I’ve been having a lot of religious discussions with my family lately. Mostly having to do with how they are Catholic and I am not or even more so to do with how much I despise any and all organized religious doctrine. I think that they are in some way concerned that I am going to hell, which I probably am, but for reasons far more significant than the pettiness of church on Sunday or blaspheming The Good Book. But what they don’t realize and what I’ve just come to figure out is that I have religion, just not in the traditional sense.
You see I don’t need Catholicism, or Judaism, or whatever because I already have a constant presence that has framed my everyday goings-on since I was 5…Star Wars. And I’m not talking about that crap that’s been in the theaters the last couple of years (read: post Lucas complete megalomaniacal breakdown). I mean the real deal; Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and even the Ewok-littered Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. These films are my canon.
Now before we get off on the wrong foot, please realize that I am not some action figure worshipping lunatic who camps out for movie tickets six weeks in advance. There are no hidden secrets within the film scripts. And much like Han, I do not believe in the Force:
Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to other. I've seen a lot of
strange things, but nothing to convince me that there is one all powerful
"Force" controlling everything. There's no energy field controlling my destiny.
However, I will admit that I do own the toys, have purchased somewhat pricey memorabilia, and did in fact stand outside Best Buy in the cold for an hour awaiting the midnight sale of the Holy Trilogy’s DVD release. But I truly believe that I have many other healthy American Guy interests that offset these occasional dorkish indulgences.
The point being that I am not crazy. When I say that Star Wars is my religion, what I mean is that I grew up during the dawn of the multimedia age when kids were no longer an afterthought but actually had a demographic all their own. The shows I watched, the music I listened to, the toys I played with all said something about who I was/am; much in the same way that being Catholic said a lot about my parents when they were growing up.
My sister turned me onto this great term: Cradle Catholics. It refers to being born into Catholicism rather than the Church being a conscious spiritual decision. My parents are Catholic because their parents are. I was Catholic because my parents are. There are millions of us like this and we all go through the same rituals; First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation, Sunday School/CCD, brutally long services on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday parking disasters, sleeping in the pew during Midnight Mass, uniforms, rosary upon rosary upon rosary…it’s always the same. And while these rituals are part of our “religion,” most of us robotically step through them without any thought to the spiritual content. It’s just what we do. That’s what these old institutionalized religions do. They provide a framework, a set of milestones that we look to as we grow up and give some perspective on how long ago this was or how much longer until that. Some people go through all of this and do end up contemplating the spiritual aspects: “Is the Bible truth or fiction?” “Is masturbation a sin?” “Am I supposed to feel guilty all the time?” But for many, including myself, it was just the process. It’s what we did.
And in the same way, Star Wars (and all the iconography of my youth) serves the same purpose. It was what I obsessed over as a child and in some ways still do. Star Wars was the first film that detached me from the real world and actually brought me into the cinema experience. Playing with the toys night and day was one of the first experiences that sparked my imagination and made me think of things beyond the here-and-now. As an adult the films still mark my existence. My friends and I trade quotes to show how we all grew up the same way. I have certain pieces of memorabilia because when I look at them they remind me of when I was a kid and that always makes me happy. We still watch the films once or twice a year and when we do it’s an occasion. “You know what we haven’t done in a while? Order some food, mix some drinks, and watch the entire Trilogy front to back.” Good times.
So, when I think about the way Star Wars impacted me as a kid and makes me feel as an adult, it’s a whole hell of a lot like the way Catholicism also affected me at the same time. You do the steps, you mark the time, you compare experiences with the friends who were there, and ultimately you always have something to talk about. Since I’m an agnostic, I don’t buy into God or fatalism or determinism. Therefore I don’t need all of the hocus-pocus baggage that comes with the Catholic framework. Give me Star Wars, or indie rock, or books by Nick Hornby, and I can still mark the time, commune with my friends, grow old and reflect on youth, and still turn out a pretty decent guy.
That’s what I mean by “Star Wars is my religion.”