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Fear and the Sith Sense

Every so often, they let me out of this joint to go see a film or maybe a ballgame. Yesterday, it was time for a movie.

Having seen all previous five films in the "Star Wars" franchise, my natural curiosity to see the final film has been sparked even more by all the discussions I've read. Commentary by Technomaget, Ari Armstrong, Scott Horton, Anthony Gregory, Thomas A. Firey, Joe Maurone, and Ed Hudgins, to name a few, has been thought-provoking.

I don't want to argue about the relative merits of these commentaries. I just want to say that I genuinely enjoyed the film, despite the many mixed messages contained therein.

It helped that I chose to make the viewing of this film a grand entertainment experience. We went to the Ziegfeld Theater, which stands a few hundred feet from the original Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan. Understand that this is a theater; it's not some mutliplex with rooms no bigger than your living room. This theater has over 1100 seats and a real balcony! It features red velvet carpets and walls, crystal adorned chandeliers and relics from the Ziegfeld Follies, from the days of Sophie Tucker and Fanny Brice. All in all: a wonderful environment in which to witness a cinematic spectacle. The last time I was there was in the early 1970s when Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic, "The Ten Commandments," was re-released. I remember it well; we entered the theater to the soundtrack music composed by Elmer Bernstein, and sat in awe of the opening of the Red Sea.

The presentation of "Revenge of the Sith" was no different in form: We entered the theater to the triumphant soundtrack music composed by John Williams. And when the film began, the digital sound and picture were nearly overwhelming in their sharp clarity.

It's easy to fall in love with the dazzling special effects and cinematography, the terrific film editing, and that Williams score, which is relentless, playing like an instrumental opera as cinematic subtext, intensifying our emotions and the images on screen. As Anthony Tommasini puts it:

The whole "Star Wars" epic has been likened to Wagner's "Ring" cycle. In the earlier films Mr. Williams certainly adopted the Wagnerian technique of using identifying themes (leitmotifs) to mark the appearances of specific characters, symbols and plot lines ... In the new film, when Anakin is on the brink of becoming Darth Vader, you know what's coming, and it comes: the treading "Darth Vader" theme, as much a trademark of the "Star Wars" enterprise as Han Solo action figures. But in general, Mr. Williams uses the leitmotif technique with greater subtlety here. Hints of themes thread through the score—in inner voices, in wayward bass lines.

This is one of Williams's grandest, most accomplished scores. As an aside, I actually purchased the soundtrack before seeing the film, and was deeply impressed as well by the second "bonus" DVD disc, which I recommend highly. It is entitled "A Musical Journey" and features 17 "music videos," actually a series of montages that roughly follow the chronological arc of the story from Episode I, "The Phantom Menace" to Episode VI, "Return of the Jedi." It's a glorious primer for the "Star Wars" fan, a nice way of viewing the whole mythic story through music. And it's narrated by Ian McDiarmid, who once again plays the deliciously evil Emperor Palpatine.

But the heart of a film is not its special effects or its score; it is its script and its acting, and on these points, this film has problems not unlike some of the others in the series. Many critics have commented rightfully on the passages of "wooden" dialogue, and some have found Hayden Christensen lacking in his portrayal of the full range of emotions that the role of Anakin Skywalker would seem to demand. He's okay in the role, but there is an angst and a moral confusion that exist in the continuum between a smile and a scowl that seems missing (quite different from his more nuanced performances in such films as "Life as a House").

Nevertheless, I did find the story absorbing. Whatever problems Lucas has as a philosopher, there is enough in his film about the deterioration of principles in the act of "protecting" them that is of interest. For those of us who are especially concerned about the alleged trade-off between "freedom" and "security," in which an augmentation of the latter is often used as a pretext for the protection, and destruction, of the former, there are many lessons illustrated on screen.

A lot has been made of the fact that Obi-wan Kenobi, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, utters the baffling line that "Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes." But the evil Emperor Palpatine accuses the Jedi of being just as "dogmatic" in their absolutes. So, from where I sit, it's a wash.

Even more has been made of Yoda's Zen-like advice to Anakin to resist the fear of loss, which is the path to the Dark Side. Of course, it is easier for Yoda to talk about forsaking the fear of loss, since he knows that in death, there is new life to come.

Still, there is something to be said about accepting both death and loss as part of life's natural cycle; it is not loss per se that is the problem. It is the fear of loss that often motivates people to forsake their values in an attempt to keep alive something that is threatened, or withering away. It's like that in love too, hence the old adage: "If you love somebody, set them free. If they come back, they're yours. If they don't, they never were."

I take Yoda's dissertation on loss to be something similar to that. And the insight that fear is at the base of the basest of human vices is a good one. This is something that I once wrote about on the Atlantis discussion list: "Star Wars' Yoda and Rand on Fear." In that post, reflecting on "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," I wrote:

Every so often, a few kernels of philosophic truth come blaring forth from the dens of pop culture, and "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," like other films in the George Lucas series, is no exception. Discussing whether young Anakin Skywalker (who shall become Darth Vader) is an appropriate subject for Jedi training, Yoda senses that the boy is filled with fear and even if he proves to be the "chosen one," there are too many unresolved contradictions and questions within his soul. "Fear," says Yoda, "is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to Suffering."
I thought this especially interesting since in previous posts we have discussed how fear is the "enemy within" (as the Rush lyricist Neil Peart expressed in three songs, the so-called "Fear" trilogy). Ayn Rand has had a lot to say about "fear"---in fact, I conclude the final chapter of my book, AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, with a passage from THE FOUNTAINHEAD that has long been my favorite, and that centers on this very issue. It is a passage that other writers (such as Slavoj Zizek) have greatly appreciated. As Roark stands before a jury of his peers, ready to provide a defense of himself, Rand writes:
"He stood by the steps of the witness stand. The audience looked at him. They felt he had no chance. They could drop the nameless resentment, the sense of insecurity which he aroused in most people. And so, for the first time, they could see him as he was: a man totally innocent of fear. The fear of which they thought was not the normal kind, not a response to a tangible danger, but the chronic, unconfessed fear in which they all lived. They remembered the misery of the moments when, in loneliness, a man thinks of the bright words he could have said, but had not found, and hates those who robbed him of his courage. The misery of knowing how strong and able one is in one's own mind, the radiant picture never to be made real. Dreams? Self-delusion? Or a murdered reality, unborn, killed by that corroding emotion without name - fear - need - dependence - hatred? Roark stood before them as each man stands in the innocence of his own mind. But Roark stood like that before a hostile crowd - and they knew suddenly that no hatred was possible to him. For the flash of an instant, they grasped the manner of his consciousness. Each asked himself: do I need anyone's approval? - does it matter? - am I tied? And for that instant, each man was free - free enough to feel benevolence for every other man in the room."
I think Rand and Yoda ... recognize a great truth: the reciprocally reinforcing relationship between fear, anger, hatred, dependency, malevolence, and suffering. It is only by facing the root of fear and triumphing over it that one can begin to express the best within oneself.

Ironically, I had the occasion to revisit this theme of "fear" in my reading of James Valliant's new book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. Valliant reproduces whole sections of Rand's private journals, those notes she made when she was grappling with the painful collapse of her relationship with Nathaniel Branden. At one point, Rand places in quotes the comment: "Fear is the antonym of thought," and she recognizes that a person who is "totally motivated by fear ... is not motivated by the 'love of values.'" The only motivation for those who fear is "the desire to escape from fear" (see page 347 of the book).

In the end, whatever murky Yoda-isms Lucas ascribes to, I think he's put his finger on something very important. The whole epic can now be viewed from another angle, which does not obscure the clear line between good and evil as much as it captures the process by which good is lost, and by which it might be regained. "There's still good in him," says the dying Padme of Anakin Skywalker. And so the epic franchise becomes a tale of Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, who began as the "Chosen One," only to embrace the Dark Side out of fear, only to find redemption out of the courage to face the best that still lurked deep within him.

Be that as it may, Yoda still kicks ass as a Master Jedi and, like in the last film, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," it's still worth the price of admission just to see him in action. And once you hear that deep breathing from Darth Vader, you'll know you've come full circle. Quite a Ring, indeed.

Comments welcome. Noted also at L&P in the comments section to Sheldon Richman's "Crisis, Leviathan, and the Revenge of the Sith" and Technomaget's Live Journal.

Comments

Oh, Chris! The visuals were WOW! and the music was Williams at his finest, but the basic story-telling? No, I got over the Force and "don't think, use your instincts" stuff long ago and in a galaxy far, far away. No, what makes my head hurt is trying to follow the logic of the characters.

O.k., this was IT, the movie where we finally find out why Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. The logic of all six movies is riding on it--in effect, these films comprise his story.

What's his downfall? His attachments, the people he cares about: his mother, Padme and, to a lesser extent, Obi Wan. We learned in the last one that while Jedi are encouraged to love, they must love all. Yoda warns Annakin in this one to be prepared to surrender all that he cares about. (Presumably, this is why young Jedi recruits are taken at such an early age, to prevent such familial attachments from forming in the first place.) This is, indeed, what Yoda will later warn Luke against in Empire Strikes Back when Luke leaves his training to help his friends...

But then is Yoda wrong after all? Isn't it the family ties and emotional attachment between Luke and Darth that prove the Emperor's undoing in the end? Isn't the Emperor's assertion to Luke at the final battle that "faith" in his "friends" is Luke's "weakness" really the opposite of what's going on in the dramatic battle sequence we effectively cut to every other heart-beat? Isn't it Darth's reference to Luke's sister possibly turning to the Dark Side that finally gets Luke out of the shadows to defeat Darth?

So which is it?

And what about Annakin's motive for turning to the Dark Side? Was it really his effort to save Padme? ... who he Force-chokes until Obi Wan appears? Go bad, save Padme later? That is, until I try to kill her in a couple of scenes from now? But, then, still get pissed off when the Emperor says that she's dead?

O.k., and does this serial killer of children--in no less than TWO movies, now--really deserve the death-bed conversion that Lucas has in store for him? Why, because Luke can feel some ineffable "good" in him? Just enough "good" in the end to kill the Emperor, something he had planned to do anyway when he and Luke took over?

Then there's that "absolute" business. Say what? A "wash"?? A wash of nonsense, Chris, like everything else. In Episode VI, Obi Wan tells Luke that truth depends upon our "point of view." Well, so does the Emperor in this one. So, we have agreement between the Good and the Bad--truth is dependent upon perspective and there are no absolutes. Really, the distance between Good and Evil has been dramatically closed in this last film. That's part of the "balance," it seems, that needs to be returned to the Force, as the Prophecy says.

Turns out we need a balance between "Good and Evil." (And I refuse to insult anyone's dialectical sensibilities with a snide comment here.)

That does make a certain amount of sense since nothing happens "by accident," as we are repeatedly told. The Force has had all of this, including the behavior of Good and Evil, worked out from the start... deflates the balloon a bit, no?

As a good friend of mine said about the experience, "My brain hurt when I walked out of that theater." Mine still suffers the bruises, too.

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN when they let you out, again, Chris!

But, now that I think of it, this is classic Chris--among all of those "murky Yoda-isms" you find perhaps the one item of genuine wisdom.

You remind me of Ayn Rand focusing on Jesus' "what should it profit a man.." gem when she implicitly objected to just about everything else Christ is said to have said.

Isn't there something about "context" and Hegel's Whole that we should also keep in mind in this context?

To answer your last question: Yes. :)

The series is ~filled~ with too much murky-ness for me to recommend as philosophy---though it's fun as entertainment. But then again, so is so much mythology and legend filled with murky contradictions. My effort here was, as you suggest, only to recover that one nugget of truth buried under a lot contradiction. That "rose petal", so-to-speak.

What I meant by a "wash" was that these two forces, Jedi and Sith, are so filled with contradictions, that their contradictions cancel each other out. Doesn't make them consistent---just equally incorrect. As Joe Maurone says in his commentary, noted above, what we need here is some kind of position that transcends the weaknesses among both Jedi and Sith. (And you're lucky you didn't make any snide comments about transcending Good and Evil! hehe... )

Finally, on the "redemption" of Anakin... his final act in Episode VI does save his son, but not for the further purpose of taking power from the Emperor. In the "Revenge of the Sith," after all, we are told that the Emperor rose to power by having done-in ~his~ mentor; Anakin chooses to break-out of that cycle by doing-in Palpatine in Episode VI, with ~no~ eye toward taking his power. This doesn't make him a "good" character any more than Al Pacino's confessions in "Godfather II"---but it does show a character aware of his own evil, and wanting to take one last redemptive action for the sake of his own soul and for the sake of the life of somebody he apparently loves.

Now, in retrospect, I think this is one huge tragic tale on so many levels. It will certainly make me look at the whole of its story in a very different light.

Anyway, thanks, as always, for your comments!

Chris,

As you know, I loved the movie despite some reservations, particularly regarding the film's first act.

For all those Objectivist who criticize this movie based on its philosophical contradictions, you really should check out Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen. Supposedly, it was Rand's favorite film. To be surely it's a brilliantly executed piece of film making (if dated in some ways), but a film that is so nihilistic that I found it repulsive far beyond the worst of Lucas' contradictions. I watched the full epic as a almost a duty, and then off it went to ebay as soon as I was finished... yet, Rand considered it a great film, something that I still find amazing. The lesson? You can't judge a movie based on just philosophic grounds.

Regarding wooden dialog, I just watched the original Star Wars film. We're told that actors are purely subservient to the story... still, it's amazing what a great actor can do. I think the original film has some really corny and/or wooden dialog ("before he turned to evil", "only the master of evil, Darth"). So what's the difference? Well, these lines are given to Alec Guiness, one of the greatest actors ever, and he just does wonders with this 'dialogue'.

Regards,
Stan

Chris, though we differ on interpretations of the movie, you still manage to amaze me in your quest to find the nugget of wisdom in everything!
I've read your analysis of "fear" previously, which I think is brilliant, and you incorporated it very well into this piece. It did make me see the movie in a different way. (I still don't like it, and not just because of the philosophy! But it is better than the first two, at least. Ah well, there's always the original tril-oh, wait, no there isn't! Not after Lucas gets done editing them again and again! hehe.)

Anyway, you touched on Rand's comment about fear as the antonym of thought...reminds me of Paul Atreide's constant refrain in DUNE: "Fear is the mindkiller."

Hope they let you out for BATMAN BEGINS!

Stan, thanks for your excellent comments. And good points about Alec Guiness too.

And Joe, I'm not sure we're that far apart on this. I've simply focused, as you say, on that one nugget. There are more than a few nuggets in this film that undermine even the one nugget of wisdom. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know: It is always possible to appreciate a movie on other levels, even a movie that is antithetical to one's beliefs.

I'll want to see "Star Wars" again when it is released on DVD. But before then... yes... let us hope they let me out for BATMAN BEGINS. :)

I'm also looking forward to seeing "War of the Worlds." The 1953 George Pal film classic is still one of my favorite films, and I even loved the Orson Welles radio broadcast version. So Spielberg has some big shoes to fill!

Chris, RE War of the Worlds -- forgive me if you already know this, but there are actually _two_ film versions of War of the Worlds coming out this year. One is the Spielberg you mention, the other is an indie brit project which has been made as a (Victorian) period piece, with a script that (they say) pretty faithfully follows the novel. While I love the George Pal film as you do, and am planning to see the Spielberg, I have to say I'm pretty excited that someone has filmed a straight version of the H.G. Wells novel! I'm guessing you are too.

Mr. Rozenfeld,

I agree that philosophical content is not the way to judge a movie. Many of my favorites have themes with which I really don't agree. Some are even just a bit hokey. But for me to keep suspending my disbelief, for me to "get into" the movie, it must make sense in its own terms. It has to have an inner-logic, at least, to which it adheres. I was trying to hold the whole sweep of the big story in mind and found I was having a hard time. But, I admit along with Joe that Chris, as usual, has gotten me to see things in a different way. He's good at that.

Aeon, I was totally unaware of that indie film, so thanks again for letting me know.

Meanwhile... I forgot to mention another really nice feature of that Ziegfeld showing. I was reminded of it by my friend Donna, who has attended other Ziegfeld showings.

The theater shows its usual pre-show "commercials" and entertaining (or, alternately, irritating) previews. Then, right before the feature presentation is to begin, the immense, regal inner and outer curtains close on the screen; the theater gets even darker, and the curtains open slowly, once again, Dolby and Digital announcements made loud and clear.

And the film begins, in this instance, with the ever more regal "20th Century Fanfare" composed by Alfred Newman --- before the first chords of the Williams' "Star Wars" main theme.

Whatever one thinks of this movie, or any other movie in the series, I have to say: This is a very respectful way of showing a film. It's getting to the point that the size of multiplex theaters won't hold a candle to one's Home Theater set-up; if one is to go to a theater to see a film, the Ziegfeld experience is one wonderful way to do so.

Notice that Anakin does what he is prophesied to do: bring balance to the Force. With the help of Palpatine and his son, he managed to destroy not only the Jedi but also the Sith, both of which, as has been previously noted, were marred with inner contradictions and had become stagnant. Where do things go from there? Well, there is a wealth of fiction (all approved by Lucas) in the form of comic books and novels that cover the time period after episode VI in which Luke attempts to rebuild the Jedi but not necessarily exactly as it had once existed. It has been many years since I read this material, and a lot has been published since I stopped, so I can't speak as to exactly what form the new Jedi Order takes under Luke, but for those who are really interested it is worth looking into.

For instance, and this might be telling, Luke establishes his new Jedi Academy not on Coruscant but on Yavin 4, the remote jungle moon that was home to the Rebel Alliance for a time, rather than the capital planet of the galaxy.

Thanks Chris for the nice spin you put on Yoda's teachings on attachment and loss. I hadn't thought of it that way before and had been discounting it as one of Lucas's bumbling attempts at philosophy. Your interpretation may not be the way Lucas intended it, but I think it is more correct philosophically. Interestingly, it is also very applicable to the problem of irrational fear of death which Epicurus attempted to resolve. It is how I think Aristotle would have dealt with the problem and the way I think Epicurus should have. We aren't really valuing life properly if we are so obsessed with our own mortality that we fail to truly live.

(My turn for a shameless plug.) ;o) Anyone interested in the argument put forth by Epicurus as to why we should not fear death as well as references to the contemporary debate and my take on the issue, see here ( http://veritasnoctis.blogspot.com/2005/05/death-version-20.html ).

I just rewatched the entire original trilogy, and it still holds up beautifully. I must be the only person in the world who likes Return of the Jedi the most of all the Star Wars films.

I then started thinking about continuity between original trilogy and the prequels, and a lot of things don't add up. Some stuff, such as Leia saying she remembered her real mother, and Obi-Wan saying that Yoda is the one who taught him can easily be overlooked. But some stuff does bother me.

For instance, we're told in Episode III that Annakin will eventually surpass both Emperor and Yoda in power. Now, in the original trilogy, Darth Vader exhibits some awesome powers, but there seems to be no indication of him being other than subservient to the Emperor. We can certainly speculate why, but there doesn't seem to be any indication in any of the movies about that.

Another thing that's not fully answered is the peculiar relationship that Sith have with each other. Why does Palpatine need an apprentice? Is that a nurturing instinct or something? Didn't Lucas promise that he would explain that? Among the Sith there seems to be tension between loyalty to each other and competitiveness. If you look at that history: Palpatine killed his own master after learning all his secrets. He also had no problem sacrificing Count Dukhu. He encourages Luke to kill his father. Vader himself raves about how he is going to take over from Emperor at the end of Episode III, and tells Luke in Episode V that they can destroy the Emperor and "rule the galaxy as father and son". On the other hand there seems to be a genuine loyalty and respect between them. Palpatine seems to really care what happens to Vader at the end of episode III, and calls him 'his friend' rather sincerely. His attitude towards Darth Maul seems to be very positive. Vader is VERY respectful of the Emperor in Episodes V and VI.

On a separate issue, I still don't understand Obi-Wan's phrase "Only Sith believe in absolutes" or something like that. It just seems a very awkward phrase. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that suddenly Lucas espouses moral relativism or some such thing. I've even read somewhere that it's a shot at George Bush...

Anyone has any insights on the above issues, it will be greatly appreciated.

As a sidenote, I don't personally require absolute consistency in any series, because such consistency is very hard to maintain. Asimov once complained about the prospect of continuing his Foundation Trilogy was that it was harder to maintain consistency the longer you made it. Classical Mythology and great classics are riddled with inconsistencies, and so are many of the TV shows that I enjoy watching. Still, there are certain things that do bug me, and I like to see as much consistency as possible.

In answer to some of your questions:

Either Leia didn't know she was adopted and thought that her adopted mother was her real mother, or because of force capabilities was able to sense her mother's feelings while still in the womb.

Obi Wan saying that the one who taught him was Yoda was simplifying. Yoda teaches all, even if they have a main teacher.

As I mentioned before, the problem with Annakin was his flip-flopiness. I don't think he had enough certainty to overtake the emperor until the end when he had turned or re-turned.

Chris already commented on the Sith's believe in absolutes phrase.

Regarding the nature of the Sith. Read Wikipedia, all Lucas approved. It explains everything. Also, if you want detailed insight into the Jedi and the Sith, you should play the two video games as they delve into philosophical issues quite deeply.

Nice exchanges here and thanks to all for the additional comments. Just a few points in reply:

First, that's a really thought-provoking paper, Geoffrey... I encourage readers to take a look at it.

Second, Stan, "Return of the Jedi" is not my favorite---but I am pretty sure I like it more than Aeon. :) I think that my response to Jedi, especially the whole climactic bout between Luke, Darth Vader, and the Emperor, was influenced by two things: 1) My contemporaneous study of the works of Gene Sharp, the Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution who has written many books on the techniques of nonviolence resistance. A lot of that revolves around the issue of sanction of the victim, and not giving into the typically violent responses to violence. The point Sharp drove home was that nonviolent resistance ~is~ resistance. It is not pacifism. And 2) Richard Nixon. Don't chuckle. It's the comment that was brought up yesterday by Stanley Crouch in his NY DAILY NEWS discussion of Deep Throat and the "Nixonian tragedy" of Watergate (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ideas_opinions/story/315090p-269530c.html). As he left Washington DC in disgrace, a resigned President Nixon said: "Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."

I take the whole issue of ~hate~ very seriously, and as I have said in this Sith post, I think Lucas takes the relationships among fear, anger, and hate as internal, to use a philosophic term. So seeing Luke not giving into hate in that climactic scene, thus breaking the cycle of tragedy... made an impact on me. Of course, seeing Vader throw the Emperor to his death made an impact on me too. :)

And thanks Technomaget with regard to those video games!

Gene Sharpe has done some good work. I draw on his work briefly in connection with Etienne de La Boetie, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi in my oversized M.A. thesis. The political thought of these men, as well as that of Mikhail Bakunin, should be studied in depth as a necessary part of understanding the concept of libertarian revolution. Guerilla warfare and privateering are not the only means. And centrally organized violence tends to be counterproductive.

Thanks for your additional thoughts, Geoffrey.

BTW, in case you've not seen it, there's a good book that talks about Aristotle's view of contraries as akin to the "yin and yang" in Chinese philosophy. It's Stephen R. L. Clark's book, ARISTOTLE'S MAN: SPECULATIONS UPON ARISTOTELIAN ANTHROPOLOGY (Oxford University Press, 1975). It's tangential to this thread, but not irrelevant.

Actually, both Episodes II and III hit me pretty deeply. I actually felt much unlike most in that I respected Hayden Christensen's portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. I didn't find him 'wooden' at all, but reticient in passionate emotions he had no way and no knowledge of how to realize. His desperate attempt to his have life mean something, his fierce loyalties underscored by a high demand for trust and immense, waiting sense of imminent betrayal- in a world which in fact he shouldn't trust, his willingness to switch to something he can trust absolutely and prefer clear and certain darkness to wavering and murky light, all made immense sense to me. He makes me think, oddly enough, of Medea and Hedda Gabbler- two strong icons who also turned destructive rather than accept the constraints of their world. In all three cases I feel judging the tragic protagonist is precisely to miss the point.

To be honest, I blame the Jedi squarely in this instance. They resemble nothing so much as the Christian (or Buddhist) monopolists of idealism, who take everything Anakin- a person of greater passion and spirit than they are- has to give, and then at the end just crush him and leave him hanging, telling him to 'let go' of Padme (why?). They do not merely teach factual acceptance an ugly reality, but preach resignation as a virtue. Why could Yoda not teach Anakin to 'rage, rage, against the dying of the light?

Their codes deny personal attachments outside of attachment to their order, yet their order is not in itself a suitable substitute for personal attachments. Their methods of training involve a military master/apprectince relationship which allows for emotional closeness only in the militant denial of sympathy. This order may be suited to producing disciplined and spiritually capable warriors, but it is *not* suitable for nurturing human happiness. How on *Earth* is someone with Anakin's spirit going to find happiness in such a place? I not only find such a code on balance unadmirable, but the Jedi way strikes me as emotionally abusive.

Philosophically speaking, I find the Sith route closer to truth in *essentials* than the Jedi role. The Jedi preach calm and warn against passion. But, like it or not, every code of values requires a passionate dedication to be lived, and what the Jedi effectively preach is passionate attachment to an anti-passion code. In practice, what this means is turning the capacity for enjoyment away from the enjoyment of life towards the enjoyment of an ideal which clashes with it. I strongly follow Ayn Rand in her opposition to codes of values which take the individual's capacity for moral ambition and attach it to something in direct opposition to living on Earth. This is what the Jedi code does, and the Order's callous treatment of human love in a perfect symbol of this.

If one ties 'the Light Side' of the Force with this inhumanity, and then associates passion with the imperialism and brutality of the Sith, then the Jedi shouldn't be surprised that their strongest keep being tempted to the Dark Side. Given those two options, it is what I would expect any truly *human* being to do... except for the fact that the power-climbing teleology the Sith ascribe to passion in truth will drain happiness as quickly as the Jedi demand to drain it.

What one needs here is a dialectical, contextualized transcendence of a false dichotomy. To put it plainly, I sympathise with Anakin because what he needs is Sith ends and Jedi means- in other words a pursuit of passion that respects life, cultivates benevolence, and loathes imperial conquest as integral parts of what is neccesary to make both happiness and spiritual efficacy possible. And this is as option that does not exist in Anakin's moral universe. Anakin is a person of intense spiritual seriousness and discipline who turns to worldly evil because he is presented with worldless good as the only option. Under such conditions, Palpatine's serpentinisms have the power to subvert because they whisper bits of truth. Anakin *should* be able to have a place where his stature can be realized, and Palpatine touches on the worst version of something more real that the Jedi are willing to acknowledge. Is it very telling that Lucas sets the rise of Empire against the background of wealthy, lights-blazing cosmopolitan Coruscant, borrowing a favorite Biblical smear from Genesis to Revelations which links wealth and worldly enjoyment to exploitation and tyranny. Good Jedi lose their loves, their personal lives, their independence and end up in awful places like Dagobah and Tatooine. Bad Sith corrode their souls and end up doing horrible monstrosities because they follow passion, self-interest, and love (not even lust, but *love*). I may strongly believe that Sith nastiness is a disastrous way to pursue passion (because benevolence is enjoyable, and hatred miserable, and because hurt and oppresion is bound to be counterproductive). But at least the Sith have a narrow respect for it, while the Jedi sublimate passion into passion for antipassionate morality. Which side is someone like Anakin going to choose?

One should be glad Star Wars is fiction, where Light and Dark represent only odd special cases of the polychromatic possibilities of codes of value in life. What Anakin should have done is to tell both Yoda and Darth Sideous to pike it, quit the self-made schisms of the Jedi/Sith common moral scenery, and set up his own Order with the force tinted his own colour. Make amends to the shadows of his past crimes, take Padme's offer, and leave everything behind; stay away from Coruscant with its politics and the kind of yicky deserts and swamps the Jedi seem to frequent. Take love over moralistic or immoral lovelessness, raise their child, and (I admit I'm prejudiced), settle down on Naboo. I can't help notice that both Palpatine's and Yoda's skies are polluted. The light seems better and warmer from Naboo's star.

Thanks for your lengthy and interesting comments, Jeanine; I do think there is a kind of "dialectical" necessity to transcend the Jedi-Sith "dualism" at work. A good insight.