|Posted on July 18, 2012 at 8:30 AM|
Today I present my entry in the July blog chain on the topic “Celebrate,” in honor of the chain’s two-year anniversary. Of course, we see a wide variety of celebrations in science fiction, so finding one to focus on was a challenge. Let’s look at a few.
1) The classic Battlestar Galactica opens on the long anticipated celebration of a truce between the 12 colonies, apparently in the same system, because they’ve just made a deal with the glossy tin-plated Cylons. A reporter named Athena stands in the middle of an empty arena, featuring banners, a lawn spelling out PEACE in flowers, and high hopes. However, even as Athena talks up a brand-new era for the colonies, a cloud of slick Cylon ships attacks. Their blasts force her to find her son Boxey and his mechanical dagget Moppet, and run for their lives.
2) Original Trek had an episode titled “Whom Gods Destroy,” featuring the pompous self-styled “Lord Garth” and his tremendous ego. He glories in his own accomplishments, probably exaggerated, and the coronation is a lavish affair with a banquet table and some kind of sensuous dance by the lithe, blue-skinned Marta. This may be part of why I created several alien main characters with blue pigmentation (minus the dancing, of course).\
3) The Next Generation’s “The Next Phase” concluded with a funeral that did not look much like one. For the bulk of the episode, Geordi LaForge and Ensign Ro are so out of phase that they appear to be ghosts. To make sure they can be seen when they’re bombarded with anyon waves, they attend their own funeral which includes a jazz festival, complete with Riker’s trumpet stylings. This may be disturbing to some, but I like it. True, unbelievers are not likely to have a joyful experience in death, but for Christians I think more funeral homes should offer it as an option. After all, who is more apt to have a joyous reunion in the Afterlife than God’s people?
But the most extensive celebration I’ve seen occurs at the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Let me briefly trace the story to help.
Episode I: the Phantom Menace - We meet the evil Sith emperor, whose first champion is Lord Maul. By appearance, Maul may resemble one classic idea of the Devil, but he’s only a hominid. More importantly, Qui-Gon and his padawan learner, Obi-Wan Kenobi, face down Darth Maul, protect Queen Amidala, and meet Anakin Skywalker as a little boy.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones - Amidala goes from queen to senator because she feels that’s where she’d be more effective. Anakin and Amidala become attracted to each other, even as he tries to protect her from assassination. Anakin starts to show a rebellious side, fueled by the brutal death of his mother under the Sandpeople.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Here’s where the apparently humble Palpatine, also known as Lord Sidious, gains the physical characteristics that last through the rest of the series. The clones manufactured in Episode II become such trusted servants that nobody expects a sudden turnaround. While the clones murder Jedi right and left, Anakin and Obi-Wan fight to the death on flotsam drifting down a river of lava. Anakin survives, only to become Darth Vader.
Episode IV: A New Hope - On Tatooine, Luke Skywalker is drawn into the conflict when he meets Obi-Wan, who in turn hires a known pirate named Han Solo to provide transportation. They also rescue Princess Leia from Vader’s Death Star, and together they battle Stormtroopers and other enemies. In a battle with Vader, Luke learns he’s his father, just before his hand is severed.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back - Luke receives a prosthetic to replace his missing hand. Now on the icy planet Hoth, rebel forces hide out from Vader’s probes, until one finds them. They evacuate, but rather than reunite with them, Luke visits a swampy world called Dagobah, and meets Jedi master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han and Leia travel to Bespin, a city in the sky which runs a mining operation. But Vader finds them and uses them as bait to attract Luke Skywalker. Han is sealed in carbonite and taken to slug-like villain Jabba the Hutt’s lair.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi - After a daring escape from Jabba, the rebel forces discover a new, apparently not complete, Death Star has been constructed. It orbits the forest moon Endor, where tribal teddy bears called Ewoks live. A few dizzy runs in the forest and several close calls later, they find the generator bunker where the Death Star gets its power. The bunker is breached and the vehicle is destroyed.
So, there we are. Now the Sith emperor is dead. He won’t be coming up with any more Darths, or Death Stars. Nor will he come up with any other violent opposition to the Alliance. The last few minutes of Episode VI are taken up with celebrations that amount to “ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.”
The Ewoks see the Death Star explosion in the sky—a very cool special effect, by the way. They and their new Alliance friends cheer and hug each other. They congratulate each other, singing victoriously. Later, fireworks explode on Endor’s night side, and in the skies of allied planets. Church bells gong. Vader’s uniform lies in effigy while the Ewoks set fire to it. Dancing abounds. One Ewok bangs Stormtrooper helmets like drums.
Considering all they’ve been through, this revelry is perfectly logical. People everywhere who suddenly find no more dictator to fear rejoice in exactly the same way.
We in the United States have never been under full control of a dictator (so far) but we still have cause to celebrate throughout the year. There’s Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and various Federal holidays. There are sad celebrations, like Memorial Day, amid the happy ones. How miserable it must be for sectarian religious people who eschew all holidays, under the guise of not catering to paganism.
Well, it’s true a few pagan traditions have worked their way into our holy days, but it’s the spirit of the season that’s important, not the literal forms. Under these people’s strict interpretation, even birthdays and anniversaries are excluded.
Yet festivals have been an integral part of God’s design since the days of Moses and Aaron. And these were not single days like Christmas, or a weekend off like Thanksgiving. Typically they lasted seven or eight days—a whole week.
“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to Me. Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt. No one is to appear before Me empty-handed. Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord” (Exodus 23:14-17).
Clearly God’s purpose in instituting festivals is to draw His people closer to Him, and to each other. Nor were these meant to be solemn occasions, with a long face and droning monotone. It gives the impression the minister doesn’t know how to have fun.
“On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month” (Leviticus 23:40-41).
You cannot rejoice before the Lord with a long face. There’s a place for solemnity and a place for frivolity. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). “Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed” (2 Chronicles 29:27-28 ).
When we think about God’s benefits and blessings, we should have an attitude of rejoicing and singing. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1).