At the center of a child’s heart there is a pillar upon which they place an indelible marble carving. That pillar is the champion’s perch. Its height stretches beyond cynicism. Time cannot reach its summit. The Champion’s Pillar is unassailable, unbreachable, because a child built it with a child’s imagination from childish hopes and dreams. For the child, the pillar will stand forever, sincere.
There they cherish.
Standing atop this pillar is a hero whose eyes are immortal white, forever gleaming with nostalgia’s veneer. The child spends many hours and days, even years, gazing skyward at this monument. Up toward the hero. Looking there, the child admires, seeing in the hero all the things they want to be. When the winds of change and worldly pains batter them, they wrap their arms around that strong pillar.
There they cling.
The child becomes the adolescent, gaining power and self-understanding. Looking at the hero now, the youth sees all the ways they are alike; the virtues and enthusiasms they share. The child now stronger, sees the hero not as an icon, but as destination. So, the child, growing into adult begins the long, self-guided journey up into becoming.
There they climb.
It is no secret that the hero who stands atop my Champion’s Pillar. The impoverished desert-born child who, for me, has many titles:
The child of Destiny’s Chosen who chooses his destiny.
The Hero Who Stands Before the Flame.
The Skywalker Saga is my favorite story. It is, for me, the very best modern representation of the Hero’s journey. It is distilled essence of cosmic romance. It is, to quote Matthew Woodring Stover:
“It is a story of love and loss. Brotherhood and betrayal. Courage and sacrifice…It is a story about the blurred line between our best and our worst. It is the story of the end of an Age. ”
Fall to ascension, death to resurrection; the story of Luke Skywalker is a Giotto circle.
Return of the Jedi is the most important film I saw as a child. It encapsulated so many things I was trying to comprehend. It was a film that did so much to inform my understanding about storytelling. It still serves as a guidepost in many, many ways. It is the most important inversion of the story of the Prodigal Son in the modern age.
Though this is not the “best” of the STAR WARS films, it is the most sincere. That sincerity comes from Hamill. Leia and Han both had the meteor flash of their arcs completed at the first kiss of their reunion in Jabba’s palace, but from that point on it’s the Luke Skywalker show.
You can tell that Hamill knows this is likely his last time to play Luke and what he does, and I am not being hyperbolic when I say this, is absolutely go for Best Actor in a Dramatic Role.
Luke Skywalker shows up and in the first two minutes of him being on screen, you realize that this isn’t the Tatooine farmer boy. This is a creature of power, dangerous and quick-to-anger. There is a power to Hamill’s performance, that in my mind, has yet to be touched by another “Hero” lead. And the reason that is the case is because of the sincerity, the absolute, unshakable belief, that Luke Skywalker was not “A” hero.
He was “The” hero.
And what gives Luke that power is the trick that Christopher Reeve pulled five years prior to 1983, the subversion of power itself. Deference. It is what enamors us to the character.Luke is offered knowledge, power, and a way to end the Galactic Civil War with but a single, violent action. Strike and become. Kill and be transformed. End the war with a single stroke. And Luke considers these offerings, leans into their shadow for a moment.
Only a moment.
And then, at the renunciation of violence, he looks from defeated Vader, to the Emperor and informs that Galactic Warmaster and us what his intent was all along:
“I didn’t come here to win the war. I came here for him.”
And that is why he wins.
That is why darkness is cast down from the throne.
That is why dawn rises on civilization again.
Because the son ran to the prodigal father.
Luke’s story is a tragedy and a triumph. The power of his story is found in the simplicity of its arc and the complexity of the themes it wrestles with. Loneliness, longing, the yearning to achieve a lasting result in the universe in which we live. It is about the power of friendship. The family you are born with and the family you choose. It is about the war all around us; the war inside of us.
It is about hate’s calamitous effect.
It is about love’s long campaign to victory.
It is about searching and trusting your feelings to know what is true.
It is about standing before the fires of your time.
Luke is the hero who stands before the flame. And his circular journey from binary stars to pyre to stars again is perfectly prophesied while he receives his most important lesson on what it means to be a Jedi.
What it means to reach the summit of the Champion’s Pillar.
What it means to become a luminous being.
“You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me…”
The Skywalker Saga is coming to an end in seven days and I couldn’t be more grateful for the hero it gave me or the adventure that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.