There are Star Wars quotes that stick with you from the first time you watch them, for instance “Do or Do Not, there is no try,” “Fear is the path to the Dark Side,” “Use the Force, Luke,” and so on. And then there are some that, as time goes on, life gives more meaning to.
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Jedi Master Qui-gon Jinn gave Anakin Skywalker some advice on how to use the Force before the Boonta Eve podrace. “Your focus determines your reality” may have just been said in passing. However, that quote has been on my mind a lot recently as I have reflected on what kind of a world we live in and what our state of mind should be. It is the things that you think about, the ideas and thoughts you give your attention to, and the activities that you chose to give your time and attention to in your waking life that define, really, what your life is about. It’s what you choose to bring to the table and not what everyone else has.
Looking at the Star Wars saga, we can see how Qui-gon’s words were verified. Anakin Skywalker focused on everything that he thought was unfair about his life, how he thought the Jedi Order was restricting him and controlling him when he wanted to be more powerful. Because he chose to focus on that, and put his efforts into expressing his frustration, that became his reality: his anger and frustration motivated him to make poor choices and eventually consumed him when he chose to go to the Dark Side. If you choose to focus on the negative, then your existence becomes only negativity. If you focus on pain, your life becomes painful. If you focus on doubt, your doubts take control of you.
Anakin’s son Luke Skywalker may have grown up under different circumstances, but he had to make some of the same choices. He could have chosen to become bitter about the deaths of his aunt and uncle and Obi-wan. He could have been angry about how the Empire was treating his friends and how Yoda was telling him not to save them. He could have hated Darth Vader for being literally the worst dad ever. But Luke saw none of those things. He saw, under Vader’s mask, the potential for goodness that his father still had inside of him. He focused on the love that he had for the father he’d never known and wanted so badly in his life. That focus, in the end, helped him to make the choice to save his father.
Seeing the good isn’t necessarily optimism. It’s making things that are good and uplifting a part of our life. It’s choosing to emphasize the good aspects of something over dismissing it as entirely bad. We must interpret the world around us in such a way that we do not become part of its evil but we become a force for good within it.
Last September, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the women of the church with a parable entitled “A Summer with Great Aunt Rose.” A little girl staying with her great aunt discovers that her aunt that is loved and respected by their community, who is always so perfect and positive, has not had a perfect life. Great Aunt Rose became who she was because she chose to have faith that even though she could not have the life she had always wanted that she could make the best of the life she was given.
The center of this parable is a painting of a pioneer girl skipping down a sunny path. A pioneer girl in the mid-nineteenth century did not necessarily have an easy life--in fact it would have been filled with all kinds of hardships and trials. And yet the little girl is surrounded with sunshine and bright colors--not from the world she saw but from what she chose to see. The moment depicted in this painting is not what the girl’s life was but what she made it.
That’s not saying that we should look at everything through rose-colored glasses. There is evil in the world and it has to be acknowledged. But it does not need to be embraced.
For instance, I like a lot of movies that people would consider violent. I liked The Martian even though there’s an f-bomb on every page and they dropped at least three in the movie. I read (and loved) several books in college with sexual or textual content that people would consider objectionable.
The smarter or easier thing would be to eschew all entertainment because all of these little flaws. If I carry through with my OCD thoughts, then everything that entertains me has a worldly message that I should show by my actions cannot be tolerated. But just because a piece of entertainment is imperfect does not mean it has no value. Some of those novels I read in college, for instance, are important to me personally because of what I learned from them.
I still have standards, I know better than to watch movies/TV or read books with outright sexual portrayals or other things that don’t agree with me. When it comes to the things that are easier to question, I focus on why I like them--the storyline, the humor, the moral interpretation that I bring to the table.
There is a lot of evil in the world, but there is also good--lots of good. We are commanded in the scriptures to lay hold upon every good thing. Good things that fall in line with my standards, good things that I can share with my family and friends. Good things that bring me joy and make me a better person.
My life in general is like that. Even though my circumstances are less than ideal and it would be easier to give up, I have faith that if I focus on doing good and making the most with what I have, then everything will work out. I put my faith where I want my focus to be--on reaching my goals, and on the joy I find in the journey.
Next Week: Have Courage and Be Kind
Next Week: Have Courage and Be Kind