Monday, November 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 101: In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

He was a little boy, growing up in slavery.  His mother had been a slave before him, and he was born into it.  It was an insidious kind of slavery, in that for all intents and purposes he was little more than an employee, who reported to work every day, was free to live with his mother in their own home, and he could even pursue his own interests, for instance once he'd convinced his master of the possibilities in podracing, which wasn't all that difficult, he could devote all his spare time to it, and even use what was left over building his own protocol droid.

But he couldn't leave and he wasn't free and all his dreams were confined to a dead world filled with people watching their lives waste away, whose only visitors were opportunists looking to bleed whatever remained.  The worst part was that these visitors brought with them the stories of an entire galaxy, and a boy thrives on stories.  If he's not careful, they can become his whole reality.

His mother said the worst thing was that no one ever helped each other.  Very quickly he learned that she was right.

How do you help the helpless?  How do you fulfill the dreams of dreamers?  With magic?  Ideas, he learned, could be dangerous.  He had friends, like any other boy, and he valued them very much, often enjoying just listening to them chatter, letting his cares slip away, but he knew, somehow, what they thought even when they didn't vocalize it.  He knew on a certain level that he wasn't like them, and that this created a barrier between them.  They scoffed at his dreams.  Because he was a boy, most of the time he didn't really think much of it.  They didn't share the same dreams, but they did with fantasies.  This was how he first heard about the Jedi.

It's easy to have faith when you're young.  You don't have any real experience.  It's when you're older and you think you know everything, instead of merely accepting it, that faith becomes difficult.  There's probably a little of that in the practice the Jedi had in taking their recruits at the youngest possible age, not out of a sense of indoctrination but in the hope that the threshold of faith could be circumvented.  The longer you believe in something, the more you think about it, if given the proper support.  Without it, you begin formulating your own ideas, and ideas can be dangerous.

His idea was the belief that a Jedi couldn't die, that no one could defeat one of them.  This is far more than hero worship.  On a world such as his, there were no such things as heroes, only family.  You put your faith in dreams and family, and that was all.

The more he thought about the Jedi, the more he hoped.  He dreamed about a man who couldn't die, who had all the answers, all the solutions.  Such a man was instantly a part of the boy's family.  How could it be any different?  For the boy, to have formed a connection at all with another person, a real one, nothing trivial like what he shared with his friends, would infinitely improve his life.

The trouble was, he couldn't reconcile his ideal of what a Jedi was supposed to be with that man who couldn't die.  He didn't believe his own fantasy.  He had spent so much time thinking about it, he no longer thought of it as something he shared with his friends, but as something private, something they couldn't understand, like the rest of his life.

An isolated life takes pains to protect that status, as difficult as that may be to comprehend.

The boy was very much alone.  He was a boy in every conventional sense.  To all outward appearances he seemed perfectly normal.  He was not.  He harbored dark thoughts, out of fear, because his life was out of his control.

The fantasy of the Jedi grew to occupy his every waking thought.  He imagined a man who could give him guidance, but this was not the pure Jedi.  This was the man who couldn't die.  The corruption.  The perversion.  The Jedi was the one who represented the contradiction, the thing he couldn't reconcile.

He thought about both a great deal.  In the fantasy, one of them came to rescue him from his plight, but it wasn't the man who couldn't die, the man of guidance, but rather the more generalized image of the Jedi, the idea of the hero, whose only function was to give him a different set of circumstances.  He'd begun to blend the idea of the hero with the image of the angels he'd heard of, who reminded him so much of his mother, the only source of support he had ever trusted, the one he feared on a daily basis would be taken away, if his master ever decided to send him somewhere else.  He began to fear the Jedi would not be able to help him, that a hero was someone who only intervened.  In other words, just another master.  Would the man who couldn't die, the man of guidance, be the same?  That was why he needed the angel, the one who would always support him, who would be there when he finally became free.  She, and he could not think of the angel in any other term, would be the necessary link, perhaps between all of them, the support he would need above all else.

The fantasy began to frighten him.  The more he thought about it, the more it seemed destined to end in disaster.  He had been left in a terrible situation, which he was keenly aware of, which was why he had the fantasy in the first place.  It was a fatal trap.  Even his great hope was pointless, self-defeating, destined for a bad end.

By the way, there are no fairy tales on Tatooine, only cautionary ones...


Sunday, November 2, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 100: Padme Didn't Die

Anakin Skywalker married the former Queen Amidala of Naboo, thereafter known as Padme, one-time senator of the Republic.  In time, he turned his dedication to the Jedi way into a path towards the Dark Side, where he became known as Darth Vader.

When the transformation was complete, after his body became horribly mutilated and scarred in his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar and he stood encased in his life-preserving apparatus, he no longer had a bride.  But Padme didn't die.

She did not go into hiding.  You cannot hide on your home world, where everyone has known you since you were born.  She did not retreat.  She began a grieving process.

She had also just given birth, to twins, who were taken to Tatooine and Alderaan to be raised by foster parents, who could nurture them and give them futures that Padme could no longer envision on her own.  On her own she felt weak, too weak.  All her life she'd been strong, and suddenly she no longer believed in herself.  What else could she do?  What else could be expected of her?  Vader became the personification of evil, a specter even the Empire feared, buried in layers of myth, so that even those who knew him personally didn't know how to behave around him.  They came up with various solutions, and none of them were adequate.

The reverse would have been true of Padme as well, if she'd returned to her life.  She could no longer hide the truth, but she did not want to live with it, either.  There had been reports of her death, of course, and she let them persist so long that they became the basis for her exile.  The same had been said about a few of her Jedi friends, with whom she remained in contact.  One of them was Yoda, the other Kenobi, who agreed to watch over her son on Tatooine.  Theirs was an exclusive club.

In time, she wondered if she would reemerge.  For the time being she was content to nurse her emotional wounds.  On Naboo she was allowed privacy.  She had learned all its secrets a long time ago, and as part of another exclusive club, the royalty of that world, she was privy to those others knew nothing about.  She had trained for her new role all her life.

Yet it was a role without purpose, only that she try to forge ahead, if she could.  On Alderaan her daughter was raised a princess, though it was a life that was in all other ways separated from what she herself had known.  There were no demands on her daughter, but Padme smiled when she saw how Leia took up the crusade against tyranny.  Her son, Luke, toiled in obscurity, exploited by his uncle, but gifted, too, exposed to a world her daughter wouldn't know for years, a world of wonders.  Her son had the advantage of learning what her husband had discovered by accident.  The difference was palpable.  She saw the same restlessness in both of them, but while one had been spoiled, the other spent his time yearning, which was something he inherited from his mother.

No one asked a thing of her.  There was some relief in that, she had to admit.  No more demands.  No more pressure.  No more expectations.  She had to admit some of that had led to everything she had to struggle against regretting, for she loved her children dearly.  She lent her support behind the scenes.  She was the strength behind the leadership of the Rebellion.  She never left it behind.  As her contemporaries grew older and a new generation appeared, she felt the responsibility less and less, and she could finally relax.  When her offspring met for the first time, she wanted to be there, to tell them she loved them, that she was proud.  She knew their journey was not yet complete.  As long as Vader still lived, her own story remained unfinished.

Was there hope for him?  That was what her son thought.  The thought intrigued her.  He worked tirelessly toward his father's redemption, and it was that belief that led to the victory of the Rebellion, the end of the Empire.

And, at last, the day Padme emerged back into the rest of the galaxy.  She had much to tell her children.

101 Star Wars Variations 99: The Sadness

I don't remember my mother well.  She died in childbirth, after all, but I remember the sadness.

The sadness overwhelmed her.  The attending droid said she lost the will to live.  It had come to consume her, and as such as been with her for some time.  The sadness is all I know about her, except for what resides in the public records, which is about as far from personal as you can get.

I know much more about my father, and because of that, I know why my mother was so sad.  You see, Darth Vader was my father.

I could always feel it, as if she had suffused me with it in the womb.  I don't curse her for it, but there were times, when I was younger, when I thought it would consume me, too.  As I grew older, I learned to incorporate the sadness into my life, to channel it, to do what I could, the things I thought would have made my mother...happy.  The public record had much to say about what she believed in, and that shaped my formative interest in the Rebellion, risking everything to strike back at the Empire, even though for all intents and purposes I was just another loyal citizen on one of its many worlds, a prominent one expected to toe the line, give it the support that it in truth badly needed.  I knew how to do that because the whole time, I wished I could have done the same for my mother.  I wish there had been someone in her life who was always there, to give her strength.  That someone should have been my father.  But it wasn't.

I don't know what really happened, but I can imagine.  The last records of my mother relate how she followed Vader to Mustafar.  This journey was in secret, and the records were something buried deeply in the annals of Alderaan, a world that was to become my own but had in those days given a measure of support to my mother.  Not enough, and don't think I don't think about that.

I imagine in these moments that she isn't sad, perhaps for the first time in a long time, but rather angry.  Anger is something she would know intimately, for anger stokes the fire of a Sith Lord, which in the end was what my father became.  The man who should have been the strongest pillar of her life instead corrupted her.  In her final moments, she was no longer strong enough to resist.

Alderaan is a peaceful world, and so was my mother's Naboo, which famously withstood a blockade of the Trade Federation without giving in to violence until circumstances, and a handful of Jedi and an army of Gungans, forced it to act otherwise, as well a Sith, Darth Sidious, who was also responsible for the corruption of her husband, Darth Vader.  She would have become familiar with weapons, during the Clone Wars.  Few could have said otherwise in those dark days, when the entire galaxy tore asunder.  Usually, however, she would never have thought of violence as a solution.

Except this time.  This time she brought with her a weapon, and she trained it on her husband.  Too often in the past she had heard his equivocations, his lies.  She knew now that he was evil.  I've seen hologram that recorded his slaughter of Jedi younglings.  These would have been enough, surely.

She probably never gave him a chance to explain.  Why would she?  She was brave.  She would have shot him more than once, to ensure that the deed was done.  Mustafar is a volcanic world.  Vader burned.  There's no question that he died that day.

Darth Sidious saw to it that something else happened.  He was in possession of dark powers.  He brought Vader back from the dead.

And at the same time, I was being born.  The sadness came back to claim her.  New life was something that she couldn't handle.  It was tied up in too many implications.  She could sense what was happening to Vader.  This was something she couldn't overcome.

I don't blame her at all.  I pity her every day.  I've tried to dedicate my life to her memory.  I've never been able to escape her, or her sadness.

Strangely, I consider this a good thing.