(SPOILER ALERT!Do not read this if you plan to see Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and are making every effort to avoid spoilers. You’ve been warned.)
“Exactly how many blogs do you have jumping around in your head right now?” he asked, as we left the theater on New Year’s Eve, my eyes red from crying, and both of us feeling surreal and tender at the 40-year saga we’d just seen come to an end.
“So many I don’t even know where to start,” was my quiet answer, as quotes and scenes from Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker flashed through my head and heart. I was struggling to reenter the real world after having gotten so caught up in George Lucas’ imaginary one.
Look, as you likely know, there are All. The. Opinions. regarding how it all wrapped up. Everything from, “That was perfection!” to “What a waste of money!” and anything in-between. Because of course there are a few plot holes here and there. And it’s hard to walk away without questions. And folks tend to think it was just exactly on point emotionally or that it was simply an opportunity for GenXer’s to wax nostalgic.
I don’t care about any of that. Have your opinion…because, as you might guess, what follows is mine–at the heart of which is my bias that it was, in fact, a beautiful ending to one of the greatest overarching stories of all time.
There are three things that define Rise of Skywalker for me. Three things that connected it to “real life,” in such a profound way for me that I have not been able to shake them.
FIRST THING: “We had each other. That’s how we won.” Lando Calrissian says this to a discouraged resistance fighter at a pivotal moment. Those rising up against the First Order are tired. Scared. They’ve lost so much as they’ve continued to fight Emperor Palpatine’s evil and things are looking pretty bleak. “How did you do it?” he asks Lando, referring to the glory days of Princess (now General!) Leia and Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and their defeat of Darth Vader. And quietly and determinedly, Lando answers, “We had each other.”
We have forgotten this, y’all. Lost sight of the very real truth that deep in our bones we are starved for real relationship, and have forgotten what it means to nurture trust and respect. We hide behind our social media screens, the supposed anonymity giving us the false courage born of carefully crafting our snark and hot takes. We believe whatever click bait or biased information we see, as along as it affirms our own beliefs. We draw lines in the sand between “us and them” with startling speed and inhumanity, failing to actually listen to one another’s stories or sense one another’s pain, pitting ourselves tribe against tribe in ways that are destroying the very core of who we are.
To be sure, there is evil at work, and goodness must always take a stand against evil–but goodness does not ever win without listening. Without some effort at understanding. Without patience. Without acknowledging how very much alike we all are. Without loving…loving…loving–without condition, restraint, or demand. We have each other. And we have to find a way to remember this, to carve it into our souls, to set aside our own agendas, our own fears, long enough to work towards some glimmer of common good.
SECOND THING: My friend Cathe talks a lot about “the fullness of time” — this idea that where we are in any particular moment is not the end, that there is so much we don’t know at work, and that, in fact, we might not get to see “the end,” whatever that is, but we can be sure there will be one…and, that, it will be very, very good. Because, always, in the fullness of time, Love. Wins.
Y’all, Ben Kenobi didn’t get to see the final, ugly, and blessed end of the First Order, at least, not on the mortal side of eternity. Neither did Han Solo. And though she came very close, knew it was just within reach, neither did General Leia Organa. These giants of the Star Wars story, these heroes of generations of those who had been abused and controlled and made afraid by forces of evil…they gave their entire lives to the cause only to die before their work came to full fruition in the full hearts and clear eyes of those they’d inspired…trained up…empowered to do the work after they were gone.
And the new guys: Rey and Poe and Finn and BB8, with some careful guidance of the old guys along the way, they did it. They finished the fight. They completed the work begun so long before they were even born, and, in doing so, paved the way for a new way of being for everyone who will come after them. They shattered evil, and they ushered in a sort of hope that reminds you anything really is possible.
In the fullness of time, I believe, good is always at work. Always. And so perhaps it is our jobs, to, while we’ve got our little time on earth, to use the gifts we’ve been given, whatever they might be, to usher that good along as best we can, even if with painful steps and slow.
THIRD THING: The entire heart of this movie, everything I’ve already written, everything I felt as the credits rolled, everything I still feel 5 days later, is nested in the moment when Chewie cried.
That courageous and precious Wookie, his grief over Leia’s death tore me apart. Those sobs, they were the sobs of a creature lost in despair, his heart ripped open at knowing his dear and faithful comrade was gone. His cries were the cries of a whole world on fire, deep, guttural, heart-wrenching cries that can, I think, only really be understood by those who have faced a night not sure how they’ll get to the next morning. By someone who has lost the kind of loved one he’d just lost. By someone who has known the sort of heartache that brings you to your knees on the kitchen floor, not sure how anything will ever be okay again.
When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish the truth of all our broken hearts–the reality of how possible it is for this life we live to break us.
When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish my own heartache over our own world on fire.
When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish my own griefs and heartbreaks.
When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish the cries of an entire world begging for something good, something true, something grace-full.
When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish what it means to think that all is finally and completely lost.
Only…it wasn’t. And Chewie rose out of his grief to join his friends in their victory. He lived to see “the fullness of time.” He made it to the other side of the Emperor’s darkness. He was not alone–not in his grief and not in his rising. They had each other.
They had each other.
And in this perfect gem of a truth they found their salvation, their lives, their hope.
I cannot help but wonder what our communities, our nation, our world would look like if we could remember this truth, too.