Delving back into our philosophical roots, that I started in my article “Darkside, Evil or Not”, I want to discuss another hotly debated subject. Within the Star Wars universe, does the Force control fate, or do the individual characters have the free will to do as they please? The discussion is sure to spill over into other arenas but the focus here will primarily be on the Star Wars universe.
“Behold your Music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added. And thou, Melkor, wilt discover all the secret thoughts of thy mind, and wilt perceive that they are but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.”
The above quote is from the Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien—author of the Lord of the Rings—is his answer to this age old question. Illuvatar was the architect of all creation and the Ainur, or lesser spirits, actually created the world of Tolkien. Tolkien uses the metaphor of musicians playing a composition in their own unique styles to explain the creation. One of the Ainur, mentioned in the quote as Melkor, wanted his part of the music to be more important than the others, so he tried to drown out the other musicians’ parts. In essence he wanted a solo. After the music is over, Illuvatar gives the Ainur sight for the first time and they see how their music would shape the world. He then says this quote to them, which essentially means that no matter what Melkor does, it will always be part of Illuvatar’s greater plan.
I wanted to include this short discussion on Middle-earth’s tackling of this subject because Tolkien, as a devout Catholic, took the traditional Judeo-Christian view. I understand that not everyone who will be reading this article is Christian or even religious, but one characteristic of Western Civilization is that its morality has been shaped by Christianity over the millennia. One of the greatest paradoxes of Christianity is the concept that God has a plan, yet we as humans all have free will to do as we please. Interestingly enough, this conflict arises many times in science fiction stories, especially those that include time travel. There was a Twilight Zone episode called “No Time Like the Past” where a time traveler tried to go back in time and prevent some of history’s catastrophes. Every time he does so, he is either unable to convince the people around him of their doom or an accidental circumstance prevents him. In all cases he cannot change history. This illustrates the idea that there is a destiny or plan for events, and while we can try to change things, in the end we truly cannot. This is one of the hooks the Emperor uses on Vader to keep him under his control. We will discuss this in just a moment.
Destiny in Star Wars has always been expressed as the will of the Force. After finding Anakin on Tatooine, Qui-Gon says that finding him was the will of the Force. This does bear some weight since there are many planets around Naboo where they could have gone to repair the ship, and many other settlements on Tatooine they could have landed near. It is amusing to think that if they had gone into Mos Eisley instead of Mos Espa, it’s possible that the Skywalker family could have never come to the forefront of galactic affairs at all. Even KOTOR (Knights of the
The last point I would like to briefly touch on is the concept of “the Force is with you.” I believe that in this context, the speaker is saying that destiny is with you. Jolee Bindo in KOTOR has a discussion about how destiny can play out. Certain characters have a larger role to play than others. What that character does (their free will) is up to them. Instead of trying to reference some obscure characters, let’s just take a look at two characters we all know very well. Both Anakin and Luke Skywalker played a larger role than the other characters. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that the whole course of the galaxy hinged on the decisions both of them ultimately made. Immediately after the death of Mace Windu, Anakin could have said, “You know, I don’t want to be a Sith,” and stabbed Palpatine in the face. Just think for a moment how the story could have been different if that had happened. Bane’s Sith Order of Two would have ended right there. It is possible that Anakin would have been punished for the part he played in Mace’s death, but it is unlikely the Jedi would have done anything to him since they do not take revenge. This is pure speculation, but I feel it is reasonable to think he could have left with Padme and raised the twins on some backwater planet somewhere, having the family they always wanted.
Over the years, the Emperor looked into the future to see where destiny was taking the galaxy. Palpatine’s catch phrase seems to have been “I have foreseen it.” After seeing for himself that the Emperor was right most of the time, Anakin (now Lord Vader) began to believe that Palpatine was always right and really did foresee everything that was going to happen. When Luke rejects the Emperor he decides the fate of the galaxy. I will concede that it was absolutely possible that the second Death Star would have been destroyed and they all would have ended up dead, but the choice he does make redeems Anakin. Luke’s defiance is something that the Emperor did not foresee, and so it cast doubt, at least in Anakin’s mind, as to whether Palpatine was infallible. This led to Anakin turning on the Emperor, saving his son and himself. If Luke had killed his father and become the new Sith Apprentice, then we can only imagine the Empire afterwards. A younger and stronger dark lord who was not constrained by a cybernetic suit would be a terrifying adversary to the Rebellion, even if it did survive the battle of Endor, especially as Leia would probably never receive any Jedi training. She would have been the only remaining hope for the Rebellion, as Luke told her on Endor before he left.
So in Star Wars at least, I believe just what Jolee told Revan on the Ebon Hawk: the destiny before him was clear, but what he did with that destiny was a choice he had to make for himself. Sometimes those decisions have more far reaching effects than the characters may realize at the time.
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