Forty Years of Yoda; Lessons Learned From the Master Jedi

Today marks forty years since The Empire Strikes Back released in theaters. It was the film that revealed Darth Vader as Luke’s father, the film that gave us Hoth, the beautiful drink of water Lando Calrissian, and my favorite Star Wars character- Yoda.

I thought what a better way to express some love for the character than to reflect on some of his greatest quotes/lessons throughout the franchise.

1: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.“- One of Yoda’s most famous quotes right from ESB. Straight to the point and a quote that has been heard time and time again from all levels of fans. It’s a dagger of a reminder that there is no in between; we either commit entirely to our pursuits and we either succeed or we fail.

Often the word “try” is insidiously placed in the package of excuse. It’s a call to maturity in understanding that one needs to own their decisions and give something the entirety of their efforts.

2: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”- I was nine years old when I heard Yoda say this in The Phantom Menace and even at that age it struck a powerful chord. I think because I, like many, was very fearful.

It is the ominous foreshadowing that breaks down the downfall of Anakin Skywalker. It is a powerful reminder that for all the darkness/evil/ suffering we see in our own lives, and those around us, that if you follow it all to its root you will find fear.

It’s such a powerful virus that as we get older we become experts and burying it and become helpful accomplices to our inner terrors so they can continue to run the show. Culturally we ‘godify’ physical altercation and confrontation yet I believe there is nothing more powerful than one facing ones fear and naming it.

Two quotes from Master Yoda that promote this idea are “Wars not make one great” and “Named must your fear be before banish it you can”

3: “Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”- This quote in Revenge of the Sith called me out on my Bulls***.  We sometimes romanticize that which we’re attached to. Be it a person, a job, a place etc. Make no mistake- all those attachments are nothing more than the expression of our egos.

To truly love another is to liberate not bind. To attach oneself to a job is attachment to a title and not the doing. To attach oneself to money is to forget that it is a resource and not a quality.

Some degree of attachment to material things will always exist. However, being cognizant of those attachments and reviving balance and awareness of what truly makes us what we are is a gift indeed.

5: “In the end, cowards are those who follow the dark side.”- Darth Vader is such an iconic character, yet I find it to be the Wizard of Oz effect; it’s the breathing, the James Earl Jones voice, the red lightsaber, and the impressive dark outfit that give him his allure. It’s the aesthetic- the illusion of grandeur. It is true that power is not a real thing and it exists only where we believe it exists and Vader, with all his intimidating pieces, does a great job of convincing the audience he has much of it.

However, through the prequels and even to the end of the original trilogy you learn that at the root he was nothing more than this- a coward.

Yoda and Obi-wan lose their jedi family, they lose the lives they’ve lead, they’re banished to less than ideal surroundings, and the very fabric of their religion is brought into severe question. Despite all of that- they humble themselves and are brave enough to accept the fate they’ve been dealt.

It’s Anakin’s ego, his attachment to what he wants and his need to control that lead him to get ultimately dooped by the Sith. He may go head first into battle and we like to believe that’s courage, but the truth is Anakin always enjoyed the heroism and the adventure of it all. Real courage would be to embrace that we control nothing and moving with the current is the wisest thing we can do.

The black suit we iconify in truth is a prison to a man who could not be brave and embrace life for its reality.


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