Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blissful Ignorance - the Art of Not Knowing

The day I learned midi-chlorians were the driving force behind The Force, was the day my faith in the Star Wars legacy crumbled.

Suddenly The Force was not an unseen, not-fully-understood, entity that bound the galaxy together and penetrated all living things (and nonliving, i.e. rocks - see minute 3:05 just to drive the point home). It was no longer mythical or magical - instead The Force was responsible by little microscopic life forms floating around in the bloodstream called midi-chlorians. If you had a high level of midi-chlorians you were primed to be a Jedi, if your levels were low, you were a non-lightsaber wielding schmuck like the rest of us.

Ancient bacteria are why Luke Skywalker is Luke Skywalker?!

The ideal that one day, perhaps even I, could learn the ways of The Force vanished. The hope of getting my lightsaber, saving the princess, killing a giant slug, and blowing up Death Stars was demolished. Thanks to the CGI bastardization of the Star Wars prequels I was now forced to live knowing I could never be a Jedi.

Ignorance really is bliss, people.

The beauty of something like The Force is in the not-knowing. I was perfectly happy thinking The Force was something we couldn’t see, or quantify, or capture. I was even happier that George Lucas did not make The Force into an All-Knowing-Man-Sitting-In-The-Clouds, but rather one single presence in which all creatures could experience. The Force didn’t discriminate. It didn’t choose sides. It didn’t tell us to build an arc, gay marriage is wrong, or we can’t eat shellfish. It was equal, for all of us. We all had it in us, and you had to decide whether to use The Force for good or evil, and your own will would prevail. Not-knowing what made The Force, The Force, is what made it so great.

The concept of “not knowing” typically generates one of two responses: Fear or Acceptance.

If we don’t understand something, a typical response is to be afraid of it. Whether it is stem cell research or how they get a Tootsie Roll in the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, we generate fear out of not knowing the details. Imagine you’re a Neanderthal and the sun (your sole source of light and life) goes BLACK. Imagine the fear. Imagine the need to paint this experience inside your neighborhood cave. Imagine feeling like the end-of-the-world was coming. Why would you be afraid? Because you don’t know what a solar eclipse is, or why it happens.

The alternative to fear is acceptance. You accept you don’t know everything, and that’s OK. For example, I do not understand the Love-15-30-40-Advantage-A Williams Sister Wins-Whatever scoring in tennis, but I do not fear it. I have accepted that every year my mother will be glued to Wimbledon and I must bathe in my own ignorance. Some people accept the bigger things, whether its the inevitability of death, or Tootsie Roll Pop amazingness. They are happy to be happy with their own convictions, and you should let them be happy.

There was something so perfect about The Force because no one could question the details. There were no details. Until those damn prequels. I did not fear The Force, I accepted what I did not know. I loved living in the dark...until Mr. Lucas turned on the lights and the roaches scattered and I had to take off my Jedi cloak. Knowing. Not-Knowing. Fear. Acceptance. I can honestly say, as you can guess, I am not happy knowing the truth about The Force. But am I better for knowing? Who’s to say.

Either accept the fear, or fear acceptance.

For those of you baffled by the Star Wars analogy, I beg you to consider hot dogs. Do you really want to know what’s in a hot dog?

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