Holy Star Wars!

Holy Star Wars!

After almost a month of sacred readings of Star Wars, I have been thinking a lot about how to ensure that my writings are as accessible to a...

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Rogue One Teaser Trailer


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a film all about one particular weapon: the Death Star. The first trailer for this film reveals that a test for this super-weapon is imminent, gives us one of the most stark shots of just what size a weapon the rebels are dealing with, and presents the viewer with a plethora of action to wet their interest for what is being described as a “gritty war film.” But not every weapon is the same, and while the word “weapon” itself holds a negative connotation, there are two real classifications of weapons: offensive and defensive weapons.

A physical weapon itself may very strongly call for use as offensive or defensive based on its construction, but most often, the weapon itself is not the determining factor. Rather, it is the intention a weapon is kept and used with that determines whether it is offensive or defensive. The teaser trailer for Rogue One is full of clear examples of both types of weapons, as well as gray areas between the two.

Some of the examples of clearly offensive weapons in this trailer included the Death Star itself, the new Death Troopers and AT-ACT walker. These are weapons designed with the explicit purpose of instilling fear, maintaining order, and squashing any semblance of resistance across the Galaxy. There can be no mistaking the intention behind the utilization of these weapons, even from the perspective of the Empire itself.

Something I would consider a defensive weapon that is present throughout most of the trailer is the sounding of the klaxons. While they do not bludgeon nor scorch an enemy as the other weapons in this trailer do, the sirening klaxons are a tool in the rebel’s arsenal to warn themselves against attacks and prepare themselves to either use other weapons or retreat, likely in a combination of the two. Perhaps it is an exaggeration of the definition of a weapon to consider the klaxons as such, but I think it is more useful to point out their defensive purposes than to worry about the narrow or broad nature of the definition for “weapon.”

Most of the examples of weapons throughout the trailer are much more ambiguous. The ambiguity is drawn really from the nature of rebellion. It is undeniable that the Empire and all of its intentions and methods are evil. But this does not automatically mean that every last stormtrooper is evil. There are two scenes in this short video of rebels fighting stormtroopers in an urban setting. The first is several shots of the main star of the film, Jyn Erso, engaged in hand-to-hand combat in an alleyway, followed by some blaster shots and an explosion. The other scene, appearing to take place in the same city, features Chirrut Imwe and takes place in a more open area with a crashed X-Wing starfighter in the background, the choice vehicle of the rebel alliance.

In Jyn’s scene, was she attacked without first provoking the stormtroopers? Or, did she commit some sort of crime that warranted their intervention? Was she harming them solely out of self-defense, or did she have the intention of doing serious damage or even killing them? These are the fine distinctions between offensive and defensive maneuvers, and even still, there is no definite definition.

The setting of Imwe’s fight with the stormtroopers, in a more open area near a crashed X-Wing, gives the initial impression that perhaps the rebels provoked the stormtrooper’s attacking him by attacking the Imperial presence in this city. Was the assumed offensive on this city a matter of strategy designed to weaken the Empire in a long-term defensive campaign? Or, was the attack some sort of pure offensive? Knowing the nature of the rebellion and the value they place on human lives, it is likely even an offensive on this city would have been in the spirit of preventively striking the Empire to prevent horrific damages later.

A rebellion by nature is defensive. It occurs to protect against the repression that otherwise would ensue. How a rebellion is conducted, however, can easily straddle a line between offense and defense. One is not necessarily good or evil, but what is important is cognizance of how the rebels are conducting themselves so as not to become what they hate. While governments are naturally on the offense as they compel their citizens to abide by their laws, they too should stay aware how they utilize their weapons.

Whether offensive or defensive, weapons are dangerous and must be handled with the utmost care and attention to the semantics of how those weapons are used. We should all take the time to recognize our most powerful weapon, our words, and whether they are being presented as offensive, defensive, or somewhere in-between. As with any weapon, there are appropriate times for each, and even within those proper opportunities, how we implement them can make all the difference for how those we are talking to will take those words.

Next time:

ROURGE ONE PREMIERS TONIGHT! Keep an eye out for a full review on Sunday in place of a regular post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


The Fortification of Asgard/ The Clone Wars S5E2-5 (The Onderon Arc)


A War on Two Fronts, Front Runners, The Soft War, and Tipping Points
(The Onderon Arc)

       Separatist takeover complete! Another Republic planet has fallen. Onderon has seceded to the Confederacy of Independent Systems under the rule of a new king. However, a small band of rebels have taken refuge deep within the vast and savage wilderness. 
       From an abandoned outpost, they plot to take back the heavily fortified capital city of Iziz and end the Separatist occupation...

The Fortification of Asgard

       Opportunity knocks! The Asgardians fear invading giants. A seemingly friendly giant offers to build an impenetrable wall around Asgard but at a heavy price.
       Having agreed to the giant's terms, they gods of Asgard quickly recognize the error of their arrangement and seek to upend the support they thought they were receiving...

We cannot do everything on our own. We need all the support of others from time to time, whether physically or emotionally. Asking for support can be one of the most challenging to have to do. The humility required is unparalleled. The very same can be said of relinquishing support once it has been acquired. The crutch that support can become is a dangerous enabler for atrophying skill and motivation.

A particularly interesting tale in Norse mythology is that of the Fortification of Asgard. Within that tale are numerous layers of support to be investigated and divulged. The first layer is the most apparent; the wall itself that was constructed around Asgard. The gods of Asgard commissioned the construction of the wall in order to protect themselves from attacks by giants and other adversaries. The wall serves as both physical support in the defense of the realm, as well as a symbol of admission that perhaps the denizens of Asgard are not entirely secure without it.

When Onderon was overtaken by the Separatist Alliance, the rightful king was disposed and some of Onderon’s citizens refused to accept the repressive new regime. In their burgeoning fight against their new government, the Onderonian rebels pleaded with the Jedi council to send support. The debate that succeeded that communication was not only on whether to intercede but even more so on what the negative repercussions of doing so would be for the long-term ability of Onderon’s rebels to be successful. Similarly to our galaxy’s Vietnam War, some on the Jedi Council feared that having Jedi merely play an advisory role in an attempted secession would lead to both a dependence upon the Jedi to win, as well as draw the Jedi and the Republic into another battle they are unsure they should engage in. Ultimately, the Jedi decide to provide training and supplies to the rebels on Onderon with the intended hope of helping them achieve self-sufficiency in their efforts.

The giant who bartered with the Asgardians for possession of the Sun, the Moon, and a wife in the god Freya in exchange for a mighty wall would have been unable to complete his construction project without the support of his horse, Svadilfari. The giant’s bargain was accepted under the condition that the wall is completed before the end of a single winter. Mighty as the giant was, his horse was able to work twice as hard. Yet, the faith the giant placed in his horse would become his very downfall. When eventually the gods conspired against the giant to prevent his success, they targeted specifically Svadilfari, for, without him, completion of the wall was impossible.

There is an immense vulnerability in receiving support. On the one hand, it allows us to reach greater heights and accomplish steeper tasks than we otherwise would be able to, and yet it leaves us open to devastation should that support be prematurely retracted. In the fight for Ondeeronian freedom, the rebels worked hard to prevent that same vulnerability that the giant suffered. Not only did the Onderonians train hard to be adequately equipped to fight the King Rash’s forces and the Separatist droids, but they recognized the vitality of gaining the support and trust of all the people of Onderon, not just those already part of their cause. They quickly learned that their cause would be seen as terrorism by the masses and not as the rebellion they intended to be.

Eventually, the rebels did manage to gain the favor of the planet’s citizenry, but not before learning another lesson about support. During their training, the three leaders of the rebel cell, Saw, Steela, and Lux found themselves strifing with one another and themselves over conflicts of leadership, emotion, and skill. The success of their entire operation was at risk until they learned to find support in their own self-confidence and confidence in the support their squad members will provide. They had to come to appreciate that they each brought a particular skill and style to the fight and that in acting as one body, their support for one another complemented and compounded their efforts.

The gods of Asgard tried to rely on the specific skills and styles that they each brought to the table when seeking support from within on how best to gain from the giant’s offer without being made to lose just as much. Unfortunately, their source of support was the god of mischief and trickery Loki, and  as a result of Loki’s dastardly manipulation, the rest of the gods nearly were made to pay an irrecoverably heavy price. Not only is seeking support challenging as it's own isolated act but accepting the proper support even more challenging.

The gods of Asgard were left so vulnerable by their predicament that they were either willing to forgo the risks inherent in partnering with Loki, or they were rendered unable to recognize those risks by the sheer emotional and physical desperation they found themselves in. Onderon’s former king Dendup was faced with the same crisis when he was faced with needing to seek support from either the Republic or the Separatists. His vulnerability left him open to be misguided and abused by the Separatists that he turned to for support. What seemed at first like an opportunity to unburden himself or prevent or delay the onset of war on his planet became the very factor that led to King Dendup’s failure to secure his people.

Sometimes too, support comes from the places we least expect it. The final saving grace in the fight for a free Onderon came in the form of a munitions delivery facilitated by the pirate and often adversary of the Republic, Hondo Ohnaka. The final saving grace for the Asgardian gods against losing the Sun, the Moon, and Freya came from (though forced) Loki who went to very extreme lengths to distract Svadilfari from performing his duties.

Whether support is coming from within, from friends, or from the least expected of places, it is something terribly irresistible, especially when solidarity feels too overwhelming. It is important to be willing to ask for support, whether physically or emotionally, when necessary. It is also crucial to recognize as the supporter that your job is not to do the job for the one you are supporting. Rather, your job most often is to facilitate the ability of who you are supporting to eventually succeed on their own. As the ones receiving support, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in our distress that we are not being taken advantage of, nor that we become weakened in our abilities to be our own support.

Next time:

Look out for a short, special edition post of a reading of the original trailer for Rogue One through the theme of "Weapons" in honor of the release of the new film that night. Expect a review of the film on Sunday (spoilers or not TBD), more chronological Clone Wars on Tuesday heading back to S2E2, and a wrap up of the current reading of James Luceno's Tarkin.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3)/ Episode IV: A New Hope
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/vayeitzei/english-translation


A New Hope

       It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. 
       During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. 
       Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....


       It is a bountiful time. The flock of Laban, Son of Nahor the Aramean, as seen great prosperity with no miscarriage or plague.
       For twenty years, Jacob, Nephew and Son-in-Law to Laban, has toiled in his field in exchanged for no only hospitality, but the marriage of Laban's daughters to him.
       Tired of their arrangements for payment being altered and made a mockery of, Jacob seeks to relieve himself of servitude to Laban...
One man’s rebel is another man’s freedom fighter. Every conflict is marred with moral qualms that the offenders will justify by any means necessary while the offender will condemn until their faces turn blue. To be wronged elicited such a visceral reaction that can absolutely not be understood by the one who did the wronging. In the course of human history, one of the most natural responses to wrongdoing, systematic or personal, has been rebellion. Whether oppressed by your government or interpersonally afflicted, the principled defiance of rebellion is an honored, revered, and even glorified tradition.

Some rebellions are small and some rebellions are large, but what all rebellions have in common is the desire to change the way things are. In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob spends twenty years living in the house of his uncle (and father-in-law) Laban. Time and again Jacob feels wronged by Laban and the way he is paid for his years of labor. Betrayed first by being given the wrong daughter for a wife and then again many years later by being denied a flock of his own to establish his own household, Jacob comes eventually to a point where he can feel wronged no longer and rebels. In his rebellion, Jacob stole from Laban’s flock and household and ran off into the night to escape his household.

This rebellion was, however, met with opposition as all rebellions are. Rachel and Leah, Jacob’s wives and the daughters of Laban, feared the repercussions of rebelling. They feared rebellion would mark the point of no return from which their relationship with their father and their father’s household would be terminated permanently. They did not necessarily act as sympathizers to Laban, but rather as objectors on the basis of convenience. They wanted to avoid rebellion to protect themselves from the repercussions. The risk did not outweigh the reward.

The Alliance to Restore the Republic, also known simply as the Rebel Alliance, took years to form between the end of the Clone Wars and the Battle of Yavin. Small groups or individuals across the Galaxy who detested the tyranny of the Galactic Empire, many of whom were active in either fighting against them directly or attempted to subvert their oppression on their own, would slowly come together to form local rebel cells. They, in turn, would have to make the terrible decision and sacrifice of leaving their home planets to form a larger, galaxy-spanning rebellion, or remaining on-world to make larger differences in their homes but more likely face the wrath the Empire could more easily bestow upon less organized and protected lone soldiers.

Just like Rachel and Leah, there were countless beings across the Galaxy that may not have agreed with the way things were, but found the risk of attempting to change anything not worth the potential reward. Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen was one of these objectors of convenience. Owen made clear his disdain for the Empire, but was firmly against Luke joining Obi-Wan in that endeavor on account of his perceived futility of rebellion and fear that Luke would fall down the same path his father Anakin had. For Owen, the life of a simple farmer in the outer reaches of the Galaxy was perfectly sufficient, and Luke was even content to concede until his aunt and uncle were murdered by the Empire. At that moment, Luke understood he had less to lose by rebelling than he had to gain.

All rebellion have in common a desire to see things changed and the catalyst of having been personally wronged or harmed. They also have in common an opposing perspective. Laban had Leah wed to Jacob before Rachel not to spite Jacob, but because in his religion it was improper for an older daughter to be wed before a younger one. When he refused Jacob a flock after having promised him one, he may well have done so not to prevent Jacob from prospering, but because he genuinely believed he was being so charitable to Jacob that Jacob should have had no reason to want to leave, and that keeping his healthy flock would not truly harm Jacob.

The Empire’s point of view at its highest leadership was rooted in evil. But the reasons so many joined the Empire were often noble. Even Anakin Skywalker himself did not turn to Palpatine and the Dark Side out of malice, but rather because he was duped into believing it would save the ones he loved to join him. Most Galactic citizens that joined the ranks of the Empire did so either because they too were led astray, led to believe they were truly a force for good against a millennia of evil Jedi rule, or because they prioritized the need for a steady job that supported their family over the moral opposition they may have held for the jobs in the Imperial military or bureaucracy that they took up.

Rebellion has a threshold that has to be exceeded before initiating. To some, a wrong is not great enough or does not affect them directly enough to warrant such drastic action as rebellion. For others, those wrongs go simply unrecognized, or provide them with such benefit that they regard it as just. If we recall the conversation from a few weeks ago on shame, we will recall that every individual views the world differently from one another. There can be no expectation that everybody agrees on what the issues are or how best to solve them.

What this does not mean, though, is not to take your beliefs and passions and turn them into actions. Should you feel genuinely and personally wronged, even if nobody else seems to feel the same way, it is your right and perhaps even your duty to speak up. Perhaps nobody else has out of fear, or a lack of understanding, and your action may just be the spark of rebellion needed to make the change you wish to see.

Next Time:

The Onderon Arc from The Clone Wars and The Fortification of Asgard through the theme of "Support."

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Jude 1:1-25/ Tarkin bu James Luceno



       Five standard years have passed since Darth Sidious proclaimed himself galactic Emperor. The brutal Clone Wars are a memory, and the Emperor's apprentice, Darth Vader, has succeeded in hunting down most of the Jedi who survived Order 66. On Coruscant a servile Senate applauds the Emperor's every decree, and the populations of the Core Worlds bask in a sense of renewed prosperity.
       In the Outer Rim, meanwhile, the myriad species of former Separatist worlds find themselves no better off than they were before the civil war. Stripped of weaponry and resources, they have been left to fend for themselves in an Empire that has largely turned its back on them.
       Where resentment has boiled over into acts of sedition, the Empire has been quick to mete out punishment. But as confident as he is in his own and Vader's dark side powers, the Emperor understands that only a supreme military, overseen by a commander with the will to be as merciless as he is, can secure an Empire that will endure for a thousand generations...


       Beware the traitors in our midst! In a time where not everyone shares the same awe for God, none can be trusted as being believers in Him.
       Remaining ever vigilant, all who might listen and understand set to save all those who have been led astray and lack the clarity with which to understand God's true glory.
       Yet, while in fear believers are expected to remain over the interlopers in their midst, their resolution is unwavering. Unwilling to live in a world succumbed totally to that fear, strangers are still trusted and revered as they always have been meant to...

Trust is somewhat of a hard thing to come by these days. The proliferation of fake news and the wanton fear of “others” demonizing or demoralizing nearly everyone has fermented a drastic drop in the willingness or ability of people to have trust in others. It is fairly evident where a lack of trust comes from, but where do we go to learn how to trust again?

In the first portion Epistle of Jude, there is a stark warning about a flood of non-believers in God saturating society. The text goes to great lengths to describe these interlopers and fortify the reasons believers themselves should continue to believe as they do. All along, it was easy to assume the text would conclude by asking its reader to be wary of these infidels, attempt to save them from themselves when discovered, but fear them and be cautious towards them. And that assumption was correct. But as with all good texts, it is far more complex than just that in its expectations for its readers.

Back in one of my earlier writings on “control,” I had made an illusion to some character developments and relationships that were most clearly established in this novel. In this book, Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader were made to partner together to investigate an apparent hacking into the HoloNet that had been wreaking havoc on their Death Star construction operations. An operation that was entirely unknown to anybody outside of a tightly kept circle. With such a closely guarded secret being subjected to sabotage, only a high ranking traitor to the Empire, it was surmised by the investigatively adept oversector governor, might possibly be the one responsible. It was merely a manner of discerning who and amassing the necessary evidence against them. Just like the infidels of the Epistle of Jude, the infidel was to be sought out and vanquished.

Yet, what kind of life would we be enduring if at every turn we had nothing but fear for whether our neighbors were believers in God, or traitors, or generally just untrustworthy? We would be in constant paranoia that every action somebody takes was a subtle clue regarding how much they can be trusted. It feels though we dangle too close to that reality too often. Fortunately, these texts provide an excellent basis combined for how to best go about trusting others in this way.

The full verse where the reader is instructed to confront the non-believers they encounter reads “22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” As I first read this line, the “mixed with fear” portion is what stood out to me most. The speaker is compelling the reader to be gracious but also to be cautious towards strangers. Treat them with the reverence a stranger is meant to be treated with, but do not place your faith in them fully.

Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor had perfectly excusable reasons for lacking in trust for most other people, and not just in the midst of this one particular investigation. These men worked in an absolutely toxic environment of the Emperor’s creation that was designed specifically to keep anybody from trusting anybody else so that they remained servile only to the Emperor himself. The more that his subordinates were questioning one another and lacking in faith in anybody’s sanctity besides Palpatine’s then Palpatine could trust that nobody beneath him would be capable of organizing against him. He maliciously used a lack of trust as a tool in his favor.

With regards to this particular investigation, the same lack of trust existed as always and perhaps was exaggerated by the given circumstances. That lack of trust, however, manifested itself in a tactful and respectable way. Tarkin did not wear his lack of trust on his shoulder. He did not allow his lack of trust to persuade the way he would interact with anybody he was untrusting of. And in his lack of trust, Tarkin graciously engaged with everyone he saw fit and did so only when he knew with certainty that if that other person were to betray him that he would be prepared to respond. Whether he expected to have to with every interaction is impossible to tell, though anybody with the intellect and high capacity for controlling their emotions such as Tarkin would most definitely have been able to take the appropriate counter-measure or have the proper reaction and not a moment sooner than the lack of trust was given credence.

Not only are the readers of Jude beckoned to fear the non-believers and not to trust that any given neighbor of theirs may be one of them, but they are also implored to treat them with mercy and respect. The Bible here is simultaneously asking to both suspect anybody may be the infidel among them, and to treat everybody with the same respect until they reveal themselves to be one of those wrong-doers .hen and only then are the readers told to take action against them. There are no preemptive strikes or automatic screenings being asked for. Merely an acceptance of the possibility that anybody from the total stranger to the closest relation might not be who you had believed them to be.

It is the respect and reverence that are nearly always forgotten. Neither I nor either of these texts are in the business of telling people how to feel. I find no productivity in expecting everybody to be openly trusting of everyone or every member of a specific group. Of course, I would love to live in that fantastical reality, and would strive towards it, but would not set it as my primary objective to achieve. Rather, I hope instead that as the world around us is filled more and more with hatred and legitimate as well as unjustified reasons to not to trust our neighbors that we can put aside the fear that we are entitled to and not wear it on our shoulders. Treat everyone as though we trust them even if we do not, with the utmost compassion, until there is perfectly verifiable reason not to. I firmly believe it is more important to focus our energy on being loving to everybody while toning our abilities to weed out those who would do us harm than it is to treat everybody as “others” in order to maybe get lucky and prevent an atrocity. And until I have reason to be proven otherwise, I will continue to place my trust in my being correct over which way to live life: with cautious love or with hopeless fear.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Icarus and Daedalus/ The Clone Wars S1E1: Ambush


Daedalus and Icarus

       Murder! Famed inventor Daedalus has been cast away to the island of Crete as punishment for murdering his own son.
       Trapped in a labyrinth of his own creation for crimes even further, Daedalus and another of his sons, Icarus, devise a plan to escape. Daedalus's bloated ego may hinder his escape, but the perils lurking deep within the labyrinth may also knock him down to size...


       A galaxy divided by war! Peaceful worlds must choose sides or face the threat of invasion. Republic and Separatist armies vie for the allegiance of neutral planets.
       Desperate to build a Republic supply base on the system of Toydaria, Jedi Master Yoda travels to secret negotiations on a remote neutral moon....
Size is so often used as a metaphor for power, in literature as well as in real life, that the metaphor has permeated our perception of the world that we often forget that size and power are in truth mutually exclusive measurements. Today’s episode of The Clone Wars, Ambush (S1E1) as well as today’s myth, the Greek story of Icarus and Daedalus, are sopping with both implicit and explicit examples of size with several different ways to help us understand its meaning.

The episode starts right off with Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress making comment on how Jedi Master Yoda is a small creature. While the comment is purely descriptive, the context is meant to imply his small stature should make him an easier foe to vanquish for the much larger built droids and their larger still tanks. This is only the first size-related mistake the Separatist Army makes in their skirmish with the Republic on Toydaria. The next mistake was assuming the size of their army would be more than enough to fend off three clones and a single Jedi

Daedalus was a tragic character who fell to the persuasion of size in a different way. Rather than physical largeness, Daedalus’s bloated arrogance drove him to believe himself bigger or in his particular case, wiser and craftier than others. His excessive self-adoration and illusions of grandeur would lead him to attempt to translate his sense of being so large into actions manifesting themselves in similar size-related metaphors. Namely, Daedalus had another son beside Icarus whom he feared so greatly would one day become better and more important than him that he threw his son off the top of a mountain. Not only a repulsive act, but the symbolism in a man who thinks himself to be above everyone else would thrust his own son down a cliff to permanently proclaim himself higher than all others.

Similar juxtapositions were made between Yoda and his clones against the droid army. The most obvious are the physical. Yoda and even the clones are tiny compared to the height, width, and weight of the super battle droids they are up against. Their weapons pale in comparison to the assumed might of the tanks the droids operate. Even the camerawork is designed to make the viewer believe the odds are stacked against the smaller’s favor. Shots of super battle droids are taken from the ground up, making them look bigger and more intimidating. There are also several panoramic or sweeping shots of the droid army, meant to show just how large it is, whereas most shots of the Republic forces are close up and in smaller frames. This is, until eventually the Separatist forces become desperate and their fate becomes sealed.

To atone for his crimes and after a series of other short happenings, Daedalus finds himself having constructed a massive and virtually inescapable labyrinth on the island of Crete in order to keep a minotaur trapped in the middle. For helping the hero named Theseus escape from Crete with his love, King Minos’s daughter Ariadne, Daedalus and his son Icarus were sentenced to be imprisoned inside the very labyrinth that Daedalus has built. The size-related metaphor here is at last truly fitting. It may possibly have been this humbling experience that led Daedalus to realize he was in-fact not mightier than thou. The vastness of the labyrinth he designed to be inescapable may possibly have led him to finally recognize the smallness that he was in the grand scheme of the world. Of course, perhaps he did not. But the way he set about banding together with his son Icarus, shedding his pride to do so as well as issuing a heartfelt warning that would have had not influence on whether Daedalus escaped or not leads me to believe he must have been softened some amount. The metaphor extends beyond the labyrinth to when Daedalus and Icarus dawn the wings and take to the open sea. They are tiny compared to the endless skyline and the power of the sun and the water to instantaneously take their lives. I imagine that for all the growth Daedalus had between killing his other son and being trapped in the labyrinth, no moment was as shrinking to his ego as the moment Icarus flew too close to the sun and perish at the waves of the ocean. All at once his perception of self must have crumbled; that even a humble man can suffer just the same as an arrogant one.

Master Yoda knows all too well how insignificant size is in the grand scheme of the Galaxy and the Force. Before engaging in combat against his bigger and more numerous enemies, he meditates on his position within the Force, allowing him to become more powerful than all his foes combined. When the battle does come to its end, it does so in a perfect display of the inversion of physical size as it relates to power. The screen captures below show the nearly empty canyon below the clones, populated by only a few seemingly destructive droideka units that will eventually be crushed by a rocket-blown cliff. The promise of an upper-hand Ventress believes the droidekas will bring are miniaturized by the zoomed-out camera that highlights how tiny the machines truly are. Then, after victory was assured, a final shot of the clones standing far off not atop a cliff, but defending one. The double symbolism therein are the first zoomed out shot of the troops against a large mountainous backdrop, showing they are still small in spite of the great feat they have accomplished, and the decent from the top of a mountain, usually a size-related symbol of power but instead, a size-related symbol of the relinquishing of power.

Size is not necessarily a matter of physical comparison. Of course, it is, but that is far from the entire picture. Imagine a picture of an elephant’s head. We know it represents something large, but that photo can be zoomed out to a point where the elephant begins to look small in the greater picture. We are all that elephant. Sometimes we are big. Sometimes we are small. It is important to recognize when we are which and act accordingly. Some instances truly do call for bigness while others call for smallness. May we all have the awareness to tell our size at any given moment.

Next time:

On Thursday, look out for part two of Tarkin by James Luceno, another parable from the Christian Bible, and a discussion on "trust." Get stoked.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Tol’dot (Gen. 25:19-28:9)/ Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/toldot/english-translation



       Twins! Jacob and Esau, tied together by the bonds of family, drift farther and farther apart with each passing day.
       Favored too much by one parent or the other, their father Jacob has but one blessing to give. The older son, Esau, is meant to the birthright, but the younger twin, Jacob, is swelling with envy.
       As both brothers commit terrible acts towards one another, both must deal with the repercussions of betraying their family...

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

       War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. 
       In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate. 
       As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor....

The Torah is filled with family drama, especially in Genesis, and this portion is no exception. Front and center this week is the birth of and the lifelong intense rivalry between twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Most families fight at least some time, but the hatred that grows in Esau for his family tremendous, albeit perhaps justified. The first steps towards this hatred begin with the twins’ parent Isaac and Rebekah. They committed the greatest sin of any parent, picking a favorite child and making it very evident. Isaac favored his more brooding and masculine son, Esau, while Rebekah favored her more emotional and womanly son, Jacob. Envying the love for Esau he never received, one day Esau came to Jacob in a demeaning and emasculating desperation where he needed to ask Jacob for food he had cooked. In exchange for that food, Jacob demanded Esau’s birthright as the older of the twins and obliging, the two were set on a dark course.

Jedi are not meant to have familial attachments. Families bring with them thy baggage of love, and love leads to fear of losing that family. Fear, of course, is a harbinger of the Dark Side, the antitheses of the Jedi way. Family is the very reason the Jedi Council was so hesitant to train a young Anakin. He was already nine years old by the time the Jedi found him, and with a living mother, it would be nearly impossible to detach Anakin from the emotions he feels towards her. The same reasoning is why Jedi are not supposed to have amorous relationships, or really any semblance of intimacy even with other Jedi. But, as a consistent reader knows by now, Anakin feels he is above the rules of the Jedi and that he can do his job unaffected by the unapproved relationships he has with his mother and his wife Padmé. If only Anakin knew how utterly wrong he really was.

There are two kinds of family: the kind you are born with and the kind you grow into. The kind you are born with you have no choice in starting with and virtually no way to end the relationship. The kind you grow into you never have to join in the first place, and can abandon at any time. Of course, that may be hyperbole on both ends, but in all, that is generally the case. No matter how much hatred exists between Jacob, Esau, Isaac, or Rebekah, they cannot shed themselves of the relationship that automatically exists between them, for better or worse. There is no reasonable expectation for Anakin to have shed his love for his mother, and not even the Jedi Council demanded that of him. His relationship with Padmé however, was a relationship he chose to engage and could have ended when he was told to after their work together was through. Of course, it is difficult to expect a human being to rid themselves of emotions, but it is part of what he was meant to be trained to do as a Jedi.

Family is exactly why Anakin does fall down the path of the Dark Side. Upon losing his mother, Anakin is introduced to the feeling of the death of somebody he loves, a feeling Jedi are meant never to cope with. All his training to detach him from emotion never taught him how to cope with emotion when it was too over-saturating to suppress. When he becomes fearful of Padmé’s possible demise, it triggers within him a natural desire to fight being forced to cope with those emotions, especially after having experienced them before, with every tool at his disposal, including the Dark Side. Jedi do not have families because the fear of losing loved ones is a direct path towards the Dark Side.

For mortal beings like Jacob and his family with no abilities to, or grandeurs of manipulating the natural world through the Force, the fear of losing family still plays itself out similarly. But when the circumstances of that loss are neither final nor met with the same fear as Anakin, the consequences are radically different. Jacob has no fear of losing his brother over swindling him out of his birthright. Neither does Esau have any fear of losing his family over marrying outside of his mother’s family, as she made exceptionally clear to be her desire for her children. Would the loss of these family members be immediate and permanent, perhaps Jacob and Esau may have acted differently. But to them, the risk of being shunned by their family was severely underweighted by what each desired in exchange, recognition, and spite respectively. For these twins, family simply did not hold the weight necessary to keep their evil intentions at bay.
                        "I hate you! I hate you!"                                      "You were my brother Anakin. I loved you."

Another story of family comes at the end of Revenge of the Sith in perhaps the most devastating scene in the film, if not the series. “You were my brother Anakin. I loved you,” were the last words Obi-Wan spoke to Anakin before his immolation. These words came only after Anakin bellowed “I hate you” repeatedly from the bottom of his twisted, addled heart. We know that Obi-Wan is an atypical Jedi who has dabbled in unsanctioned relationships in the past, but does he truly love Anakin and see him as a brother? There may be no way to ever know, at least not unless new material about his character is released. But given his cool detachment from emotional envelopment in the turning and assumed death of his padawan, it is hard to imagine he is nearly as emotionally distressed as Anakin is by the end of the film.

So far, all we have are stories of how love for family betrayed. And throughout both Star Wars and the Torah, there are dozens of tragic stories of the failures of love for family. But just as there are tragedies in these texts, there are also triumphs that come from family. Jacob and Esau will go on to make amends in spite of all their hatred. Anakin’s love for his son Luke will go on to be the force that returns him to the Light Side in Return of the Jedi. Family is only so surrounded by such negative stories because it is so potent. Nothing can influence you more than those who are the closest to you. Those who know you the most intimately, whether you let them in yourself or they have just always been, will be the most capable of hurting or healing you because they know exactly the ways to do so. And when family causes pain, it causes the worst pain any person can cause. Yet, when family causes joy or blessing, those too are the greatest of their kind.

So how can we work towards having family affect us positively and not negatively? Of course, there are the small factors like picking our battles and being supportive whenever possible, and so on. In all though, when people are so deeply invested in one another, every action or inaction they take will have profound effects. I am firmly against the common mantra “you’ve only got one family so you might as well love them” because it is simply not true for too many people. For some, their family has truly wronged them in ways that are irredeemable. For others, their family feels the same way of them. Others still have more than one sense of family, or none at all. The dynamics of any given family will never look exactly the same as the next family. All that is constant between them is the magnitude with which that dynamic affects its members. So then, may we all come to recognize the affects family has on ourselves, whether positive or negative, so that we may use those emotions for good and not for evil.

Next time:

The lineup:
Television Tuesdays - Ancient Myths
Literature Thursdays - Holy Scriptures
Film Sundays - Weekly Torah Portion

The Death Star is the size of a moon, and that is what the heroes of Rogue One will be up against in just twelve more days. Continuing our build up toward the new film, this Television Tuesday will feature The Clone Wars Season 1 Episode 1 (S1E1): Ambush and the Greek Myth of Daedalus and Icarus read through the theme of "Size."

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Revelations 22:1-21/ Tarkin by James Luceno



       Five standard years have passed since Darth Sidious proclaimed himself galactic Emperor. The brutal Clone Wars are a memory, and the Emperor's apprentice, Darth Vader, has succeeded in hunting down most of the Jedi who survived Order 66. On Coruscant a servile Senate applauds the Emperor's every decree, and the populations of the Core Worlds bask in a sense of renewed prosperity.
       In the Outer Rim, meanwhile, the myriad species of former Separatist worlds find themselves no better off than they were before the civil war. Stripped of weaponry and resources, they have been left to fend for themselves in an Empire that has largely turned its back on them.
       Where resentment has boiled over into acts of sedition, the Empire has been quick to mete out punishment. But as confident as he is in his own and Vader's dark side powers, the Emperor understands that only a supreme military, overseen by a commander with the will to be as merciless as he is, can secure an Empire that will endure for a thousand generations...


       Hark! The end of days is nigh! An Eden free of the sins of serpents and men awaits those who accept the Lord their Savior.
       In this final address, Jesus urges all to follow him beyond life and to bring everyone who will listen along with them. In the end of days, there will be solace in the unity of acceptance.
       But, the very last utterance gives pause to many. Not all who listen feel as though they will come to belong in the arms Jesus has opened wide...


As a Jew, belonging is an integral part of my existence. For thousands of years, my people have struggled with belonging. Should we treat belonging as an exclusive status that only includes our fellow Jews? Or, do we treat belonging as bringing ourselves to belong amongst our non-Jewish neighbors in spite of our vast differences? Our history has and continues to experiment with both options to varying degrees of success on both sides. This week, as part of my efforts to expand my analyses of holy texts, I branched out to the Christian Bible and the New Testament.

Even the mere opening of the Book of Revelations to attempt to deeply understand it as it pertains to belonging made me uneasy. As many similarities as exist between Judaism and Christianity, there are dozens and dozens of Jewish laws and principles intentionally nullified by the New Testament. My greatest concern was how I could possibly speak truth on any subject to anything I may read that is in direct contradiction to my Jewish beliefs. I feel I need to walk a fine line between not blasphemously denouncing the New Testament’s sacredness and its explicit religious implications, and treating it as a literature like any other to be observed and interpreted as I see fit. In fact, this is the same struggle I must endure with reading any holy text.

My ultimate conclusion is that I can deny the truth of the New Testament as it pertains to the will of God while still accepting that there are truths to be found within the text. Essentially, as I analyze the texts, I will neither impose my understanding of God’s will on the God of this Bible, nor will I make comment on my personal disagreement with the assessment of the will of God made by the texts in a way that is demeaning to the sacred text itself or any who believe in its truth. Just as I have done all along with the analyses of Torah, I will continue to strive not to dictate what the truth of a text is, but offer possible interpretations on possible truths. And as always, no interpretations of any text should ever be regarded as my true and sole opinions, as not only are my opinions ever evolving, but I often offer interpretations that may not be my go-to interpretations, but are interpretations that I can derive meaning from and accept as possible interpretations within at the least, the context of the given discussion. Ultimately I want to stay true to my own belongings, as well establish a space where I feel anybody can belong.

Wilhuff Tarkin was a high ranking official in the Galactic Empire, and a close advisor and even once friend of Emperor Palpatine. His position as Grand Moff made him an oversector governor within the sprawling and intentionally convoluted bureaucracy. These were specially appointed positions created by the emperor himself to allow for a consolidation of power to a single individual across numerous galactic sectors, in this case, the entirety of the Outer Rim. Before Tarkin was a Grand Moff, he was a child growing up on a largely untamed planet called Eriadu. The Tarkin family was one, of if not the most prominent families on the entire planet and they had a particular trial they imposed on their young men that oozes with insight into the notion of belonging.

The Carrion Plateau was a vast, untamed wilderness on Eriadu where a young Wilhuff would be tested to verify his belonging to the Tarkin name. Should he succeed in surviving the Carrion and eventually ascending its most traitorous landscape the Spike unscathed, he would be hailed as a full-fledged man. Should he fail, he would die one of endless possibly gruesome deaths. His entire sense of, and actual ability to achieve belonging hinges on this primal expedition. Regardless of Tarkin’s personal retrospective appreciation for the conscious and unconscious development he endured at the Carrion, how the experience was designed was precisely the reason he made the particular gains he did.

Revelation 20:18 reads, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.” My first gut reaction was to be appalled. Not because this is not something I am unused to reading in the Torah or Jewish texts, because it is absolutely not. Rather, I was in awe simply at the implications of how I first read the sentence. At first, I took it literally. I understood it to say that all of the analysis that I do of sacred texts is unholy, because I am adding words to the text that never belonged there to begin with. I struggled with how to even begin to wiggle my way out of such an explicit demand without offending the sacredness of the text and without blatant, albeit layered hypocrisy. Hypocrisy in my willingness to add my own two-cents to the text of my own faith that maintains the same dogma as this passage, when I am entirely paralyzed by the thought of going against a text I have already long concluded as bearing no truth as to the will of God. Were this interpretation ultimately the intended meaning in the text, I would accept it in full, as I promised earlier is how I would treat sacred texts. Yet I know that there has to be something more that I have not yet grasped.

I was troubled even further by this passage’s implications for belonging. In social sciences, we believe there are four categories of goods: excludable, non-excludable, rivalrous, and non-rivalrous. The difference between excludable and non-excludable is whether or not somebody has to pay a price or have a particular belonging to benefit from that good. The difference between rivalrous and non-rivalrous is whether there is a limited. The below picture should give a good sense of how these categories combine to explain different kinds of belonging.

 In some ways, my belonging to the Jewish people is something I have no control over. I was born into it and thus it is so. Yet also as a free thinking adult, it is entirely within my power to shed my belonging to Judaism and choose a belonging in Christianity. These cleavages of belonging straddle excludable and non-excludable types of goods, depending on which way I choose to think about it, but for the sake of my argument, I am going to lean more strongly towards the former assumption about belonging and consider religion excludable. Tarkin’s trials at the Carrion Plateau also constitute an excludable good because only those with the Tarkin name are even eligible for the challenge. Tarkin learns his well when he asks why his family’s servant does not go to the Carrion and even his kind mother is abashed by the suggestion and responds question who serves whom in that household.

My initial interpretation of this verse from Revelations is a rivalrous good. There is a set quantity of interpretations acceptable (one) and if I do not have that one interpretation, I will not have access to the belonging that comes with it. Tarkin’s trials at the Carrion Plateau would belong in the category of non-rivalrous. There is no finite number of Tarkins that can pass the test or specific means by which his success might be constrained. 

If the Bible under my brash interpretation is an excludable and rivalrous good, then it is the complete antithesis of a public good, something that is free to anybody to access and use, no matter how many other people are using it and at no cost. i would hope that that is what any sacred text is. Free and unlimited in its number of possibly correct interpretations. And finally, upon continuously rereading the passage, I understood how I could belong in spite of it all. The text is not asking me not to add my own two-cents or interpretations. It is telling me not to speak  anything from the text that is untrue. The next line, verse 19, reads, “And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” The text is not asking me not to make interpretations, not acting rivalrously. It is simply providing instructions on how to really engage with sacred texts, whether they are my own or not. To keep texts sacred in spite of my disbelief in their interpretation of the will of God, I have to be certain to stay true to what a believer would consider to be the intention of the text, but am more than free to set my own interpretations within that space. I can essentially belong without belonging.

As for Tarkin’s belonging, sometimes club goods can be valuable. The excludability requires a price, a serious effort to be paid that shaped Tarkin into who he was. Who Tarkin was certainly was a villain, but the kind of belonging he had serves a valuable lesson that not all belongings should be public goods. I Tarkin did not train at the Carrion Plateau, he may never have survived on Eriadu, and he certainly would not have found the great success he did. Some belonging simply should be earned. Just not all belonging. Others deserve to be free of costs, prior and post utilization, and usable by any who so wishes.

Next time:

Today I specifically chose Tarkin as opposed to the new release Catalyst because the events of the newer book may be considered spoilers to many (myself included) for the upcoming film. It was also one of the first New Canon books released, and I want to write in a relatively chronological order of release. In continuation of preparation for Rogue One, this Sunday's post will be a reading of this week's Torah portion, Tol'dot (Gen. 25:19-28:9) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith through the theme of "family." Family will be a prominant theme in the new film, as it has always been in Star Wars. Rogue One is chronologically set between Episodes III and IV, the later of which I will return to next Sunday as the last film before the new release. It is also the first Star Wars feature film to not revolve around the Skywalker family.

The Tuesday and Thursday posts for next week are still to be determined, but will definitely continue with the first story arc of The Clone Wars and part two of Tarkin.