– written by Han Spinel
Qui-Gon Jinn is perhaps most remembered for discovering the path to immortality, but I personally associate Qui-Gon’s significance to the Skywalker Saga with something entirely different. Below, I discuss the defiance of Qui-Gon Jinn, and how his philosophy provided the foundation for each generation’s protagonists to grow beyond all that have come before….
The Defiant & Reckless Heart
Luke: I’m not afraid.
Yoda: You will be. You will be….
A 12 second scene, but still one of the most impactful moments for me upon my first watch of Star Wars. But hang on, what’s this got to do with The Phantom Menace or Qui-Gon Jinn?
Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive.
Even as a youngling, I felt that Yoda was referring to something much bigger than just the dark side cave, or Vader, or even the Emperor. I can distinctly remember this being the first moment that I questioned whether or not Yoda was “good.” I wasn’t so much afraid of Yoda as I was afraid of what Yoda knew, and that we (and Luke) did not know. Alas, the fear of the unknown is well aligned with the fear of failure.
In general, I guess I believe this fear of failure is what Yoda was getting at – Luke hadn’t lived long enough, hadn’t seen enough, to know what exactly there was to even be afraid of, nor did he yet fully understand all the could be lost with his failure. Yoda, on the other hand, had seen it all, had almost lost it all.
“Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.” – Yoda
More specifically however, and in retrospect through the lens of the Sequel Trilogy, I think Yoda was referring to the day Luke would finally realize the fears that the Jedi Master felt in that moment. It’s highly likely Yoda knew full well that one day, Luke too would face a similar decision of whether or not to train a youthful and reckless heart as he himself was to Yoda.
Luke to Rey: I’ve seen this raw strength only once before in Ben Solo. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.
Indeed, perhaps the most fearful moments of the unknown or failures are those in which we have no control – the moments that require us to let go…. the moments a teacher, mentor, or parent must face.
A common theme in several stories feature teachers/mentors thrust into or taking on a parental role for the protagonist, particularly for protagonists without family or parents of their own (or good ones, or ones we don’t know about yet….). This is most notably featured in Star Wars by the master and apprentice thematic stanza, which traces back to The Phantom Menace, and has been rippling throughout the Skywalker Saga since 1977. (see also: “like a son to me” trope).
The students in the Skywalker Saga: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Rey & Finn [last names intentionally not public record per JJ Abrams], and Poe Dameron all share a common and familiar element….
Yoda: Confer on you, the level of Jedi Knight the Council does. But agree on you taking this boy as your Padawan learner, I do not.
Obi-Wan: Qui-Gon believed in him.
Yoda: The Chosen One the boy may be; nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training.
Anakin Skywalker: You’re going to pay for all the Jedi that you killed today, Dooku.
Obi-Wan: We’ll take him together. You go in slowly on the left…
Yoda: Luke, you must not go.
Luke: But Han and Leia will die if I don’t.
Obi-Wan: You don’t know that. Even Yoda cannot see their fate.
Luke: This is not going to go the way you think.
Rey: It is. Just now, when we touched hands, I saw his future as solid as I’m seeing you. If I go to him, Ben Solo will turn.
Luke: Rey, don’t do this.
Han: People are counting on us! The galaxy is counting on us–!
Finn: Solo, we’ll figure it out! We’ll use the Force!
Han: That’s not how the Force works–!
BB-8: [beeping] I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Poe: Happy beeps here, buddy, come on. We’ve pulled crazier stunts than this.
Leia: Just for the record, Commander Dameron, I’m with the droid on this one.
The students are consistently defiant and reckless, following their hearts if not their fears, leading them all to both devastating losses and improbable victories….
Within the context of the Skywalker Saga, this continued theme of defiance, and following ones’ own heart over the objection of all others, is not only the original intent of George Lucas’ hero’s journey –
“My films have a tendency to promote personal self-esteem, a you-can-do-it attitude. Their message is: ‘Don’t listen to everyone else. Discover your own feelings and follow them. Then you can overcome anything.” – George Lucas
but can also obviously be traced back to Qui-Gon Jinn.
Yoda to Obi-Wan: Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you. Need that you do not!
Chaotic Good: Challenging the Philosophy of the Jedi Council
The Jedi Council evolved into a philosophy that in many ways, feared fear itself, leaning on the teachings of letting go of all personal attachments, but sadly it appears to its own detriment. The Jedi and Council had become closer to something of a “Lawful/Neutral Good” society through the millennia, which is not bad in and of itself, but again, to the point that it began restricting personal freedom, and even saw the criminalization of self-interest (see: Anakin Skywalker forbidden to love). Not even the prospect of the Chosen One restoring balance to the Force was enough to awaken the Council to its own shortcomings, as Anakin’s growth was continually governed in favor of tradition, and all the while a great darkness festered and grew beneath the Council’s very noses. An evil that ultimately seduced the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, away from the Jedi and and into an agent of evil. Fearing fear proved to be just as deadly as fear itself.
Qui-Gon began changing this philosophy of the Jedi, ushering in elements of “Chaotic Good” that was so desperately needed. Here, Qui-Gon remained true to self rather than tradition, and in spite of all around him. Make no mistake, Qui-Gon wasn’t an antithesis to the Jedi way – his philosophy wasn’t about hanging on to personal attachments. Qui-Gon was about knowing when to do one or the other, and knowing that the Will of the Force may ask for one over the other at any given time. In this way, Qui-Gon provided a calm, peace, and passive approach, to be mindful of the future….
“….but not at the expense of [action in] the moment.” – Qui-Gon Jinn
This is why Qui-Gon’s decision to train Anakin, and encourage Anakin to observe him when the Council denied his request, is so important. Qui-Gon flipped the tradition of the Council on its head – he challenged the Council with a philosophical question: “Yes, fear is A Path to the Darkside of all our futures, but then who do we become when we Don’t Acknowledge our feelings or instincts in the moment?”
This was a lesson even Yoda was reluctant to learn, for when the most desperate hour of his teaching came to be, Yoda resisted taking on the youthful and reckless heart (Luke) that stood in front of him (well, crouched in his hut in front of him). It was Qui-Gon’s defiance, through Obi-Wan, that encouraged Yoda to open his hesitant heart one last time.
“Was I any different when you taught me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Perhaps Yoda’s appearance in The Last Jedi is a “told you so” to Luke (You will be. You will be) on the one hand, and on the other an acknowledgement from Yoda that Qui-Gon was largely right. Yoda appears to have learned from his own failures in regimented tradition and fearing what might be failure. In a way, Yoda finally learns to let go of his personal attachment to tradition that he served for hundreds of years. And then Yoda passed on his own failures to Luke when he needed to hear it most – the moment Luke feared his failures….
Luke: I was weak. Unwise.
Yoda: Lost Ben Solo you did. Lose Rey we must not.
Luke: I can’t be what she needs me to be.
Yoda: Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.
….but what was Luke’s personal attachment to Rey? 😉
Luke opens his hesitant heart one last time to pull out all the stops in order to ensure Rey is free to follow her own heart, just as Yoda had given him the same opportunity, an opportunity that led to perhaps the strongest moment of defiance in the Skywalker Saga:
“You’ve failed your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” – Luke Skywalker
The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Qui-Gon’s Defiance in Rey & Finn
It appears both Yoda and Luke have faced their greatest fears of letting go, and perhaps Luke is speaking on this very subject in The Rise of Skywalker final trailer:
“Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your Destiny.” – Luke Skywalker
We can see Qui-Gon’s philosophy of the Jedi and Force are well represented in the Sequel Trilogy era, by Rey yes, but also Finn who had his own canonical awakening on Jakku….
“Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.” – Qui-Gon Jinn in the Prequel Trilogy
“This time let go your conscious self, and act on instinct.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Original Trilogy
“It’s an instinct. A feeling. The Force brought us together.” – Finn in the Sequel Trilogy
Maybe George Lucas was always right, and it is like poetry….
If the Skywalker Saga, a generational story focused on the Skywalker family, was born into Darkness through the separation of Mother (Shmi Skywalker) and Son (Anakin Skywalker), perhaps Episode IX will finally see the Light of the Skywalkers Rise through the reuniting of Father (Luke Skywalker) and daughter (Rey).
And if Rey brings a resolute conclusion to the prophecy of the Chosen One, perhaps it is Finn, the Unchosen One, who will help usher in new beginnings and adventures for generations to come.
Regardless, I believe we have Qui-Gon’s defiance to thank for more reasons than one, and I argue that this is his most significant contribution to the Skywalker Saga, and it’s a philosophy that eternally promotes personal growth.
Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with us!