We have been led to believe that George Lucas envisaged the iconic Jedi Master Yoda’s wisdom as a way to package ancient philosophies and teachings for a younger generation. We all need a religion of some sort, after all. We are even told that Yoda’s face was partly based on the debate partner of the Dalai Lama, the Rinpoche Tsenzhab Sekong. (I can see the likeness.) But for most of us, much more than that Yoda was. Magic, he was.
In my first article, share with you my passage down the path to becoming Lt. Sykes and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s stand-in, I did. But I hid from you a curious Star Wars symmetry that had shadowed that journey. It was standing there on set at various moments next to my double for example, that I questioned if it was perhaps the will of the Force and a powerful shadow had been cast by Yoda, who said…
“Always two there are, no more, no less. A Master and an apprentice.” — Yoda
For as Hayden Christensen playfully walked up and stood right behind me in identical Sith robes before a take, it was George Lucas himself who had said, “Oh no, there’s two of them!!!” An actor and a stand-in. A Master and an apprentice.
As with so many of Yoda’s quotes, they do not just apply to the Star Wars galaxy, but are mirrored in all our walks of life, regardless if our “job” happens to be working on Star Wars itself. Indeed my own journey culminated in a wonderful realization when I finally came face to face with the Jedi Master himself on set. You’ll find out in a moment, if you practice just one thing…
“Patience, you must learn patience!” — Yoda
In my most recent article I used another Yoda teaching to share with all my fellow Star Wars fans here what I learned about making a new Star Wars movie, be it Episode III or Episode VII…
“Pass on what you have learned.” — Yoda
For that is how we evolve and build on knowledge and experience. If you…
“Unlearn what you have learned.” — Yoda
But only the bad stuff.
Now, they say never work with children or animals, but they never said anything about younglings. One memorable moment of Yoda symmetry came with an interesting day on the set of Revenge of the Sith. Admittedly, it was a shock when we learned ahead of the rest of the world that the film would involve Anakin slaughtering several six-year-old children. I still genuinely find that hard to type.
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.” — Yoda
And all on-set stories aside, that is a quote that resonates profoundly with so many of us, and on a far deeper level. Thank you, Yoda, thank you, George.
But back from the real world, during the scene setup, the kids get a bit confused as both Hayden and I are in the same costume. We’re both simply “Anakin.” The blonde boy and star of the scene says to a chaperone, “Which one of them do I look at?”, understandably unsure who to deliver his lines to.
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” — Yoda
Yoda is right and this made my day in a way. We are all equal human beings, living on our own planet together, cogs in a symbiotic machine, and the only real “star” is the one we all circle. Children see everyone in that sun’s same light, unless they are taught otherwise.
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” — Yoda
So you could say children are smarter than us, despite their diminutive size. Now, who was it that said something like that?….
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” — Yoda
But sometimes we might see Yoda’s quotes in an even lighter sense than they were meant. Here’s a problem — what do you do if you’re in the heat of filming, and a wonderful Jedi youngling actor who is meant to be sensing much fear, in fact does not sense any? After eight takes…
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda
(Except when it doesn’t.)
First assistant director Colin Fletcher does his best to talk the kids through the pivotal scene where Anakin is about to murder them. “Right, now here comes the monster, you’re scared — scared — SCARED! — ACT SCARED!!!” But when their friendly Master Skywalker unexpectedly flicks on his lightsaber, the kids react nothing like “scared.” This is because without the magic of CGI, on set the “scary moment” is actually just Anakin slightly moving his left thumb a bit to the left on a prop lightsaber switch. Not so Phantom Menacing after all.
We do take after take. No reaction from the children. The atmosphere is growing tense. It’s leading to suffering. It’s getting late. Time is Republic credits. Finally some bright spark has an idea. Hayden walks up to the blonde boy playing Sors Bandeam, lets him say his line, then shocks the heck out of all of us by giving almighty ROAAAARRRRR! in the poor child’s face. This sends the boy off kilter onto his back foot, before he runs away to hide behind the sanctity of his Jedi chair in absolute terror at monster Christensen. (I confess that I jumped a little too.)
And that’s the take you see in the movie.
“Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” — Yoda
And I saw exactly that next Yoda quote when I realized how Star Wars props guys can be very protective of their goods — understandably enough, of course. I know that Anakin has his lightsaber for a certain scene. I’m standing in position, on camera. We’re all on the same team and so I ask the prop assistant for the lightsaber hilt to save time. The top-quality, hero, shiny, used-for-close-ups version of Anakin’s saber — the very same one Obi-Wan Kenobi hands to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV. But the prop department isn’t ready to let go. Hmm. And so it stays shut away in the padlocked lightsaber chest of drawers. (Yup, that’s a thing.)
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” — Yoda
Soon he must let go, for not a minute passes before George Lucas comes up to me and shouts, “Christian will need the saber!” That’s right George, Christian will need the saber! The prop guy comes running up to me with it and happily pops the saber in my hand. You can imagine that it feels incredible to be standing there holding that iconic weapon, wearing Jedi robes and hood, having just received direction from George Lucas, knowing at least Jedi younglings think I’m Anakin. I pinch myself for good measure.
As a fun side note, Hayden arrives and takes my spot for a later scene as I stand by next to him. I pass the laser sword baton to him. He rehearses through the scene in front of me but I hear him making the lightsaber sound effect as he turns it on. He must’ve picked that up from Ewan McGregor who was known to do the same back on Episode I. “They can put the sound in later you know,” I can’t resist saying to Hayden. “No, I do all the sound effects myself,” he jokes back. Like all of us, Hayden was doing what Yoda instructed…
“Feel the Force.” — Yoda
Speaking of Obi-Wan, during a rehearsal Ewan was going through his own lightsaber moves opposite me. Seeing the blade inching closer to my face I very Britishly proclaimed, “Excuse me, do you mind!” in a sort of Threepio voice. Unfortunately, he thought I was genuinely offended and offered a very sincere, “Oh! Sorry!” It’s okay Ewan, I was just kidding. You’re a Jedi Knight! Of course, I should’ve said:
“Away put your weapon, I mean you no harm!” — Yoda
Before Yoda’s ultimate quotes below, I asked some of you on my Facebook page what Yoda quote means the most to you. In truth I already knew the answer, but once the replies were in there was no doubting that one teaching above all others has shaped the path of so many of us. Whether it encourages us to “feel the fear but do it anyway” in a potentially frightening situation (as my mother taught me, just as Star Wars fans AJ and Theresa Danna explained very well here) or as a motto to use during those inevitable hard times in life to make sure you always act your best to rise above a bad situation (as fan Mário R. Cunha told me) — for great satisfaction does all of that bring.
When I think back, my own father (not Darth Vader) taught me the same thing when he would say, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well,” without perhaps realizing he was echoing Yoda. Or did Yoda pick it up from him? I’ll “pay it no mind.”
“No! Try not! Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
And that’s the real point. When we use creative visualization to truly see in our mind’s eye — the unadulterated eye of the youngling — the true and positive outcome that we want to achieve before we even start down the path of ever achieving it, unbeknown to our conscious mind, that belief shapes our interactions with others as we take the belief with us along that path — including the crucial gatekeepers who might otherwise disbelieve and thus stand in our way.
Luke: “What’s in there?”
Yoda: “Only what you take with you.”
But because we believe and see it, so do they, and so the gate is opened for us…
Luke: “I can’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
I had to employ this teaching when writing my time travel novel, The Chrononaut. I could’ve just “tried” to write a book, but that wouldn’t do. Only to “DO,” would do. So trust me, or Yoda, it works.
It’s not all glamor even when (not if) you do reach your goal. You try sitting in one position, unable to move your eyes as you exchange looks with Yoda for two straight hours while they perfect tricky Jedi Meditation Chamber slatted lighting. I swear he winked at me at one point. And was I going cross-eyed or was he?
“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.” — Yoda
But all fun aside, I had a lot of time to think during those final hours with the Master himself, and I took away from it one simple fact about my journey to get there:
It was Yoda’s words that made me so determined to work on the Star Wars films. How ironic was it that I succeed, and end up staring him in the face?
“Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.” – Yoda