It’s been almost two weeks since I had an episode of Star Wars Rebels to look forward to. For four years I followed the series about a bunch of idealistic misfits who manage to become a major force for change in the fictional far, far away galaxy. It’s the first TV series I can recall that I followed from inception to finale, which is a compliment to creator Dave Filoni and those working on it. I didn’t stick with it just because it was Star Wars, I watched because it did an excellent job of telling its stories
That’s not to say Rebels didn’t have faults or oddities. I think it stuck truer to the style and nature of storytelling inherent in the original trilogy than the sequel trilogy, but that’s not so much why I bring up the show. I mention it, because I’m sad it’s over and excited to see what comes next. As someone who likes telling stories that’s something you strive for, so understanding that feeling is key to my growth as a writer. More importantly, as someone who believes everything universally experienced by mankind has a significance, and I have no doubt the wistfulness of something special ending is universal, I really want to know what is going on. I think Star Wars Rebels helped me figure it out.
A major theme used in final promotions and in the closing episodes of Rebels was “One last lesson.”
When Ezra finishes his lesson and the final episode credits roll, as an audience, there’s the desire for something more. For this experience to which we’ve been tied to not end. Anytime we finish something that spans a significant amount of time, whether it be a book/movie/television series or some phase of our life like graduating from college, we face that moment where we realize it’s over and we wish that it wasn’t. Where does that come from? I would argue it is from our innate desire for permanence. We as human beings are finite. We have a beginning and regardless of your views on the afterlife, we have at the very least an end in this world. So it would seem very natural to view our dislike for endings as a projection of our greater dislike of life’s ending. One might argue it isn’t really possible to tease out which is first here, our dislike of endings and therefore death, or our dislike of death and therefore endings. But Scripture helps shed some light on the ordering.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
If all of Creation longs to be set free from the present state of things, we have then the origin for a number of things. One our love of escape from the real world in the form of stories and two our desire to get to the ending, which we usually assume will be good (notably, even though at the outset Star Wars Rebels seemed almost certain to have to end badly in order to fit in with the original trilogy, I still found myself expecting that the story couldn’t end so dark). We recognize innately this world’s limitations for fulfillment and long for the last page of its story, where everything is set free from the burdens weighing everything down. At the same time we have another inherent sensibility at work:
“For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)
We don’t like endings, though we eagerly expect them, because we all want the story to go ever on. In each of us is a notion of eternity and our desire for it. Even those who do not believe in life after death, couch their end in terms of existing on as atomic matter forming the fabric of the universe. Being the fabric of the universe and at the same time having beliefs of its vast period of existence coupled together seem like an atheist’s equivalent of longing for the eternal even if expressed in different terms. So now, we have, as I see it, the two halves of what makes it so hard to see stories end. In them is the microcosm of the greater struggle with longings we often dare not face directly, able to take flight in a safer plain. In fiction, we find ourselves able to face truths of reality we could scarce do so otherwise. Star Wars Rebels had a potent last lesson for on finality. We long for the end of things, because we sense it must be better than the present, yet we long for permanence. We are all quietly yearning for a city “whose builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, 16).