“The Last Jedi” Doesn’t Have to Be: Mentoring and Movies

(Non-warning: This post does not contain any spoilers related to “The Last Jedi,” or at least no spoilers that are not hinted at by the title of the movie.)

(Also, this could become a Rebel Pilgrim series on “The Last Jedi” but Joe Boyd says he is too conflicted about the movie to say anything clearly yet. Stay tuned.

I should admit right here at the beginning that I am the last person who works for our company who should write a blog post on the Star Wars story. Almost everyone in our office knows enough about Star Wars to fill a whole galaxy. In fact, they once made a story card video about the backstory of Star Wars just for kicks.  I, on the other hand, wanted to make Jedi plural in this title but I’m not even sure if there is a correct plural form of Jedi (Jedis? Jedises? Jedim?).

Just to be clear, “The Last Jedi” is the first Jedi for me, or at least the first installment of the story I’ve seen in the theater or paid any real attention to. I’ve seen a couple over the last year, mostly half-heartedly, just to be able to keep up in conversations in the office or in the general pop culture atmosphere. I’ve never connected to any of the story emotionally or been able to find anything in the story that connects to my own. This is why most people love these kinds of stories, after all. We want to see something of our own story on a larger screen, or a larger scale. We want to see something in the other world that looks like ours. This never happened to me in this particular far-away galaxy until this chapter of the story.

In the Rian Johnson -directed installment of the Star Wars saga, one character pleas with another: ““I need someone to help me find my place in all this.”

This line brought me into the galaxy. To be fair, this is not the first time mentoring has played a part in the storyline of the franchise. We talk a lot around Rebel about the role of Mentors in the primal stories we all love and retell and the Star Wars stories provide some very clear examples of this. The heroes have often relied on older, wiser figures to show them how and where to go on their journey. But the delivery of this line, at this point in the story, is such a vulnerable, open-hearted invitation that it felt more like a universal truth than anything I’ve ever heard uttered in space.

This line reflects a deep longing so many people feel to have someone do more than just teach them, but make room for them. We look for it in our work, our families, our city, and whatever galaxy we inhabit. We want to know if there is room for us in the story. We have guesses about the role we might play and what there is for us to do, but sometimes it takes the affirmation of a mentor to help us live the role well.

In the spirit of trilogies, here’s a few notes on mentoring we might all need:

-Mentors see the next generation as a gift, not an enemy. Though it doesn’t always have to be this way, most mentoring situations follow a natural order from people who are a little bit older to people who are a little bit younger. Territorialism, or seeing the next generation as a threat, can put the generations at odds. It makes survival of the individual the central story and loses the plot of passing something along to outlast us.

– Sometimes mentoring is as much about listening as it is about talking. When I was still what many would call a “Young Person,” I was fortunate to have someone mentor me. What I remember more than anything she said was the space she made for me to say things out loud.

-Leave room for mutual teaching. We all have something that someone else needs to know. In many environments I’ve been a part of, there is a large population of people hoping someone will mentor them, and another big crowd of people who don’t see themselves as potential mentors. But almost everyone has something that someone else needs to know.