The Yoda Way
January 20, 2011
Yellow Springs is a pocket of profound liberalism tucked deep in the conservative gullet of Southwestern Ohio. Founded with the intention of being a Utopian Society, it’s like a weird Austin Powers movie brought to life where long hair, bad teeth and men who wear skirts is the norm rather than the exception. Ground Zero of all this strangeness is Antioch College, which often seems more like a bizarre cult or Celtic tribe right out of the Dark Ages rather than an institution of higher learning.
Near Antioch College is a very nice bike and skating path that goes fifteen miles all the way to Xenia, passing through haunted Medway where Tecumseh was born. I used to skate that path every day. I could do it in about two hours.
On the approach to Yellow Springs, the path dives into a thick forest full of deer and wild turkeys–I liked to call it the “Sherwood Forest of Ohio”. One day I saw a man dragging another prone man off the path into the woods. I didn’t know what I was seeing–possibly a homicide in progress. I didn’t have anything to defend myself with, but I couldn’t allow it to go on unchallenged.
As I got nearer, I saw the man being dragged along the ground was actually a dummy made of cloth and rags. He was dressed in a plaid shirt and filthy jeans. He had on a werewolf mask and a pair of woolly clawed hands from a costume shop.
I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to know what was going on. I ground to a halt. “What are you doing?” I demanded.
The man doing the dragging was a typical Yellow Springs guy–unbathed, rather stinky and generally unkempt. He was wearing a hooded butternut robe that went down to his ankles. He wiped his brow and explained that it was his son’s tenth birthday.
“So?” I said.He said he was going to put his son to a test, a-la Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. As he explained: he was going to make his ten year-old son walk down a path deep into the woods. Eventually, he would come to a fork in the path. If he chose the right path, he would eventually encounter the dummy, which was supposed to represent evil and vice. If he chose the left path, he would discover a hollowed-out tree at the end of the path which, the man explained, had a large mirror stuffed into the hollow–meaning that his son had discovered himself.
Only in Yellow Springs …
I thought about it a moment and started laughing. I laughed so hard I nearly fell down off my blades. “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! You’re going to take a hackneyed Jedi Force test from a movie and apply it to your son in real life and hope that it somehow has a profound effect upon him?? You’re dumb! You’re so dumb!” I said, hardly containing myself.
The man waved me off and continued his work, dragging the dummy into the woods. I finished my skate and had no further thought about the matter.
Years later, I sit here in the basement wondering about the future. My wife wants to have a child. She’s working very hard at it, and it’s very challenging. I wonder, if we’re successful and actually do have a child, possibly a son, what will I do to teach him between good and evil, right and wrong? I actually have no idea. I can preach and cajole all I want, I can punish and rage–will any of it work??
Maybe the Yoda Way is the best way after all.