By Gina Sullivan
In 1977, when I was 10 years old, a movie called Star Wars came out. It was like nothing I, or arguably anyone, had ever seen before. People waited in long lines at theaters to see it (many multiple times), and despite 20th Century Fox executives who were convinced it would fail, Star Wars went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time up to that point. Themed merchandise of every kind flew off store shelves and only added to the cultural craze. I myself had a Star Wars lunchbox and all the character action figures, and my younger brother had Star Wars sheets on his bed (he may not be happy I’m sharing that).
In an era with no CGI to rely on, the special effects were stunning and still hold up today. The fresh-faced actors were mostly unknowns at the time, which only added to the sense of realism, and had chemistry for days. And the iconic score by the legendary John Williams elevated the entire experience, transporting us to far away worlds. I say ‘experience’ rather than ‘movie’ because that was what watching Star Wars was like – an experience. It captured my imagination and that of the world, and 11 sequels/prequels and several spin-off TV shows later, continues to do so.
But as any movie-goer can attest, special effects, music and even great actors can only take a movie so far. What really made Star Wars special then and the reason it has stood the test of time is the story – a simple tale of good vs. evil. At the center of the story is the concept of “the Force”. The late actor Alec Guinness who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi master and mentor to Luke Skywalker, explained the Force as, “An energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds us together.” Sound familiar?
If you’re reading this, chances are it does as it is not unlike the mission of unity to which the Sisters of St. Joseph have dedicated their lives – that all people are intrinsically interconnected with God, one another and all creation. Many have argued over the decades about what the Force really was. Was it a metaphor for God, science, the universe? I’ve always wondered why these are thought of as distinctly separate. God is the author of all, which includes the universe and everything in it. God is the energy and the love that binds us all.
So why does it feel sometimes that not enough people in the world know how truly interconnected we are? Why doesn’t everyone realize that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us, and behave accordingly? Maybe the words “realize” and “know” are the problem. Luke is only able to tap into the Force when he lets go of what his brain and eyes tells him and, as Obi-Wan instructs, stretches beyond himself and his thoughts, and just feels. This transformative process elevates and enlightens him, and allows him to use the Force for good. Could it be this simple?
If I read a statistic about how many people are starving in the world, I think “that’s horrible”. But when I see a photo of a mother holding a starving child, I don’t think. My heart drops and I feel. That is the moment of transformation – the same one that has inspired the best of humanity to act with love and courage to change that which is unjust. We are, after all, in this together.
Just as Luke Skywalker transformed his consciousness in order to access the love and energy that binds us all together, perhaps we too should think less and feel more. More compassion. More empathy. More love. Only then can we truly feel interconnected to God, creation and one another, especially those we do not know.
May THAT Force be with you always.
About the Author
Gina Sullivan is the Director of Communications for the Congregation of St. Joseph and is also an Associate. She is the mother of two daughters ages 23 and 20 and step-mother to another daughter age 19 and son age 21. She is an avid concert-goer and Cleveland Browns fan, and enjoys cooking, reading, music, photography, her three cats, travel and spending time with family and friends.