Hero’s Journey from Darkness: the Space Race, the Silver Screen, and Mythology

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Understanding the smallness of our planet within a cosmic context breeds a sense of humility and love for humankind. Many astronauts who have ventured to the moon have come back from their journey exclaiming a sense of humility and respect for their planet and humanity, itself. Can we claim the same for ourselves?  Image by John A. Jaksich

Most of us love to gaze at the night sky with wonder and hope. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will get to voyage past Earth’s gravity and learn to question the vastness of space. You may gain the gifted perspective of its magnificent desolation (quoting moon walker, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin) or understand how gifted we truly are to be living on a vastly beautiful planet.

Thus, when the Apollo spacecraft journeyed to the Moon, those of us who watched on the television set were greatly privileged. We learned to love the solar system and its wondrous perspective. For those of us who remember it, we were pioneers.

Earthrise

For those of us who remember the Apollo missions of the 1960s, we became pioneers. The missions kindled a love for space in many of us. Image courtesy of NASA

While it is unclear whether humans will journey back to the moon or even Mars, what has become clear is that our sense of nobleness and pioneering spirit has given way to self-centered Nationalism. While many may argue the moonshot was a product of the Cold War, the feelings of discovery drove many children to wish to be astronauts. Some of these would-be astronauts became academically oriented and studied the cosmos or the sciences. It was a good time gaze at the cosmos with wonder.

The Power of the Mythic Cosmos on the Silver Screen

Just as NASA was winding down the moonshots (and Skylab too), we were captivated by a little known film maker by the name of George Lucas. The Star Wars saga debuted in the 1970s. The visionary film maker George Lucas wowed audiences and fellow-film-makers, alike. His story of a band of outgunned and outnumbered rebels seeking to uphold noble values against tyranny is a twist to classical stories from mythology. Its setting was in a galaxy far away and long ago.

However, it is akin to Homer’s telling of the Odyssey and the battles for Troy by heroic ‘god-like’ humans. Mr. Lucas is said to have been influenced by the story-telling power of the mythic figures of Homer. He is specifically said to be influenced by the scholar, Joseph Campbell. Mr. Campbell studied world mythology and the roles it played in past societies — he was also interested in how it applied to today’s mythological figures.

The protagonist in the original 1970s-1980s trilogy is one Luke Skywalker– someone who is at the margins of society. However, he mentored by an older  “father-like” figure- Obi Wan Kenobi. Skywalker must battle the forces of evil (and his true father, as well). However, as Skywalker becomes victorious, we are left with a sense: doesn’t a lot of the themes touched on by Lucas have themes prevalent in everyday life?

Family members battle one another in the hopes of truth and nobility. And, along the way, we learn a few things about the right and wrong. We learn that we are not the only ones who sit in the darkened theaters cheering for the ‘good guy’ to win out?

And, in many ways it is similar to the ancient Greeks listening to Homer making  sense of life?

A Hero’s Journey– Star Wars Retelling

What to Take-Away? -A Slap of Reality across our Faces?

When our children’s children read of the years 2016 – early 2018 as history, it will read like a step backwards in time. The most powerful politician of the US is a bigot and is ‘money-obsessed.’ He has no regard for anyone who holds little or no real property and wants to make sure the U.S. is the bastion of a ‘white’s only’ citizenry.

For many of us, we thought that darkness of this sort had been banished through the U.S. Civil War, and two World Wars. How wrong are we? I am not calling for war–I am pacifist.  I truly do not like suffering.

However, something needs to be done–

When the U.S. colonies fought the Revolutionary War, it was a battle against repression. The cause was noble and good. We were taking the high road. When the U.S. fought its own Civil War, it was a battle against repression and evil. When we fought the two World Wars, it was against repression.

The buck needs to stop with the youngest among us…. we don’t need to face repression, hatred, and or war–

Who among you recognizes that history is cyclical? — We should have learned our lessons many years ago? At, least I believe we did so… … isn’t there a hero among us?

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