“They say the streets of heaven are paved with gold. But they’ve forgotten to pave the sidewalks at all.”
Any New Yorker knows that there are distinctly different types of concrete comprising the sidewalks of the city. Of course you have the basic, white, slabs stationed all the way from Williamsburg to the Upper East Side, but the closer you get to Bushwick the more dark gum spots stain the floor beneath and the dirt from your shoes seem to have permanently sunk into the pavement. I mean yes, the Vanderbilt's could transport the yellow brick road from Oz itself if they really wanted to and I’m sure the Rothschild’s have purchased the London Bridge at some point, but when you step out of the subway onto Park Avenue the dichotomy is almost as clear as the marble.
Take a walk downtown and you’ll see how the early rockers carved their names into the streets by its resemblance to the alleys of Europe. Cobblestone, bricks, and pebbles lead the way to Electric Lady Studios on West 8th. Abbey Road is in Camden but it could just as well be in Greenwich Village. Until NYU moved into town, at which point much of the original cobble dripping with pigeon droppings was replaced with new cobble, cobble made somewhere in China as a red-carpet for the piles of Midwestern kids moving in to discover their inner Clapton.
If you can bear to be on the train for so long, take the E and transfer to the M into middle of nowhere Middle Village, Queens, where you’ll be greeted by a roller coaster of stone, brown rocky-mountain slush-turned concrete placed in squares too small for their size.
And when you can’t take it anymore, when you want uniformity and less disparity, you’re perfectly free to take a PATH or LIRR train out of the city. Go to New Jersey or Long Island and you won’t have any more problems. Complete neighborhoods have selected their ground in a zoning meeting somewhere and so everywhere it’s the same. Or maybe there is no sidewalk at all- after all, why walk past the homeless man and be forced into making eye contact with him when you can drive by the mall on your way to soccer practice? In New York, even the Vanderbilt's have to step out onto the pavement on their way to the Opera.
- Alexandra G. Kytka
As I’m lounging on my couch sick at home, John William’s brilliant soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back resounds across the living room as Luke Skywalker grapples with his potential origins in the dark side of the force. Boxes of tissues are scattered across the room so that with very little effort I can keep lounging and blowing my red nose, but luckily, my mind is more focused on thee grammatical patterns of Yoda’s endearing speech.
If I had to pick a religion that most echoes the world of Star Wars, I might pick Hinduism. And in fact, many sources suggest George Lucas holds Hindu beliefs, and so many other before me have made the same connection, pointing especially to the “Force” as a reflection of Brahman.
But if the Force is an echo of Hindu beliefs, it is a very diluted one. For one thing, although the Force apparently is in all (and can be used for either good or bad), the Force is not all. There is nothing to suggest beings themselves (for example Darth Vader and Princess Leia) are anything but distinct, lacking the monism of Hindu cosmology. Furthermore, such an extreme dichotomy between good and evil (the dark side and the light) is more representative of a Judeo-Christian ethos than a Hindu one, in which destruction is necessary for recreation and morality is dependent on dharma and the maintenance of the social order.
Chewbacca seems to be making fun of me as I have these thoughts. Perhaps having missed school today (and subsequently my World Religions class), I am trying to make up from it by referencing my class material. Of course, George Lucas was not tied down to perfectly recreating a Hindu worldview in his filmmaking and I’m certainly not suggesting he was trying to at all. But there is an interesting note to be made in how Western pop-culture uses belief systems and cultures, especially that of different cultures. It has gotten to the point where words like karma and reincarnation are more likely to remind me of an twenty-something year old hippie playing guitar in Washington Square Park than an actual Hindu practitioner of Indian descent. But it’s hard to truly engage in conversations of comparative religion and worldview when our conception of belief systems are so far removed from their original culture. The reason Star Wars can’t perfectly replicate a Hindu cosmos is partially because that Hindu cosmos is intricately intertwined with the geographical, social, economic, and political history of its people.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this particular post. Maybe it’s the consistent sinus pressure or the fact that Han Solo has just been encased in carbonite. I guess I’m trying to say that although connections between films and religion/philosophy are fascinating and worth a thought or two, we cannot rely only on the plots of Hollywood blockbusters to critically analyze the implications of world views. Simply put, The Empire Strikes Back may end in a victory for the Rebel Alliance but the cyclical universe of Hinduism doesn’t include an ending at all.
- Alexandra Kytka
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