The Last Jedi’s Brilliant Insight on Tradition and Change [SPOILERS]

I do way too many spoiler-heavy posts about recent fiction. This is one of them. Don’t read if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet. 

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

This was the quote that threw us all for a loop in the The Last Jedi trailer that came out in April 2017.

It turns out that Luke is really saying that the Jedi way needs to end. We learn that he has been hiding out on the island of Ach-to in part to watch over the dying of the Jedi way. For Luke, the sacred texts and places of the Jedi – even the Force – aren’t much more than museum artifacts.

Our hero Rey showing up throws a wrench in things for Luke.

Luke’s arc with Rey hits one of its crisis points when he realizes that Rey is going to face the villain Kylo Ren and enter the world of the Force on her own. In desperation Luke goes to destroy the last of the sacred Jedi texts.

It’s then that an old friend appears.

You’d think that Jedi master Yoda would be all for stopping Luke. Luke certainly does. That’s until Yoda himself, the embodiment of the old Jedi way, becomes the one to destroy the sacred Jedi tree thing and (apparently) the Jedi texts with them.

This is a profound moment in the movie and in Luke’s struggle with a dying tradition. Luke sees only two options for dealing with a tradition: it either has life, or it needs to die. 

What Yoda does is illustrate the third way.

Yoda gladly “destroys” the Jedi texts because I think he understands the deeper truth that the best part of any tradition is the ability to change. He understands that Luke’s attachment to the forms (and weaknesses) of the old Jedi way are keeping him from true connection with the Force.

Yoda also sees that Rey, with little to no training in the Jedi way, actually has a much livelier and more authentic connection to the force than Jedi master Luke Skywalker. In this way, Rey is actually closer to the heart of he Jedi tradition than Luke.

Yoda has come to understand that the Jedi tradition at its best is the actual act of “changing the tradition” That change is what keeps the Jedi way live and real. 

The Force is a living and moving thing, and it can’t be kept in sacred texts forever. It can’t be holed up on an island. It can’t be constrained. And it can’t really die.

Rey will become a Jedi, but her way of being a Jedi will be new. It must be new. Rey will not carry over the old Jedi dogmas against friendship, love, and attachment. It’s clear that Rey’s friendships will be her strength, not her liabilities.

What traditions are you holding onto, either in loyalty or hate? What do you love about them? It’s likely that the heart and soul of what you love about them once came from someone breaking the changes / the rules.

Find the heart of the tradition. It’s probably change. Live that change and the tradition will live, healthier and stronger than ever.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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