The Force Awakens
On Saturday night, I watched The Force Awakens with my son. It wasn't my first time. I'd seen it on a flight from Atlanta to Paris at the beginning of the March. This is no big deal. I'm sure hardcore fans have thrown plenty of dollars into the Disney money chest to see it a couple of times. Only thing is, I don't like Star Wars. Loathe it, in fact. I am that guy who stays off all social media the week of its release for fear of my eyeballs getting stuck—reverse-style—in their sockets from rolling them so much. Twitter becomes a fawning one-track feed of gushing praise, me scrolling through as spittle flies at my iPhone screen from between clenched teeth.
I never watched it growing up so I didn't really know the characters. I knew there was a hairy Bigfoot who who roared loudly whilst traveling at light speed through the galaxy with the dude from Blade Runner. There was also a little green fella, might have been E.T.'s father?, who was a Jedi Master, apparently. Hmm, I would have taken him in an arm-wrestle, no worries. And don't get me started on the fat monster with the scantily-clad princess chained to him!
Growing up, I don't remember kids around me talking about it so much- maybe because I was off in my own little world making up my own stories. My imaginings aren't as lucrative as Mr Lucas's, but that's OK.
The problem with having such a set idea about something is it tends to define your decision making process after a while. In the beginning, it's just a joke, “I hate that kind of thing, wouldn't do it/watch it if you paid me.” But as time passes and the further you go down that road the harder it is to do a u-turn. Pride is involved. Your official stance has been sealed after years of staunch resistance thus making compromise more difficult. It also takes away some of the joy for the people who really do love it. This is the kind of internal confabulation that kicks off just as I'm laying my head on the pillow. I hate when the cogs fire up and the pistons pump at this hour because I lie there staring at the ceiling—a darkened ceiling I can't even see—for ages.
If this is the analysis I am having after Star Wars, then what deeper meaning does it have for my life in general. The real catalyst for all of this began on that flight we almost didn't make from Atlanta. My wife and I had been in the States for 10 days to give a keynote speech and factor in some family time in Wisconsin. I woke up the morning of the flight to see a ton of snow had fallen. No big deal for them apparently! People out shoveling driveways being no different than brushing their teeth. I had my doubts about the flight. Sure enough the inbound landed (late) from Chicago to the announcement that all flights into and out of Chicago were grounded. I sighed in a very Parisian way. Fortunately a rad lady at the United desk raced us onto a flight to Atlanta, but the connection would be tight. Ever had a connection out of Atlanta? It's laid out like a prison. One big hall way with 7-8 other hallways all connecting into it from both sides. Our flight connection was at the other end of where we landed, naturally. We sped-walked until I found a guy who took us on the metro train and got us to the gate as ten people were left boarding. Phew! It was Air France and we had some leg room. We were going home. We decided to sync our screens and watch Star Wars together. We loved it! It was funny, the comedic timing was perfect, and hey, the guy who helmed it is J.J. “Lost” Abrams—a favorite show of mine.
Sure enough, the second time I watched it I liked the characters even more. Especially the dynamism of Poe and Finn together. Bromance? Yeah, baby! All in all well told, engaging, and not overly gloomy.
How different would my life be if I never watched it? Probably not that different if I'm being honest. How has my thinking changed because I let down a force-field (see what I did there?) and let something in? A lot. And here's why. Right now in our world, identity counts for so much. Look at a YouTube or blog comments section and you will see a stream of opinions. It's not bad to have an opinion, it's what makes for debate and change in our society. The danger is when it's a one-way street. I had my Star Wars wall up and wore it like a badge of honor. Part of it was jest but part of it was also me saying to myself, I refuse to be like the others, therefore it's my right to express how I feel. When this kind of attitude starts with a movie, blog, video clip, whatever, it stirs something deep within and the ramifications are far greater than ribbing one's friends for queuing for five hours to watch Lightsaber fights. Next thing you know it becomes an intolerance against a person's taste in music, looks, hobbies, ethnicity, faith, to name a few. This skewed reality becomes our only valid framework and before we know it, we are hurtling down the one-way street with little room to maneuver. Can't turn back? Well, guess I'll have to hold onto my outdated and narrow-minded disposition.
Relational community and online community do not have the same rules. Anonymous lashing out and taunting are the norm and what it culminates in—and I truly believe I am not exaggerating this—is the current world political stage being a finger-pointing, who-can-insult-the-most, circus of clowns. The cynicism on the Internet seeps into our everyday life.
Of course, we must stand strong for the things we believe in and cherish. We must. We also must become better at letting things we may not agree with or like get closer to us, so we can look at whatever it is we may hold in disregard under a different light or look at it from a different angle. See it for the first time maybe. I am not saying there'll be a Star Wars marathon at chez moi anytime soon. What I can say is this, the next time a person comes to me with a suggestion I may find out of my sphere, I will hear them out with the dignity and respect they deserve. Just as I hope they would for me.