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Pure Vessels

I was recently reading Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, and I paused at this passage:

I'd storm heaven for you, if I knew where it was.

He knew where it was. It was on the other side of every living person, every living creature, as close as the other side of a coin, the other side of a door. Every soul was a potential portal to the gods. I wonder what would happen if we all opened up at once? Would it flood the world with miracle, drain heaven? He had a sudden vision of saints as the gods' irrigation system, like the one around Zagosur; a rational and careful opening and closing of sluice gates to deliver each little soul-farm its just portion of benison. Except that this felt more like floodwaters backed up behind a cracking dam.



This passage reminds me of how the Force is described in Star Wars. ("On the other side of every living person, every living creature," seems to echo these words spoken by Obi-Wan: "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.") The distinction Bujold makes between those who call upon the gods and those who open themselves to the gods led me to think once again about the distinction made in the Star Wars universe between those Jedi attuned to the Unifying Force, who wish to harness and use its power for "big picture" good, and those Jedi attuned to the Living Force, who wish not to use it but instead to be used by it, to become vessels for the will and movement of the Force "in the moment." These metaphors are very interesting to me, as they underscore the difference between being a directing, acting will and choosing to surrender will and become an instrument. Both paths seek the Good, but they do so in very different ways.

So, of course, I go back to the Qui-Gon Jinn character, who to me symbolizes the "opening up" that Bujold describes. (And who continues to be a source of curiosity for me, since we only received a tantalizing glimpse of him in The Phantom Menace.) I've been thinking about his relationship to the Force, especially since reading randomalia's recent "Force Ghosts and Ep 3 Speculation" post. Following randomalia's argument, I find it a very appealing irony to think that Qui-Gon's selflessness, his willing to surrender himself and be used by the Force, in fact actually preserved his individuality, his existence as a self after death. By offering himself in the moment, he was granted himself in eternity.

I find randomalia's theory about why Qui-Gon's body didn't disappear upon his death to be more convincing and at harmony with canon than the theory advanced in "The Pure Vessel: A Character Analysis of Qui-Gon Jinn" by Dedalus (Paul). In this article, Dedalus writes "I like the idea that Qui-Gon couldn't survive past TPM because he was such a pure vessel. Lucas has hinted that the balance of the Force will slip even farther in the two episodes to come, and that everything will become 'gray.' It is no longer a galaxy for Jedi such as Qui-Gon. He couldn't survive the 'dark times.'" I think much of Dedalus's article is compelling, but I'm not as convinced by this. If Qui-Gon is a pure vessel, then he is, in a sense, the Force. How can times become too dark for a power that is everywhere, binding the galaxy together, and (I assume) seeking balance, even when -- or especially when -- that balance has been disturbed?

At any rate, the main idea of this ramble is that I find the metaphor of the gods (Bujold) and the Force (Star Wars) fascinating in their tensions and conclusions. In particular, Qui-Gon's relationship with the Force -- to use Bujold's terminology, his desire not to storm heaven, but to be stormed by it -- is intriguing, all the more so because his perspective appears to be the maverick, minority view among the Jedi (and, I suppose some would argue, ultimately a tragic one, as well -- that's another discussion).

In support of this ramble, I've compiled a short list of some texts about Qui-Gon (and, as you might expect, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well) I have found thought-provoking. If you know of any I've missed, please let me know. Thanks!


* Already mentioned above are randomalia's recent "Force Ghosts and Ep 3 Speculation" post and "The Pure Vessel: A Character Analysis of Qui-Gon Jinn" by Dedalus (Paul).

* randomalia's "Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi" essay

* I've already talked about my view on foreshadowing in the Jedi Apprentice novels here.

* On a related note, from the author of the Jedi Apprentice novels, there is "Young and Old Alike - An Interview With Jude Watson"

* "Jedi Knight of Infinite Faith" by Paul F. McDonald and the other "Phantom Heresies" Essays

* "The Naming of Jedi" by Elizabeth (Mistress Qui-Gon), "'Be Mindful of the Living Force': Or Training to Be a Terran Jedi" by Astra, and the other Qui-Gonline.org Features

* "Why We Love Qui-Gon" by the fans at Qui-Gonline.com

* "Just Who is Qui-Gon Jinn, Anyway?" by Purple Dragon

* "Duel of the Fates and funeral scene lyrics from The Phantom Menace" (more relevant than it may sound)

* "More Hindu Themes in the Star Wars Saga" by Cie Sharp

* The Tao of Star Wars by John M. Porter

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Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
karendreamer
Dec. 9th, 2004 03:45 pm (UTC)
Wow....I hope you don't mind if I print this off so I can give it more thought. Wow, fascinating.
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 9th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
Wow - thank you! That's great! If you come to any conclusions, please let me know... I'm just thinking out loud here. :) Thanks for your reply.
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 9th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karendreamer - Dec. 9th, 2004 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 10th, 2004 03:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 9th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
Is it the force itself that is out of balance? or is it our perception and training that's out of balance?

Great questions! I also really like your point about separation from the Force: how can we be separate from the very thing that holds us together? I guess my particular interest is in the question of free will. The Force is there, but the Jedi (and other creatures too, of course) have the choice to listen to it, and even to decide how to listen to it. If they all "opened up" to it in the same way, to the same degree, I'm guessing there would never be any dissent in the Jedi Council. But there is. And one reason for that, I gather, is that some seem to see the Force as a tool, and others seem to see themselves as the Force's tool. Of course, to quote Ben Kenobi, surely both perspectives get at the truth from a certain point of view. :)

I guess I'm intrigued by how and to what degree individuals choose to interact with, and be open to, that which is already surrounding them, penetrating them, and binding them together. To go back to the Qui-Gon example, he's an unusual kind of Jedi, with an intimate and immediate relationship to the Force, and yet instead of that greater power wiping out his "Qui-Gonness," it seems to me that Qui-Gon is one of the most individualistic Jedi Masters we have seen. Bujold writes her saints -- these characters who give themselves up to be portals of the gods -- as likewise remarkable and unusual personalities. That paradox of abandoning self/gaining self fascinates me.

I'm still thinking about your final questions, because they have a lot of implications for the Star Wars universe -- if the Chosen One was meant to bring balance to the Force, what does that even mean? -- but I have this instinct that you've put your finger on a truly key point. Very exciting! Thanks so much for sharing your insights with me. I appreciate it, and I'm going to give this more thought.
childermass
Dec. 9th, 2004 07:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, this list is awesome! Some of the things you said are really beautiful - "By offering himself in the moment, he was granted himself in eternity." :) I'm going off to read all the things on the list now!
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 10th, 2004 03:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind words! I really appreciate it. As I said, your beautiful artwork with the icons was a major inspiration. :) I hope you enjoy the articles. If you happen to run across any good material I haven't mentioned, I'd be grateful if you'd let me know about it. Thanks again!
randomalia
Dec. 9th, 2004 09:35 pm (UTC)
Great ramble! Now you're making my mind tick over...I especially like your description of those who follow the Living Force as opposed to the Unifying Force - little wonder there would be tension between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan!

The idea of Qui-Gon's individuality and self being found (or freed?) in dedicating himself to the Force is especially interesting. By offering himself in the moment, he was granted himself in eternity. -- that is such a beautiful and amazing way of putting it. Guh.

I was reading a short discussion of Taoism fairly recently that seems relevant to this. It was talking about self-realisation, and how it 'follows the flow of energy'.
The more one attempts to control other people and control nonhuman Nature, the more disorder results, and the greater the degree of chaos. For the Taoist, sponteneity is not the opposite of order but identical with it because it flows from the unfolding of the inherent order.

I can see Qui-Gon's approach in the sponteneity aspect, and Obi-Wan's approach in the search for control. Obi-Wan, I think, likes to fix things, whereas Qui-Gon wants things to develop according to the will of the Force. By focusing so much on the moment and not the distant future, he is removed from worrying over the consequences in a way that Obi-Wan is not. To me it seems to suggest that Obi-Wan's sense of himself would naturally be limited by a dwarfing context of the future; Qui-Gon, on the other hand, is (must be?) very aware of himself as an immediate and key actor. Would this perspective also go with him into the Force?

Perhaps in following the 'unfolding of the inherent order', Qui-Gon similarly 'unfolds' (develops?) to a place of self-realisation, one so strong it persists even within the Force. He is a part of the Force without being subsumed by it. Those funeral scene lyrics you have linked to seem to tie in here! acquire...self-control...sleep. Very clever.

I also agree with your thoughts about the idea of Qui-Gon as the Pure Vessel, now that you mention it. I think Qui-Gon's personality is very much a force of its own! Even if the Force needed greater darkness to be in balance, for example, I don't think Qui-Gon would move in that direction because he is too good a man. His freer, more maverick style can be seen in Luke and the new Jedi, also.

Anyway, thank you for including me in the list *blush* I'm glad to be involved in discussion! I will have to check out the rest. Thanks also for the very interesting thoughts.
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 10th, 2004 04:58 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the kind words and terrific reply! :)

little wonder there would be tension between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan!

Yes, indeed! On the one hand, I think that's what makes them such a formidable pair when they're together: they really complement each other's strengths and views. But there's real tension there. And I can see Obi-Wan's influence on Luke, later, when I think of how Luke understands the Force.

...that is such a beautiful and amazing way of putting it. Guh.

*blush* Thank you! That struck me when I read your post, though, about Qui-Gon actually being the first to retain his individuality in the Force and eventually showing Obi-Wan (and, later, Yoda) the way. The more I think on that theory, the better it fits.

The quote on Taoism is wonderful and right on point. Thanks! And your elaboration on it here:

Obi-Wan, I think, likes to fix things, whereas Qui-Gon wants things to develop according to the will of the Force. By focusing so much on the moment and not the distant future, he is removed from worrying over the consequences in a way that Obi-Wan is not. To me it seems to suggest that Obi-Wan's sense of himself would naturally be limited by a dwarfing context of the future; Qui-Gon, on the other hand, is (must be?) very aware of himself as an immediate and key actor.

Yes! I can see that exactly. The "removed from worrying" seems to be a repeated theme (and point of contention between them), whether it's with adopting new "pathetic life forms" or gambling for ship parts. At times Qui-Gon seems to adopt almost amoral courses of action -- using the Jedi mind trick, etc. -- if you look at it from Obi-Wan's perspective, and from some critics' perspective, as well. But Qui-Gon wouldn't see it that way. He's going with the flow, as it were, and trusting in it. And as for being an "immediate and key actor," that seems to be a theme, too, since much of his diplomatic prowess seems built on personal relationships and one-to-one interactions. He's not a dispassionate clockmaker, winding something up and then stepping aside to let the machinations work; he's personally involved, orchestrating what happens, hands-on.

Would this perspective also go with him into the Force?

Wow. Great question.

Perhaps in following the 'unfolding of the inherent order', Qui-Gon similarly 'unfolds' (develops?) to a place of self-realisation, one so strong it persists even within the Force. He is a part of the Force without being subsumed by it.

Yes! I will buy that. And I just love how you tie that into the funeral lyrics. Yes yes yes! It's reasonable and it's also so very aesthetically pleasing at the same time, beautiful from both directions.

Even if the Force needed greater darkness to be in balance, for example, I don't think Qui-Gon would move in that direction because he is too good a man. His freer, more maverick style can be seen in Luke and the new Jedi, also.

Great point! And I definitely agree. I wish I knew more about Dooku, actually. Is Qui-Gon's path a reaction against Dooku's training, or was Dooku similarly inclined, but just not strong enough to resist that darkness? He seems to have had a strong sense of self -- perhaps too strong, perhaps that's the pride that the darkness played off of and into. (One of the things that fascinates me about Qui-Gon is that he can have that sense of himself as a key player, immediate actor, and yet still have an almost tangible humility.) I guess Dooku's another whole ramble, though, isn't he? ;)

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. Once again, your insights are proving very helpful to and influential on my own thinking, and I'm really grateful for them. It's a joy to get the chance to share ideas with someone like you! :)
(no subject) - randomalia - Dec. 11th, 2004 02:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 12th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - randomalia - Dec. 14th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 15th, 2004 09:22 am (UTC) - Expand
fungus_files
Dec. 10th, 2004 09:26 pm (UTC)
in a completely inadequate response to your fantastic, thoughtful post, I just wanted to say: you're listening to Neil Finn?? :) Is this the NZ Neil Finn?

if so: a few yrs ago, I sat two rows back from Neil on a flight between Melbourne and Canberra...my only claim to Finn brothers fame. my sister, however, has had Tim in her flat (he came to a party she had!).

if not: return to your regular programming and I'll just slink off quietly...
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 11th, 2004 08:09 am (UTC)
There's no slinking here! No slinking, I say!

And you bet it is the NZ Neil Finn! :)

That's so wild that you sat behind him on a flight, and your sister's actually had Tim at her party! You would definitely be the ace up my sleeve in any game of "Six Degrees to the Finn Brothers." ;) That's so cool! Are they extremely popular there, or are they considered "locals" to the point that their fame doesn't matter? Either way, I'm impressed. Yet another export we should thank you for!
(no subject) - fungus_files - Dec. 11th, 2004 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 12th, 2004 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
thrihyrne
Dec. 13th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC)
You sat on the same flight at Neil Finn??!!
*does fangirl squee*

Wow. And Fooi had Tim Finn at her house?! Goodness. I do love them so.

You and eldritchhobbit have such great taste in music. Sorry to spam you guys!!
thrihyrne
Dec. 13th, 2004 07:51 am (UTC)
Well, you know that I'm not nearly as articulate about this particular fandom, in fact, I'm woefully ignorant. Regardless, I wanted to tell you how gorgeous this sentence was:

I'd storm heaven for you, if I knew where it was.

I don't know that I've heard anything so heartachingly romantic in ages. In the best angst-ridden way, of course.

and I'm sorry I don't have an epilogue update for you yet; had an incredibly busy weekend with the kids though I got sidetracked and was reading Sirius/Severus last night until 11:30. One particular author, whose writing is brilliant and the juxtaposition of those two just really works for me for some reason.

(((massive hugs, o thoughtful one)))
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 13th, 2004 06:06 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I've heard anything so heartachingly romantic in ages. In the best angst-ridden way, of course.

Oh, then you must read the rest of the novel! Sooooo good. :)

nd I'm sorry I don't have an epilogue update for you yet

For heaven's sake, I'm days behind on my regular email. No worries! For genius, I always can wait. :):):)

(((massive hugs back)))
galadhir
Dec. 22nd, 2004 09:16 am (UTC)
I've always felt that there was a distinct possibility that Qui-Gon *would* join Dooku. (Would Qui-Gon really be happy in a Jedi Order working *for* a Sith Lord?) But then I find there's so much moral polarization going on in the SW universe. Dooku is a Sith by the time of Ep2 *therefore* he must always have been an evil man, *therefore* there must have been no real training bond between him and Qui-Gon...

It's all so predestined and simplistic. If Dooku was always a bad egg, why didn't Yoda sense it? Why didn't Qui-Gon sense it?

Admittedly, I haven't read any of Jude Watson's books on the subject, because she's a prime culprit in the whole over-simplification of the characters IMO, but I could see easily that these two maverick Jedi (Dooku and Qui-Gon) could be made more fond of each other, more emotionally attached, more dedicated to their own heterodox views of the Force etc, by the fact that they were such misfits in the rest of the Order.

Dooku, in the film, speaks of Qui-gon with affection and something bordering on reverence. He could be play acting for Obi-Wan's benefit, or he could actually be showing the truth. Do we really know when Dooku's drift to the dark side started? Do we know that - had Qui-Gon lived - it would still have happened? Or perhaps it was his Master's disgust with the Jedi Order at having sent a beloved Padawan to battle a Sith alone which was the last straw for Dooku?
eldritchhobbit
Dec. 26th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC)
Hi there!

I've always felt that there was a distinct possibility that Qui-Gon *would* join Dooku. (Would Qui-Gon really be happy in a Jedi Order working *for* a Sith Lord?)

Very interesting! I definitely don't see Qui-Gon as happy working under Valorum/Sidious, and it's no big stretch for me to imagine Qui-Gon leaving the Jedi Order. He seems on the verge of that several times, in fact. So I'm with you so far. But joining Dooku? I'm not sure he'd agree that Dooku's means justified his ends. And I guess I still see Dooku's approach to the Force as being quite different than Qui-Gon's, which would play itself out in both men's plans, values, etc. Though I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. ;)

so much moral polarization going on in the SW universe

I think that's one reason I find Qui-Gon so interesting. He's at odds with the Council, and often his padawan, and yet in the end who's right? Qui-Gon? Yoda? Mace? Obi-Wan? All of them are right in a way, and they are all certainly well-intentioned, but they disagree at a fundamental level about the Force, the prophecies, even policy. Anakin is the Chosen One, but he certainly doesn't bring about balance in the way Qui-Gon imagined, and he proves the Council right in its worries about him. And the Council itself failed to see a rising evil to which Qui-Gon, perhaps, was more sensitive. I think he, as a discordant voice, offers a much-needed dash of grey into the black and white. But perhaps, as you imply, not enough.

If Dooku was always a bad egg, why didn't Yoda sense it? Why didn't Qui-Gon sense it?

That's the rub, isn't it? But I'm not sure he was always a bad egg. (Did his pride grow because he was such a successful Jedi, for example? Did his frustrations over the injustices and evils that he could not remedy as a Jedi simply push him too far?) Many of his criticisms are justified. Even though he goes off the deep end, he is still correct in many of his concerns and frustrations about the state of affairs in the galaxy: so even "bad," he is in part still wise, and definitely able. Maybe his road to hell, if it was such, really was paved with the best of intentions.

(Dooku and Qui-Gon) could be made more fond of each other, more emotionally attached, more dedicated to their own heterodox views of the Force etc, by the fact that they were such misfits in the rest of the Order.

I'd love to see a portrayal of this and how it would play out. (I'm not disagreeing with you - I'm just trying to picture it. As I said, I'm willing to be convinced. ;) Certainly both are called idealists at different times by the council.) In particular, I'd like to see how Qui-Gon's relationship with Dooku influenced his own style as master to a padawan (because, as it is, I have the instinct that his reserve comes from more than just his personality), and how Dooku related, if at all, to Obi-Wan during Qui-Gon's life, assuming he and Qui-Gon weren't already estranged.

I'd be interested in knowing what specifically you disagree with in Jude Watson's books. I know some of the plots are simplistic, but I actually thought the Xanatos storyline, and Obi-Wan's background as nearly passed over/almost not readmitted to the order, both add some texture to the back stories. And I'll admit I loved the foreshadowing about Qui-Gon's death. I'm not wed to them - and I can always hold to two "universes" simultaneously, even if they aren't compatible - but I was curious, because my first impression was that Watson, even as a "young readers'" author, is much better about developing three-dimensional characterization than George Lucas is. Since I really respect and enjoy your approach to the characters, I'm interested to know your opinion.
(no subject) - galadhir - Dec. 29th, 2004 03:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eldritchhobbit - Dec. 29th, 2004 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
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