I sometimes wonder if within the Star Wars universe, bringing balance to the force means being able to use both the Light and the Dark without falling 100% into either side. Like, Rey being pulled to the Dark because it has something she needs, but maintaining her moral compass and compassion and urge to do good. idk it always seemed odd that an order all about balance only placed emphasis on one side of the spectrum 1/2
Tho it might just be a misunderstanding on my part. Is the Dark a separate part of the Force that Force-sensitive people can manipulate, different from the Light part? Or is that just what it’s called when you use the Force for purely selfish reasons? 2/2
oh my friend you have unleashed such a can of worms i am so sorry please bear with me.
there are two answers to your question, one of which is “what we get from the series so far” and the other one being My Obviously Correct Headcanons And Opinions.
In the past, the Dark Side has been pretty much exclusively categorized as “what happens when you use the Force for purely selfish reasons.” That power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the more you let your anger and resentment and personal need fuel your use of the Force, the more twisted you and it will become. that an act of weakness CREATES a darker seed of weakness within, to be continually exploited.
but that’s always been an inherently unsatisfactory definition–not because of what it implies about corruption, but because of what it identifies as the root of that corruption. it’s been frustrating as far back as Yoda’s lessons on Dagobah, where he told Luke that interfering in order to save his friends would make him vulnerable to the dark side for ???reasons??
It’s wrong to lash out in fear. It’s destructive to let your negative emotions be the sole source of your strength. all of that makes sense.
but where do you draw the line between selfishness and selflessness? Where do you find the boundaries on the spectrum from compassion, to caring, to possessiveness, to obsession?
the OT and PT never really gave us satisfactory answers to these questions–only vague pseudo-buddhist notions about how wanting things will make you miserable and terrible, probably, and that true balance means neutrality. means never having personal investment. and that’s just not how people work. so if we’re going by the idea that that’s the Jedi way, then yeah– the Jedi do need to end.
but as Luke said– the idea that the light side of the force will go away if the Jedi Order becomes obsolete is ridiculous.
so where does that leave us, in canon?
well, if the light side of the force stands for life, growth, connection, and peace, then that would seem to imply that the dark side must stand for death, decay, fractured society, and violence. this means that balance of the Force isn’t just some neutral value, because the Force itself isn’t value neutral. the Force isn’t weather–the Force is the collective intention and interconnectedness of all sentient consciousness. you can’t blame a hurricane for killing people because that’s just what hurricanes do. Hurricanes can’t decide. but people DO. and that’s what makes it the Dark Side of the Force–it’s the decisions behind the actions.
so much of where the PT failed was that it did such a poor job of showing us what it actually set out to show us: how a good man, Anakin Skywalker, became corrupted by the dark side. what the PT ends up saying is “he wanted to end slavery so much that he became a fascist; he loved his mom and his wife and that made him Terrible.” which– what the hell kind of lesson is that? We never actually saw that thing click in his head where it suddenly became okay for him to kill younglings. We watched it happen, but I never bought a moment where he gave in, because I never saw how his weaknesses as a good man–how his desire to protect and defend made him selfish and possessive–turn into something outright violent against people who had nothing to do with him. they never sold me on the connection.
but the sequels… they’re doing something different.
the consensus in the OT and PT seemed to be that it’s terrifyingly easy to succumb to the dark side. that you could be minding your own business having friends and wanting good safe things for them and one day you could trip and fall and that would turn you evil. i never vibed with that.
the ST, though… over and over again, what I see it saying is that it’s hard to be evil. It’s hard, and it sucks, and it kills everything good in you. that’s why Finn rejects it; that’s why Kylo Ren is so fucking miserable all the time. but it also demonstrates that there’s something so inherently compelling about using the Force to get what you want that once you’ve gone far enough, the idea of losing it is so incomprehensible you’d do anything–you’d do the worst thing–just to keep it from happening.
(Worth noting: the first Force power Rey ever uses is the Jedi Mind Trick. the first thing out of her mouth when Luke asks her what the Force is is “a way to make people do what you want.”)
it would be the easiest thing in the world for Ben Solo to be the golden boy of the Republic. that life was handed to him on a platter–all he had to do was stay there. all he had to do was take it. even now, Rey is still telling him: the door is open. the life you left behind is right there, waiting for you, needing you, if only you’d be willing to do the work to take it back.
so much of Kylo’s dialogue is talking about how he feels conflict, the pull towards the light, how his only goal is to kill the good in him, kill the past, kill all his ties to his obligation to morality. but it’s a constant fucking struggle for him. you don’t just trip and fall into evil. you have to choose it, every day.
and if that’s true–that tells me so much more about “the dark side” than the other films ever did. it’s not that caring is a curse, because Ben Solo killed his caring a long time ago. it’s that once you’ve had a taste of whatever it is that made Kylo Ren powerful enough to stop a blaster shot in midair and hold it there for five minutes, while carrying on an entire, quite distracting conversation–that once you have that, it digs so deep in you you can’t give it up. it’s a disease, the same way that an addiction is a disease. and with the Force behind it, it has the power to feed itself.
and you’ll never get well from an illness you have no interest in a cure for. so you keep digging deeper into the dark, because even if it’s hard, even if it tears you apart inside, the dark can give you things the light never will. and most of all, it’s convinced you that those are the things you should want.
what i think we might be heading towards–what i would LOVE to see us heading towards– is the conclusion that we’ve been incorrectly defining the Dark Side this whole time.
if I have a rope, I can use it as a lifeline or as a noose. that doesn’t tell me anything about the rope. it tells me about me.
Evil corrupts. Malice makes you strike first, strike hardest, strike in arbitrary anger. Trauma warps your sense of reality and makes it hard to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy, between acting for for your own survival and actively undermining your own self-interest. Wrath makes you act so that the punishment far outstrips the crime. Jealousy tells you that the things you love belong to you. Hate makes you want to destroy the things you don’t understand. Vengefulness makes you mistake personal satisfaction for justice.
but the Force… I don’t think the Force does any of that. it can be used as a vehicle to get you there faster, but that doesn’t mean that part of the Force is dark and used for dark things only. It means that you MAKE it dark when you USE it for the dark.
Balance means harmony, not discord. the Force in balance needs must tend toward the light not because death is evil and must be avoided at all costs, but because life, uninterrupted until its natural end, is life as life was intended.
death isn’t the dark side. death is the Force in balance.
murder is the dark side, because it’s using the Force for something it was never meant to be used for, on purpose, for wrong, for personal gain. and no wonder it’s powerful, because the Force is always powerful–it’s all life and thought and spirit that exists! but that doesn’t mean the Force wants you to do a certain amount of bad things and the universe would fall apart otherwise. it means the Force needs people to tell the difference, because that’s all the Force has ever been: the interconnectedness of sentience.
the Force doesn’t tell us what to think. we tell it what to think. and the Force doesn’t need murder any more than people do.