Remember these 11 powerful Yoda-isms you must

Contributed by
May 4, 2017

Wise you are if you listen to the oldest Jedi Master in existence. Despite his diminutive stature and chronic grammar issues, this space sensei’s 900 years of practicing extreme self-control have to count for something, because he just knows things. He knows the ways of the Force. He knows how to levitate things that weren’t meant to be levitated. He knows the insidious evil of the Dark Side and how even the most experienced Jedi can unexpectedly fall into its claws.

Yoda’s invaluable advice reaches light-years beyond that galaxy far, far away. You don’t have to own a light saber or do eternal handstands in the middle of a jungle to understand the metaphors hidden within his seemingly far-out philosophies about the Force. Your training need only be mental. Earthlings can always use the Master’s intergalactic teachings about bravery, confidence, human nature, finding inner strength you probably never knew you had, and (of course) how not to become Darth Vader. If a Jedi you wish to be, then live by these 11 Yoda-isms you should.

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“Impossible to see, the future is.”

Yoda solemnly says this to a troubled Anakin because he believes the Dark Side clouds everything to the point that it warps how we see what lies ahead, but even in a world without Dooku, Darth Sidious, and Vader, our own doubts about our potential are enough to obscure our vision of the future. Not that Anakin listens, but maybe you will. Clone wars are no less effective than inner defeat. Dark thoughts and grim prospects can take you down just as easily as a massive army of clones, simply by the power of self-fulfilling prophecy, even if you don’t find yourself falling to the fatal beam of a red light saber.

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"A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side.”

Luke may not be as easily corrupted as his father was, but his Jedi Master is cautious. Young Skywalker has to learn that he can’t allow his head to inflate to the size of the Death Star. It’s easy to get absorbed in your own power, especially if that power lets you clash light sabers and levitate things that would have not been thought humanly possible to levitate (if levitation itself was even possible). In his 900 years, Yoda must have seen too many wannabe Jedi get big-headed about waving around their glow sticks, but none more dangerous than a vengeful Anakin Skywalker—and we all know what happened to him.

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“Size matters not.”

For all the double entendres this could awaken from the Dark Side, the diminutive Jedi Master, who stands at 2’ 2” with ears almost larger than his head, is predictably right again. Yoda’s size (or the lack thereof) doesn’t influence his supernatural ability to levitate a sunken X-wing using nothing but the Force. This is something that should inspire the entire universe, despite the fact that Luke alone remains doubtful. There is also an underlying irony of this squat, ancient alien performing extraordinary feats while a muscular young man watches in disbelief because he has no confidence for fuel. It isn’t stature, but inner strength that ultimately powers a Jedi.

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“If into the security recordings you go, only pain will you find.”

Some holographic messages are better left unplayed, as Obi-Wan finds out the hard way, despite his Master’s warnings, when he witnesses an eerily glowing scene of Anakin killing Younglings. This becomes much more relevant when you factor out space-age security. The recordings Obi-Wan is so desperate to access are part of a past for which there was no rewind button, and replaying them on the recording machine cannot undo the carnage. They only ignite a silent rage at the rashness of Anakin, and despair for those who cannot be brought back from the dead. You will only cause yourself unnecessary grief if you obsess over things that cannot be reversed.

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“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This might be a real deep lecture for a kid who may or may not know the mysteries of long division yet, but Anakin is one underage Padawan who needs to hear it. Yoda is almost prophesying here, because the future Darth’s fear of losing Padme will turn him to the Dark Side, and the grief following her death will flare into a seething firestorm of anger that consumes him to the point of almost killing Obi-Wan out of bitterness. These ominous words are later repeated to Luke. While being overshadowed by what-ifs won’t turn you into a space tyrant (even if he is your father), it could suck you into the proverbial Dark Side.

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“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

Had Anakin looked into the Master’s proverbial crystal ball and accepted that there are some things only the universe has control over, he may have not desperately gone groveling to the Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, trying to convince himself the evil emperor meant what he said about cheating death, and would somehow save Padme from her impending fate. Yoda didn’t mean you should forget those you love fiercely, just because they could slip from your grasp at any moment. In the wake of the young Jedi’s prophetic nightmares, he was only trying to make Anakin see the light (and the Light Side)—he could not have power over the inevitable.

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“Luminous beings are we.”

Yoda may seem to suggest something New Age and celestial here, and even though that sort of thing may have been trending in the ‘80s, he doesn’t mean we are balls of burning hydrogen that glow in the night sky after the two suns of Tatooine set. What he’s really trying to explain to a frustrated Luke, through all that awkward pinching and prodding, is that we (human or alien) are more than our flesh. We can achieve things we previously thought impossible, probably so long as they aren’t scientifically impossible, if we approach them from within. Unfortunately, mind over matter is clearly a concept young Skywalker can’t grasp—yet.

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“Wars not make one great.”

When Luke declares to Yoda that he is looking for a great warrior (because a bat-eared alien doesn’t exactly strike him as one) he has no idea how foolish he sounds to someone who has seen endless empires rise and fall over nine centuries of intergalactic strife. Luke has an obvious misconception that whoever he seeks in the misty jungle must look like a legendary space general on steroids after so many battles. Yoda wants the would-be Jedi to understand that blood on your light saber doesn’t immortalize you into an insta-legend. True power flows form the Force, and Luke will have to abandon his preconceived notions in the swamp and search for it inside himself.

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“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

You know how, when you’ve had a monstrous mental block for an eternity, and you just let it go and forget about it, you go back to whatever you were doing as if no hologram of Darth Vader or anything else was ever in your way? And how you can’t figure out what was holding you back before? This is what Luke’s wise green adviser is trying to convey to him—if only he will listen. Luke’s mental image of what a Jedi must be is so off that it elicits many frustrated “hmmm”s from Yoda, because that is the thing Luke needs to obliterate if he sees himself having any chance against the Dark Lord.

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“Your weapons, you will not need them.”

Fear makes you hold on to whatever makes you feel safe—night lights, stuffed animals, that necklace you could have sworn gave you luck at an interview once, and in Luke’s case, a belt of weapons as he ventures into the foggy depths of Dagobah. What Yoda is really telling him in such a Zen-like manner (cue Mr. Miyagi) is that he is the weapon if he believes in himself, and his strength in the Force. When you’re facing an illusion of the Dark Lord himself in one-on-one combat, then his light saber must also be an illusion, so the only weapon you really need is the Force flowing inside you.

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“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

You know things are about to get grave when Yoda gives you advice and his saucer eyes bulge to a haunted house-level of creepy. How Luke can shrug off something that should have scared any Padawan into ditching the pessimism is a mystery. No wonder Yoda is on the verge of facepalming. Surrendering to self-doubt every time you fall from a handstand or fail to defy gravity won’t fly if you have any intention of defeating the Dark Side. You either commit fully to superhuman levitation, or you don’t. The Force is obviously strong with this quote, since it still continues to influence both Earthlings and aspiring Jedi after 37 years.