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To My Daughter: Be Like Rey} ?> Ah, my dear Madeleine, asleep in your fuzzy tiger costume and strapped to my chest. You are a scant six weeks old, and your life consists entirely of sleeping, eating, bouncing in your parents’ arms, and the occasional bout of thunderous flatulence. For now you have no time for books or movies, and you can barely grasp my finger, let alone an Xbox controller. You are a very, very long way from climbing trees and learning karate. Someday, though, you will have your own adventures, and you will learn to love stories as much as I do. In these stories you will find your heroes, models who show you how to live a good and just life.
To that end, I submit to you Rey, hero of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as a candidate for your first hero.
Rey has a great many qualities that every young adventurer should aspire to have, no matter where they come from or where they are going. She is adaptive, resilient, and clever; she is tough as nails, smart as a whip, and incredibly brave.
Yet most pivotal of all in Rey’s heroic qualities is that she is a dreamer. She is a romantic, though not in the modern sense of day-dreaming infatuation; Rey longs for adventure. She doesn’t just want the old stories of Jedi and the Force to be true; she wants to be a part of them. Her shelter on Jakku is lined with artifacts from the Rebellion and she dons the helmet of a Rebel pilot as she wistfully stares at a ship leaving the planet.
Like Luke Skywalker before her, Rey hungers to be part of a great story. We see this clearly when Finn and Rey meet Han Solo. The old hero affirms to the duo that the Force is indeed real, that there is a greater power in the universe, that there really is a battle between good and evil. “It’s true, all of it,” he says to Rey’s great wonder.
There will come a time when I too tell you stories that sound impossible, and I too will tell you, “It’s true, all of it.”
My dear Madeleine, you too must develop this sense of wonder and longing, for life will be incomplete without it. If I teach you one thing in this life, let it be the desire to be a part of the grand story playing out in our universe. We too have a greater power at work in our world, though it is not some impersonal Force. I believe that this power, this living, willing Goodness, acts against the wretchedness and evil of our world, and it calls to each and every one of us. We must desire it, to feel that great sense of longing that C.S. Lewis called “sehnsucht.” When I am awake to my sense of wonder, I am made ready to embrace this Goodness and become a part of the cosmic drama.
In Star Wars, it’s the Force that gives the universe its center of goodness; for me, it’s God. The best part of Rey, to me, was that she was enamored with the old stories. The reason that Tolkien and Lewis harped so much about myth is that myth, in whatever form—Greek stories, ancient Norse tales, or perhaps even a space opera with warrior wizards inspired by older things—inspires in us a desire to understand the grander realities that our age’s dour materialism despises. Without even the possibility of Truth, the higher good, concerns over whether violence is right or wrong fall away, as the very idea of good and evil become subjective, a liquid that conforms to the shape of whatever vessel it inhabits.
When that time comes, you must be like Rey and have that sense of wonder and longing. When you are open to the truth, you will hear it calling in your heart. At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey at last embraces the Force and overcomes the villain. Our hero has many fine qualities, but they alone were not enough to defeat Kylo Ren; she first had to answer the call of the Force, to let the greater power of the universe harness her courage and strength and longing for good.
Our lives are like that, too. Though we don’t fly in starships or fight with blasters and lightsabers, we do have our own adventures and battles. Will there be epic duels in a snowy forest? Doubtful. There will come a day when you hear the call of something greater than yourself. As your parent, I can’t answer that call for you.
Because of this, my daughter, I recommend to you Rey as your first hero, and I say this with a heart full of hope: “May the Force be with you.”