What is it about seeing the latest trailer for J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming ‘Star Wars’ film, “The Force Awakens” that leaves grown men like me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes? Is it simply childhood nostalgia evoking memories of being a young boy engrossed in the original ‘Star Wars’ saga, happily playing with my Kenner ‘Star Wars’ action figures and my regular visits to the local cinema to watch the ‘Star Wars’ films? Or, is there something deeper at work?
I think, as with most things in life it’s probably a combination of factors. Like a lot of people who grew up loving the original ‘Star Wars’ movies, when a new trailer was announced I sat down with my laptop and was excited to see a glimpse of what the latest new movie would hold. In the space of three minutes I managed to go through a roller coaster of emotions and by the time Harrison Ford returned again as an aged Han Solo with Chewbacca by his side uttering the symbolic line, “Chewie, we’re home”, I felt emotionally exhausted. My girlfriend who was sitting next to me on the sofa said, “You’re not crying watching the ‘Star Wars’ trailer are you?” Rather sheepishly I said, “Yes”. I like to think she was touched by my outpouring of emotion as well as also slightly bemused. After the initial shock of my emotional outpouring, on reflection I was not surprised by my response. The ‘Star Wars’ story is weaved with archetypal characters and myths that move and stir us…
When George Lucas sat down in 1975 to set about writing the ‘Star Wars’ story he came across the book, ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’ by the Mythologist Joseph Campbell, which offers examples from various cultures throughout history of mythic story-patterning. Campbell believed that all stories were expressions of the same story-pattern which he named the ‘Hero’s Journey’ or ‘Monomyth’. For aeons, human beings have asked questions like, “Who are we?” and “Where do we come from?” They have tried to make sense of the patterns of their lives, the rites of birth, death, love and war. Stories and myths have offered us a framework in which to make sense of what it means to be human and to be in this world. Growing up in the 1970’s I loved reading the great Greek Myths like ‘Jason and the Argonaut’s’. Consciously or unconsciously, myths give meaning to an often confusing world. They can be found in creation myths, folk and fairy tales, Homeric epics and Norse sagas, Greek tragedy, radio plays, novels, movies and even television soap operas.
For me, this exploration of myth has continued into my adult life and at different stages of my life, various myths have helped me come to terms with grief, love, my mortality and a desire to live an unfolding and meaningful life. Maybe you are aware of what stories or myths have stirred and touched your life? Some myths speak more specifically to women such as the Sumerian story of Inanna-Ishtar and Ereshkigal and others more to men, like the myth of Perseus and his meeting with Medusa.
“Myth takes us deep into the psychic reservoirs of humanity. Whatever our cultural and religious background or personal psychology, a greater intimacy with myth provides a vital linkage with meaning, the absence of which is so often behind the private and collective neuroses of our time. In short, the study of myth is the search for that which connects us most deeply with our own nature and place in the cosmos.” James Hollis (Jungian Psychologist)