May The Fourth Be With You

20140504-162236.jpgSome psychologists say that what happens when you are 10 years old can be very formative. In other words, family, national, or world events that happen during your tenth year can potentially shape your perspective for the rest of your life. Death of a parent? Divorce? 9/11? Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in decades? None of these happened the year I was 10. But in the summer of 1977, I saw STAR WARS multiple times on the big screen, including at least one time at the drive-in. This movie shaped me in ways that I still have yet to discover.

I am not a sci-fi person at all. Have never been a “Trekkie” either. But STAR WARS, and in particular episode IV, has held a special place in my heart since the summer of 1977.

STAR WARS is captivating to me mainly for its duality. George Lucas’ narrative is so modern and classic at the same time. The characters are simultaneously brave and campy. You have good and evil, father and son, twins Luke and Leia, binary star system; the list goes on and on.

But as I have taught more, I have realized the most important duality in STAR WARS (for me anyway) is that of student and master. The masters in STAR WARS do not have it all figured out, they get easily frustrated with their students, and their students sometimes even turn on them. Conversely, the impulsive students eventually come around to understanding the lessons the master has been desperately trying to teach them (albeit posthumously on the part of the master, but with the masters entering The Force, who cares?). In addition, the masters sometimes find themselves in the position of student, and the students find themselves in the position of master. The more I teach, the more I feel I am learning, and the more I encourage my students to teach. Also, the more I teach, the more I wish I could let go of the reins and be as calm as Yoda. Maybe when I am several centuries old, I will reach his level of Zen.

Until then, May the Force be with You.

9 thoughts on “May The Fourth Be With You

  1. There’s a good video online of George Lucas thanking Joseph Campbell (author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949) for helping him with the thematic structure of Star Wars. I first came across Joseph Campbell’s seminal book in a college anthropology course, but it was many years later that I began to understand the significance of the hero’s journey. Every culture, Campbell explained, has myths that have survived for thousands of years through what Campbell called a monomyth-the hero’s journey. In the monomyth (a term actually taken from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake) the hero ventures out from his or her simple world into a vast and complex universe where one experiences great struggle, help and, eventually, success. The study of mathematics has the same structure as the monomyth or the hero’s journey. This is why, I believe, you identify with Luke (students) and Yoda (teacher).

    • So true on so many levels, JDC. Star Wars is the ultimate Hero’s journey. I guess I thought that was the obvious part so I wrote about the duality. I am going to have to watch that video you suggest!

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