The master of masters lay dying. Life and old age have finally caught up with him. Witnessing some of the greatest triumphs and most devastating defeats of the Jedi, Yoda has one final warning to give his young pupil – one that he has shared many times during Luke’s training – “…Beware of the Dark Side…”.
This scene is one of the most memorable in the Star Wars universe. The dying master struggling to speak a few more shorts lessons for his young student – a student, upon whose shoulders rests the ultimate victory or fate of the Jedi order he has long served and fought to protect.
Yoda has seen it all. He has seen the order at its peak, and watched it fall and be destroyed. He is the epitome of Jedi wisdom. Having served the Jedi for almost 900 years, there is little (no pun intended), that this master does not know. Yet of all the final things he could share, the most important thing he feels young Luke needs to know is the simple reminder to be on guard and watch for the Dark Side. Not just the Emperor or Vader, but of the small little steps – anger, fear, aggression – that stand just at the edge, ready to overtake him.
Perhaps he feels this lesson is so important, because he witnessed first hand what these small steps could do in and individual’s life. Luke’s father (Vader) had a very similar life to Luke’s, yet chose a much different path.
Both young men grew up on Tatooine. Both were whisked away from the planet to train and be guided by a wise Jedi. Both lost their families to awful circumstances. Both watched their mentor die, and were trained by another Jedi master. Both became “war heroes”, and dedicated their life to helping others and serving a cause greater than themselves. In so many ways, their lives were identical, but a one point, they both diverged in drastically different directions.
One fateful day, Anakin took a step that moments before he had thought impossible. Having dedicated his life to fighting evil, he found himself placed in the position of turning his back on the order that was his life, or fighting the evil that he had battled against for much of his life. In that one moment, he became the very evil that seemed so monstrous mere hours before.
As Yoda lay there, looking at this young man – in many ways his father’s son – he knew the danger. He new the path his father had taken, and with all that was in him struggled to share that familiar warning one more time, “Beware of the Dark Side”. He had seen first hand the choice Anakin had made, and desperately wanted something different for young Luke.
Yoda knew that while Luke was getting ready to face some large challenges, it often was not the “big” decisions that would dominate his destiny, but the small choices he made each and every day. He knew that while there were many similarities, there were also drastic differences. One of these young men did not always recognize evil. He often justified and saw things that were evil, as a means to a good.
He did not always see the temptations surrounding him for what they were. He walked as close to the edge as possible, and allowed himself to make small compromises that led to his ultimate downfall. Instead of fleeing temptation, he often stayed close to it.
As he walked through life, he also kept some questionable company. Arguably the most evil man in the galaxy was one of his “mentors”. This man had huge impact and influence in Anakin’s life. He spoke into his life regularly, influenced him in hundreds of small ways, and yet Anakin never really saw him for what he was, until it was too late. He took those first small steps onto a path that would forever dominate his destiny, and with it, destroyed all he had worked to serve and protect.
The Dark Side overtook him, not in one great, large event, but in many small, simple steps along the way. He was not careful, and became the very monster he abhorred, and with everything in Yoda, he did not want to see this young Jedi make the same mistake his father had made. In his death, he had one more chance, spoke one more lesson to guide Luke from the path he knew could so easily destroy him.
As I think over this last scene, I cannot help but consider my own children. Guiding and protecting them is a full-time job (even on the slow days). Always, one more opportunity for another lesson to aid them on their journey, and there are no lessons more crucial than helping them as they choose the path their lives will take.
So many things vie for our children’s attention, seeking to influence them. As parents, we all can see things that are good and bad, things that we want to impact and influence our children, and things we want them to avoid – a light and dark side if you will. Many times, these ideas are born out of our own experiences and things we have learned and been taught as we have grown older. We must help our children avoid those temptations and pitfalls that can so easily ensnare them, and get them sidetracked off the path of their life.
As our children grow, they don’t always recognize this choice in paths when it sits before them. At times, they have started down a path before they even know what has happened. When the daily opportunities present themselves, we must help our children recognize them. We must help them see the choice before them, and the ultimate path it will lead them down.
Often, we can speak to them out of personal experience. We can help them see the destination they are heading for, because we (or ones around us) have taken the same path. Parents think they need to be perfect in their kids eyes, but some of the best lessons and most honest conversations can come from our failures. Anakin thought no one knew what he was going through – that no one understood him, and he sought out someone who said he did, which ultimately led to his ruin. Our kids need to know that we understand them, and have faced many of the same choices and problems they face each and every day.
This is one reason why we also must take an active role in the influences that surround our children. From friends, to adults, to entertainment – all of the things speaking into each child’s life are important and shape who they are and will become. As parents, we must help them filter this, and work to aid them in choosing the right influences. We need to give them the tools to recognize what is good for them, and what is not – to recognize the light and the dark.
Part of this comes by simply talking with our children. To often we get trapped at simply preaching at or lecturing our kids, and we never stop just to have an honest conversation about what is going on with them. It is in these talks, that we can help give them the firm foundation they will need to make these decisions and choose the path that will help lead them to their dreams, while avoiding some of the nightmares along the way.
We cannot protect our children from everything, and they will make mistakes, but as parents, hopefully, we can help them avoid some of the same dark paths we and others have walked. When they fail, we can be there for them and help them get back up on the right path. Hopefully, as parents, we can follow another bit of that final advice Yoda gave Luke and, “Pass on, what you have learned.” Our children need someone who can do this, and for a short time in their life, we can be that voice that helps them “Beware of the Dark Side.” Take time to pass this on to your children – it will impact them in ways you may never know.