Myth and life and the dark side

Nor, apparently, will there be one in the final Star Wars. For his last gasp, Lucas's hero stops listening to himself and succumbs to the dark side, and we see what can happen: The epic ends in a fiery pit, which Lucas characterized as "hell" in a recent interview. Fundamentalists will no doubt interpret the conclusion as more Rapture validation, but Lucas's allegory is based on the here and now--as a culture, technology has replaced flesh and feeling, and religion and government have replaced the individual's heart life: We are not going to hell in a handbasket, we are there.

Still, Campbell insisted on the idea of the human spirit's resiliency--which has been the coda to every story on Red Lake, Michael Jackson, the Atlanta murders, Terri Schiavo, or what-have-you, despite evidence to the contrary. Why?

"The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation," wrote Campbell 44 years ago. "For the world as we know it yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart and the passing of the forms that we have loved. The happy ending of a fairy tale--a myth in the divine comedy of the soul--is to be read not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man."

James O'Brien

That is what we want, whether we admit it or not. Transcendence. Something to keep us going. Some song, relationship, drug, or piece of art that both takes us away from, and makes sense of, it all for us. Something puny, or powerful. Something like "the force" (Star Wars) or "la force" (I Huckabees). Something that gives us the freedom to listen to ourselves, make our own rapture, and write our own happy endings.

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or

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