Attachment Vs. Love

Today is Christmas, one of the two great feasts celebrating the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (The other is the Feast of the Annunciation, when He first became man, as a fertilized egg in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.)

One of the great revelations of God to the Children of Israel was that He not only was willing to look after them as their god, but to perform a covenant ceremony with them that made them part of the same clan. Throughout Israel’s history, He did not just act like their king; as Isaiah daringly sang, He acted like their father.

Isaiah 63:16 –

“But You are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel [Jacob] acknowledge us;
You, Lord, are our father,
“our redeemer” is Your name from of old.”

Ki ‘attah ‘abinu
ki ‘Abraham lo yeda’anu
we-Yisra’el lo wekiranu
‘attah YHWH ‘abinu
go’alenu me’owlam semeka

(Isaiah rhymes a lot. I feel that this should be made clearer to us English speakers.)

Isaiah 64:7-8 –

For You have hidden Your face from us
and have dissolved us
because of our iniquities.
Still, O Lord, our Father
are You; we are
the clay; still You are our potter;
we are all the work of Your hand.

ki histarta paneka mimmennu
beyad ‘awonenu
we-‘attah YHWH ’abinu
’attah; ‘anahnu
ha-ḥomer we-’attah yo-serenu
uma‘aseh ya-deka kullanu.

The next step was to have God join our clan and take up our lives, and even die and rise for us. He did not turn away from us or hide His face; He dug in deeper and was even stubborner than His people.

Which brings me to the other subject of this post.

One of the great problems with Star Wars is that it doesn’t adequately explain (through action!) the difference between love and attachment, and the difference between the Western and the Chinese/Japanese/Indian ideas of attachment.

The Eastern view is that all love and all involvement in the world is attachment, and therefore the thing to do is to avoid suffering by going off in the mountains, there to never see anyone or do anything ever again. (Bodhisattvas are putting themselves through a lot of crap by deigning to help suffering mankind instead of just dissolving away in nirvana, like a sensible enlightened being.) This led to all the “anger is of the Dark Side” and “Jedi can’t love” silliness.

The Western view is that you go off into the mountains in order to get to know God better and love Him more. Attachment is idolatry of people and things and goals; whereas love values them appropriately, and in their proper relationship to God (Who created them). Celibacy is a tool for focusing on God, and for practicing for life in Heaven where there’s no marriage or sex (but unimaginable intimacy of heart and soul with Christ, and with the rest of His Body). You get less attached, but much more involved and in love.

Alec Guinness was a Catholic, and he played Obi-Wan as an old Western monk who had doubted and gotten weary, but who began to flame up more and more with an inner glow of joy. He threw in a few Oriental bits of flavor, but overall he didn’t present the Asian type of “old master” and monk. Not at all. Star Wars was in large part about finding friends (even if you weren’t friendly at first) and sticking with them, not about dropping all your healthy loves and friendships in favor of nirvana.

Similarly, the Eastern Buddhist idea is that all emotions and thoughts are ultimately destructive and illusory, including the happy ones. The Western idea is that emotions and thoughts shouldn’t become idols and that you shouldn’t chase experiences like a drug; but that ultimately, God wants us to have joy. In His life on earth, Jesus was not ashamed to be angry or to be sad. Emotions are not a failing. He created them for us, to be helpful and beautiful (in moderation).

So without spoiling anybody… it’s pretty clear from the new movie that Star Wars continues to confuse those two things. I hope that the next movie will challenge that confusion. I think it would make a very satisfying story, actually.

Merry Christmas, everybody! Love your families and friends, in the name of Love Himself. Do not fear the suffering that comes with loving others, because Love will make it your glory in the end. Do not give up because it is hard. Dig in deeper.


Filed under Church, fandom

2 responses to “Attachment Vs. Love

  1. Joy

    I am going to have my World Religion students read this post when we get to the Christianity chapter. I just got done explaining Buddhism and “detachment”, and you do a very good job contrasting it with the Christian view.

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