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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LUCAS: It takes all the aspects of other art forms--painting, music, literature, theater--and puts them into one art form. It's a combination of all these, and it works on all the senses. For that reason it's a very alluring, kind of dreamlike experience. You sit in a dark room and have this other world come at you in a very realistic way.

MOYERS: Wendy Doniger, who is a scholar of mythology at the University of Chicago, says that myths are important because they remind us that our lives are real and our lives are not real. We have these bodies, which we can touch, but we also have within us this omnipotent magical world of thought.

LUCAS: Myths tell us these old stories in a way that doesn't threaten us. They're in an imaginary land where you can be safe. But they deal with real truths that need to be told. Sometimes the truths are so painful that stories are the only way you can get through to them psychologically.

MOYERS: Ultimately, isn't Star Wars about transformation?

LUCAS: It will be about how young Anakin Skywalker became evil and then was redeemed by his son. But it's also about the transformation of how his son came to find the call and then ultimately realize what it was. Because Luke works intuitively through most of the original trilogy until he gets to the very end. And it's only in the last act--when he throws his sword down and says, "I'm not going to fight this"--that he makes a more conscious, rational decision. And he does it at the risk of his life because the Emperor is going to kill him. It's only that way that he is able to redeem his father. It's not as apparent in the earlier movies, but when you see the next trilogy, then you see the issue is, How do we get Darth Vader back? How do we get him back to that little boy that he was in the first movie, that good person who loved and was generous and kind? Who had a good heart.

MOYERS: In authentic religion, doesn't it take Kierkegaard's leap of faith?

LUCAS: Yes, yes. Definitely. You'll notice Luke uses that quite a bit through the film--not to rely on pure logic, not to rely on the computers, but to rely on faith. That is what that "Use the Force" is, a leap of faith. There are mysteries and powers larger than we are, and you have to trust your feelings in order to access them.

MOYERS: When Darth Vader tempts Luke to come over to the Empire side, offering him all that the Empire has to offer, I am taken back to the story of Satan taking Christ to the mountain and offering him the kingdoms of the world, if only he will turn away from his mission. Was that conscious in your mind?

LUCAS: Yes. That story also has been retold. Buddha was tempted in the same way. It's all through mythology. The gods are constantly tempting. Everybody and everything. So the idea of temptation is one of the things we struggle against, and the temptation obviously is the temptation to go to the dark side. One of the themes throughout the films is that the Sith lords, when they started out thousands of years ago, embraced the dark side. They were greedy and self-centered and they all wanted to take over, so they killed each other. Eventually, there was only one left, and that one took on an apprentice. And for thousands of years, the master would teach the apprentice, the master would die, the apprentice would then teach another apprentice, become the master, and so on. But there could never be any more than two of them, because if there were, they would try to get rid of the leader, which is exactly what Vader was trying to do, and that's exactly what the Emperor was trying to do. The Emperor was trying to get rid of Vader, and Vader was trying to get rid of the Emperor. And that is the antithesis of a symbiotic relationship, in which if you do that, you become cancer, and you eventually kill the host, and everything dies.

MOYERS: I hear many young people today talk about a world that's empty of heroism, where there are no more noble things to do.

LUCAS: Heroes come in all sizes, and you don't have to be a giant hero. You can be a very small hero. It's just as important to understand that accepting self-responsibility for the things you do, having good manners, caring about other people--these are heroic acts. Everybody has the choice of being a hero or not being a hero every day of their lives. You don't have to get into a giant laser-sword fight and blow up three spaceships to become a hero.

Bill Moyers' upcoming PBS specials will include Free Speech for Sale on June 8 and Fooling with Words in the fall

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