The Tao, the Force, and good vs. evil

If you’re familiar with Star Wars, you’ll also know about the Force. It’s the energy that holds the universe together. There’s a Light side and a Dark side, and both sides have to be in balance. That’s what the Jedi Knights are all about.

This system of morality is also completely, utterly futile. Here’s what Taoism actually teaches.

While many Western religions emphasize a duality between good and evil, urging devotees to embrace the good and spurn the evil, Taoism saw these moral qualities as two extremes of a single spectrum. Virtue did not lie at one end or the other of this spectrum, but through carefully maintaining a balance between the two. This idea is often expressed through the terms Yin (rhymes with English mean) and Yang (rhymes with English long). The two words together mean the fundamental and opposite forces or principles in nature. Yin originally meant “sunless” or “northern.” It was associated with darkness, femininity, emptiness, coolness, and passivity. The opposite state was Yang, which originally meant “sunny” or “southern.” Yang was associated with light, fullness, masculinity, heat, and action.

These traits appear oppositional on first inspection. However, that opposition is only a surface illusion in Taoist belief. In fact, the two states of nature require each other. Just as an art student knows that negative space around an object is what creates the outline of positive space in a drawing, the enlightened Taoist knows that suffering, pain and misery are necessary for traits like contentment, pleasure, and happiness to exist. Sickness and health are the same phenomenon; they are just at far ends of that same phenomenological spectrum. Masculinity and femininity are also the same thing; they are both the phenomenon of gender expressed in opposite ways. Love and hatred are also the same phenomenon, and so on.

When the Taoist realizes the falsity of these divisions, the Taoist realizes that extremes of either sort are temporary and unnatural. It is the cycle of nature for the pendulum to swing back and forth from one to the other. By resisting or refusing to experience these swings, the human throws himself out of balance with nature, and intensifies the lack of balance and alignment.

The great aim of all Taoists was to conform to the way of nature. They believed that all attempts to behave in accordance with strict codes of discipline, either personal or governmental, were artificial and temporary; they tended “to deform human nature and waste life” as Schafer puts it. Rather than trying to embrace one of the two opposite and reject the other, the enlightened individual sought balance between the two. S

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Well well, look at that. It’s all the rules of the Force right there. Good and evil are just a spectrum, and it’s better to just let them do their thing than to interfere, because interfering just makes it worse. No wonder Jedi tend to be annoying pacifists. I’m looking at you, Old Republic. It also explains why Luke became a hermit in The Last Jedi, rather than the founder of the Jedi Academy, as he was in the old continuity.

The Tao doesn’t offer any reason for the existence of good and evil. They’re just part of the duality of all things, like hot and cold. The Tao isn’t real into good and evil, anyway. It’s better to just go with the flow, dude.

When one realizes the need for balance between yin and yang, and stops struggling against that which is natural, one can gain contentment through wu wei, enlightened non-action. This involves discarding elaborate or needlessly complex plans to improve oneself and the world. Instead, one must accept the world (and oneself) as it is. It involves giving up materialistic desires and living life unplanned, from one fluid moment to another. This route leads one to Te, a word that in various forms can mean “moral virtue,” “bounty,” and “power or force,” or “gratefulness.” One learned to live life spontaneously rather than become trapped in the process of preparing for the unpreparable, avoiding the inevitable, or seeking the unobtainable. Such a route always leads to a lack of balance.

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In other words, the way to be happy is to be utterly passive. Don’t react to the good or the bad. Just … sit there.

I know quite a lot of governments that would dig a passive populace. A passive populace would never try to conduct business, enforce reforms, fight for their rights, or any of those messy things.

Meanwhile, the Bible is over here in the other corner, talking about how Good was First and evil is an aberration to be fought against.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Romans 1:18-24 (NIV)

Doesn’t look like sitting passively by would help much in this paradigm, would it?

A lot of books and movies take a Taoist view of good and evil. You can’t really ever defeat evil. You just kind of tolerate it until the balance changes and things go the other way. There’s no point in struggling to make things better. Nope, that just makes the other end of the balance stronger. Better just to sit and do nothing.

In the end, there’s no point in the whole good vs evil struggle. Fighting for Good makes Evil stronger. You might as well go full Sith and make Evil as strong as you can, so Good will win out.

Can you imagine what that would look like in reality? Whole countries just go out and destroy other countries and people groups, “just to bring about Good … for somebody”. Definitely not the people being destroyed. Where’s the good for them? There’s no justice, no righteousness, not even kindness. There’s only this imaginary balance we think we’re maintaining.

But what if the other paradigm is true, instead? And God, the ultimate Good, in whom there is no Evil, is going to judge Evil and destroy it forever, until only Good remains?

Yikes, those Tao balance people now have egg on their faces. Looks like the Jedi should have grown some backbone and fought for Good in the first place. Sucks to be you, Luke. You should have gone out and started the Jedi Academy after all.

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Jedi dude

Got the Jedi dude finished this evening!

Complete with dual lightsabers for the win. Again, going for that chunky, concept-art look. The background was made with the Oils > Wet Brush in Painter, and the figure was painted with the Chunky Oil Pastels. Glow on the lightsabers made with Soft Airbrush set to an opacity of 11.