The mistakes of the Jedi are seemingly without end, namely due to their code and how they did or did not adhere to it. The Sith also have a code, with its owns positive and negative aspects. Considering the theories abounding that there will be more of a balanced approach between the dark and light sides come The Last Jedi, it is imperative that we consider the history of both the Jedi and Sith doctrine to gain a better understanding of what is yet to come.
Earlier this week we took the Jedi and their code into consideration. While many of us would like to simply consider the Sith as purely evil with no positive qualities, and while the end result the Sith brought to the galaxy was far from ideal, such an approach pays not the respect it should.
From the very first line of their code, we see the Sith as the inverse of the Jedi. “There is no peace, there is only passion.” Right from the get go we learn that the Sith are not the ones to pull punches. While peace is the thing most people consider the way life should be, the reality is that peace exists barely ever, if at all. The Sith are clearly showing that they understand that peace is not something we can do, that it is hardwired in our souls to oppose that which threatens us. It is a primal survival mechanism that we constantly have to fight in order to try to grab that imaginary brass ring of peace. The Sith refuse to reach for that which they know they can never have which, considering the fact that they had the patience to play out the Grand Plan of taking over the galaxy across a thousand years, is saying a lot about how impossible peace is to attain.
Instead, the Sith accept that passion is what moves us through life. How many of us work jobs we hate, staring at the clock just waiting to go home and binge watch Netflix, moving through life but never truly living? The acceptance of passion allows the Sith to really live the lives the deem worthwhile. But damn the result, not the approach. If the Jedi acted in the same manner, things would be difference. There can be peace if and only if everyone agrees on everything. The likelihood of that is not even slim. It is none. So instead of trying attain the unobtainable, why not instead pursue your passion?
Passion allows us to attain what we all desire: strength. Not physical strength, but the strength to overcome opposition, to keep moving forward even in the pain and agony. For the Sith, strength is the result of pursuing their passion. Their approach, much like the Jedi, is flawed to a ridiculous degree. The most altruistic approach to this would be to accept a passion for helping others, and therefore gain the strength necessary to move among the poor, abused, and mistreated by continually practicing service. A Sith, however, does the exact opposite. A Sith takes all that pain and, instead of trying to make sure no one else ever feels it, pours it into the galaxy, corroding all that is good in the name of gaining personal strength rather than strengthening the galaxy at large.
There is a German word that comes to mind when considering this approach. Gestalt, while having no literal translation, essentially means that the sum is greater than the sum of its parts. Basically this sums up the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. The Jedi, when doing things the right way, work to be peacekeepers and therefore make society greater than the sum of parts. The Sith, however, approach society with a selfishness that calls them to consume as many parts as possible to become the sum themselves.
They want strength, for strength is what leads to power. Palpatine brought all of this to fruition. For generations, since Darth Bane, the Sith hid in the shadows, consuming and consuming until there was so little left for the Jedi that they were essentially blind to a plot playing out right in front of them. From Bane to Plagueis to Palpatine, the Sith gained one foothold after another, until the point that they were so strong they could turn a minor trade dispute into a galactic downfall.
Until they had complete and total power.
Why was all that plotting necessary for the Sith? Why not just train a crop of Sith as large as what was present during the Old Republic? Quite simply, the code forbid it. Not directly, of course, but still without doubt. The Sith code is selfish, and therefore there can be only two, one to hold the power, and one to crave it.
It is attaining said power that drives the Sith. It is why Palpatine betrayed Plagueis, and why Palpatine would later try to convince Luke to strike him down. Only the strongest could survive, because only the best deserved the victory brought by gaining power.
The level of mastery with which the Sith played out their Grand Plan is second to none. They slowly worked, consumed, until total domination was the only possibility. Domination perceived as victory. The Sith were the elite and, much like an elite athlete, just wanted more. Consider Michael Jordan. He is known for pushing himself and his teammates beyond perceived limits to gain more “power” as an athlete. To win a championship. What happened after he won the first ring? He pursued the second even harder. And after the second? He pursued the next championship even harder.
While it may be unfair to compare MJ to one of the most evil entities in cinematic history, it does help give context. The Sith were never going to be pleased. It was impossible for them to every truly break their chains, because they were chained to anger and hate.
The idea that victory can break one’s chains is not far fetched. Many of us are just waiting and waiting for that big break. That elusive promotion. The relationship that is so easy it feels unreal. That big payday. We constantly crave the next big thing. It is a survival mechanism within us that is simply not being channeled properly. Before the days of skyscrapers and iPads, when we were hunters and gatherers trying to make it to our next meal, we had to look for any way to make life easier. It is why farming started. It was the root of the Industrial Revolution, and for that matter every revolution going forward. Humans constantly try to change to make things easier, believing the next thing will be the end. But one victory causes us, like MJ, to crave the next. From that we become chained, addicted, to success, or at least the idea of it.
This in and of itself is not a bad thing. iPads, digital media, social media, the internet, factories, more easily accessible food. All of these are primarily good things. But they have their own dark side. The need for the newest Apple product, likes on social media, inappropriate adult websites, sweat shops, and food so degraded that our ancestors would not even be able identify it as edible. This same thing is what went wrong with both Jedi and Sith. Each group got a taste of victory, and it made them want more power, which would eventually lead to the victory that would finally set them free in the Force.
It is a victory that, to date, has not been attained. The Jedi fell because as they gained more prestige they craved more prestige. The Sith fell because they could not comprehend the one victory that truly sets us free. The victory called love and acceptance.
Love and acceptance is what caused Anakin to fulfill the prophecy and conquer the Sith. He accepted that he had made a plethora of mistakes, but could always turn it around. Luke went into the belly of the beast to teach this lesson to his father, who truly did break his chains and become free in the Force, but not as a Sith. Maybe not even as a Jedi. But certainly as a chosen one.