Later that evening, in Qui Gon’s quarters, Obi-Wan dared to say, “So far as I can tell, Master, the prophecies seem…extremely vague.”
Qui Gon looked up from the records Obi-Wan had brought him. His long, grayish-brown hair fell loose down his back, a sign that he intended to go to sleep soon. But he had never failed to respond to Obi-Wan’s curiosity. “You’ve learned Old Alderaanian?”
“Not exactly–but I’ve picked up enough to make some sense of what I’m collecting.” Obi-Wan tugged nervously at his Padawan braid, then stopped as he caught himself at it. It was a bad habit he hoped to break. “One of these prophecies says something about ‘She who will be born to darkness will give birth to darkness.’ It gives no hint at all as to who that is, or what kind of darkness this is, or when it will happen. Or ‘When the kyber that is not kyber shines forth, the time of prophecy will be at hand.’ How can there be a prophecy about the time of prophecy? Then there’s this one–” He tapped on the side of the holocron of prophecy, which Qui Gon had taken from the Archives for at least the dozenth time in his apprenticeship. ‘When the righteous lose the light, evil once dead shall return.’ That’s so vague it could refer to anything or anyone! And then the whole ‘Chosen One’ nonsense–“
“Your doubts are understandable, my Padawan,” Qui Gon said. His tone became dry as he continued, “Certainly they are shared by most Jedi today, including the Council. But I’d warn you not to dismiss this as mere ‘nonsense.'”
Obi-Wan folded his arms. “Why shouldn’t I?” When he caught the irritated glint in Qui Gon’s eyes, he hastily added, “I don’t mean to be sarcastic; I really want to know. Why should we listen to these prophecies? Master Yoda always taught that looking into the future is uncertain at best.”
To Obi-Wan’s surprise, Qui Gon nodded slowly. “The answer to your question is…complex. Give me a moment to gather my thoughts, so I can give you the reply you deserve.”
He was pleased to have challenged his Master thus far. There were few things Qui Gon loved more than a good question. Sometimes Obi-Wan thought that if he just never stopped asking questions, his whole apprenticeship would have gone much smoother…
…”Do you believe,” Qui Gon said at last, “that studying the prophecies is a way of divining the future?”
Obi-Wan wondered if this was a trick question. “Isn’t that the definition of a prophecy? A prediction about what’s to come?”
“In some senses. But prophecies are also about the present. The ancient Jedi mystics were attempting to look into the future, but they were rooted in their own time–as we are.” Qui Gon settled back in his chair and motioned for Obi-Wan to sit as well. “They could only predict the future through the prism of their own experience. So by studying their words, their warnings, we learn about their ways more than any history holo could ever teach us. And by asking ourselves how we interpret these prophecies, we discover our own fears, hopes, and limitations.”
Being a Padawan was enough to remind him of his own hopes and limitations, in Obi-Wan’s opinion, but he knew better than to say so. “You mean, you don’t take the prophecies literally.”
“Once, when I was younger–” Qui Gon shrugged. “But no, I don’t. However, I also don’t assume they’re meaningless, like most Jedi these days. Learning what the ancient mystics believed ties us to our history.”
“The Jedi don’t have such mystics anymore,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “We’re meant to put aside visions of the future, because we can’t know whether they’ll come to pass. Master Yoda even says such visions can bring a Jedi to darkness.”
“Yes, seeking to know the future can be a form of control, which can lead to the dark side,” Qui Gon said in his deep, resonant voice. From his tone, Obi-Wan knew his Master had heard all of this from Yoda many times before. “And learning the forms of lightsaber combat is a way for preparing for violence. Violence, too, can lead to the dark side. We are entrusted with great diplomatic power, which means we exert influence over entire systems–“
“I understand what you mean,” Obi-Wan said. “Many paths can lead to the dark side.”
“As Jedi, we possess power that average beings do not, and never will. Holding power over others will always require us to be vigilant against the darkness within us. Our ability to sometimes glimpse potential futures is no more or less dangerous than any of our other talents.”
Obi-Wan decided to keep pushing. Qui Gon respected challenge…to a point. “The mystics of old sought to know the events of centuries and millenia to come. Is that not arrogance? An unwillingness to accept the natural flow of the Force? We may see their writings in a more metaphorical light, but they didn’t They truly thought they were divining what would truly come to pass.”
“I don’t set myself up as judge of the ancient mystics, and neither should you.” Qui Gon wasn’t going to share any more than that, apparently. Already he’d turned his attention back to the records Obi-Wan had brought him. “You’ve done good work here. This should provide me with reading for several days.” A glint of humor shone in his blue eyes. “In other words, you’re safe from the Archives for awhile. Go spend time with your friends.”
Obi-Wan grinned. “Thank you, Master.” He rose to leave, then paused. “But…how many more archive trips do you think I’ll have to make?” This prophecy project had been going on for two years now; surely even Qui Gon didn’t mean to investigate them indefinitely.
Qui Gon froze, cup halfway to his lips. The expression on his face was difficult to read–realization, perhaps, and dismay.
“Master? I didn’t mean to complain about the Archives.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Qui Gon said. His eyes didn’t meet Obi-Wan’s. “We’ll talk later. About many things.”
Somewhat cryptic, Obi-Wan thought, but for Qui Gon that was nothing new. “Good night, then.”
Obi-Wan hurried toward the lower levels, hoping it was still early enough for him to pick up a game of dejarik, maybe. Something nagged at him about the final moments of his conversation with Qui Gon. Obviously his Master was keeping some kind of secret.
But it couldn’t be anything to do with Obi-Wan himself. It it were, his Master would’ve told him.
—Master and Apprentice, pages 50-55.
To read my review of Master and Apprentice, go here.