Linda: When I take my grandsons to see the Star Wars movies, we always have a great time being dazzled by the special effects. The classic good vs. evil theme is primary, but the subtext depicted in the bar scenes is the one I most enjoy. Seeing other species of both genders, all colors, shapes, and sizes, with frog- and fish-like faces cooperating, conducting commerce, flying jets, and relaxing in the bar, is what thrills me.
These images stimulate my imaginary vision of the Intergalactic Federation that has earthlings under close surveillance. They are eagerly looking forward to the day when earthlings’ consciousness evolves to the point where we aren’t so dangerous and can finally be invited to join the Federation.
At this point, there is still too much fear of others to the point where those who are not like us are seen as a threat, where evil is projected upon the other, in the extreme to the point of murdering them in wars. The subtext teaching of Star Wars is to show us that creative collaboration and co-operation is possible when we have openness, curiosity, wonder, and respect rather than fear of the other. Seeing the films reminds me that each of us is responsible for shifting our own orientation away from fear to curiosity about others. Use your imagination to consider this scene.
Imagine you’re at a party with an assortment of characters that could have come out of the bar scene of Star Wars. These beings not only look weird, but they also have weird, obnoxious, irritating, scary, and embarrassing ways of being. As you scan the scene, you find yourself mentally separating the desirable and attractive people from the weirdoes.
“I’ll just ignore them and hang out with the regular people.” You initiate contact with someone who looks ordinary, and within a few minutes find yourself engaged in cocktail party chitchat. You both agree that there are some rather strange folks at this event. You each congratulate yourselves for having the good sense to have found a kindred spirit in this motley assortment of characters.
There is something enormously compelling about the other guests. As you and your new friend converse with each other, you find your attention continually drawn towards these other intriguing beings. You notice that you feel an aversion towards them as well as a powerful fascination. The two of you become involved in discussing the “unusual” (you want to be polite) nature of the other guests. In this conversation, you feel strangely reassured of your own, as well as your new friend’s “normality.”
There is an unusual group of people who are having quite a bit of fun. They’re a rowdy bunch, evidently unconcerned about the impact of their behavior on others. Their lack of concern over how others respond to them is what you find most repugnant about them. Self-centered, uncaring, egotistical, obnoxious, self-indulgent, anti-social are words that you use to characterize them.
The host of the party approaches to ask if you’re enjoying yourself. Taken somewhat off-guard, you respond with a tentative “yes,” adding that he has certainly invited some very interesting people.
“Yes, I have,” he replies. “I’ve gone out of my way to invite the most outrageous cast of characters that I could find. Instead of one of those dull affairs where everyone thinks and acts the same, I thought that it would be fun to include an assortment, different from the kinds of folks we normally get to know.”
“Well that’s an interesting idea,” you say unenthusiastically. “But what is it that you actually expect to happen? I mean are we supposed to get to know each other? I’m not sure that I really…”
“You’re not ‘supposed to’ do anything, but you might really regret it if you don’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that each one of these people has brought a special gift for you, something that will bring great fulfillment into your life. All you have to do is to spend some time getting to know them and when you find out who they really are and what they’re really like under their outlandish presentation, they’ll give you their gift. The more people that you get to know, the more gifts you’ll receive.”
“It’s true. I swear.”
“I’ve been just hanging around here for the past couple of hours wasting time. Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
“You didn’t ask.”
How often have we realized late in the game, perhaps too late that we missed the point? Rather than enjoying the ride, we spend our time worrying about a plane crash that never happened. Instead of developing positive study habits in school, we played the game of figuring out how little we could get away with. Or we tried to become an expert at manipulation in order to get our spouse to make our life more comfortable, rather than using our marriage as a means of bringing more love into our family.
Too often we learn too little too late, that the game that we’ve been playing brings much smaller rewards or costs a much higher price than we had ever realized. How many regrets do we have for choices we made that turned out to lead somewhere other than where we hoped they might?
Our friend at the party missed the point because he thought that the game was about avoiding uncomfortable situations and unpleasant people. There are certainly consequences to being in the presence of people that we find distasteful. There are consequences for avoiding unpleasant experiences. Why would any reasonable person choose to engage with people whom they found to be unpleasant? Is there really any benefit to getting to know people who turn us off? If there are gifts that await us, what are they? Are they valuable enough to make it worth our while to endure whatever unpleasant such familiarizing requires?
Like the person at the party, we have the opportunity to use our time discovering the hidden gifts that can bring the kind of fulfillment that we truly crave. Or we can spend our time looking for ways to avoid unpleasant experiences. It’s not the vision of a brighter future that inspires this confrontation with the truth of the soul and the desires of the mind; it’s the pain of living an incomplete and inauthentic life. We can choose the emptiness that is inherent in a life that is built on a foundation of pleasure-seeking and pain avoidance, or not. The choice is ours.