Lessons from The Last Jedi

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Photo by Riku Lu on Unsplash
“Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi was my favorite film in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. I am well aware that it was reviled by many fans. It was different. It took risks. I like that. At the same time, I get the disappointment. I often joke that I am Bendu, the one in the middle of the light and dark.

A lot of fans were upset about how Luke was portrayed in The Last Jedi. The film showed a broken Jedi who had lost his hope. The whole theme of Star Wars is fear vs. hope, dark vs. light. And Luke Skywalker was the embodiment of hope. He turned his father back from the dark side. But now he was facing his fear, doubt, and anger.

Luke was living in isolation on Ahch-To. He believed that the Jedi needed to end. Our childhood hero was a shadow of his former self. For many fans, that was unforgivable.

I initially shared this view. When Rey handed Luke his lightsaber and he threw it off the cliff, I was stunned. This wasn’t the Luke that I knew and loved. But it was the Luke I had become.

I grew up with the original trilogy. Luke and Leia were my childhood heroes. To see Luke lose his hope…resonated with me. It still does. Lost hope is something I currently struggle with daily.

As I came to grips with this bitter version of Luke, I understood him. We all have doubts. We all wonder if our path was correct and if our life has been wasted. It’s part of getting older.

It was interesting that Luke had cut himself off from the Force. The link between him and Leia and his connection to his strength and power was gone. Can you imagine cutting yourself off from the very source that gives you strength? I can. That’s what happens when you lose your faith.

In a split second of weakness, Luke made a grave error, and Ben Skywalker became Kylo Ren. He spent years punishing himself for that error in judgment. How often do we do the same? We often spend decades in regret, feeling irredeemable.

We all make mistakes. I rather like that Luke was human. Part of me wanted him to go back with Rey and fight Kylo Ren. But he didn’t conform to expectations. He became even more determined to burn it all down, quite literally.

Then something interesting happened. Yoda appeared. How was this possible? Remember, Luke had cut himself off from the Force. He shouldn’t have been able to communicate with a Force ghost.

I have a theory. I think that Luke was so angry that he reached back out to the Force to rail against it. To scream and maybe cry and ask, “Why did this happen?!!”

But his anger was an opening, and the Force met him in his pain. That’s when he saw Yoda. I think that was the Force’s way of answering. Then lightning set fire to the tree with the sacred Jedi texts, and Yoda laughed. He laughed!

Yoda knew that the Force was not found in books. He knew that the Force exists every living thing. The Force is ever-present for all living things, even if you wall yourself off. It still waits for you. Questions, anger, fear, even doubt…all are openings for reconnection. How we proceed with these opportunities determines if our path will lead to the dark side or the light side.

Yoda knew that failure was part of life and the greatest teacher. As hard as it is to accept, failure is part of life. To embrace it is to learn and move forward. Luke was not defined by his failure with Ben Skywalker. He moved beyond it and learned the truth. The Force wasn’t just for the Jedi or the Sith. The Jedi of old did need to die so that something bigger could exist.

In the end, Luke had an amazing redemption story that showed how powerful he was. He said goodbye to Leia (in a scene that always makes me cry) and then faced down Kylo Ren and the First Order. It was even more incredible that he wasn’t even there.

Luke regained his hope and power by coming to peace with his failure. When we own our mistakes, we can step out of bitterness and into new opportunities. Kylo couldn’t do that yet. He was more interested in blaming Luke for who he had become.

Luke had faith that Rey would lead the Jedi and the Resistance into a new era of enlightenment. He trusted her to grow beyond him, and he was willing to give his life so she could have that chance. That is the mark of a true master.

Like Luke, I am on an island right now, cut off from the Force. I am struggling with failures and mistakes. I am angry and in pain. That’s okay. It is part of the process. Even in my anger and pain, I am reaching out for connection. An honest seeker is never turned away. I will never have all the answers, but hopefully, I will eventually have peace. When the timing is right, I will reconnect to the Force and move forward in power.

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