by Kimbriel Dean: In a Narrative Theology class in college, my professor introduced me to the idea that Star Wars was more than an action movie.
I hadn’t seen the movie since I was little, and I didn’t remember much about it. One weekend, our class left behind our rather stuffy but intense debates over each jot and tittle of the Bible in order to eat popcorn and watch the Star Wars trilogy together (these were pre-prequel days).
During that movie marathon, I learned Star Wars has great spiritual depth. I was particularly taken by Yoda’s wisdom and understanding of “the Force.”
We spent the next few sessions of class talking about religious and spiritual concepts as presented by Star Wars. What was the Force supposed to represent? The Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost) from Christianity? Prana or chi from Eastern religions? Or something else altogether, unique to the world of Star Wars? What was the source of good and evil in Star Wars, and how do those concepts compare to the teachings of various religions? Did Darth Vader represent a Biblical fallen angel, like Lucifer? Did Yoda have a religious counterpart?
Long after that week, I continued to kick around questions about Yoda and the Jedis. How did Yoda become the embodiment of wisdom? Might Yoda’s path to enlightenment teach us how to become wiser beings?
Today, I saw a poster with a Yoda quote on it, and I remembered the questions I toyed with so long ago. So, once again, I sat down and thought about Yoda’s story. I distilled a few key nuggets that explain Yoda’s acquisition of wisdom. Though we are not fictional movie characters, I believe we stand to gain wisdom if we follow the path of Yoda.
HOW YOU CAN BECOME WISE LIKE YODA
1. Get old…or respect old. Yoda was ancient. After training Jedis for 800 years, he died at the ripe old age of 900. Presumably, George Lucas and others who may’ve shaped Yoda’s storyline associated long life with wisdom.
Age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom. We’ve all met people who’ve stagnated in the desire to cling the worldview they were handed at birth. Growing up in the Deep South, I remember a few people in my grandparents’ generation who were still opposed to racial integration.
Thus, gaining wisdom with age requires an open-minded willingness to entertain new ideas.
For those of us who aren’t yet “old”, we can learn from our wizened elders. When we honor our elders, we don’t just pay them respect; we also gain the benefit of their hard won wisdom.
2. Contemplate. Yoda spent his life contemplating the Force. Over his lifetime, he invested hard work in the quest to become wise. He thought about the Force, reflecting on its nature.
When we reflect, think and process, we search for wisdom.
3. Meditate. Yoda also spent his life not thinking about the Force. Meditation gives us the opportunity to silence the brain’s white noise, the endless chatter that distracts us from focus and genuine awareness. It’s only when the lake of the mind becomes quiet and still that we can see straight through to the bottom. Meditation offered Yoda the calmness, peace and clarity he needed to be wise.
Though we don’t have to practice a particular style of meditation to become wise, I believe it aids the process!
Whereas contemplation engages the brain in the pursuit of wisdom, meditation engages the heart and spirit in this same pursuit. It allows us to disconnect from the logic and intellectualism of the left brain and connect to the wisdom of the heart and spirit. That’s why wisdom, unlike knowledge, is not the exclusive claim of the educated. What we know in terms of facts and figures has little to do with wisdom. Wise people can be found at all levels of the economic and educational spectrums.
When we fully engage our hearts and spirits, we find wisdom.
4. Explore. Yoda explored the whole galaxy, which allowed him to understand so much about other creatures, the Force and the nature of everything.
Whether we learn about other cultures and worldviews through global travel or through books, exploration of the world stretches our understanding and our awareness of our own minds. Why do we believe and behave in the ways that we do? How do these beliefs and behaviors compare to those held by others? What are the stories we tell in our home cities, and what are the stories that are universal to all?
Exploration doesn’t apply to the external world alone. Exploration includes awareness of our own internal universes, as well (which Yoda worked towards through meditation and contemplation).
5. Non-attachment. Jedis like Yoda weren’t allowed to be too emotionally attached to anyone. Why? Attachment leads to fear of loss, and this fear leads to the dark side.
When we are too attached to anyone or anything, including the desire to be right or the views we grew up with, we create fear-based justifications for our actions and beliefs. Our perspective narrows, and we lose the openness we need to be wise.
We see this same emphasis on non-attachment in Buddhist philosophy and in the vows Christian monks, nuns and priests take.
How else can we gain wisdom? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below!