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The Force Awakens

By Nandi Roszhart
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By Harvard Medical School
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By Ashley Tieperman
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I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now. In fact, I had seen it twice before the end of 2015. While I’m confessing, I might as well cop to reading a few message boards and Buzzfeed articles about the movie, initiating several debates about Rey’s true identity, and using the term “midi-chlorians” in a sentence.

I know: Uber-Dork. 

In fact, I’m a big enough dork to believe this: there’s a scene this movie that carries some deep truth for our time. That’s right; I think we can learn life lessons from Han Solo. 

In case you need a bit of explanation because you live in the real world more than I do, Star Wars is an epic story of good versus evil set in a galaxy far, far away. In the story, good and evil are the opposing sides of the same powerful, invisible, spiritual “force”, and characters spend a lot of time wrestling through various omens and temptations that point to their place on the dark side or the light. There are unbelievers too — characters who scoff at the idea of a powerful, invisible, spiritual force. No one likes those characters. They don’t get it, and we find their lack of faith disturbing.

In the most recent film, the galaxy has fallen into a secular malaise. The force has gone silent. Believers are few, scattered, and underground. But then, of course, an obscure orphan from a poor desert planet gets caught up in a high-stakes struggle against the dark side and finds herself face-to-face with one of the heroes of lore — Han Solo. The orphan, a girl named Rey, says inquiringly, "There are stories about what happened.” And that’s when the venerable Harrison Ford delivers the line that makes the movie for me:

“It’s true. All of it. The dark side. The Jedi. They’re real.” 

Isn’t that what we long to hear in this galaxy too? An affirmation that our silly yearning for transcendence is legitimate? Relief from the crushing hopeless scientism that tells us we are cosmic, meaningless accidents? A proclamation that there is a bigger story? 

There are, of course, unbelievers in our lives — those who scoff at our beliefs (you think every species on Earth got into a big wooden boat?) and our practices (you give away your money?) and our morals (you abstain from what?) But even they have doubts. Like Rey, they want to believe in something eternal and meaningful. And what they long for — what we all long for, even if we’re not dorks — is for a wizened, rebel veteran to look us in the eye and say, “It’s true. I’ve been to the other side. You’re not crazy. There is a Force. And it’s calling you.”

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