The Force of Perspective

Recently, as part of a summer classic movie series, I saw Star Wars: A New Hope at my local theater.

After the movie, there was a talk, so the lecturer came on stage before the film started to prime the audience for what he wanted us to be attentive to as we watched.

Primarily, he wanted to remind us that this was the first Star Wars movie released, that when Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about the Force, we need to understand that the original audience never would have heard that term before so wouldn’t understand its significance or where the story would go with it. There was no Jar Jar Binks (if only there had never been) or Yoda (let a lone a baby Yoda).

He wanted us to see the film with a fresh perspective.

I tried.

I noticed how whiney Mark Hamill is when we first meet him as Luke with Hamill attempting to make Luke sound like a restless teenager. When Princess Leia records herself to send a message via R2-D2, I pretended I didn’t know exactly what she was going to say and what would happen to that message.

It didn’t really work, of course, because I’ve seen the movie so many times.

But primed by the speaker, I did notice more details that I likely would have missed. I paid more attention to the uniforms of those protecting the ship Princess Leia is on when boarded by Imperial forces. I observed the aliens more closely in the famous scene where we meet Han Solo for the first time. I noted the reactions of Luke’s aunt and uncle when they dine together.

I paid attention to the audience, particularly my daughter who was seeing the movie for the first time in a theater with others. I probably annoyed her by looking over at her so many times a big smile on my face to record her reaction.

I couldn’t pretend I’d never seen the movie, but I did my best to inhabit a fresh space and pay attention even though I confess I thought “ew” when Luke clearly has a crush on Leia.

It truly was a new experience for me thanks to my new perspective.

And paying attention is what the Force is all about.

When Luke is zooming toward the vulnerable target of the Death Star, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice tells him to “Use the Force, Luke” and turn off the computer. Luke is to follow his instincts, to feel a universal energy that will help him take aim. He must pay attention.

Of course, often we move through life without noticing, and I’m very guilty of this. I live in my head way more than I should, not attentive to those around me, let alone a universal energy.

Essentially, Star Wars is reminding us that we should be mindful, and the speaker was telling the audience not to operate from habit energy, merely rewatching the film rather than truly watching it.

With its lightsabers, space ships, and battles offering thrills, no wonder Star Wars became so popular in 1977 when it first appeared. Its staying power, however, rests in its spiritual messages about being in tune and inhabiting a fresh perspective — with the bonus of an opportunity to eat popcorn.

May the Force (of mindfulness) be with you.

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Kathryn Duncan

Kathryn Duncan

Kathryn Duncan is an English professor and author of the book Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment.