The Tao of Star Wars

A look at the Taoist concept of wu wei through the lens of the Star Wars series.

BY: John Porter

 

Continued from page 1

Wu wei

is related to patience. You wait, you feel, you harmonize, and the right action appears. It's a type of patience that can best be described as vigilance. You see it throughout the animal kingdom: the tiger in a crouch waiting to pounce...the crane standing on one leg waiting for the fish to swim by...the python lying in wait for the prey to pass by.

What do all of these have in common? Vigilance, not just mere waiting, but waiting for the proper time to act. It's being in the right place at the right time, but also being ready to act.

In The Phantom Menace, the very first scene has Qui-Gon telling Obi-Wan to "be mindful of the living Force." You feel the Tao. You are aware of the Tao. From this flows your strength, the strength of spontaneous, harmonious action: wu wei.

Effortless action does not come with egotistical forcing of things. It does not come with knowledge, for knowledge tries to figure things out. Knowledge leads to cleverness, which tries to devise better ways.

Do you want to improve the world?
I don't think it can be done.
--Chapter 29

Wu wei doesn't think. It isn't about effort. But the ego forces. Humans try. On Dagobah:

Luke: I'll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Trying is not the way nature functions. The earth doesn't try to orbit the sun. The seed doesn't try to grow into a tree. Nature functions with effortless ease, invariably taking the path of least resistance.

Wu wei

doesn't try, it just does. And when it does, it doesn't appear to do much of anything, but things get done. Trying too hard leads to failure.

In order to practice wu wei, you have to let go. This is what Obi-Wan told Luke in Star Wars as he was attempting to release the laser torpedoes at the Death Star. Luke was using his ship's instruments to find the target and to determine the release point.

Obi-Wan: Use the Force, Luke.
Luke looks up, then starts to look back into the targeting device. He has second thoughts.
Obi-Wan: Let go, Luke.

You have to let go and trust the Tao.

True mastery can be gained
By letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interfering.
--Chapter 48

There is one more element of letting go that is of prime importance. That is to let go of desire, which is just another way of defining acceptance. Nonacceptance of the way things are--desire--is at the root of every action, interference, or assertion.

The Tao never does anything,
Yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
Could center themselves in it (They can!)
The whole world would be transformed
By itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
With their simple, everyday lives,
In harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
All things are at peace.
--Chapter 37

When you have acceptance and act in harmony with the Tao, you can put aside personal priorities in order to take harmonious action.

Wu wei

is one of the greatest skills. Use it well; use it often.

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