Sharing Star Wars

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This year, we’ve forgone some of the typical activities you’d see from a business around a holiday season. Instead, on December 30th, we’re taking 700 people to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We are inviting children from all different backgrounds (and their families) who may not have the means to experience the wonder and joy of the films as I did as a child. Here is the why.

You don’t have to hang around me for very long to realize I’m a huge Star Wars geek (and you likely don’t even have to know me in person). I love everything about the franchise, from stories of falling and redemption, to good versus evil, to the epic starship battles and lightsaber duels.

If you were to accuse me of forming my worldview around the original Star Wars films, I likely could not deny it. I could easily count Yoda and Obi Wan amongst my mentors. For some, the series of movies is a light-hearted romp through the galaxy on a fancy stage. For geeks like me, it also is an exploration of themes around the ability for individuals to corrupt (or fight corruption in) democracy, religion, and their families. 

Some people oversimplify the storytelling in Star Wars. Yes, it’s wild entertainment. The movies are marked by big blasts, booms and epic battle scenes. But there’s far more to be learned by paying attention to the underlying narratives. 

The Empire Strikes Back is one of the earliest and only films that deals with the heroes constantly failing. The movie ends on a bittersweet moment of hope, but the previous 2 hours were spent seeing the heroes we celebrated at the end of a New Hope getting decimated. Yoda provides the only relief to that tension during the movie, but we leave him on Dagobah, angry and frustrated at his brash student.

Princess Leia, arguably the strongest character (up to and including the Last Jedi) never says “Freedom was a good idea guys, but we just can’t make it work, so let’s pivot somewhere else.” Leia continues to persevere and fight despite overwhelming odds. Many of the Rebellion’s plans fail, but that doesn’t deter her from her goal of a galaxy free of tyranny. Just when you think she has achieved victory (end of New Hope, end of Return of the Jedi), evil springs forth again, and each time she has fewer resources to fight the battle.

For me, the Jedi Order provides a fascinating introspection on my own personality. To this day, if I sense conflict coming, there is a sharp snap-hiss of a lightsaber blade being ignited, and the soft blue hum of a reluctant warrior ready to battle. I have only recently become aware of this visualization as it happens unbidden and at the edge of consciousness. The metaphor works strongly for me. Like the Jedi before me, I crave peace and justice. Where possible, I try to negotiate or find consensus on a path forward. 

Some people will see this as a weakness. Sometimes only a traditional show of strength is valued in our society. When it becomes clear that a conflict is ensuing, the lightsaber springing to life reminds me that I’m ready and have the tools to fight for what’s right.

The previous two examples are just two small ways that Star Wars positively influenced my life. Along with my team of geek superheroes, I am thrilled to share this experience with others because storytelling matters. Real heroes that rise, falter, fail, and rise again matter. Fighting for what you believe in matters. Balance matters. Female leadership matters. Fighting tyranny matters. Peace matters. Justice matters. Star Wars matters.

Happy Holidays... and May the Force be With You.

David Billson