Light Side of the Force

The Murder of Lor San Tekka

We had only just met him in the opening moments of The Force Awakens before he is brutally murdered by Kylo Ren. Sitting in a small hut, Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) offered a valuable item to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an item which will be critical to the plot of the film. Their conversation also offers brief but important context as the movie opens, with the elder providing his thoughts on the state of the galaxy, the Jedi, the Force, and General Leia Organa. “To me, she’s royalty,” he points out when Dameron mentions the General, an obvious nod to Leia’s more familiar title of Princess (both in universe and among the audience).

The dialogue between Lor San Tekka and Poe Dameron is abruptly cut short when BB-8, the pilot’s droid, bursts through the door with a warning: the First Order is approaching. Seeing troop transports on the horizon, Dameron tells Lor San Tekka “You have to hide” to which the older man responds, “You need to leave.” At this urging, Dameron runs through the small village, a village teeming with commotion as it prepares to defend itself against the First Order incursion.

Only a short time later, the village will be overrun by stormtroopers, and a massive black shuttle will descend. Out of the shuttle will walk Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and he will head towards the center of the town where Lor San Tekka is being help with the remaining villagers. Now, Lor San Tekka will engage in another dialogue, this time with a man shrouded in darkness whose face is hidden by a terrifying mask. It is Ren who speaks first.

Lor San Tekka confronts Kylo Ren.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren: “Look how old you’ve become.”

Lor San Tekka: “Something far worse has happened to you.”

Kylo Ren: “You know what I’ve come for.”

Lor San Tekka: “I know where you come from, before you called yourself Kylo Ren.”

Kylo Ren: “The map to Skywalker, we know you found it. And now you are going to give it to the First Order.”

Lor San Tekka: “The First Order rose from the Dark Side. You did not.”

Kylo Ren: “I’ll show you the Dark Side.”

Lor San Tekka: “You may try. But you cannot deny the truth that is your family.”

Kylo Ren: “You’re so right.”

Finally agreeing with the elder, Kylo Ren springs into action. Igniting his lightsaber, he raises it above his head and attacks. San Tekka only has time to raise his arms in defense, covering his face, before he is cut down by the crackling red blade.

While I had mixed feelings about The Force Awakens the first time I saw it, the murder of Lor San Tekka was a moment that left me with no reservations. To be blunt, I thought it was brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of gratuitous violence for the sake of entertainment. I do, however, appreciate a death which is meaningful, where the loss of life, even in its obvious brutality, adds to the story in a worthwhile way. And this is how I see the death of Lor San Tekka. While he is a very minor character in The Force Awakens, his murder- tied to the dialogue immediately preceding it – adds terrifying and frightening depth to Kylo Ren, this new villain in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

A Closer Look

From the very outset of their conversation we learn something rather stunning: Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka already know each other, and their connection clearly goes back years. Kylo Ren mocks the man’s age and appearance, a clear indication that he can recall at time when this old man was younger. But this ageist mockery opens Kylo Ren to a piercing retort from Lor San Tekka: “something far worse [than growing old] has happened to you.” If Kylo Ren knew a younger Lor San Tekka, then Lor San Tekka remembers when the villain was NOT an agent of darkness.

Ren does not take the bait. Instead, he immediately turns the conversation to what he is seeking, stating “You know what I’ve come for.” Instead of addressing Ren’s object of desire (undoubtedly the object given to Poe Dameron) San Tekka takes Ren’s words and flips them by going deeper into the personal connection. “I know where you come from,” he says, “before you called yourself Kylo Ren.” It was Kylo Ren who opened this dialogue by making it personal when he mocked the man’s age, but now Lor San Tekka has flipped-the-script, calling the villain’s adopted name/title into question by citing his knowledge of Ren’s life before his turn to darkness.

Again, Kylo Ren does not respond directly to San Tekka’s comment. Instead, he stares at the man and declares what he wants: “the map to Skywalker.” “We know you found it,” Ren continues, clearly annoyed as he begins pacing, “and now you are going to give it to the First Order.”  To this, Lor San Tekka flips Ren’s words once more, directing the conversation once more into their personal connection. “The First Order rose from the Dark Side,” he remarks, “you did not.” It is not just that Lor San Tekka knows villain’s real name, but he also knows the man calling himself “Kylo Ren” was raised in the Light Side.

This hits a nerve. Now, Kylo Ren deliberately moves in front of San Tekka so the two are once again face-to-face. “I’ll show you the Dark Side,” the villain declares, a clear threat meant to intimidate. Unsurprisingly, the threat does not have the effect Ren anticipates and the old man maintains his composure. Instead, San Tekka responds by acknowledging that Ren “may try” showing him the Dark Side, but that Ren “cannot deny the truth that is your family.”  It is now that Kylo Ren has had enough. “You’re so right,” he calmly responds and then viscously cuts Lor San Tekka down with his cross-guard lightsaber.

What makes Ren’s attack even more disturbing is the camera angle and movement suggests we are looking at Ren from Lor San Tekka’s perspective.
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

That Kylo Ren chooses this moment to kill Lor San Tekka, after the elder mentions Ren’s “family,” is telling. It is the most direct hint we are provided in the exchange regarding the identity of Kylo Ren, an identity which is revealed over the course of the film and reaches its climax in Act III. There is only one family Ren could possibly belong to, but it is also clear that Lor San Tekka and Kylo Ren have very different interpretations, differing “truths,” of that family’s story. And by murdering Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren offers his interpretation, his truth.

Yet, this act is not only about Ren’s interpretation of family, it is also about his interpretation of self. With the ferocious stroke of his crackling red blade, Kylo Ren formally declares his identity as an unhinged monster who embraces the Dark Side of the Force. In the act of murder Kylo Ren proves that he is not the man Lor San Tekka once knew, and he wants nothing to do with who he was prior to his dark conversion. In this regard, the murder of Lor San Tekka is not just about a villain murdering a defenseless old man, an obvious act of evil which leaves little doubt about how this dark figure operates. No, it also symbolic, a way for the villain to kill his former self by-proxy. Through the murder of Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren symbolically murders Ben Solo, and it should come as no surprise that as The Force Awakens progresses that Kylo Ren continuously seeks ways to destroy the man he once was, an obsession which ultimately culminates in another horrifying murder in the form of patricide.

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ROTJ)

Hologram of Luke
Speaking to Jabba the Hutt
Bargaining for Han


Token of Goodwill:
C-3PO and R2.
Both have served him well.


Scene: Jabba’s Palace.
Main gate opens, Luke walks in.
Confronted by Guards.

Shrouded in Darkness,
Luke draws on the Force and chokes
the Gamorreans.


Threatening Jabba.
“Master Luke, you’re standing on…”
The floor drops away.


“OH NO! THE RANCOR!”
Once, Luke fought a big Wampa.
Rancors are larger…

The Rancor eats pork.
Then it turns towards Skywalker.
How will Luke survive!?!?!

First – use a large bone.
Next – hit its fingers with rocks.
Last – throw human skull.


The Rancor is dead!
But Luke is still in trouble.
Onto the Sarlacc…


The Pit of Carkoon.
Luke preps for Jabba’s justice…
…then springs to action!


A green lightsaber!
Luke built a Jedi weapon!
How’d he manage that?


Slashing and blasting.
A chaotic desert scene.
And Luke’s hand is shot!


What are your thoughts when
Luke blows up Jabba’s sail barge?
Kinda messed up, right?


Back to Dagobah:
Skywalker returns so he
can finish training.


Yoda, very frail.
Tries to avoid Luke’s question:
“…is Vader my dad?”


Obi-Wan Appears!
“From a certain point of view…”
Luke learns a lesson.


Spoiler Alert!
The Princess is Luke’s sister!
O-M-G!!! THEY KISSED!!!!!


Scene: Sullust System.
The Rebel Fleet amasses.
Luke decides to join.


Passing the “Super,”
Luke can sense a dark presence…
“Vader’s on that ship.”


Endor Excursion.
Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Droids.
And Rebel Soldiers.


Chasing Scout Troopers
through a Forest on Endor.
Team Luke and Leia.


Captured by Ewoks.
Luke will be a main course in
3PO’s honor.


Emotional Talk.
Luke reveals truth to Leia:
Brother and Sister


Taken to Vader – 
“I know there is good in you.”
“I feel the conflict…”


Before Palpatine –
“I have been expecting you.”
Verbal sparring match.


Battle commences:
Rebels caught in an Imp trap
fight for survival.


Watching the battle
Luke is tormented by the
unfolding drama.

“You want this, don’t you?”
Luke looks at his lightsaber.
“Strike me down with it.”

Haiku Addendum:
Palpatine’s “Trap” was always
for Luke Skywalker.

“My young apprentice…”
Luke watches as the Death Star
fires on the fleet.

Filling with anger,
He can no longer resist –
Luke takes his weapon.


Red and Green Collide.
Father and Son engage in
a duel of the fates.


“Twin sister…if you
will not turn to the dark side,
then perhaps she will.”


A rage-filled assault.
Consumed by the darkness, Luke
presses his attack.


“…take your father’s place.”
The hero arrives at his
most critical point.


A farewell to arms.
Luke declares who he shall be:
“I am a Jedi.”


Baptized by Lightning.
The Son pleads to the Father.
The Father responds.


Vader is no more.
Luke burns his father’s body.
Now, the Last Jedi.


Joyful reunion.
Luke celebrates with his friends.
Saga is complete.


This post is Part 3 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Check out the other two posts below!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)
Luke Skywalker (ESB)

The Fate of Master Sinube

Admittedly, writing a piece about “the fate of Master Sinube” is a rather straightforward endeavor. Barring some freak accident or a natural death, Tera Sinube – the elderly Jedi Master who assists young Ahsoka Tano track down lightsaber in The Clone Wars episode “Lightsaber Lost” – most certainly died during the Jedi Purge, his fate sealed when Order 66 was put into effect. In fact, we can probably be even more specific and say that he died in the Jedi Temple, perhaps shot by clone troopers or struck down by the blade of Darth Vader. True, he may have escaped the Temple on that fateful day, much like Jocasta Nu, perhaps fleeing individually or with other Jedi, but that also seems unlikely. No, I believe it is safe to say that Master Sinube encountered the same fate as most of the Jedi that day, meeting his end in a tragically violent way.

Sinube and Tano
Ahsoka Tano walks with Master Sinube.

Photo Credit – The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 11: “Lightsaber Lost.”

While we may surmise that Sinube met his end on that fateful day, a question never-the-less persists in my mind: what were his final moments like? Where in the Temple was the elder Jedi and, like others in the Temple, did he put up any form of resistance? Personally, I like to believe he did. Elderly he may have been, his actions in “Lightsaber Lost” demonstrate that he was far from needing geriatric care. Master Tera Sinube most certainly did not go down without an act of resistance. In fact, we might take this thought a step further, extending the faculties of the imagination with a bold suggestion: on that horrible day, Master Tera Sinube stood his ground first against clone troopers, and then against Darth Vader.

Wisdom of a Jedi Elder

It is easy for me to believe that as the Temple came under attack, Sinube took it upon himself to safeguard Jedi younglings against the onslaught, perhaps even rallying a handful of Knights to lead the younglings away from the fray. I can picture Sinube giving orders, demanding that these Knights seek out one of Sinube’s contacts in Coruscants criminal underworld. Master Sinube was, after all, an expert on the underworld, and surely would have known a contact willing to help the Jedi flee the world. Implored by the younglings and Knights to join them, Master Sinube would have been reassuring but firm: “The Cosmic Force beckons me to return home. Go, I will hold off your pursuers.”

Clearly, there are any number of ways to imagine how Sinube’s final moments of life played out. Even as I write these words, the possibilities abound, the imagination running in numerous directions. But what my heart tells me is this: Master Tera Sinube did not even draw his lightsaber, instead leaving it confined in his cane. Wouldn’t this very contradict what I said in a paragraph about, that Sinube most certainly resisted the clones and Vader? Only if we assume that resistance must involve violence. 

A wellspring of Jedi wisdom and knowledge, thoughtful and patient in his actions (as we see in “Lightsaber Lost”), I believe Tera Sinube confronted his clone attackers that fateful day with only the Force as his ally. As the clones burst into the room, DC-15 blasters blazing away at an easy target, Sinube would move quickly, not harming but disarming his assailants. With care and precision, fully attuned to the Force, the Jedi Master systematically incapacitated the clone soldiers, debilitating but not killing, doing so with the gentle touch of the Light Side. 

Unable to break through the stalwart defense of their elderly opponent, comrades falling left and right – some getting back up to rejoin the struggle only to be knocked down again – eventually the word would spread through the Temple that the clones needed reinforcements to break through Sinube’s defense. And a reinforcement would arrive, not in the form of more clone squadrons, but the shadowy figure of a Dark Lord of the Sith. 

Vader March
Darth Vader marches into the Jedi Temple with his clone soldiers.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Undoubtedly, Master Sinube could sense the Dark presence within the Temple from the very beginning of the attack. Now, as the clone assault on his position waivered once again, he felt the Dark figure moving towards him, and was about to enter the room. But Sinube, I am certain, also knew from the very beginning that the Dark Lord in question was, only recently, a Jedi. When the Sith entered the room, Sinube was calm and unsurprised – he knew he was about to see the face of Anakin Skywalker.

Vader’s blue blade already ignited, the two stood for a moment looking at the other. Suddenly, the blade was extinguished and Vader moved forward until he was but a foot or two from the elder Jedi. Extending his right arm, the Sith wrapped his hand around Sinube’s neck. But before he could squeeze, Master Tera Sinube looked into the eyes of his destroyer and, with peace in his voice, uttered his final words:

“I forgive you, Anakin.”

Transcending Death: The Light

In a recent post – Cheating Death: The Dark – I discussed the hate-filled path Darth Maul traversed in order to survive his horrific wounding in The Phantom Menace. If you have not read the post, or want to refresh your memory, I would encourage you to do so. In this piece I do a 180, flipping the conversation from cheating death to transcending death in order to consider how a Light Sider user can, if they are chosen and deemed worthy, preserve their conscious identity (and bodily form) in the netherworld of the Force. 

As I point out in Cheating Death, the Sith and the Jedi share in having dynamic but also limited understandings of the Force. Just as Darth Maul could not dream of the level of Darkness he would reach in his state of intense hatred, the Jedi also lack full comprehension of what the Light Side offers regarding death. This is not a criticism of the Jedi, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the religious orders in Star Wars – Sith, Jedi, Knights of Ren, Nightsisters, and so on – do not have 100% complete conceptual understandings of the Force. Ultimately, the religious orders believe about the Force is centered around their specific experience of it and, as a result, their respective dogmas directly reflect this experiential knowledge.

A perfect example of the Jedi Order’s limit is the skepticism – nay, the outright denial – that one can preserve their individuality after death. In The Clone Wars Season Six episode “Voices,” Anakin Skywalker describes the Order’s dogma on the subject of life after death quite poignantly when he states, “…everything that we know about the Force tells us that an individual retaining their identity after death is impossible.” To this we can also add Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi, ranking member of the Jedi Council, who notes “…the dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.” Even Master Yoda, the oldest/wisest of the Jedi and head of the Council, does not at first believe in the possibility of maintaining one’s individuality after death, expressing his own skepticism when he hears the voice of dead Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Nevertheless, Yoda will come to realize that Master Jinn is speaking to him, opening himself to a possibility he thought impossible. In turn, guided by Qui-Gon, Yoda will begin his own journey towards transcendence.

The journey, though, is not an easy one. Yoda, we find in the last few episodes of The Clone Wars series (starting with “Voices”), must face significant trials to show that he is worthy of retaining his individuality after death. In other words, the great gift of transcendence is not liberally given to all Light Side users. While Jedi Masters such as Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Shaak Ti, and Ki-Adi Mundi are incredibly wise and act with good intentions, they nevertheless are not presented with the possibility of transcendence.

On the other hand, Yoda is chosen to receive the great gift, chosen because he will “teach one who will save the universe from the great imbalance.” Still, even Yoda must be put to the test, and in the episodes “Destiny” and “Sacrifice” he is forced to master himself – his own darkness, hubris, and temptations – in order to prove that he can master transcendence. It is only after passing these difficult tests, coming into a fuller understanding of his own identity and his connection with the Light Side of the Force, that Yoda will begin a long process of training through which he will learn to manifest consciousness after death.

yodadarkside
Yoda is confronted by his own inner Dark Side and hubris.
Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 6, Episode, Episode 12 – “Destiny”

Although we are given a fleeting glimpse of this training in The Clone Wars, the training Yoda receives has otherwise never been fully explored – either shown nor described – in any Star Wars stories. The same is also true for Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom we also know is granted this gift of transcendence. While Yoda explains, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, that Qui-Gon Jinn will be Kenobi’s guide in the process, we are not privy to the tests or lessons Kenobi will learn from his former Master.

Yet, all of this is okay. The Force is mysterious, and some of the sacred teachings, artifacts, and rituals that go hand-in-hand with it should be equally mysterious. Just as Sith and Jedi alike are not privy to every aspect of the Force, the same is also the case for fans of Star Wars. In fact, I would suggest that the training Yoda and Obi-Wan receive never be fully explored, lest we water down the sacred mystery of transcendence through over-explanation or take away from each fan’s imagination. Besides, what we do know is that Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi did learn to manifest consciousness after death, proof that their training, whatever it entailed, was successful.

But while Yoda and Kenobi completed their mysterious training, we also know that Qui-Gon Jinn did not. In “Voices,” Master Jinn explains that he was killed before his training was complete, before he had fully learned to manifest his individuality after death. While his concious identity was preserved at death, enabling him to speak from the beyond as a manifestation of the Force, Qui-Gon is unable to appear in bodily form to those who are still alive. As we are well aware, appearing in bodily form to the living is something which both Kenobi and Yoda are able to do. This is precisely because their bodies quite literally disappeared when “death” arrived, transported along with their consciousness to the netherworld of the Force. Thus, the pinnacle of one’s training, the pinnacle of transcendance, is the capacity to “exist where there is no future or no past” in both mind and body.  

kenobistruckdown
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s body disappears as he is struck down by Darth Vader.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

On this last point, it is worth mentioning that what existence is like for Qui-Gon, Kenobi, and Yoda in the netherworld of the Force is outside of the realm of comprehension. There are simply no words – not here or in any Star Wars story – that can capture what it truly means to exist once one has reached transcendence. Certainly finite language can be used to give hints; after all, even Buddhists understand that all suffering will cease once Nirvana has been reached. But what transcendence actually feels like on a subjective level, what existence means for one who now inhabits the netherworld of the Force, that can only be known to the individual whom has entered the new state of being. And because of this, I hope the existence which Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Yoda achieve is kept a mystery to other characters in the saga as well as fans.