, when you see him in the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) redemption for this character is the LAST thing someone naturally considers.  Nevertheless, it happened and from the most unlikely of places – due to the efforts of the one person who should have hated him most: his son, Luke Skywalker.  Despite, the attempts to kill Luke at the hands of his father, Luke’s maiming as a result of Vader’s crimson blade, and the destruction of Luke’s ideal concept of who/what Anakin Skywalker was/is, Luke still believed that redemption for Vader was possible; he says as much when he explains all of this to a semi-shocked Leia Organa on Endor that “there is good in him…I have to try…to bring him back to the good side”

If I was Luke, I’d have a hard time not hating my dad (and I don’t even like typing that idea out when I think about my own dad and how wonderful he is) so that’s a testament to Luke’s strength of character and ability to see past all the dark and terrible things his dad had been involved with.  There is no indication as to what might have happened as far as the possibility of the restoration of any sort of relationship between father and son (even in the Return of the Jedi Infinities comic) much less a proper father/son relationship.  Interestingly, I once heard the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones, be interviewed live on stageWhen James Earl was interviewed, he talked of the relationship he never had with his dad because his dad abandoned him when he was a baby. When he eventually reconnected with his biological father later in life while getting into acting in New York City, he said that the best he could do was to be his father’s friend. How terrible is that? Think of what he missed, what he never got to learn. And yet a man who never knew never knew his father gave life to a character who never really knew his son.

In Return of the Jedi, Luke surrenders himself to Imperial Officers after talking with Leia and explaining the dynamics of their family and his intent to turn their father back from the Dark Side of the Force.  Upon his surrender, he is taken to Vader, and in the insuring conversation Luke calls him “father”, prompting Vader to interject that Luke has accecpted the truth that Vader is his father.  Luke responds:  “I have accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.”  Vader retorts: “That name no longer has any meaning for me.”  Luke counters “It is the name of your true self you have only forgotten.  I know there is good in you, the Emperor (Palpatine) hasn’t driven it from you fully.”  Luke then asks his father to leave this dark life he has lead, to walk away and essentially join the rebellion (which actually happens in a Star Wars Infinities version of Return of the Jedi); Luke offers an alternative, believing that his father’s redemption is still possible  Vader, resolutely responds “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side…it is too late for me, son”

The ensuing physiological and physical confrontation (via lightsaber and Force Lightning) between Luke, Vader, and Palpatine forces everything to one point of decision for Vader:  Do I continue down this dark path I have walked for 23 years and in so doing allow my Master to kill my son, or do I turn from this path, hopefully save my son, and destroy my Master – not to replace him – to free the galaxy from his tyranny.  We know Vader chose the latter, now importalized by his exclamation of “NO. NOOOOO!!!!” much akin to Episode III.  Had Luke not been in a situation where his father HAD to make a decision, it probably would have never been made; Luke was willing to sacrifice himself in hopes of seeing his father redeemed from the dark life to which he had succumbed.  (Interestingly, the scene title on the Return of the Jedi Blu-Ray for this point is called “Vader’s Redemption”.)  After this, as Vader is wheezing, and enduring the final minutes of his life, he instructs Luke “help me take, this mask off…just for once let me look on you with my own eyes”  Removing the mask, the last vestige of Darth Vader fades away and (for Luke) a new individual is in the place the Dark Lord once occupied; a change has happened and all of the darkness and pain he endured, redeemed (in spite of that darkness being his own choice).

The story of Darth Vader throughout the six Star Wars films is a compelling one, from his meteoric rise to the plunge into darkness and eventual redemption.  His redemption rings of the Gospel, with the Son (of Skywalker) willing to  sacrifice himself to bring one cloaked and bound in darkness back to the side of Light.  Most would consider Vader beyond saving, but one did not and took the requisite steps to give such an outcome the best opportunity to happen, knowing still that Vader would have to make the choice to recognize his folly and turn from it.  Moreover, upon Luke removing the mask (Vader could not do it under his own power) a new man comes to light, the old had gone and the new had come, to quote part of II Corinthians 5:17.  As Tolkien suggested, all myth ultimately reflects the One True Myth, the Gospel, even if unintended.

I love the idea of redeeming pain itself and painful experiences (bequeathing purpose) and pain used as a facet of becoming (my post on Tozer’s quote); it’s a personal thing for me.  The FENX is part of that: creating something to meet a need generated by difficulty and pain, and that creation opening doors to tell story and speak truth that would never have been comprehended if not for the pain and difficulty in the first place.  Ruminating on how that works often taxes my capacity.

What experiences in your life are in need to redemption and purpose?

Riding towards Eternity,

Aaron

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Comments
  1. […] admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth […]

  2. […] and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth […]

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