Those who know me well (or even the smallest bit) know that I am a Star Wars fan. I was fortunate to have grown up watching the original trilogy films at home as a toddler, eventually wearing out my cousin’s VHS tapes as he likes to remind me! This interest would span out to me consuming everything from the prequel and sequel trilogies, spin off films and animated series, video games, novels and more! Eventually I got involved with the online fan community and you can see me these days on a few different podcasts and social media groups. I’ve made many friends through these endeavors over the years and have had the privilege of having had some of them there for me in times of need and vice versa. In some ways, it can be understood that I take refuge in the Star Wars fan community.
One major story element of the Star Wars universe is that characters are often placed at crossroads and forced to make major, life altering decisions. This is often (but not exclusively) when a protagonist is facing off with an adversary, facing the threat of turning to the dark side. The choice that this character makes in this pivotal moment will affect them (and often many others) for the remainder of their lives. For instance, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the audience is offered a brief look at the life of Anakin Skywalker prior to being freed from slavery on Tatooine. Upon being freed, Anakin is forced to choose whether he would remain with his mother who was not able to be freed or leave with his new friends and pursue training to become a Jedi Knight. While from our perspectives this may seem to be a no-brainer, one must bear in mind that the refuge of his mother and home (no matter how poor the conditions) are all that Anakin had ever known and while he cared for and admired his new friends, he had not yet known everything about them, not having sought them out as his sole object of trust, comfort and protection. Had Anakin chosen to stay at home, the Star Wars timeline as it is known would not exist, given that he would go on to become first a renowned Jedi-General during the Clone Wars and later the villainous Darth Vader.
This choice of refuge that Anakin faced is quite similar to the choices of refuge that we are faced with throughout our daily lives. When we “take refuge” in something, we place our trust and hope in it in a variety of different ways. While we may know this concept best for religious reasons such as “Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha” or any other religious figure or matter, it can be applied to most anything and everything! This principle of refuge can be seen present in our relationships with our loved ones, our employers, organizations we support and so much more.
Regardless of the object of our refuge, our choice to take refuge in it is not a one-time, isolated occasion: Rather, it is a choice that we face and continually renew throughout our lives or the duration of our relationship with the object of refuge. For instance, while we may mark the beginning of a religious vocation or journey with a formal initiation service, this is not the “end all” decision for these paths: Instead, we are faced with the decision as to whether we wish to continue in both our individual and communal endeavors every day simply by choosing to continue with them. It can be understood that Anakin Skywalker ceased taking refuge in the Jedi Order and his friends when he chose to abandon them in order to pledge his allegiance (or refuge) to Darth Sidious in his desire to save the life of his wife, Padme, turning to the dark side as a result.
Let us reflect on what we choose to place our trust in. What do we choose to take refuge in each day? What refuge-relationships have we discontinued?
Wishing Happy Holidays for all in observance.
Tommy Manyo Bradshaw