Y is for Yoda

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8479There aren’t many characters whose names start with “Y.” In fact, I could only come up with two: Yoda and Yorick. And though I’ve been known to throw out the quote, “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him Horatio,” I don’t think being a skull in a soliloquy qualifies as a great character.

Luckily, I actually like Yoda and think he’s a legitimately great character. Full disclosure: I used to read Star Wars books when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember if Yoda was in them. So my saying that he’s a great character is based on the movies.

In science fiction and fantasy, there’s almost always a wise old sage to teach the main character how to be whatever they are. As a sage, Yoda is an unexpected one (at least I assume I was surprised the first time I saw the movie… it was a long time ago). Luke doesn’t even know who he is when they first meet because Yoda engages in silly and annoying antics to see what Luke is like.

When Yoda does get serious though, he’s quite good at what he does. He’s able to use and manipulate the force, showing Luke that it can be done. While I’m a fan of the original trilogy and have little use for I, II, and III, the lightsaber scene with Yoda against Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones is one of the best scenes in all the movies.

All these qualities: the ability to play dumb when it suits, throwing out lessons, being able to mop the floor with an opponent, are all qualities of good sages. One other quality that I think happens often (though not always) is the mentor reluctantly taking on the apprentice. Yoda just wasn’t sure of Luke in the beginning, and told Obi Wan that.

Even though he is pretty standard, Yoda is still one of my favorite mentors. Maybe it’s because of his small stature. I’m short, and everyone always underestimates me too. It just goes to show that size doesn’t really matter for much.

 

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My 10 Best Posts of 2014

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The end of the year approaches, and with it, time to wrap up the old and welcome the new.  Here are my 10 favorite posts from 2014.  (Okay, if you actually count them, there are 13.  It’s my lucky number.  So sue me.)

Sedona, AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Sedona, AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Never Enough– Why we’re all great the way we are.

Top 10 Reasons to Go Camping– I think this one is kind of self-explanatory.

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Moved to Arizona– Also self-explanatory.

V is for Villains– All about what makes a villain great.

Words Matter-  Why it’s important to be mindful of what you say.

Old Things and Abandoned Places– They whisper to you… can you hear them?

I’m Having A Good Time, And Have The Pictures To Prove It!- Why taking pictures of everything we do might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

I Bet 99% Of You Won’t Repost This– My thoughts on Facebook’s version of the guilt trip/ chain letter.

10 Lessons on Friendship From Dogs– What my dogs have taught me.

Trust Issues- Many people seem to have trust issues, so how do you get past it?

It’s A Loud World– My thoughts after getting my first set of hearing aids.

Wait.  Why Am I Supposed to Care About That Again?– My thoughts on what really matters in life and friendships.

Master Yoda, Is the Dark Side Stronger?– Bullying, Star Wars, and the secret weapon of the light side.

Thanks for stopping by.  Here’s to an excellent 2015!

“Master Yoda, Is The Dark Side Stronger?”

*There are a ton of spoilers about Star Wars in this post.  If you haven’t seen Star Wars, you’ve got bigger problems than spoilers, but I thought I’d give you fair warning.  And if you haven’t seen them, watch them immediately.

th-1A friend of mine is being bullied.  Yes, adults can be bullied.

I’ve never met the bully, but from what my friend (who I’ll call Ash) tells me, the person is a really awful human being.  The therapist in me says the bully must have suffered terribly in their life.  The friend in me just wants to slap the crap out of them.

My husband and I recently decided to rewatch Star Wars.  We like to do this once a year because they’re awesome movies, but we were probably inspired by the trailer for Episode VII.  If you haven’t seen it, click here.

In any case, Luke asks a question in Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes back that has always bothered me.  He asks, “Master Yoda, is the dark side stronger?”  And Yoda answers, “No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  In my mind, Yoda never explains what makes the light side stronger, and it doesn’t seem stronger.  Yoda, the most powerful Jedi in the movies, is beaten by the Emperor in Episode III and forced into hiding.  The Emperor would have beaten Luke in the final showdown in Episode VI, had Darth Vader not intervened.

I’ve thought a lot about this as Ash talks about being bullied.  Ash has information that could really hurt the bully, but has hesitated to use it because Ash is a good person.  The bully has lied about Ash and turned some of Ash’s friends against him.  Now, we all know that friends who turn so easily with lies weren’t really friends to begin with, but it still hurts.  Ash has started to wonder if getting revenge would be a good thing.  After all, this bully seems powerful, and why not meet fire with fire?

I know revenge is a bad thing, and going down the same path as someone who hurts others is a bad thing, but there are times when it seems “right.”  Probably because it’s quicker and easier, and even more, it’s seductive.  Getting revenge on others seems “fair.”  Maybe it even is fair, but fair doesn’t make it right.

I asked myself why the dark side isn’t stronger.  It seems stronger; the Emperor won against everyone who went up against him.  He won against Yoda by sheer force, and he beat Anakin by seducing him into becoming Darth Vader.  To answer the question, I thought about why Luke “won” against the Emperor.  Darth Vader says that Luke can defeat the Emperor, that the Emperor had “foreseen it.”  But Luke is nowhere near powerful enough to beat him.  In fact, in Episode VI, it’s not even much of a fight.  But then the answer was so simple that when I saw it, I felt silly.

Luke won because of love and faith.

His faith in his father was so strong that he went up against the biggest bad guy of all time, knowing that he couldn’t win by force.  He had faith that there was still good in Darth Vader, and nothing shook him of that faith, not even the Emperor almost killing him in front of Vader.

But then I wondered about Anakin.  He turned to the Dark Side because of love, didn’t he?  Because of his fear for Padme.

Yes.  And no.

You see, Anakin’s love for Padme was a selfish love, possessive and consuming.  Not only that, but the Emperor was able to seduce him because Anakin was convinced that he wasn’t getting a fair deal, and he wanted more more more than he was being given by the other Jedi.  He got a seat on the council, the youngest council member ever, but was pissed that they wouldn’t give him the title of Master.  Nothing was enough for him, and he was willing to hurt anyone in order to get what he wanted.  So it wasn’t love that changed Anakin; it was power and a quicker and easier path to more of it.  Love was an excuse to do what he really wanted to do anyway.

Perhaps in brute force, the dark side is stronger, but the light side will always have a trump card, and that is love (in the form of selflessness) and faith.  That is why the Emperor lost.  And that’s why evil will always lose.

And that is why, in the face of bullies, we should never stoop to their level.  I’d rather lose friends than pieces of myself.

Because the dark side may win many battles, but if the light side stays true, it will always win the war.

Photo Credit: RJS Photography

Photo Credit: RJS Photography

Wait. Why Am I Supposed to Care About That Again?

IMG_2836Sometimes I don’t feel entirely like a member of the human race.  There are so many things that other people get their panties in a twist about that just perplex me.  I wonder, “Am I supposed to care about that?”  Some people see me as cold or uncaring, but it’s not that (at least I don’t think so); I’m just not going to waste my valuable energy caring about something that doesn’t affect me directly.  I’m not talking about Important Things, like homelessness or world hunger.  While those don’t affect me directly, I do care about those things.  No, I’m talking about little things, like weight and skin color and sexual orientation and what kind of job you have and what you drive and how you dress and how pretty or attractive you are and whether or not you’re socially awkward and…  There are so many issues I read about that just perplex me.

I’m a fan of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, but a friend of mine recently posted, “How is it okay to teach our daughters it’s okay to be plus sized?”  I was taken aback.  I’m plus sized and I wasn’t aware that I “wasn’t okay.”  Sure, I’d like to lose some weight, but it’s not the grand passion of my life.  Before I move losing weight to the top of the list, I’d like to have a book published, travel to Ireland, take more pictures, visit with friends, read all 100 books on my Classics list, visit my husband’s family in Poland, play with my dogs, take a cruise, unpack my house, have a party, visit my uncle in Virginia, adopt another shelter dog, get more exercise, party with my neighbors, watch the next Star Wars movies, go to the library, try new places to eat, see the Congress Street Bridge Bats, learn my way around Texas without my GPS, to name a few things.  I mean, I eat right and get exercise.  In order to be thin, I feel like I’d have to dedicate my life to it.  And I’m not willing to do that.  If you care about that stuff, I’m not trying to put you down.  Different interests are what makes the world go round… I just don’t think you should do it because you’re “supposed to.”

This is the article that made me start thinking about all this.  It’s all about a girl who “isn’t fat” but “isn’t skinny,” and how she wonders all the time what others think of her.  She wonders if people think she’s fat and she’s afraid to eat in front of other people so they don’t think she’s fat.  I think that sounds exhausting.  I mean, who cares?  If you don’t like me because I’m overweight, that’s your problem.  I’m one of the most interesting, loyal, funny, kind, witty, optimistic people you’ll ever meet, and if all you see is my weight, then it’s your loss.

You know all those attributes I mentioned above like skin color and sexual orientation and job status and attractiveness?  Yeah, the same goes for all that stuff too.  I don’t care about any of those things.  I care about: Can you play the most awful combination of cards in Cards Against Humanity?  Will you go hiking with me?  Do you like Star Wars?  Will you text me just to keep up contact?  Will you take silly pictures with me?  Will you go to a haunted house with me?  Will you read what I’ve written, even if you’re not a reader, because you want to support and encourage me?  Do you like my dogs?  Will you make me laugh?  More importantly, will you get my jokes?  (You don’t have to laugh at them; just getting the reference is enough.)  Can I call you when I’m down and know I won’t be judged?

I see Facebook posts about the drama everyone seems to have in their lives, and I just don’t have that kind of drama.  I have to wonder if it has something to do with me choosing friends for who they are, and not all that surface stuff.  I’ll never compete with my girlfriends and silently compare who’s prettier or who looks better.  I’ll never judge you because you have stains on your clothes or you went back for a 3rd piece of pie.  I don’t care what color your skin is or who you love.

We pay money for these things that I say don’t matter, to lose a few pounds or for a clearer complexion.  For the “right” clothing.  We worry about what we say, not to be kinder or gentler, but to make sure that it’s politically correct, that it won’t offend.

Does it seem odd that I’m okay with offending people, yet I want to be kinder?  I’m okay with offending you if I say something about an issue that you take personally.  My solution: it wasn’t about you; don’t take it personally.  Yet on a one to one basis, I’d like to encourage you and won’t judge you.  Even if you don’t agree with me.  I can disagree with you and still think you’re an okay person.  Unless you advocate hurting puppies.  Then, I’m going to judge… sorry.

When someone dies, no one ever says, “Gosh, she was so thin and always wore the latest styles,” or “He had the best muscles, and I admired his dedication to making money.”  We remember people for how they made us feel.  I had a friend at Wal-mart, a young man with Cerebral Palsy who walked with crutches and died in a tragic accident.  You know what I remember about him?  He was funny, always happy, and he never said “I can’t do that.”

My personal goal is to always try to be kinder to everyone.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is both easy and difficult for me.  As an introvert, I’d prefer not to be bothered.  But as a member of the human race, I have to constantly remind myself that others may believe that my characteristic standoffishness is personal, and so I need to smile and say a kind word, even if it leads to a conversation I didn’t want to have.  Why?  As a member of the human race, I take my responsibility to make the world a kinder place very seriously.

My suggestion for everyone is to try to be just a little kinder than you were yesterday, to others, but more importantly, to yourself.  How will you make the world a kinder, more accepting place today?

V is for Villians

But... but... I'm not a villain!  I'm a good dog!

But… but… I’m not a villain! I’m a good dog!

I love a good villain, but I prefer a complex villain.  One dimensional evil is kind of boring and doesn’t offer much in the way of character development or surprise.  I prefer villains with their own ethical codes.  It doesn’t have to be a code I agree with; it’s just important that whatever the code is, it’s consistent.

Villains are meant to move a story forward, but at their best, are foils for the hero, a way to contrast the hero’s choices and make the hero shine brighter.

So what makes a good villain?

I think that they have to be in somewhat understandable and relatable.  Who wants to read about a villain who is so far out there that no one cares.  That’s one of the things I liked about Hannibal Lecter (from Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Hannibal by Thomas Harris); he didn’t do things he considered to be rude, and he “ate the rude.”  Sure, a little extreme, but I agree that the rude should be punished.

They have to live by a set of rules.  Annie Wilkes of Misery (by Stephen King) was CRAZY.  But she didn’t like profanity, didn’t like cheating, and liked fiction.  Maybe she was okay with hobbling a guy, but she wasn’t going to say any naughty words while doing it.

They should be well-developed enough to be an actual character.  Seems a bit obvious, but I want to know a little bit about my villain.  Enough to know what makes them a villain.  In Watchers, by Dean Koontz, The Outsider’s character was so well-developed that I felt a little sad and wondered if he could have been redeemed, even though I knew he had to die.

Though sometimes mystery is good.  Darth Vader was much scarier in Star Wars IV-VI than he was in I-III.  ‘Nuff said.

They should be scary.  If a villain isn’t scary, what’s the point?  Evil should always scare us.  The Joker in The Dark Knight was one of the scariest villains in a long time, and what made him scary was his complete and total unpredictability.  (That’s not to say he didn’t live by a set of rules; he did.  But he was all about anarchy, which is inherently unpredictable.)

Sometimes the villain makes you kinda agree with them.  A little.  I love villains who make me question my views on morality.  Erik Lensher aka Magneto in the X-men movies.  He’s tired of being a second class citizen, so he wants to kill off all his potential oppressors.  Yeah, it’s wrong.  But if wrong is a continuum, it’s not at the far, far end.  Is it?

Writing villains can be satisfying and fun, but it’s also difficult to do well.  I’m not saying that a good villain must have all these qualities, but at least one or two, and scary is a MUST.

 

“The villains were always ugly in books and movies. Necessarily so, it seemed. Because if they were attractive—if their looks matched their charm and their cunning—they wouldn’t only be dangerous.

They would be irresistible.”
― Nenia Campbell

Who’s your favorite villain?