Saga It Is Your Destiny: What Does Star Wars Have To Say About Fate?

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 26, 2013.

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  1. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    Earlier I saw a post in a different section where the author offhandedly mentioned how destiny is an important concept in Star Wars. It is, but what are the films really saying about it?

    In the Classic Trilogy, it always seemed to me that destiny in a strong sense was something the films argued against. When Vader says 'it is your destiny' or the like, or the Emperor makes similar remarks, they seem to be proven incorrect, or at least narrow-minded, by later events. Yoda says, "always in motion is the future." The Emperor forsees Luke destroying him; this doesn't happen. Vader's and the Emperor's overconfidence lead them to destruction in this respect. Even Ben seems rigid in his notions of what 'must' happen in the future, and when it does happen, it's different than he appears to have expected. It goes on and on.

    In the prequels, the notions of a prophecy and a Chosen One are added to the mythos. Both of these concepts seem to have been in GL's mind since the Classic era, but they weren't in the films until TPM. A prophecy could turn out to be wrong (or even if it's correct, it could be "misread," as Yoda says), and we don't know exactly what being a Chosen One could mean, or if there could be more than one (notes from the development of ESB might mean that there could). The way the films deal with these concepts includes another expectations reversal ("It was said you would destroy the Sith, not join them!") but that also means that Vader's redemption in ROTJ - which when viewed from a period perspective (or from Vader's point of view) was a surprise - was actually a fulfillment of destiny... possibly the first time (?) in the saga when something that is predicted to happen in this way actually does.

    Lucas also has been quoted talking about fate and destiny, saying something to the effect that there exists for each person a destiny, but that the person can choose to follow it or not. I'm not sure how much sense that makes to me, but the sense it makes depends on the definitions of the words, too.

    So what are the films saying about destiny? Does what the OT says about destiny differ from what the PT says? Does the saga hang together with respect to this concept?
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 26, 2013
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  2. TaradosGon SWTV Mod - Like Palpatine with animals

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    I agree with you in that it doesn't make sense to me either.

    Any definition I can find regarding destiny in a dictionary involves the words "predestined" or "inevitable."

    If you can find your destiny and choose to go a different route, then it's not really your destiny.

    How destiny is viewed in a fictional world can always be different than how it is in the real world, but the fictional representation is only a projection of Lucas' beliefs and I don't quite follow how he can argue that people choose to follow their destinies or not, since by it's very nature a destiny is not something that can be chosen. It is something that necessarily MUST/WILL happen.

    Lucas is describing a situation in which there is a complete lack of destiny in favor of free will and choice, yet curiously continues to use the word destiny to one of these possible choices.

    Palpatine uses the word correctly at least once. "It is UNAVOIDABLE, it is your DESTINY."
    Last edited by TaradosGon, Nov 26, 2013
  3. PiettsHat Force Ghost

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    I think this is due to Lucas using a more "Eastern" meaning behind the word destiny rather a Western one. Western definitions of destiny tend to emphasize that it is unavoidable and predetermined. Calvinism is one such example, where (if I understand it correctly) believers hold that those who will go to heaven have already been chosen and that there is nothing you can do to change your fate. Your behavior in life merely reflects if you are one of the chosen or not.

    Eastern definitions seem more malleable, to me at least. I remember Avatar: The Last Airbender had a pretty good summary of it (from what I understood) when two characters have the following conversation:

    Zuko: "I want my destiny."

    Uncle Iroh: "What that means is up to you."

    I think Lucas means destiny in the sense that we are all given a "task" that only we can complete in our lifetime (be it great or small). And fulfilling this task is why we are here, among the most important contributions we will make. But we don't have to do it and there's no guarantee that we will. It is our choice whether to follow our destiny or not, even if most people never find out what their destiny is. That's what I understood from it, anyway.
  4. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Palpatine tends to emphasise the "unavoidable" bit:

    "It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now ... mine!"
    Last edited by Iron_lord, Nov 27, 2013
  5. PiettsHat Force Ghost

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    Yeah, but Palpatine's the villain (and he was also clearly wrong, as shown by the film, since Luke didn't turn to the Dark Side) so I could understand Lucas not using him as a mouthpiece to reflect his own views. It may be just the opposite, where Palpatine is meant to demonstrate, "Don't believe those who would tell you you have no choice. Your ultimate fate is a result of your choices and your responsibility. You can always resist."

    That's the way I look at it. The whole point of that scene is also, in a way, Anakin realizing that Palpatine isn't right. That he isn't doomed to obey his commands. He has a choice, even if that means sacrificing for it.
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  6. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    That seems likely.
  7. TaradosGon SWTV Mod - Like Palpatine with animals

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    I don't know of where I can read more about the "eastern concept of destiny."

    Every single thing I can find on the word, including the Chinese concept of the "red string of fate/destiny" (Gods bond two people together that are destined to meet and fall in love), states that the outcome of a destiny is unavoidable.

    I will say that I am firmly against the idea of this "kind" of destiny in the Star Wars films, because then that means that Anakin was destined to destroy the Sith, had no choice in the matter, and that his path sooner or later would inevitably lead him to that outcome. To simply watch predestined events unfold weakens the story IMO.

    Do the Jedi ever state that something is destiny? I can't think of an instance off the top of my head, so I could be wrong, but the immediate examples of characters throwing around the world that come to mind are Palpatine and Vader.

    So I agree with @PiettsHat in what Palpatine is meant to demonstrate in using the word, but I can't think of a counterpoint in which the Jedi use the word, only Lucas.

    Similarly, the concept of a prophecy in the Star Wars universe is a little moot, since a prophecy is a foretelling of what will happen based on supernatural guidance. In which case every single future that a Jedi sees via the Force is a prophecy to an extent, but if "always in motion is the future" that weakens the practical use of prophecies if every thing the Jedi and Sith sense of the future is subject to change based on free will and so whether a prophecy comes to pass at all is questionable.

    So someone saw a future of a Chosen One that was destined to destroy the Sith. Through any kind of definition of the words prophecy and destiny, this should mean that this WILL happen. They saw the future and the predetermined outcome.

    Lucas says the future is subject to change and people can ignore their destiny. In which case the birth of a Chosen One is one of several possible futures and all along the way this individual can choose to ignore their destiny.

    That's pretty much the complete opposite of what these words mean.
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  8. HevyDevy Jedi Grand Master

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    Obi-Wan says it a couple of times. ANH - "Your destiny lies along a different path from mine." Proven to be correct. ROTJ - "You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again." Although Luke does, it does not lead to the outcome Obi-Wan and Yoda expect.

    I find it interesting that Palpatine uses the word on both Anakin ("You're fulfilling your destiny, Anakin") and Luke. He was right that Anakin would turn but was overconfident regarding Luke.

    On the thread topic, I think there perhaps was a shift in the concept between trilogies as the OP suggested. The idea of a prophecy indeed does imply a predetermined outcome for Anakin and the Sith, where when just watching the OT Vader's redemption is totally unexpected. Adding in the prequels makes it a little muddled tbh, but this might be somewhat due to my lack of comprehension of the bigger picture. I guess I like to think that Anakin destroying Palpatine was destined, yet Luke, perhaps because he was naturally born, can design his own fate. But like Lucas said, Anakin makes his own choices, hence the confusion for me and seemingly other people.

    Something I have thought about, is Palpatine's view on the prophecy. If he even knew about it, perhaps there was some form of contingency plan in the fact that he temporarily stopped the chosen one by turning him. Of course, we know it just delayed it, but perhaps he quite arrogantly assumed that he had bent fate to his will, as the Sith often do. And there is a parallel in the Jedi's end (ROTS) and the Sith's end (ROTJ) in Mace not believing in the prophecy (anymore?) and not avoiding attempting to kill Palpatine, when he himself had earlier stated that Anakin was the one who will bring balance to the force. Sidious will of course be similarly arrogant in ROTJ when he turns his back on Vader, confident that he has Luke's death in the bag.

    @Piett'sHat makes a good point on the difference in Eastern and Western interpretations of the destiny concept, I'm not enlightnened enough to add much, but it's interesting to read.
  9. Samnz Jedi Grand Master

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    I've always seen destiny as a picture frame and the individual as the one who paints the picture.
    I think Yoda's and Shmi's words support that idea.

    Anakin, this path has been placed before you. The choice is yours alone.
    "This path" is a possible destiny that lies before Anakin. He can either take that path or choose another (path = destiny). From that point on, based on that decision, some things in Anakin's life have been predetermined. One of these being his inevitable choice between Jedi and Sith. It was unavoidable that he had to choose between Jedi and Sith at some point in his life. That choice, again, initiates the next step of his destiny. Had he remained a Jedi, he would have followed a different path and destiny. His decision to save Luke was another "fateful choice".

    It means that ultimately, your destiny is created through the consequences of your choices. That's the way I saw Yoda's Always in motion the future is. The furture is built on the choices of the people in the present. Destiny is a road and the indivduals determine the road they follow at crossroads.
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  10. TX-20 Jedi Grand Master

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    The films teach us that if it is your destiny to be an evil child killing monster, it's all good because everything will be forgiven at the end when you throw an old man down a hole.
  11. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Don't forget Vader's "You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny".

    And in a sense, by choosing to hand himself over, and face the Emperor- he does - becoming the catalyst for Vader's attack on Palpatine.
  12. HevyDevy Jedi Grand Master

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    Yeah, I was actually thinking about that when I was on this thread earlier. When I hear the line "He could destroy us" in ESB I usually think about how Luke will actually do this by breaking their bond.
  13. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    There is a destiny for everyone in the Saga, but it follows that one must choose to embrace or reject it. Anakin was born with the single purpose of destroying the Sith, which was his destiny. But when the moment comes by which he can accomplish this, he rejects his destiny because he believes that in doing so, he will be forced to make a sacrifice. One that he cannot bring himself to do. That is why he betrays the Jedi Order and everything that he once stood for, because he was afraid of being alone and a failure. Luke's destiny was that he had to be trained in the ways of the Force, but he had to make a choice as to which side he would fall on. Palpatine believed that because Luke was like Anakin, that it was an absolute that he would become his father. This is where Obi-wan's statement about Sith Lords dealing in absolute terms comes from. Even though it is an ironic statement, it is also a correct one. Palpatine says that it is unavoidable, whereas Yoda teaches Luke that the future is always in motion. That things can change and often will. This is evident when Anakin's vision of Obi-wan and Padme has him wearing his robe, but when the time comes, he is not. Things had changed up to that point even though the outcome was still the same.

    However, Luke makes the choice to follow the path of the Jedi in the end, because he knows that he has to make a choice and makes it freely. In doing so, he makes the right choice and is saved by it, as well as his father.
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  14. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    There's something in it for everybody. There's the 'Chosen One' prophecy for those who are into that sort of thing, and then there is this:

    "Look kid, I've been from one end of this galaxy to another, seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe that there is one all-powerful Force controlling everything. No mystical energy field controls my destiny. It's all a bunch of simple tricks and nonsense."
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  15. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    I don't believe there is no clear answer. It is possible that one is destined for something. Perhaps not. But regardless, I feel it is a mistake to wrap your life around trying to live up to what one might be destined for. Just live your life, day by day (concept of the Living Force). And if you achieve what you're destined for, then you achieve it. If you don't achieve this destiny, then you don't.
    Last edited by DRush76, Nov 28, 2013
  16. WriterMan Jedi Master

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    If you think about it, Lucas is showing that no matter how you try to stray from your destiny (i.e. becoming a Dark Lord of the Sith and murdering hundreds of people) you will still fulfill your destiny (destroying the Sith). Vader had a destiny, and he did fulfill it.

    As for The Emperor saying that anything was Luke's destiny, I always interpreted that as him being full of it.
  17. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    Am I wrong or if you are able to choose not to follow your destiny, then doesn't that mean that it isn't actually destiny?

    Before the PT, I always felt that SW had an anti-destiny message. "Difficult to see the future is" etc. The message seemed to be that individual choice and responsibility was what it was all about.

    For me, the PT changed all of that with its prophecy angle.
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  18. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    That's the way I see it, and that's precisely why I hate the concept. Anakin's decisions become much less powerful if he was "destined" to make them all along, particularly his decision to overthrow Palpatine. If that was always going to happen regardless, then the whole silent back and forth as Palpatine electrocuted Luke, the suspense when we didn't know if Luke would die, the relief when Vader finally did intervene, is all pretty pointless. Vader isn't having a change of heart after twenty years of horrible decisions, he hasn't returned to the good after his son loved him enough to try to reach him, nope...he was just fulfilling a prophecy. [face_beatup]
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  19. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Running away from your destiny is a metaphor for not following through on it. Luke's destiny was to face his father and he didn't want to do it, because he didn't want to kill his own dad. He tells Obi-wan that he cannot do it. When he arrives at Endor, he senses Vader is there and only realizes in the Ewok Village that night, that he had to face him. That it was not a coincidence that they were there. So Luke goes off to confront Vader but with a plan to not fight him, only to try and help him. Anakin runs from his destiny because he didn't shove his Lightsaber up Palpatine's rear end and switch it on. He instead chooses to turn evil for his own sake, rather than do what needed to be done.
  20. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    I'm not sure I'd go that far. Causality is part of all things; what we call "free" will is constrained by environment, upbringing, history, illness, coincidence, accident, even quantum randomness -- all the things that make up life. We still attribute actions to wills, but we'd be better off recognizing the things that affect those wills. Eventually it all can be traced back to something without what we would call a will.

    The real problem, I think, is when a character professes to know a destiny. To be absolutely sure, a person would have to have absolute knowledge, which is (in real life) an attribute often assigned to supernatural beings (it's a very important aspect of many of them), and within Star Wars I think we'd say the Force itself has 'perfect' knowledge. A Force-user can use it to get little glimpses. And they can draw sweeping conclusions from those glimpses (Palpatine) or they can be more honest about the limitations of precognition (Yoda), but but unless they have become one with the Force, their own knowledge must remain limited, as with all mortals.

    Where does this leave the prophecy? Is it that some ancient Jedi saw a vision of the future, drew a conclusion from it, and that conclusion happened to be fairly accurate? Or does the fact that they got it right start to argue against the view that precognition is necessarily limited, when practiced through the Force? Or is the prophecy itself perhaps just a saying, and its 'fulfillment' entirely dependent on Anakin's knowledge of it and belief that he is the one to whom it refers, and so his will (ha) is shaped to what he believes he's expected to do?
  21. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    I think there are a few different things being discussed interchangably here. If a person has a destiny, then whether he or she believes that he or she does or not is ultimately irrelevant isn't it? That thing WILL happen. The why and the how and then when my vary, but it will happen. And if that person can choose whether or not to do something, then that thing ceases to be a destiny. It becomes an option. I agree that pretty much anything that happens is influenced on some level by myriad factors to the point where it's hard to describe it as a decision of pure free will, but I don't think that's the same thing as destiny. When the PT introduced the idea of the prophecy which we knew would come to be fulfilled, I think there was a major shifting of the GFFA goalposts so to speak. In the OT from what I recall most of the talk of destiny came from the Sith, but the ultimate outcome seemed to be more about Luke's choices. If what Luke did was just a piece of the puzzle which was Anakin's destiny, then I feel that that element is somewhat undermined.
  22. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    I don't see any way around causality. "Will" is simply a convenient semantic package that describes the workings of a brain-mind and related body. This doesn't have to damage suspense or storytelling, because no one can make perfect predictions (i.e., no one has ultimate knowledge), even - or especially - about themselves. So even though the positions and velocities of all the particles and fields (plus quantum randomness) in the universe will result in some given future state, it's too complicated and difficult for a mind to perfectly predict what that state will be, so things can feel a bit less deterministic than they are.

    However, within any given story (Star Wars), there can be problems related to this: In the OT, it seems like indeed "the future is always in motion," and so while Palpatine and Vader overconfidently say they know what absolutely will happen, they turn out to be wrong because even through the Force, one can only see so much and has to guess about the rest (I think so, anyway). In the PT, there is a prophecy which appears to actually come to pass. I'm not sure if that goes against the OT conception of incomplete knowledge and "destiny." Maybe the prophet caught a glimpse of the future and filled in the rest with educated guesses, and it just happened to turn out that way in real life too. Or maybe the prophecy is only one of a thousand vague predictions, and because the Jedi of the PT (including Anakin) are aware of this one, they see the events within that lens. Maybe Anakin actually drives his own actions in certain directions because of his interpretation of it. Of course, if this were meant to be this complicated, it probably would have been addressed in the narrative itself.

    I think we might be agreeing.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 29, 2013
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  23. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

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    Ah...one of my favourite topics. Often I see these discussions (and this argument) on physics forums - usually associated with the concept of consciousness. There is nothing convenient about 'will' within a particular philosophical position held within science (which I will call 'hard materialism'). Basically, if one considers physical causality as primary then 'will' and consciousness are an extra problem - and so the real convenient semantics are the concepts of no-will and non-consciousness.

    Firstly, the evidence we have for our surroundings are known to us only through our observations, and what we consider and call objective knowledge is, in reality, agreed subjective observation (and this is a distinction that has huge ramifications by which almost unbelievable logical errors are made within even the most hallowed sections of the physics community). It seems odd, then, to disassociate the basis of our knowledge from the knowledge itself.

    Lets look at it in terms of the conscious effort involved in writing responses here. You have clearly thought through what it was you wished to say, and what you are saying involves complex concepts (all language is conceptual, a word's meanings are shared and agreed references (in the same way as our objective evidence)). What you have written, therefore, must have a meaning to you, a conceptual model, which you are attempting to share with others. It is something you believe to be true. Belief and meaning are not physically real constructs.

    Given that you consider that will (and by extension conscious thought) are misnomers, would you not be angry with, for example, a mugger who violently attacked you or a friend?

    Lucas has gone on record that the Star Wars films were about choices (prior to his making the PT). The prophecy is, indeed, a departure from the idea of choice - and that is emphasised by Anakin's virgin birth (which is, note, a non-consensual act involving Schmi). It is one of the reasons I dislike the whole prophecy/virgin birth artefact of the PT story-line. It de-emphasises choice, and that seems to be exacerbated by the apparent cajoling of Anakin into his 'choices'. This transforms the prerogative from one of individual choice to fate. In another way, and I'm finding the wording of this very difficult, it transforms a story (the OT) which is about individual responsibility to one in which greater forces than any individual are what really matter.

    I'll try and put that another way. After ROTJ I felt that the rebels had won out against the Empire and, separately, Anakin had been redeemed by the example of his son's behaviour, and Luke had discovered what it truly was to be a Jedi (as had Anakin).

    The idea of 'destiny' is a belittling concept, fixing individuals into pre-ordained relevance; it is the concept of destiny that upholds class and caste systems, delineating individual worth as a place within a given societal framework.

    In sum, the OT subverted mythological precedent and imbued the characters with individual choice - each playing a role they chose to play, each of them responsible for their actions; the PT reduced them to cyphers within a pre-destined event orchestrated by powers outside of their understanding or control, where superheroes (ubermensch) were the physical embodiment of some spectral, ethereal power play.
  24. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    Take away Luke's plot armor, such that he somehow dies before ROTJ. Does Vader necessarily fulfill his "destiny" then?

    The PT films are no less about choices. The choice to go with Qui-Gon is left to Anakin in the first place - and this is Qui-Gon, chief on-screen proponent of the prophecy. And of course the issue of Anakin's choices dominates ROTS to an extent which is pretty much undeniable.

    Not at all. Force prophecy is not absolute, and a prophecy does not mean a predetermined outcome. Always in motion is the future. The only reason why the outcome of the PT was predetermined was because they were prequels. The audience had already witnessed the conclusion of the timeline. In-universe, there was no predetermination and no guarantee of a "positive" or beneficial outcome.
    Last edited by Arawn_Fenn, Nov 30, 2013
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  25. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Great post @only one kenobi . I also see the concept of destiny as belittling, as if we humans are too stupid to determine what happens to us and it must be preordained by some superior being.

    And if Anakin is "destined" to destroy the Sith, what was the point in giving him choices? What exactly is the consequence, in universe or out of it, of not "fulfilling your destiny"? If there are no consequences, why bother with a destiny? Just indicate that everyone has choices and that those choices, both great ones and small ones, affect one's life for better or worse, and be done with it.
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