Purification, Liberation, Release
. . .
Twin suns, setting. Fading fire behind the wispy veil of familiar clouds. Dark and light, blending together in that old and sacred balance during the gloaming hour.
That felt more than right to Luke. It felt necessary, a connection he needed to the first place he knew as his home. He watched the suns rise every morning since he'd come to Ahch-To, but never consciously admitted the link and rarely watched them set. He'd known, though. Part of him had always known what he'd come here for, like a wild bantha wearily trudging to its home dune so it could rejoin the sand. Nature demanded it. The Force encouraged it. And yet, the afterimage of him lingered at the summit of his old sanctuary, watching the stars begin to peek through the night.
It was not about regrets. Luke had none left. He already let those go, drifting from his hands like hematite-bright stardust, taking his physical form with them. That, too, was necessary. Regrets were anchors. To transcend, to join the others that had gone on before him, he could not be weighted down by his sorrows. The last of those had left him with the brilliant gleam of Rey's hope, a starshine of Force and Light itself. Her hope, not for poor, lost Ben Solo, but for the rebels, and her friends, and those sparks of the Force he realized he could now sense all through the galaxy, like little campfires waiting for someone to come and be warmed.
What Luke wanted was to tell someone what few things he had left to say, but there had been no time, and he hadn't had the words. They were things that weren't what Rey needed, and it would have been selfish to do anything but get out of the way as she found her own path through the balance of the Force. To let her make her mistakes. To be less afraid than he'd become.
The downfall of countless Jedi before Luke. He supposed, bemusedly, feeling the warm and humid air now as his own skin, that he should take comfort from that. Fear was a primal thing to be tamed and understood, but it was never defeated. It took a lifetime, but he finally understood. Fear snuck back, often wearing the same shadows that could lead to the Dark. And sometimes it came wearing the light. Fear was the other kind of ghost, and there were no simple Force rituals to banish it. You learned to accept it, to recognize it, and to overcome it.
And sometimes, simply, you failed.
He wanted to tell Rey why he'd failed in such a small but critical way. Why fear had won inside him for a while, longer than he'd admitted even to himself. But it wasn't necessary to her story. It wasn't for her to carry. She needed to know she could leave him behind. Leave the past behind. That she didn't need to be afraid of what she didn't know, but that she could make her own hope even in the darkest of times.
She had that, Luke knew. She already understood fear. She had been raised with it. It was okay to let go.
And yet the image of him lingered, wanting to whisper. Wanting to tell someone, anyone, about what it had really been like as the Empire faded from power. Not when the war ended, as others described it - that was the first hard secret he wanted to share. When your life had become outlined by war, that war never really ended. It stayed close, a Force ghost all its own, wearing the shapes of everyone you had lost, all the people you couldn't save. That had been when he first realized he was more frightened now than he ever had been before. The Empire had fallen, and now these new-forged heroes of the Republic were the face of the future, and no one knew yet what that would mean.
It had been on a white marble road that Luke first felt the fear take root at the base of his spine, a glorious day with three suns high in the sky. Leia, still a General and never so small a thing as a Princess, kept her hand light and easy in Han's larger one. Her disdain for title aside, for the people they went together to see, the pair was a royal couple in truth and word. Han seemed to carry the new weight mostly easily, his natural charm and good-natured arrogance armoring him against too much impact to his ego at first. Leia had been long prepared for such a life, so this, for her, was a bit like going home.
But Luke never forgot who he was. He'd been raised a simple farmboy, whose first life was droid repair, moisture 'vaporators, and speeder racing. Vader's legacy hadn't been his to carry from birth. He'd been free of what his name meant until he was a man - that he was the son of a fallen Jedi who, the Jedi texts claimed, had been born as if forged from the Force itself. All to fulfill a prophecy and to bring the balance back.
Prophecy, Luke knew from Yoda's earthier reflections, was a double bladed lightsaber rattling around the seat under your speeder. It might turn out in your favor. It just might slice off a chunk of your rear cheek.
On that white marble road, in the heart of the Republic's temporary capital, Luke saw in people's eyes the idea that he himself had fulfilled some kind of other hidden prophecy. That he had been for them more than a leader or a good man, but an avatar of some new hope itself.
And in that mirror's image of himself, he first saw that new fear grow in the blacks of his own eyes.
As Leia and Han kept rebuilding, Luke had thrown himself into his work for the fledgling Republic, doing his best to keep the hope others saw in him alive, flushing out whatever dug-in Imperial strongholds he could discover. To combat his fear, to control it, he looked to what other Jedi had done, researching the ways of old, looking for whatever was left that the Sith hadn't destroyed. Ways to rebuild, and making a temple of his own mind before he dared try to rebuild others.
That was the heart of it, really. The people needed so much. He couldn't possibly let them down.
He was relentless at the work he set for himself. The new Jedi Master, disappearing now and then on mystic missions and digging for secrets. Still the new hope for the new republic. But the Jedi themselves weren't flourishing yet, sending quiet ripples of concern through the people. Doubts spun up, like dust in old straw. Meanwhile, Luke finally came up for air and realized nothing had really changed inside him not long after another visit to his sister - the most important visit yet.
Ben had old eyes for a baby, but he also had a bright and cheerful smile that said he didn't yet understand the strain building all around him yet. Luke did. Luke saw too much.
General Leia was doing her best to rebuild a society that had grown used to being shackled, that found a kind of cheap and simple comfort in being told what to do. They liked not being afraid, too, and the Empire had given them that in return for obedience. She could bark orders at the new Republic with real power in her trained and perfect voice, but her Force sensitivity knew what people truly needed to grow was freedom, and that was hard to nurture in the frozen earth of a post-war society. She loved her people, but she was already becoming tired. Luke was watching her age in quick and unruly time.
Han, too, was beginning to crumble under the weight of that relentless public scrutiny. He had always known freedom, but needing to restrain himself to try and drag others back into that freedom he loved was breaking him like a farm animal. The Falcon flew more often, and Luke sometimes saw the real answers to his careful questions in Chewie's worried face. Han's love and adoration for his princess was real, but she had never belonged only to him and she never could. He knew better than to ask to keep her all to himself, so he kept flying instead, looking for the rest of her in the empty places between the stars.
And then Ben came, first to bring them closer, and then to push them all apart even further. Poor Ben Solo. A family name now as loaded with as much fresh weight and import as Skywalker had been. Really, realized Luke, the child never had a fair chance. Snoke was simply the first to find his way into the boy's heart - and so much faster than anyone had realized. But the door had been open for him.
Ben's nightmares started by the time he was five. It wasn't the Force sensitivity Luke and Leia had sensed in him even before birth. It had been the eyes. The eyes of an entire Republic on him. Another new hope, who saw a future reflected in the young child's eyes that Ben didn't ask for.
Luke had understood. Oh, by the Light, he'd understood. It was for Ben that he'd tried harder to become what he saw reflected in other people's eyes. That he took everything he thought he'd learned about the Force and set about the real work of rebuilding a Jedi Temple. Not just to train the young boy when he was ready, but to get him away from those eyes. To give Ben even just a few months of the same freedom from his name that Luke had been privileged to have.
It wasn't enough.
It simply hadn't been enough, and Luke had been too late. Ben, like Rey, had been born into fear. But something - someone - had gotten into him before Luke could, snaking its way behind Leia's hope and guidance, and Luke, that fateful and broken night, saw the shadow of Snoke and fear and darkness hiding inside that sleeping boy, and the fear that he had been fighting off since the Death Star crumbled, that he had been shoving away using the hope of his new young padawans, came pouring back like the sea.
Just for a second. But a second is all fate needs to change the river into something wild and terrible. And in Ben's horrified face, Luke saw the reflection of that same undefeated fear.
The suns were sinking lower behind the softly choppy sea. Luke, now part of the water's surface, part of the gently roiling seaweed deep below, part of the great and ancient fishes that swam in the black, and also still standing by the place where he liked to meditate and watch the sky, watched the suns as he had done when he was young, and he wished he had known what Rey did when she was a child. About fear. About failure.
But it was going to be easier for the next Jedi to become stronger than he had been, because he had made those mistakes. And Luke realized he was content with that. He had done his best, and his best had left hope behind for others to pick up and carry on down the road.
It didn't need to be said, after all, these fragile and fading hidden shards of his past. Luke could let them go, too, so he did. And as they dropped from the ghost of his self, he breathed, Ahch-To's wind gently rose and swirled around the outcropping where he had lived and died, and he trembled within the streams of the Force, and he reached out one more time - just for now, one more time to say goodbye. He could help guide those that needed him later, regather and awaken in the Force as someone reached for him, but first he needed to rest.
He felt them all, those little campfires spread throughout the galaxy, and knew the Force had never slept or gone away, as some feared. It had been there all along, just needing to be found, and that was good. He felt Leia, and saw her chin rise as she sensed him go by, and they were both filled with gladness, knowing they would see each other again soon. And Luke went to Rey, awake and alive and full of joy among her friends, where he sensed… yes. The tremulous touch of something else present.
The Force sparked and rode around the Falcon in a current, and carried on it, he saw the punchline of the last joke his old friend and mentor had left behind during his visit. The ancient books of the Jedi, safely away from the temple and in the hands of someone, something new.
On that sacred island outcropping, there where the ruins of a temple sat between the Dark and the Light, the wind gathered and blew and carried lightly and laughing on it were the words, "Yoda, you weird little bastard," and then the last of Luke's self was subsumed into the Force, to join all his friends and his family that had gone on before him.
Somewhere below, on the sea-salty rocks, a family of porg hooted gently, knowing with instinctive sureness that the next dawn was going to be a bright and hopeful one.
. . .
"The soul appears to be finite because of ignorance. When ignorance is destroyed, the self reveals itself. Like the sun, when the clouds pass away." ~ Adi Shankara, Atma Bodha
12/28/2017, all rights to the appropriate creators. Thank you for coming.