essays on suffering and awakening

The real magic of Star Wars

Star Wars was my favorite film growing up. Most of my friends felt the same way. We were hardly alone — the franchise is uniquely iconic in American culture.

But what is so special about it? Dozens of major films take us into space, and hundreds follow the rough contours of the hero’s journey. Why do so many millions of people line up for tickets whenever a new Star Wars film is released?

I think the answer is simple: Star Wars makes us feel something special. As a boy, I loved Star Trek as well. It was exciting, the starships were incredibly cool, and it was fuel for my imagination to catch fire. But Star Wars hit me deeper. I felt it in my bones.

What makes Star Wars so powerful is that it touches on the magic inside us. We see Luke Skywalker, a nobody from nowhere, get tapped on the shoulder by the universe and told, “there is something special and powerful inside you.” I don’t know if there’s anybody who can watch that and not think, on some level, “maybe that could be me too.” I know I did.

Of course, the reason that we think that, and the reason that it resonates with us far more deeply than most thoughts do, is that it’s speaking to our truth. There is something special and powerful inside all of us, and it surrounds us and penetrates us and binds us all together.

The Bhagavad Gita is a five thousand year old Hindu epic. Its hero, Arjuna, is a warrior preparing for battle, alongside his charioteer, Krishna — God who has taken human form in order to guide him. Arjuna is scared, and he asks Krishna to reveal his divine self. Krishna agrees, and suddenly begins to shine with the light of a thousand suns. Within him, Arjuna sees the entire universe, from galaxies full of stars and planets to every being that has ever lived or will live.

The point of the story is that we are all Arjuna and Krishna. We both contain the universe inside ourselves, and are still looking for it. We might not even know that we’re looking, but like Luke Skywalker, living on his uncle’s farm, we can’t shake the feeling that we’re meant for something more.

Star Wars made me feel that way as a child. Then I grew older and I knew that I was supposed to put away childish things, and stop believing in the sense of magic it awoke within me. That’s the lesson many of us get: that the world is hard and harsh and we have to fight for survival and then we die. We learn to see everything through the lens of our thinking minds, which are always afraid, and we push away the magic inside us.

But we don’t have to. We can learn to let go of the fear. We can embrace the joy and the magic within, and like Luke Skywalker, begin to awaken to what we truly are. It’s always here with us, right now, in this moment. We just have a hard time seeing it. There’s a Ben Kenobi waiting for you, and me, and each and every one of us; waiting to tap us on the shoulder and say, “you really are special and powerful and you can help.”

How do we meet him? How do we open up to what is inside us? Asking is a good place to start. Ramana Maharshi, an Indian holy man from the last century, taught that all we need to do to learn the truth of reality is to ask ourselves, “who am I?”, and follow that question as deep as it can take us.

Meditation (something I struggle with) is a powerful tool. So is prayer, or just putting it out there that you want to go deeper and open up more. You can say it out loud or just hold the thought in your mind for a moment. Things start to happen when we choose to start searching.

The next time you feel that sense of magic inside you, whether it’s while watching Star Wars or a sunset, don’t push it away. Let it guide you instead. It’ll take you home.

Ian Cooper