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Force and Faith: Sympathy for Maul

Force and Faith: Sympathy for Maul

Please allow me to introduce my subject.  He is a man of power and strength.  He’s been around for long, long years, and laid many a Jedi souls to waste.  Staring into our souls from every poster, every toy store peg and the merchandising for The Phantom Menace was this red devil instilling fear and unease.  His presence in the rise of the Sith is palpable, though his loss of usefulness caused his expulsion from the Sith.  But in the end, he is a cautionary tale for us who are buffeted by the pains of this world. 

Maul was a being that was victimized from the very beginning of his life.  Now, I will offer a lot of sympathy for him in this article.  Do not get lost or sidetracked: we must get to his tragic end to find the value to meditating upon such unmitigated evil.  So our victim.  He is the very flesh of a strong Dark Side practitioner, Mother Talzin.  He was marked before his age of reason with those monstrous tattoos, as signs of his intended purpose.  In her entanglement with Darth Sidious, Maul was the pawn.  Sidious stole the lad when he recognized his immense strength and trainability.  By his tutelage, Maul became enraptured with the idea of vengeance being rained down upon the Jedi.  He was literally fed the images and anguish of the Sith defeats – and he yearned for their revenge.  All of this was implanted in him, without respect for the person, without concern for his freedom, without deference to his own desires.

But what’s puzzling you, what’s confusing you, Is the nature of his game

Darth Maul was marked as a weapon.  Trained to be a fearsome warrior, he was the face of the unveiling of the Sith, thought to be long gone.  He was used in his majesty’s vengeful service.  Maul was not seen as a partner by his master.  He was a weapon, a being that was useful to Sidious’ own purposes.  There was no regard for him as a sentient being.  He was a utilitarian tool.  And what happens when a tool breaks?  Where is that hammer of yours that has the broken handle?  Sadly, he himself blindly said “I was apprentice to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become … so much more.”

And then Palpatine Washed his hands and sealed Maul’s fate.

He was strong, full of potential and imbued with Force sensitivity.  Imagine the promise in another circumstance!

Maul was trash.  Or more directly, he was treated as trash.  You use this word.  You do!  That person with the suspicious sores, that child of God enraptured in the drug world, that person who betrayed you and made you feel insignificant.  This is the dirty world we really live in, one where sometimes a person’s value is dependent on my use for them.  So Maul is trash, from a certain point of view.  Used as the opening salvo in the renewed Jedi-Sith conflict, he was a soldier sent on a suicide mission.  You know the battle.  You can hear the music, the red force fields separating him from his prey.  And that definitive lightsaber swipe.  Obi-Wan Kenobi, moved to avenge his master.

A strength growing; Pitched fighting; Evisceration; The look of surprise and fear as Maul Is rent asunder; His fall down a bottomless chasm.  And at the bottom of it all, he was tossed away by his master as garbage.

But while he was in his exile, he lost something more important.  Legs, in the larger picture, are a small deal.  His mind was lost.  Incensed with a burning rage that consumed his rationality; a purpose existentially held yet suddenly incinerated.  This phase of his life was marked by having half of his body replaced with cybernetically.  This trash was healed with trash.  And he being a man bent on vengeance, sought to exact it upon Obi-Wan.  There are many more exploits here.  Trace his life and you will find an incredibly satisfying story.  But let us move to his end.

Stuck around Mandalore

When he saw it was a time for a change.

Killed the Duchess Satine and her ministers.

Bo-Katan howled in pain.

Dear readers, my life is also a bit of a mess.  Myriad changes have come my way in the past year.  My very self-definition has been challenged, honed – and some of it even buried.  And through it all, I still have hope that healing is possible.  I have hope that something good will come around the corner even as I am fallen down right here.  I aim to always be the hope guy.

Now Maul was not the same.  He was malformed by the hands of many others.  Revenge was his constant motivation.  In his life in the shadows, he built up a criminal empire to visit pain upon the master who had previously shunned him.  Sidious, Obi-Wan, Mandalore, the Galaxy: He wanted it all to hurt.  This wasted him.  Or more accurately, by his own actions, he wasted the end of his life.  He had no overlord to subjugate him.  He was his own being.  And he stalked Obi-Wan.  But in that final showdown of ancient foes, bright truth dawned on him under the crimson and yellow suns of Tatooine.  Maul learned that a new hope was rising, that Luke Skywalker would bring balance to the Force and destruction to the Sith.  This final piece offered the lone bit of solace to his blackened heart.  As he was at his end dying in the arms of his first Jedi enemy, Maul learned who Luke was and what he would bring about.  Maul asks is he “the chosen one? … He will avenge us!”  Maul had been a pawn.  Someone else’s weapon.  Trash.  Yet in the end, compassion, honesty and respect were given by Obi-Wan.  His life was wasted, but his value as a being would not be consigned to oblivion.

Now, I am not offering sympathy for Satan (and indeed, there are apologists for all sorts of evil clogging up the hyperspace lanes).  My point here is that as humans we are given the great gift of free will. Zabraks too.  And out of that free will, all options are possible.  Faced with a lost wallet, one could keep the contents or search for the owner.  Faced with immense power, it could be used for service or degradation.

So: what happens when that free will is somehow seemingly inhibited?  You see, freedom is God-given, and inherent.  But what about the kid who was born to those with evil intentions?  What about the young one who is raised with his range of choices restricted to maleficent ends?  How much can that babe be blamed?  Rather, does the blame belong to the devil himself?  Perhaps more so it belongs somewhere closer.  The parents, the community, the larger culture.

We are products of a lot that has gone before us.  We are benefactors and sufferers of much out of our control.  So the judgment of the actions of a person cannot be simply judged by static rules.  Rather, we must understand the actions and life of a person based on their efforts and intentions.  And be forgiving.  In addition to being free, the heart is inherently good.  This law of goodness is written on every heart, and offers the possibility for some grasp, whether tenuous or perfect, on the hope in the one who does not make us unwitting slaves, but partners through respecting our free will.

This IS the Podcast you’re looking for!

Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it.  You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the several podcasts in the Coffee With Kenobi family!

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Coffee With Kenobi, its hosts, respective writers, or its affiliates.

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4 Comments

  1. Tommy Mac aka "DJ Maul"
    September 22, 2018 at 10:03 Reply

    excellent article!

    As a huge Maul fan, I was disappointed with his early demise in the film, confused at first by the idea of resurrecting him for the Clone Wars show, and ultimately satisfied with how they developed his character into something far beyond what George Lucas initially gave us.

    Things are always much more complex than they seem. At first Maul is simply an evil thing, one of “The Bad Guys” that we’re supposed to root against and cheer when they fall.

    But he’s far more complicated than that. Do you truly have free will when all your choices have been forced upon you since birth?

    Can you choose to do the RIGHT thing when all you’ve been taught is wrong?

    How can you know love and compassion and trust when all you’ve ever been taught is hate and violence?

    whatever one’s belief system is, his story provides a lot of food for thought on how we see the actions of others.

    1. James Worthington
      September 24, 2018 at 11:38 Reply

      In the beginning, Star Wars was about the struggle between good and evil, a battle between light and dark. We understood that because it was how we saw the world in the 70s. Good guys, bad guys, cops and robbers, and so on. And as we moved into the later decades, and as the movie creators moved into different phases of their lives, it became about something else. There were no longer white hats and black hats. There were people of vast motivations and coming various life experiences. The bad guys believed they were doing something good (stinking Thanos), the good guys were blinded by the creep of selfishness (but don’t tell the Senate that the powers were waning!). So now we have a galaxy that is flip turned upside down so that there is no surety, no guarantee that what you have believed or believe or will believe has a basis in valid fact. So what is the basis, the genesis, the unmovable thing that we can guarantee is never changing? Actually, I think it is goodness. It is God, who is immutable. The right thing is always there, always possible to be uncovered. But we also need to be forgiving to ourselves. Did I do the most good today? Well, I work a job helping people. But I bought discount shoes to wear to work, probably made in nefarious factory; I drove a vehicle that used gasoline. I’ve tried to do good, but it is sullied by some intrusions that I can’t avoid. So all I can do is try. All you can do is try. All Maul can do is try. Perhaps the best thing he did will be the worst thing you ever do. Is that enough? Well, is that even a helpful question? There never is enough. There is only the effort and the intention. Yeah, im still sympathetic to this dude, and I know that I am by no means a judge, but a flawed person that needs to keep working on myself and allowing the Divine to work on others (so I don’t have to!).

  2. Melinda
    September 23, 2018 at 14:21 Reply

    James, I am so sorry you have had to endure that which has been thrust upon you over the course of the last year. I don’t know what it may be but as an avid reader of yours, I know this is not the first time you have mentioned this, and I certainly hope that everything works out for you.

    Nurture vs. Nature. Where does one leave off, and the other pick up? Are they totally separate from each other? Or do they work in tandem? Ask 10 different psychologists, and I bet you’d get 10 different answers. Oh, maybe some explanations might be similar, but I bet there would be subtle differences nonetheless.

    When Darth Maul burst on to the scene back in 1999, he was so obviously supposed to be evil incarnate (next to Sidious, of course). (The make-up job was absolutely fantastic!) Dare I admit when Obi-Wan Kenobi vanquished the double-bladed lightsaber wielder, I rejoiced (inwardly). Another “Star Wars” baddie done away with! ( 😉 ) (Dare I say I wasn’t all that huge a fan to see him “resurrected” in the “Clone Wars” animated series … but as I like to do with anything “Star Wars”, I accepted this/his storyline. Maul made a good foil to Obi-Wan.)

    But truly, what choice did Maul have … given his upbringing and associations? Can one blame him for turning out the way he did? When … WHEN … did he EVER have an ounce of kindness shown toward him? When … WHEN … did he ever learn there was another way? We might sit back, and say, “He should have known what he was doing was wrong!” … but could he? Would he? He had so much hate and terrible, warped ideas shoved down his throat — from a very young age — he really is the epitome of brainwashing. (Sadly — to say the least — such can be said about real-life “characters” with whom we have to deal in today’s world. 🙁 ) Can he be forgiven? I don’t know. Pitied, certainly, but forgiven … I am not too sure. Why do I answer the way I answer? Because Maul never atoned for all the evil, destruction, harm he caused. For me, forgiveness and atonement go hand in hand. “This law of goodness is written on every heart, and offers the possibility for some grasp, whether tenuous or perfect, on the hope in the one who does not make us unwitting slaves, but partners through respecting our free will,” you write. They are such powerful words, James. I love them! However, they are not completely true. This law of goodness is not written on every heart. Oh, if only this was true.

    This was an exceptional read, James!

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. James Worthington
      September 24, 2018 at 11:28 Reply

      The Law of goodness is indeed written on the heart; in fact, that is the essence of the heart. This was my only biblical quote in the whole piece! (“the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrew 10.15-18).” The word heart conveys more than the smooth cardiac muscle and its operation. The heart is the seat of courage, strength, love: the very throne of God Himself in the center of the human person. So the heart is decorated as the holy of holies of the temple to God within the person. It is the seat of all good things (for this is the reductionistic definition of God: the most good). The inscription is there. But for our subject here, it has been muddied, covered, abused or something. But it is always there. What we are hinting at here is the difference between the Eastern and Western versions of Christian theology. For the West, sin is seen as crime deserving punishment. That theology says that the image of God within has been broken. And because it is broken, punishment is necessary. In Eastern Christian theology, the image of God has been muddled, but is still somewhere in there. Because God himself is eternal, and because he has implanted himself as the center of the existence of the human person, the image can never be broken. It can receive external damage, be hurt in the ways mentioned. It can’t be destroyed. Therefore, the person needs healing, not punishment. So does forgiveness require some sort of atonement? Atonement may follow, but to link them inseparably is to say that there is a human act necessary for forgiveness. This is something that is the provenance of God alone. So he desires to heal. There is no human act that can add to that. Atonement cannot truly ever even be made by a mortal creature. So forgiveness is a grace, a free gift from the Divine One who is himself the only true physician.

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