Of Myth And Men

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BLAKE LITTLE FOR TIME

KEEPING THE FAITH: Lucas and Moyers, at Skywalker Ranch, weigh the power of old stories in a new form

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MOYERS: What do you make of the fact that so many people have interpreted your work as being profoundly religious?

LUCAS: I don't see Star Wars as profoundly religious. I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct--that there is a greater mystery out there. I remember when I was 10 years old, I asked my mother, "If there's only one God, why are there so many religions?" I've been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I've come to is that all the religions are true.

MOYERS: Is one religion as good as another?

LUCAS: I would say so. Religion is basically a container for faith. And faith in our culture, our world and on a larger issue, the mystical level--which is God, what one might describe as a supernatural, or the things that we can't explain--is a very important part of what allows us to remain stable, remain balanced.

MOYERS: One explanation for the popularity of Star Wars when it appeared is that by the end of the 1970s, the hunger for spiritual experience was no longer being satisfied sufficiently by the traditional vessels of faith.

LUCAS: I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people--more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, "Is there a God or is there not a God?"--that is for me the worst thing that can happen. I think you should have an opinion about that. Or you should be saying, "I'm looking. I'm very curious about this, and I am going to continue to look until I can find an answer, and if I can't find an answer, then I'll die trying." I think it's important to have a belief system and to have faith.

MOYERS: Do you have an opinion, or are you looking?

LUCAS: I think there is a God. No question. What that God is or what we know about that God, I'm not sure. The one thing I know about life and about the human race is that we've always tried to construct some kind of context for the unknown. Even the cavemen thought they had it figured out. I would say that cavemen understood on a scale of about 1. Now we've made it up to about 5. The only thing that most people don't realize is the scale goes to 1 million.

MOYERS: The central ethic of our culture has been the Bible. Like your stories, it's about the fall, wandering, redemption, return. But the Bible no longer occupies that central place in our culture today. Young people in particular are turning to movies for their inspiration, not to organized religion.

LUCAS: Well, I hope that doesn't end up being the course this whole thing takes, because I think there's definitely a place for organized religion. I would hate to find ourselves in a completely secular world where entertainment was passing for some kind of religious experience.

MOYERS: You said you put the Force into Star Wars because you wanted us to think on these things. Some people have traced the notion of the Force to Eastern views of God--particularly Buddhist--as a vast reservoir of energy that is the ground of all of our being. Was that conscious?

LUCAS: I guess it's more specific in Buddhism, but it is a notion that's been around before that. When I wrote the first Star Wars, I had to come up with a whole cosmology: What do people believe in? I had to do something that was relevant, something that imitated a belief system that has been around for thousands of years, and that most people on the planet, one way or another, have some kind of connection to.I didn't want to invent a religion. I wanted to try to explain in a different way the religions that have already existed. I wanted to express it all.

MOYERS: You're creating a new myth?

LUCAS: I'm telling an old myth in a new way. Each society takes that myth and retells it in a different way, which relates to the particular environment they live in. The motif is the same. It's just that it gets localized. As it turns out, I'm localizing it for the planet. I guess I'm localizing it for the end of the millennium more than I am for any particular place.

MOYERS: What lessons do you think people around the world are taking away from Star Wars?

LUCAS: Star Wars is made up of many themes. It's not just one little simple parable. One is our relationship to machines, which are fearful, but also benign. Then there is the lesson of friendship and symbiotic relationships, of your obligations to your fellow- man, to other people that are around you. This is a world where evil has run amuck. But you have control over your destiny, you have many paths to walk down, and you can choose which destiny is going to be yours.

MOYERS: I'm not a psychologist, I'm just a journalist, but it does seem to me there's something autobiographical with Luke Skywalker and his father--something of George Lucas in there.

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