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Re: Star Wars as Mythopoeic art

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  • Ted Sherman
    Mary, Great question. Let me attempt an answer by referring to a recent discovery/announcement that Einstein s brain physically differs from ordinary brains.
    Message 1 of 29 , Jun 23, 1999
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      Mary,

      Great question. Let me attempt an answer by referring to a recent
      discovery/announcement that Einstein's brain physically differs from ordinary
      brains. One part of it, if my memory is correct, is larger than usual. So, does
      this physical anomaly account for Einstein's genius and his ability to come up
      with theories that still defy scientists (and that are gradually being proven
      true)?

      I thought the testing of young Anakin's blood for the midichlorians (sp?) was
      an interesting twist. We learn that the presence (or lack thereof) of these
      organisms in the blood affects one's ability to feel and use the Force. Young
      Anakin, we are told, has a higher reading than even Yoda, who, it is implied,
      has the highest level recorded.

      Thus, the midichlorians aren't the source of the Force, but they are what allows
      one to use the Force. In essence, they are like the red fast-twitch muscle
      fibers that allow certain people (my brother for instance) to be sprinters, or
      the white (?) slow-twitch muscle fibers that allow others (like me) to be
      distance runners. Luke obviously has a high midichlorian count, but I would bet
      Han Solo does not.

      None of this undercuts the spiritual/mytstical quality of the Force or of
      Lucas's vision. The vision is not Christian, per se, though it does incorporate
      Christian elements, just as it incorporates elements of other religious
      traditions.

      Yours,

      Ted

      Stolzi@... wrote:

      > From: Stolzi@...
      >
      > So, Ted, what do you think of the criticism that by introducing in PHANTOM
      > MENACE the microscopic blood particles (?) which make a Jedi, Lucas has made
      > the Force material and changed its spiritual aspects as known to us in the
      > earlier film/s?
      >
      > Mary S
      >
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      > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
    • WendellWag@xxx.xxx
      In a message dated 6/23/99 6:21:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time, FrMacKen@aol.com ... studio ... If you re talking about _The Phantom Menace_ here, then Lucas
      Message 2 of 29 , Jun 23, 1999
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        In a message dated 6/23/99 6:21:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time, FrMacKen@...
        writes:

        > Who could foresee how good Star Wars could be if Lucas had no demands from
        > the studios? I'm sure as legendary as he is, he still had problems with
        studio
        > heads getting all his ideas to film.

        If you're talking about _The Phantom Menace_ here, then Lucas didn't have to
        worry about any demands from the studios. The movie cost $120 million and
        George Lucas put up every cent of it himself. It was of course distributed
        by a studio, but no one other than Lucas had any say in the making of it.

        Wendell Wagner
      • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
        Ted, Wendell, and Jim, I was referring to the first Star Wars film. Here is something to ponder: Filmmakers have images to portray their ideas, whereas writers
        Message 3 of 29 , Jun 23, 1999
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          Ted, Wendell, and Jim,
          I was referring to the first Star Wars film. Here is something to
          ponder: Filmmakers have images to portray their ideas, whereas writers use
          mere words to invoke their ideas. After all, a picture is worth a thousand
          words.
          Yours in creative discussion,
          Ron
        • Jim Bohannon
          Ron, You are absolutely right. And as we discussed, the media are different. I for one am rather partial to words. There is a richness in imagery crafted in
          Message 4 of 29 , Jun 23, 1999
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            Ron,

            You are absolutely right. And as we discussed, the media are
            different. I for one am rather partial to words. There is a richness
            in imagery crafted in words that visual images can't attain. Words also
            offer a depth of enrichment for the soul that is, in my opinion,
            unreachable by even the most gifted film producers.

            Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think you will agree, we
            can chew on the words and digest them slowly. In the long run, they may
            be more nourishing than the images. Still, as a visual artist, I can
            still appreciate the unique and wonder-filled gift of being mesmerized
            by a painting, a sculpture, a movie image, or even a cartoon.

            I don't think there has to be a battle over which is superior. It is
            all of them working in harmony that makes the world sing. I want you to
            know, Ron, I always appreciate your input.

            Wishing you peace,
            Jim

            FrMacKen@... wrote:
            >
            > From: FrMacKen@...
            >
            > Ted, Wendell, and Jim,
            > I was referring to the first Star Wars film. Here is something to
            > ponder: Filmmakers have images to portray their ideas, whereas writers use
            > mere words to invoke their ideas. After all, a picture is worth a thousand
            > words.
            > Yours in creative discussion,
            > Ron
            >
          • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
            Jim, I think that this would be a rather boring world if everyone agreed on everything. I think that opinions, when stated thoughtfully, can stimulate the
            Message 5 of 29 , Jun 23, 1999
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              Jim,
              I think that this would be a rather boring world if everyone agreed
              on everything. I think that opinions, when stated thoughtfully, can stimulate
              the mind. I am glad that no one was offended by my opinion.
              Pax Vobiscum,
              Ron
            • Matthew Winslow
              ... I d like to point out that the virgin birth idea (or rather, the God impregnating a woman idea -- which is what TPM is more likely, since we don t know
              Message 6 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                Jim Bohannon [bohannon@...] wrote:
                > I'm not Ted, but I'll take this one. This is a pretty strong allusion
                > to the incarnation story in Christianity. In Christianity, God, who is
                > Spirit, becomes incarate (takes on flesh) in the form of Jesus Christ.
                > In Christianity this is looked at as the strongest evidence of the love
                > of the Creator for the creature. Through the incarnation God identifies
                > with the plight of humanity and all creation.
                >
                > In Phantom Menace, George Lucas weaves in an astonishing variety of
                > world mythical and religious tradition!

                I'd like to point out that the virgin birth idea (or rather, the God
                impregnating a woman idea -- which is what TPM is more likely, since we don't
                know that Shmi had not experienced, um, 'carnal knowledge' of a man) is common
                to many world religion and myth systems besides Christianity. Since Lucas is
                following Campbell's idea of the hero, this would seem to point less to a
                Christian reference (after all, if we say it's a Christian reference, then we
                would have to follow to the conclusion that Lucas is saying Vader is Christ)
                than to a mythological reference.

                (And, btw, I'm also a Christian.)

                --
                Matthew Winslow mwinslow@... http://x-real.firinn.org/
                "A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't
                read them."
                --Mark Twain
                Currently reading: The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson
              • Diane Baker
                ... You may have a point; if you watch the films in the order of the six episodes, you see some of the difficulties of starting out a project, and without 2
                Message 7 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                  Ted Sherman wrote:
                  >
                  > From: Ted Sherman <beohilde@...>
                  >
                  > Star Wars (all the films) are very mythopoeic, if one takes them in their
                  > entirety. The newest installment, though panned by many/most critics as not
                  > being up to the calibre of the earlier films, fits right in with the earlier
                  > films and begins to set the context for them. That, of course, is one of the
                  > reasons for the film's being panned.

                  You may have a point; if you watch the films in the order of the six
                  episodes, you see some of the difficulties of starting out a project,
                  and without 2 and 3, we don't have the whole tale.

                  > Another is the thesis of the film: that there's a wicked trade federation that the > noble Jedi warriors must combat. [snip] . . . Lucas uses the trade dispute
                  > issue to set up the reasons for the fall of the republic and the setting up of the > empire.

                  I tumbled to this one, and had no problems with the story being about a
                  trade dispute, once I gave it a moment's thought. I admit my first
                  reaction was negative, but then I thought: "Well, of course; what
                  better way to show a political system than to show how they deal with a
                  trade dispute?"

                  One of the major complaints I have about the Trek universe is that they
                  often create stories without any reference to a viable and working
                  economy (except when it's convenient, and you're working with the
                  Ferrengi characters). JRRT does not make this mistake in LOTR; you get
                  the idea that there's a real economic and political set-up in Middle
                  Earth. You needn't do a lecture on economics, but in the background,
                  one has to feel that some commodities are valuable, and that the
                  majority of the inhabitants of your mythical worlds have jobs and
                  perform services of some sort. One quibble I had: it would have been
                  nice to see a scene in which we get a glimpse of the average inhabitant
                  of Naboo, and have some sense of how the blockade affects them. (BTW,
                  Naboo was not a name I would have chosen! Are the inhabitants
                  "Nabooki," "Naboos," "Naboosians," or something else entirely?)

                  > In my fantasy lit courses, I regularly refer to Star Wars because I know the
                  > students will understand the connection between, say, Gandalf and Obi Wan, or
                  > Shea Ohmsford and Luke.

                  I'm afraid I don't remember who Shea Ohmsford is. I take it he's a
                  young quester, but in which book does he appear? Wait a minute. Isn't
                  that the hero of *Sword of Shanara?* I seem to remember that name
                  before I threw the book across the room. When I cane across the name
                  of Alanon the wizard, I said "That's it." THUNK! Do you use *this* in
                  your fantasy lit course? Say it ain't so! (Or is my memory playing
                  tricks again? A situation very likely.) ---djb.
                • Diane Baker
                  ... Now, the question is, what s serious art? That s a can of worms we would have a hard time getting out of if we open it. The fact that we *need* another
                  Message 8 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                    FrMacKen@... wrote:
                    > I doubt if Star Wars can be called serious art. Star Wars is our futile attempt at > forging our own myth. Ah, that is another problem in our society. However that is > not for this time or place to discuss.

                    Now, the question is, "what's serious art?" That's a can of worms we
                    would have a hard time getting out of if we open it. The fact that we
                    *need* another mythology (however thin) is a sad statement. For me the
                    traditional Christian one works just fine, and the SW myth takes a lot
                    from it (along with other religious and spiritual elements.) Yet
                    another can of worms!

                    > P.S. Diane: Ron ydw i.
                    > Rdwy'n dsygu Cymraeg tipyn bach.
                    > (I think that is how it's spelled)
                    >
                    The Welsh looks right to me, and I can say the same thing, with the
                    accent on "tipyn bach." ---djb.
                  • Ted Sherman
                    ... The question why we need another mythology is very powerful. Why have the old myths failed (if they have) and how can new myths replace them??? The
                    Message 9 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                      Diane Baker wrote:

                      > From: Diane Baker <dianejoy@...>
                      > Now, the question is, "what's serious art?" That's a can of worms we
                      > would have a hard time getting out of if we open it. The fact that we
                      > *need* another mythology (however thin) is a sad statement. For me the
                      > traditional Christian one works just fine, and the SW myth takes a lot
                      > from it (along with other religious and spiritual elements.) Yet
                      > another can of worms!
                      >

                      The question why we need another mythology is very powerful. Why have the old myths failed (if they have) and how can new myths replace them??? The popularity of the SW films, of Tolkien's (and the other
                      Inklings') works, and of fantasy lit in general all attest to the power of myth (and mythopoeic artistic endeavors) to move people, to offer hope to the hopeless, to brighten and enliven dark and deadened lives.
                      But how does these works accomplish these things? Moreover, Diane mentioned the need of myth in our lives--why do we need it? What function or purpose does myth (and the mythopoeic arts) serve, especially at the
                      end of this millenium and the beginning of the next? Hmmmmm.

                      I have been asked to guest edit an issue of Mythlore for this fall, so I am requesting article submissions on the works of Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams, but also on other mythopoeic writers and artists: G.
                      MacDonald, Susan Cooper, Philip Pullman, Terry Brooks, RE Klein, Stephen Donaldson, George Lucas (just to stir things up a bit), etc. I'd like to focus this issue around the theme(s) I've raised above. What is the
                      value of these authors' and artists' works for our everyday lives, for our inner selves, our perspectives on and understandings of the world around us? In short, what is the value of their mythopoeic art in our
                      society (or societies for those living outside the US) today? What does the popularity of these authors' works say about our need for myth?

                      Please send hardcopy submissions to:

                      Professor Theodore Sherman
                      Box X041
                      Middle Tennessee State University
                      Murfreesboro, TN 37132

                      Or you may email your submission (in either plain ASCII/text format or as Word 97 or WordPerfect or Microsoft Works for Windows formats) to me at the following two addresses:

                      tsherman@...
                      beohilde@...

                      Please note that my home email address will change tomorrow (Friday afternoon), when I switch to a cable internet connection and change ISPs.

                      Yours,

                      Ted
                    • Ted Sherman
                      ... Yes, Shea Ohmsford is the protagonist in The Sword of Shannara, which I do teach in my fantasy lit courses. I use it because of the wonderful twist at the
                      Message 10 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                        Diane Baker wrote:

                        > FI'm afraid I don't remember who Shea Ohmsford is. I take it he's a
                        > young quester, but in which book does he appear? Wait a minute. Isn't
                        > that the hero of *Sword of Shanara?* I seem to remember that name
                        > before I threw the book across the room. When I cane across the name
                        > of Alanon the wizard, I said "That's it." THUNK! Do you use *this* in
                        > your fantasy lit course? Say it ain't so! (Or is my memory playing
                        > tricks again? A situation very likely.) ---djb.

                        Yes, Shea Ohmsford is the protagonist in The Sword of Shannara, which I do teach in my fantasy lit courses. I use it because of the wonderful twist at the end of the
                        story (involving the true power of the sword), and also because it's a wonderful book to use in discussing intertextuality. Brooks' world is our world after a nuclear
                        catastrophe, and there's all sorts of political intrigue that one can easily see is borne out of the period in which Brooks was writing the novel (early-mid 70s).The
                        intertextuality part involves comparing the figures in TSOS with those in TLOR. There's almost, but not quite, a one-to-one correspondence between the nine walkers in
                        TLOR and the band that eventually go in search of the Sword in TSOS. I've not read any of Brooks' other works though.

                        One final note: another great (or at least very good and believeable) mythopoeic writer is Stephen Lawhead, whose Song of Albion trilogy is, I think, a great story
                        and a wonderful conglomeration of Celtic materials. His Athurian sequence ain't bad either, though I almost prefer Jack Whyte's no-nonsense (meaning no magic and
                        mysticism) Chronicles of Camulod series.

                        Ted
                      • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
                        Diane, I understand your feelings about Star Trek, although the Next Generation was an excellent series. And yes, they did discuss monetary matters aside from
                        Message 11 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                          Diane,
                          I understand your feelings about Star Trek, although the Next
                          Generation was an excellent series. And yes, they did discuss monetary
                          matters aside from the Ferengi society. I happen to think that Star Trek: The
                          Next Generation was one of the best television shows in it's day. (Can it be
                          five years since that show went off the air?)
                          I do not believe that even my beloved Star Trek came remotely close
                          to Tolkien's world. My feeling that Star Trek was akin to a morality play set
                          in the future. The best episodes were character driven and often exposed
                          certain faults (i.e. the episode after Picard was returned to the Enterprise
                          after being held by the Borg. That episode exposed Picard's fear at his
                          inability to control his situation..one of my favourite episodes).
                          It was not as grand as the Star Wars myth, but remember: without Star
                          Trek, there would be no Star Wars.
                          Yours truly,
                          Ron
                        • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
                          Diane, I fear that I didn t state myself clearly. This society is much too preoccupied with financial concerns to care about the fanciful. It is deemed a waste
                          Message 12 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                            Diane,
                            I fear that I didn't state myself clearly. This society is much too
                            preoccupied with financial concerns to care about the fanciful. It is deemed
                            a waste of time. All but select few (such as us) explore our imagination and
                            let it take us whither it will. We as a country only have time for myth if it
                            is on television or the movies. I really believe that the act of storytelling
                            (from whence myths began) is a lost art. I think that is one of our ills
                            today. We don't take time to read or read to our children. Instead we set our
                            children in front of a television set or a video game and leave them alone.
                            Does that stimulate their minds? I think not. And as good as Star Wars is, it
                            is not as good as reading a book; letting the author take our imaginations on
                            a wonderful trip, forcing our minds to create images out of mere words.
                            Ah, but there is another can of worms.
                            Ron
                          • Diane Baker
                            ... OK, I can accept that. I ve never quite had the stomach to return to Brooks. I just had this vision of Alanon the wizard getting up before a small group
                            Message 13 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                              Ted Sherman wrote:
                              >
                              > From: Ted Sherman <beohilde@...>
                              >
                              > Diane Baker wrote:
                              >
                              > > I'm afraid I don't remember who Shea Ohmsford is. I take it he's a
                              > > young quester, but in which book does he appear? Wait a minute. Isn't
                              > > that the hero of *Sword of Shanara?* I seem to remember that name
                              > > before I threw the book across the room. When I cane across the name
                              > > of Alanon the wizard, I said "That's it." THUNK! Do you use *this* in
                              > > your fantasy lit course? Say it ain't so! (Or is my memory playing
                              > > tricks again? A situation very likely.) ---djb.
                              >
                              > Yes, Shea Ohmsford is the protagonist in The Sword of Shannara, which I do teach in my fantasy lit courses. I use it because of the wonderful twist at the end of the
                              > story (involving the true power of the sword), and also because it's a wonderful book to use in discussing intertextuality. Brooks' world is our world after a nuclear catastrophe, and there's all sorts of political intrigue that one can easily see is borne out of the period in which Brooks was writing the novel (early-mid 70s).The intertextuality part involves comparing the figures in TSOS with those in TLOR. There's almost, but not quite, a one-to-one correspondence between the nine walkers in TLOR and the band that eventually go in search of the Sword in TSOS. I've not read any of Brooks' other works though.

                              OK, I can accept that. I've never quite had the stomach to return to
                              Brooks. I just had this vision of Alanon the wizard getting up before a
                              small group and saying, "Hello. My name is Alanon and I'm a wizard
                              alcoholic." Figured a writer that careless with names can't be too
                              great, and every time I came across that name, I'd snicker instead of
                              getting into the meat of the story. And with fantasy, that wizard
                              usually sticks around until at least a third of the way through the
                              book. I've had other people tell me that they like the function of the
                              sword, and that Brooks does have some interesting points. Maybe I'll
                              have to give him a second chance.

                              > One final note: another great (or at least very good and believeable) mythopoeic > writer is Stephen Lawhead, whose Song of Albion trilogy is, I think, a great story
                              > and a wonderful conglomeration of Celtic materials. His Athurian sequence ain't > bad either, though I almost prefer Jack Whyte's no-nonsense (meaning no magic and
                              > mysticism) Chronicles of Camulod series.

                              Ohhh, yeah! I like Lawhead fine. He does very careful work, and knows
                              his Celtic mythology. Have you seen his *Byzantium?* And yes, I have
                              *all* of Jack Whyte's *Chronicles of Camulod* series. Excellent. I've
                              enjoyed it greatly. ---djb
                            • Diane Baker
                              ... I agree; I love Trek; please don t get me wrong. ... Absolutely right. It s more like a morality play than epic or myth. The best episodes were character
                              Message 14 of 29 , Jun 24, 1999
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                                FrMacKen@... wrote:
                                >
                                > From: FrMacKen@...
                                >

                                > I happen to think that Star Trek: The
                                > Next Generation was one of the best television shows in it's day. (Can it be five years since that show went off the air?)

                                I agree; I love Trek; please don't get me wrong.
                                >I do not believe that even my beloved Star Trek came remotely close
                                > to Tolkien's world. My feeling that Star Trek was akin to a morality play set in the future.

                                Absolutely right. It's more like a morality play than epic or myth.

                                The best episodes were character driven and often exposed certain faults
                                (i.e. the episode after Picard was returned to the Enterprise after
                                being held by the Borg. That episode exposed Picard's fear at his
                                inability to control his situation..one of my favourite episodes).

                                Another agreement; no quarrel here. That was a very good ep. Another
                                fave was the one where he was held prisoner by the Cardies. I also
                                liked a good number of Deep Space Nine eps.

                                > It was not as grand as the Star Wars myth, but remember: > without Star Trek, there would be no Star Wars.

                                And without Trek, there'd probably be no 2001 or other great SF films.
                                My only point is that there were some economic holes in some of the
                                tales. ---djb.
                              • Paul F. Labaki
                                The Inklings (I think correctly) would likely have taken the position that we have our own mythology; for Christians, the names and stories can be found in a
                                Message 15 of 29 , Jun 27, 1999
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                                  The Inklings (I think correctly) would likely have taken the position that
                                  we have our own mythology; for Christians, the names and stories can be
                                  found in a book we call "The Bible." The fact that there are people who
                                  believe the mythology to be true and act accordingly does not invalidate its
                                  mythic nature.
                                  --
                                  Paul Labaki

                                  ----------

                                  >
                                  >> Star Wars is our futile attempt at forging our own myth.
                                  >
                                  > Thank God we are still making the attempt! Woe be unto us the day we
                                  > stop!
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > Respectfully,
                                  > Jim Bohannon
                                  > Milledgeville, Georgia
                                  > USA
                                  >
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                                • Diane Baker
                                  ... I would certainly agree. Mythology does seem a bit tinged with the notion a story, which for the most part, should be disbelieved, but has to be
                                  Message 16 of 29 , Jun 28, 1999
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                                    Paul F. Labaki wrote:
                                    >
                                    > From: "Paul F. Labaki" <sheik@...>
                                    >
                                    > The Inklings (I think correctly) would likely have taken the position that
                                    > we have our own mythology; for Christians, the names and stories can be
                                    > found in a book we call "The Bible." The fact that there are people who
                                    > believe the mythology to be true and act accordingly does not invalidate its
                                    > mythic nature.
                                    > --
                                    > Paul Labaki

                                    I would certainly agree. "Mythology" does seem a bit tinged with the
                                    notion "a story, which for the most part, should be disbelieved, but has
                                    to be respected for PC's sake." I prefer the term "mythos." JRRT and
                                    CSL do subscribe to this "mythos," of course! ---djb.
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