“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” That was almost the first thing that came to my mind when I read today’s Stream of Consciousness prompt: do/dew/due. What an appealing trio of words: so much could be done with each of them, but this piece of wisdom from Yoda draws my attention first. Star Wars fans will remember that Yoda, who makes his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, says this to Luke as Luke struggles to use the Force during his time on Dagobah. (I can already tell that I’m going to be checking on spelling for this post, since I’m not really a diehard Star Wars fan.)
Yoda himself was a surprise when I first saw the movie: who’d have thought that Frank Oz would make an appearance in the second Star Wars movie? (Yes, I know that The Empire Strikes Back has been renumbered as #5 in the series, but, for me and anyone else who saw those first three movies in theaters, it’ll always be #2.) At that time, my main association with Frank Oz was with the Muppets — specifically, with Miss Piggy. Not that long ago, I watched Empire Strikes Back with my youngest son, who comes to the movie with no Muppet Show memories. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get past Oz’s recognizable voice and to take Yoda seriously.
Fortunately, that wasn’t so much of a problem, since Luke himself had trouble taking Yoda seriously. Here Luke shows up at Dagobah looking for this legendary Jedi Master so that he can hone the Jedi skills that he’s recently discovered he possesses. Instead of a dignified sage, he finds this small, strange green creature that annoyingly tries to eat his food and talks in a cryptic fashion. Moreover, Dagobah turns out to basically be a swamp, and Luke’s X-wing sinks in the murky pool. It’s a classic case of good things that come in small packages, as the diminutive Yoda proves himself to be every bit as powerful as Luke anticipated when he raises Luke’s ship using the power of the Force.
Luke — typical impatient youthful protagonist that he is — struggles to master the Force himself, and it is during Luke’s difficulties that Yoda utters these oft-quoted words: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (Indeed, Yoda’s words have generated many a meme–not that I’m a big fan of memes, but it’s impossible to escape them on Facebook.) While I see where Yoda is going with this statement, I find it frustrating. As I read it, Yoda is addressing the limitations or excuses that Luke is placing upon himself, consciously or unconsciously. Yoda is responding to Luke, who has just muttered, “All right. I’ll give it a try.” Trying isn’t enough, in Yoda’s book, because he hints that perhaps the fact that Luke saw his attempts to use the Force as merely a try is in itself the reason that Luke has failed to this point.
I’m not sure that I completely agree with Yoda, but the power of positive thinking may play a role in whether or not we succeed at something. My son’s chess teacher will make the whole class do push-ups if even one student says, “I don’t know.” His point is that your brain believes you when you say, “I don’t know.” I see the logic of that, but, at the same time, I’ve always squirmed when I encountered that popular poster quote, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” Can you? Thinking that I can swim like Michael Phelps doesn’t make me capable of it. Physical limitations will curtail certain ambitions, and it is folly for a young athlete — whether swimmer or runner, dancer or gymnast — to ignore them. Positive thinking can only take you so far, and it almost certainly won’t take you to the Olympics.
And yet, Yoda does have a point. We’ve all heard remarkable stories of athletes who pushed past their physical limitations to do what seemed nearly impossible. Although the UNC Tar Heels men’s basketball team winning the national championship this past April wasn’t deemed impossible, that team certainly didn’t seem the most likely candidate at the beginning of basketball season. We’re big fans of North Carolina in my household, so we remembered vividly the ache of the 2016 championship game when the Heels lost to Villanova, who was something of an underdog. One of the players set the screenshot on his phone to a picture of himself after that demoralizing loss and kept that picture on his phone for a year — to remind himself of what it felt like to lose. The Heels didn’t have a single player who won any of the five awards given annually by the Naismith Hall of Fame to the “Best College Players,” yet they won the National Championship this year. Yes, credit goes to many places (not least to Coach Roy Williams or to point guard Joel Berry, who powered through two sprained ankles to play in the championship game), but this team should be commended for not giving up and for keeping their eyes on the possibility of winning.
Do or do not: there is no try. It doesn’t always work in life, but believing that you’re not going to be able to accomplish something even before you’ve made an attempt certainly won’t help. Thanks, Master Yoda! And as the X-wing, begrimed in weeds and muck, rises to meet the morning dew, I can take heart from Luke’s victory over his own doubt and rejoice that I have completed my Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday writing on the day that it was due.
This post was written as part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday event. To read the rules — or participate yourself on future Saturdays — click on the link. Thanks to Dan Antion of No Facilities for hosting SoCs this week! Go, Heels!