The line through the human heart
Speaking in Las Vegas plus the Forceful work of Ben Domenech
Hello to all of you from sunny Las Vegas. I’m out here enjoying the incredible privilege of speaking to a conference called FreedomFest about how the Darth Vader origin story is a civic warning to us all about the perils of unchecked good intentions & being a control freak. Curious what I’m talking about? I’ll post the video from the speech in a few weeks hopefully. In the meantime, this video I did in the Spring is a good primer on my thesis about the ugly realities of good intentions when it comes to politics and government.
If you’re new here….
Some of you are new to This Is The Way if you met me here in Vegas and got your hands on a free copy of How The Force Can Fix The World: Lessons on Life, Liberty & Happiness from a Galaxy Far Far Away. Thanks to everyone who came out to hear the talk, meet, and get a book signed. This Is The Way is my regular newsletter offering advice from popular culture on living in modern times. A lot of the time it’s Star Wars wisdom, sometimes it’s Spiderman or X-Men or a little bit of real-world history I’ve been reading and want to share with you.
We aren’t meant to drift through this world alone or without codes, creeds, or values to live by. I don’t buy that idea of life or freedom, one bit. We all worship, follow or value something as an organizing philosophy.
You could a lot worse than “With great power comes great responsibility” (Spiderman) or “Your focus determines your reality.” (Star Wars: Episode I)
Maybe you’ve picked up How The Force Can Fix The World already or have yet to crack it open. Either way, this introduction to the book has been on my mind and something I wanted to share on This Is The Way.
Ben Domenech is a Fox News contributor, guest host, and Editor at Large of The Spectator. He also pens The Transom here on Substack and you should go subscribe right away. Ben is a good & generous friend, a creative & wise person, and a freaking poetic writer for someone equally capable of a rhetorical knuckle punch to the face.
He can do both and I love his work for that kind of dualism. Ben wrote part one of the Foreword for my book, and I go back to it often for a reminder of why I still love talking about Star Wars as a vessel for more broaching more serious issues.
Here’s that. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
FOREWORD: HOW THE FORCE CAN FIX THE WORLD
BY: BEN DOMENECH
Of the many regrets I have in life, few approach the time I commanded that Wookie to kill that poor Twi’lek girl on the sunny shores of Lehon.
That scene, an infamous ethical decision within The Knights of the Old Republic video game, still haunts many of players who chose the path of the Dark Side, wanting that force lightning without counting its cost. The moment indicates the depth of archetype and myth contained within the Star Wars universe, inspiring emotion with utterly unfamiliar characters who still make you feel the disturbance of their deaths.
We've all heard the critique of Star Wars fandom that comes primarily from those who support “hard sci-fi” - though that seems rather laughable when it refers to the broad range of works from Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Liu Cixin, Neal Stephenson, or Arthur C. Clarke.
Why is someone who dreams of epic stories that span the space between the stars compelled to choose between The Expanse and Dune, Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell, Star Wars or Star Trek?
It’s possible to love The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, you know. You can even love Elvis and the Beach Boys, but not to the same degree.
I grew up devouring the hard sci fi books and short stories of these authors. Like well-written comic books, they seemed simultaneously fantastic and surprisingly in touch with the deep emotional and ethical nature of humanity. You learned about friendship and honor from Han Solo and Captain America alike.
No universe approaches this depth so much as Star Wars. Dismiss it as toy marketing to kids or service for fanboys or a series of easter eggs disguised as a plot... in reality, it is compelling because it is the closest thing the modern sci fi world has to Arthurian legend.
Knights, wizards, and princesses (who are most assuredly not damsels in distress) confronting the monsters of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, speaking to the deepest heroic ambitions within all of us. Leia slaying Jabba is as iconic as Perseus slaying Medusa; Anakin and Obi-Wan engage in a faceoff as intense as Achilles and Hector; and then there is the metal-helmed Din Djarin, The Mandalorian, who takes on a Krayt Dragon with the fearlessness of a hero iconic to an entire nation.
“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey,” G.K. Chesterton wrote. “What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
Star Wars has far more to offer us than logic puzzles and the increasingly woke world of comic books, fantasy, and science fiction. The Skywalker family drama is Shakespearean in its depth, roiling at the center of a maelstrom of galactic conflict which has surged before and will arise again. The series compels us to weigh the arguments of all sides. The way of the Sith may seem on its face like a religious excuse for an evil fascist regime - but what if it cares more about the direction of the galaxy, on preventing chaos and providing order, than the uncaring, naive, and often fickle Jedi?
One of the best minor characters in Jon Favreau’s Mandalorian series is Mayfeld, depicted by GOAT Boston comedian Bill Burr. Mayfeld is jaded, a mercenary who views the work of Rebellion and Empire alike as merely destructive to those caught in the crossfire. His sarcasm turns serious, though, when confronted with a reminder of the evils in which he was complicit during his past as an Imperial. He is presented with a dangerous choice, and rather than shirk it, he chooses a side.
Star Wars speaks to us as a timeless representation of human nature at war with its worst impulses. This is why it has something to say to us today. The very title is a lie. The war was never about the divide between the stars. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart.”
There is still some good in you. I can sense it. Even among those of us who made that Wookie kill that Twi’lek. "Diogenes looked for his honest man inside every crypt and cavern," Chesterton wrote, "but he never thought of looking inside the thief." This means there is hope, even for the most broken of us, even in the dead-end isolation of a desert under twin suns.
May the Force be with you.
I wasn’t kidding was I? If you like Ben’s writing, check out his Substack (The Transom) and get this piece in print by ordering How The Force Can Fix The World. For all of you here…thank you for supporting This Is The Way.
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