In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
As you may have guessed, I recently saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I absolutely loved it. Just as George Lucas said, it was the darkest of the six films, and I was particularly disturbed by how evil Anakin Skywalker became when he turned into Darth Vader. (By the way, if you have not seen the film and don’t want me to ruin it for you, I would suggest you stop reading here...)
The film’s themes were many, and after seeing the movie, I could not help but deeply reflect on a number of them. There was one that permeated the entire film: the future and what to do about it. Throughout the movie, Anakin had dreams that Padme would die in childbirth; it haunted his entire existence. He was determined that it did not come true, and it was this determination – ultimately – that led the young Padawan to the path of the Dark Side.
Anakin, from the very beginning of the six film saga, was deeply affected by the absence of his mother. Naturally, he missed her tremendously and was always afraid of losing her, something which eventually happened when she was abducted by the Sand People in Episode II. This deeply painful experience made him stop at nothing to prevent him from losing Padme, and Darth Sidious sinisterly capitalized on this fear to turn Anakin into Darth Vader.
Yet, his motivation to prevent Padme from dying in childbirth – trying to alter the course of time and history – set into motion the events that led him to become the evil Sith lord he became. Darth Sidious, a.k.a., Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, told him of the story of the Sith lord who learned to use the midiclorians to bring people back to life. Anakin – out of love for Padme, no doubt – wanted to learn this power to save his love. Thus, he turned to the Dark Side, led the fight to destroy the Jedi, and then almost died at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Because Padme thought Anakin was dead, she lost the will to live and died herself, in fulfillment of the vision of the future Anakin had.
Thus, Anakin became evil, wreaked havoc, and in the end did not alter the course of events. This theme is a common one in literature, and it has been the source of stories since ancient times. Take Oedipus Rex, for example. Oedipus’ father, Laius, learned of a vision that his son was to kill him and sleep with his wife. Seeking to head off this event – again, trying to alter the course of time and history – he left Oedipus to die. Yet, he did not die, and was raised by a shepherd instead, leading to events which culminated in – you guessed it -Oedipus killing his father and marrying his mother.
The moral to these two stories, in my mind, is this: when one is not God, one should not try to play Him. If God wants something to happen, it is going to happen, despite our best efforts at trying to avert it from happening. In fact, frequently, our actions at trying to stop the event actually lead to it, i.e., Anakin Skywalker and Laius. That is why, perhaps, we have not been given knowledge of the future, because if we had, there probably would be chaos on the earth. Could you imagine if everyone had knowledge of the future? Everyone would be trying to alter events to their own benefit, and it would lead to utter turmoil between humanity (as if there is not enough turmoil on earth already).
Now, Qui Gon Jinn’s words in Episode I make so much more sense. Young Obi-Wan Kenobi said that Master Yoda told him to be mindful of the future. Qui Gon replied, “Not at the expense of the moment…be mindful of the Living Force, young Padawan.” Anakin did not take Qui Gon’s advice to focus on the moment (remember, he told the young Anakin that in the first film), and Anakin’s obsession with preventing Padme from dying led to his becoming Darth Vader and nearly killing Padme on Mostafar.
Now, we all sort of try to alter the events of the future: prospective doctors and lawyers work their hardest to be accepted into medical and law school, respectively; we all try to apply for the best jobs; we all work hard to buy a particular pair of jeans, or car, or house. Yet, this is not the same as knowing that tomorrow I will be hit by a car, and thus staying home tomorrow for fear of this knowledge. It simply won’t work.
It’s like the story of a man at the time of King Solomon, recounted in a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The man noticed that the Angel of Death had been eyeing him the whole day in the court of King Solomon. Thus, the man went to the King-Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him to command the winds to send him to India. The King obliged his request and then asked the Angel of Death why he had eyed that man with such intensity. He said, “Because God had commanded me to take the soul of this man in India, and I wondered how I would do so with him sitting in your court here.”
When God says to something “Be,” it becomes, and nothing we can do will change that. This does not mean I am fatalistic. No, I do my best to have the best life, best future, best job for me and my family. I pray my hardest that the outcome I desire actually comes true every single time. But, thinking that I am like God and can change the future will ultimately end in abject failure, because in the end, it God – and only God – Who is in charge.