By Alan Gard, Devoted Dad (and Jedi Knight Battling Darth Dementia)
As December greets us this year, many are in a festive move as a special event approaches…namely the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Over $50 million in presale tickets have already been sold. When was the last time you bought a ticket in advance to go see a movie? I didn’t think so. In other words, this movie is going to be HUGE. There is extreme interest in checking in on Han, Luke, and Leia as well as meeting new characters Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren.
The Force Awakens will be the seventh entry in the Star Wars saga. In a broad sense, the saga is a simple story of Good vs. Evil, or maybe more accurately it is a story of our individual choices to be Good or Evil and how those choices can change over the course of time and circumstance.
If one concentrates on the original trilogy, Episodes IV – VI, the story is Luke Skywalker’s Hero Journey. It starts with the Call to Adventure from humble beginnings. In Luke’s case, he is reticent at first. He is too busy with the harvest to get involved. That sounds familiar to most of us in the frenzy of our day-to-day lives! He eventually heeds the call and over the course of this story arc redeems his father and brings down the leadership of the Galactic Empire.
Of course, now the story won’t end there and much of the interest in The Force Awakens is in what becomes of Luke after the story left off 32 years ago. With one Hero’s Journey complete, we now will learn what happens when there is another chapter:
- Does Luke stay a hero?
- Does he turn to the Dark Side?
- Does he become a character more gray than at the black or white end of the Dark vs. Light spectrum?
As one who grew up with the original trilogy, Luke is the character in which I have the most interest as the new saga begins.
The story could also be an ongoing story of The Force, a metaphysical energy that binds everything in the universe together and gives those who are genetically and spiritually gifted to tap into it magical powers. It has its basis in the concept of Prana, meaning “life force” from Hindu culture. This view makes the story one about how we are collectively part of something bigger and all must play our role in that story.
If viewed over the entirety of the six episodes released to date, it is the Story of Anakin. He starts as a slave, learns he is strong with The Force, is trained, becomes a Jedi, turns to the Dark Side becoming a Sith Lord named Darth Vader, gets severely injured in a duel with his original mentor Obi-Wan, gets saved by the Emperor and technology, serves as the Emperor’s sergeant-at-arms in oppressing the galaxy, vanquishes Obi-Wan, fails to crush the Rebel Alliance, discovers he has a son, cuts son’s hand off in a duel, takes his son to the Emperor to be turned to the Dark Side, turns on the Emperor and kills him, and then dies having returned back to Good. And that’s the simple version!
In my view, Episodes I – VI are really a rise and fall story of the Sith, an order that derives power from the Dark Side of the Force. This order sought to elevate the strong and eliminate the weak. But throughout the Star Wars story, the Sith are foiled by those they might consider weak working together to overcome them.
Unfortunately, the Sith are not confined to a galaxy far, far away. We have a Sith Lord among us here, and his name is Darth Dementia. He is a particularly ruthless enemy. He steals the souls of his victims and inflicts pain on suffering on all those around them.
I have witnessed Darth Dementia firsthand. Growing up, visits with my Great Aunt Catherine showed me what Alzheimer’s related dementia could do to one’s ability to know their family. Imagine how sad an existence it would be to not be able to connect with your loved ones from both sides of that diagnosis. As a young adult, I saw two of my uncles suffer from Parkinson’s disease and the dementia that can eventually accompany that disease.
Now I am a parent to a child with Down syndrome. While my wife and my current energies are spent trying to help Alijah develop and reach his potential, Darth Dementia is an ever-present, dark-cloaked figure in the corners of our minds. As one who works with numbers, I know just how stacked the odds are against Alijah in his fight to hold off Darth Dementia. To think that all the gains Alijah is making could be taken away so early in his life is a heartbreaking concept. But, as of today, that is a very likely scenario.
Luckily, there are already a few Jedi taking on this powerful Sith Lord. But as the movies have shown, the only real victory comes when the multitude work together. So if you are an aspiring Jedi, you have an opportunity to be a hero in this story. Or if you see yourself as more of a Wookie or an Ewok, you can be a hero in this story too. Imagine if everyone who has already pre-ordered their The Force Awakens ticket got so inspired by the movie and the fight against Darth Dementia that they came home and made a donation in the amount of their movie ticket. $50 million would serve notice to Darth Dementia that that his power was at risk.
If all those that see the movie would do the same thing, it would change the conversation from IF we can do it to WHEN. And asking when is a MUCH better question than asking if – not just for those with Down syndrome, but for each and every one of us that want to keep ourselves and our families safe from Darth Dementia’s soul-stealing clutches. While Darth Dementia may play favorites toward victims with an extra chromosome, they are not his only prey.
Think back to where the Star Wars phenomenon began. It began with A New Hope. Any donation now—big or small, the price of a movie ticket, whatever—will in fact make A New Hope come true in the lives of those most at risk and their loved ones. Don’t let the supposed constraints of the “harvest” in your life deny you your own Hero’s Journey. And while we—at least us non-insiders—don’t know where the story goes after The Force Awakens, I am positive there is a place in this story for us all to help Awaken A Force to defeat Darth Dementia once and for all. I definitely want that to be a part of my story. I hope you do too.
Thank you for your consideration. And may The Force be with you!