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Eric ClaytonMay 04, 2021
Daniel Cheung on Unsplash 

“Check your porch for a package tomorrow,” the text from my brother read. “I’ll let you know when I get the notification.”

Package? I thought. My youngest daughter’s baptism was coming up. Maybe he was sending a christening gift.

No, I realized, scrolling through earlier texts. My brother had been asking about my Star Wars Lego collection, sets I was missing, minifigures I had yet to acquire. Next week is May 4h—Star Wars Day.

We don’t always get each other gifts for Star Wars Day. It’s an ad hoc tradition, if such a thing can exist. One year he sent me a Darth Vader mug that swirled your coffee with a push of a button; another year I sent him a version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” featuring the Death Star. We one-up each other with Lego sets–he outdid himself this year: Ahsoka Tano, B-1 Battle Droids and clone trooper minifigures with an armored assault tank. Both my three-year-old and my wife were impressed.

As people, we need to celebrate. It’s too easy to miss the tiny miracles going on all around us.

Star Wars Day, it seems, is a not-so-subtle attempt by Disney to capitalize on people like me who barely need an excuse to buy more “Star Wars”-themed stuff. This is capitalism at its worst: a made-up holiday to justify aggressive consumption of unnecessary goods and pad the bank accounts of movie and toy executives.

And yet, I can’t help but think there’s something more at work here—whether Disney intended it or not. My brother and I grew up loving “Star Wars”; we still do. The stories captivated us, inspired us, sent us scampering around the house swinging empty cardboard wrapping paper tubes at one another. Hummm. Zummm. Hummm.

Though our makeshift lightsabers were recycled long ago, we return to that galaxy far, far away frequently. Video game announcements, new shows, movie trailers—we keep one another up to date, imagining where the story might yet go. And even my 3-year-old daughter, when FaceTiming her uncle, is always determined to catch a glimpse of Darth Maul in Lego form sitting on his desk.

As people, we need to celebrate. It’s too easy to miss the tiny miracles going on all around us: the glistening of the morning dew, squirrels racing up and down an old oak, a great-grandmother hugging her great-granddaughter, the very air we breathe.

These are all causes for celebration, no? Here we are, barreling onward, grappling with life in all its messiness and challenge and surprise. That’s the story of the human race. There’s somuch to celebrate.

That’s the point of Star Wars Day: to bask in our shared love of a single story.

But our tendency—our temptation—is to confine this desire for joy and shared humanity to a handful of yearly moments: birthdays, Christmas, maybe a summer barbecue. And as a result, we face a stark calendar–particularly these past several months. Celebrations of life and wonder and hope are tiny pinpoints of light among an otherwise desolate series of unfortunate events.

Ahsoka is my daughter’s favorite character, so she was quite pleased at the addition to our Lego collection. “Let’s play “Star Wars” Legos, daddy!” she squealed the night I built the set my brother gave me. We carefully took out the Jedi Starfighter and the Tauntaun and the Baby Yoda minifigure and all the rest and lined them up. My daughter was thrilled, and it was all I could do to keep her from taking the new pieces to bed with her.

“Star Wars” is a story, of course, and a fictional one at that. Legos, books, movies—these forms of media give us fans a chance to participate in that story. That participation expands the imagination. I see it in my daughter; I see in her what I remember of myself from that age, playing at “Star Wars” stories with my own dad.

Of course, that’s the point of Star Wars Day: to bask in our shared love of a single story, to see and celebrate our common experience of a sprawling franchise.

But, more important, that’s the point of celebration in general. We lift our gaze beyond ourselves—even for just a moment—and look upon something good and beautiful and inspiring together, despite the hardships and challenges we still face. And we should do that more often.

It’s a spiritual disposition, a recognition that the holy really islurking behind every corner, buried within every morsel of life. Things as seemingly trivial as a new set of Legos can point us beyond ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we ignore life’s challenges, that we pretend everything is going just fine. Look around—it isn’t! And yet a disposition to celebrate even the smallest, silliest things opens us up to hope, tills the soil of our souls and makes room for new seeds, new growth.

Dean Brackley, S.J., the Jesuit priest who went to live and minister in El Salvador in the wake of the brutal murders of his Jesuit companions and their associates, puts it like this in his book The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times:

When the poor insist on celebrating life no matter how bad things are, and on sharing what little they have, they communicate hope. What accounts for that smile with so little grounding in the facts? There is more here than meets the eye. Sin abounds, but grace abounds even more.

Father Brackley was talking about a very specific community at a very specific time, but perhaps we find ourselves in his words. When my brother or my wife, my neighbor or my colleague, when I insist on celebrating life, what happens? What do we communicate?

In this case, a love for “Star Wars.” But hope, too. Hope that I might see what is worth celebrating now, in this moment and hope that my celebration might lighten the darkness for someone else—one Lego brick at a time.

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