Friday, December 23, 2016

Was Yoda a Good Guru?


Something always bothered me about Star Wars. It wasn't Lucas' re-editing or the three prequels damned to sci-fi hell by angry nerds -- I always thought Yoda made no sense.

The little green guru was supposed to be profound and insightful but what emerged from his backwards speech struck me as banal. Yoda's lines about fear and bravery sounded less like philosophy honed by 900 years and more like the vacuous pronouncements of a life coach.

On top of all that, I wasn't sure that Yoda's advice was even helpful. Instructing Luke to never get angry, to never fear his enemies, seemed ignorant of human nature -- perhaps even psychologically harmful. So I asked a psychologist to find out if Yoda's advice was psychologically any good.

Dr. Nakia Gordon is a professor of psychology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her research focuses on how we use emotion to navigate our lives. In an email exchange, I sent Dr. Gordon a selection of Yoda's most famous lines from all the Star Wars films.

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