On Halloween night I carried a sword. Not a Robinhood-wipes-out-the Sheriff of Nottingham sword, but instead, a Star Wars lightsaber, the formal weapon of a Jedi Knight. It came into my hands by accident.
Among our group, cruising the neighborhood in the dark was an 8-ear-old boy dressed as Star Wars hero Anakin Skywalker. He was carrying an "exact replica" lightsaber. The Anakin Skywalker lightsaber is 44 inches long and weighs six pounds. Andy grew weary of it and handed it to his father who at some point handed it off to me.
I turned it on. The lightsaber jerked to life in my hand as, with a whooshing, start-up sound, fluorescent blue light shot from hilt to tip. Wow! This is power, I thought.
According to Wikipedia, the Jedi lightsaber, although a weapon for fighting, "became synonymous with the Jedi Order's values to uphold peace and justice throughout the galaxy. In the hands of an expert of the Force, the lightsaber was a weapon to be greatly respected and feared. To wield a lightsaber was to demonstrate incredible skill and confidence as well as masterful dexterity and attunement to the Force."
In Star Wars lore the Force is the Star Wars creator George Lucas' version of God. Lucas admits to having had this connection at least somewhat in mind. The Force can "enhance natural physical and mental abilities."
When I pointed the brilliant blue lightsaber up into the dark Halloween night and heard the swooshing sound of the saber in motion, for a brief moment I had the illusion of what the Force-filled, Jedi power might be. Just for a moment, while clutching that saber, I imagined that, like Anakin Skywalker, I, too, could feel the Force behind me, the Force running through me, charging me with the power to see and understand all that seems incomprehensible in our world. Just for a moment I could imagine right and wrong being clear and simple, honesty -- dare I say, transparency? -- as ordinary and reliable. I could imagine justice and generosity prevailing. Just for a moment.
Illusion, all illusion.
In fact, what I feel is powerless: powerless, for example, to understand what should be done about health care in order to insure every American. I read the papers, listen to our president and to erudite talk shows, and still have no clear idea about how to provide and pay for complete coverage. I don't think the politicians are holding any light sabers towards this problem either. I used to believe that some other, smarter persons than I knew best. God knows there are plenty of "other, smarter" people than I, but -- and this saddens me -- I've lost confidence in powerful others putting the needs of Americans ahead of their own political or economic gain. I worry, too, that today's problems are of such magnitude that even the smarter, powerful others cannot fully get their heads around them. I worry because I can no longer discern "spin" from truth.
On Nov. 12 a New York Times headline read, "Job Woes Exacting Heavy Toll on Family Life." On Nov, 13, Paul Krugman wrote in the Times: "Long-term unemployment is already at its highest level since the 1930s, and it's still on the rise." And yet, at this writing, the stock market is up, up and up. Is it simply the fact that businesses that haven't gone bankrupt have fired so many people that they are making money again or is there more?
What really happened to all the stimulus money? There's a Web site that supposedly declares where every dollar has been spent. Except that there are mistakes. In Connecticut, for example, the Web site records 25 new jobs in District 42 and the amount spent to create them. The problem is that there is no District 42 in Connecticut. This is not an isolated error (ABC Evening News, Nov. 15). Paltry errors these may be, but they do not inspire confidence.
And Afghanistan? I do know that no one has ever won a war there. (I know what winning a war is; I grew up during World War II.) It is clear that we are increasingly hated in that part of the world thus making it easier for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to recruit. But maybe we do need to be a presence at least along the Pakistan border. Maybe we could win, contain ... something? I'm glad President Obama has taken his time on this one. I'd like to send Obama a crate-load of lightsabers.
Last week I surfed the major networks for the morning news and then just quit. Instead, I pressed 13 and watched the Muppets. There was Elmo, beloved, bright-red Elmo, bareback, on an adorable puppet horse, riding madly across the screen. No complicated agenda, no dire predictions, and no talk-you-to-death "spin." Elmo is his own kind of lightsaber. Maybe Elmo could steer me through the mire of Medicare.
Cecily Stoddard Stranahan is a psychotherapist, retired, and an interfaith minister. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.