Almost three months ago my grandmother, a blessing to this world for 92 years, slipped away from us and into the arms of the God she loved so dearly.
Ninety-two years... that seems like a very long time, doesn't it? Long enough to be everything you must be. To love everyone you can. To take part in this unique and tragic and comic, and beautiful, saga of the human story and to be remembered as one character among billions who made a difference, however small. And Granny was that to a lot of people: those who came to the funeral home lined up out the doors and onto the street. They were of every age. White and black and Hispanic and Asian. Christian and non- Christian. Heterosexual and homosexual.
Very nearly every one had put their feet under her kitchen table at one time or another. And that's the kind of person she was: it never mattered who you were, she was going to love you despite yourself, and she was going to make sure you didn't go away hungry!
Granny understood, maybe more than anyone else in the family, my love for Star Wars. She still had the pictures of Darth Vader that I had drawn in kindergarten. She loved to watch me play with my action figures during the long drives to Florida. Last May, she watched the local news show footage of her grandson making an idiot of himself at the Toys R Us "Midnight Madness", telling a reporter how we would be the first to "behold a virgin, unspoiled, unblemished stack of brand-new Star Wars toys." And she thought it was GREAT!
Granny was at the hospital during my birth: the only grandchild she was able to do that for. On my twenty-sixth birthday I was a pallbearer for her funeral.
I've wondered a few times since whether I'm wasting my life on Star Wars, this story that has held my fascination since I was a child. Aren't there more important things to be doing in this short life? Shouldn't I be spending my time pursuing goals which will be more meaningful, which I will be remembered for? Am I living for myself, selfishly, or am I leaving something better behind me, something for my children that will make this world a little better than how I found it?
But then I wonder where's the happiness in trying to live for a "legacy", when what I should want people to remember me as is, simply who I am now. Granny is being remembered for her kindness, her faith, and her love. Each of those is something I also hope to be known for. Would it lessen any of them to also be known as a Star Wars fan? Ever since kindergarten I've dreamt and prayed for a chance to be involved in a Star Wars movie at some level. I asked God to "make me a caterer cooking hot-dogs on the set or slap five inches of makeup on me as some dude who says nothing in a movie, I don't care, just please let me contribute to Star Wars somehow." He may not have let me do exactly that, but He did open up an opportunity at TheForce.net to write about Star Wars. That's a dream come true right there... would my life have been any richer or poorer if that didn't happen? Maybe not as a "legacy" seen hundreds of years from now, but it's fulfilling work, and it makes me happy now... why worry about what someone will think of this centuries from now?
Star Wars is something that makes me happy... and Granny wouldn't want me to give this up for anything.
Say what you will of Vector Prime, but the last few months have made me appreciate how R.A. Salvatore's bold stroke was needed in this story. Was killing Chewbacca a terrible change for the Star Wars saga? Unequivocally yes. But it was a change still, and it represents one that none of us will escape no matter how hard we try. In the last pages of Vector Prime, it's finally dawning on Han Solo what Chewbacca's death, at long last, means to his life. He tells Leia...
"I had built this bubble around us," Han tried to explain. "Around all of us -- you, me, Chewie, the kids, Luke, Mara, even Land. Heck, even the stupid droids. We were all in it, you know? In it and safe, a cozy family...When Han Solo says that, I know exactly what he's talking about, because my own "bubble" has burst. It's like you go all your life with the ones you love the most, and you believe -- you really believe -- that you will always be there for them, that you can always take care of them. That you will never abandon them. You come to view all the world as one vast tumultuous stage of chaos, but you've got this one little corner where you're guarding the ones closest to you. Yes, the whole stupid world can burn down and go to Hell in a handbasket around you, but you know you're going to keep everyone in that bubble safe and secure with all the panache and ease of some kind of superhero. Like Han Solo. And sometimes you even laugh at what happens to other people while you stupidly think you can look after your own... you think it can't happen to you, that you can spite all the bad things of the world.
"...nothing could hurt us -- could really hurt us."
And then it does happen. Something does burst your bubble, and your loved ones hurt... and die. And you wake up to the cruel fact that you're not so invincible after all. You realize that despite everything you can do, everything you want to do, you are going to lose your loved ones. And you realize that someday, they will lose you. It's not the thought of losing yourself that becomes so scary as it does for them to lose you... and dammit, you WANT to be there for them still but what can you do about it? And if you can't save yourself, how can you possibly save everyone you love?
And that's the damnable part about reading the passage of Chewie's death in Vector Prime, because it's so true. I know now what Han is feeling from that moment: that he's lost someone who was so close to him, without being able to do anything to save him. And then comes the self-loathing: because Han and anyone else who's gone through loss believes they've abandoned a loved one, that they've become a betrayer... and the last thing you want your loved one to take into eternity is the thought that you let them down somehow, that you didn't love them enough or that you didn't measure up to their hopes and dreams.
That picture of Han from the cover of Hero's Trial... that face has become what I've come to see in the mirror these past months. That is the face of a man who has weathered so much loss and nonsense that he's wondering what is there left besides feeling sorry for himself. These past several weeks, that's been me too.
That has become the Han we've known the past few months.
Then I like to think of the man Han is about to become, the man I like to believe has always been there. Scrape away all the exterior that's built up around Han Solo: the husband, the father, the diplomat, still a mentor to Luke. Beneath all that there is still a roguish young scoundrel who took a job from "that old fossil" many years ago in a cantina on Tatooine.
Beneath it all, Han Solo is a fighter. Someone who's not going to give up and quit. He's going to take the lumps, endure whatever else is going to be loss to him, and he's going to keep on living. Han is the man who is going to give the inevitable the biggest middle-finger he can muster, jump back into the Millenium Falcon and fly off guns-blazing. He's in his fifties now. He doesn't give a mynock's butt. The last thing he's going to do is become some galactic-Howard Hughes and hole up in his penthouse on Coruscant watching holovids all day and just waiting to die.
No, Han Solo is going to keep on living. Because to give up is to die a more pathetic death than the physical. And Han... just can't do that. He's going to be true to himself, what he is underneath it all.
Brian Blessed, the actor who portrayed Boss Nass in Episode I, said that "it's not how old you are -- it's how you are old," and that's become the most darn cool and TRUE philosophy I've heard about life. This came from a man closing in on 70, who can bench- press 400 pounds without breaking a sweat, who likes doing things like running around the world chasing Bigfoot and climbing Mount Everest without oxygen tanks (and becoming the "most seasoned" man on record to have done so). Blessed laughs at those who think that once you get in years that life has nothing else to offer.
And he's right. Life is whatever you're making of it right now! And there are going to be times in the valleys, when you're looking up and wondering how the heck you're ever going to climb out. But you have to at least try... no, you don't try: "do, or do not... there is no try." Just do it! Make yourself climb out of that valley, make yourself get onto the peak. Get there and thank God that you're able to look past all the crap life's thrown at you and that... hey, I made it! That is what makes the difference between everyday "existence" and pure living... because you want to LIVE!
What am I trying to say in all of this?
It's not how long your life is, it's how you spend the moments you have. It's about the passion you pour into it, about the energy you devote to making every second mean something. It's about the strength that you give over to loving someone with all of your heart and might and soul. About making the most of those moments and making of them the best memories you can.
Without naming particulars, a lot of us in the online fan community have seen some really nasty things happen during the past few weeks and months. I haven't taken sides before and I'm not going to now: that's now what this is about. What it is about is this: guys, life is precious. Every moment of it is a beautiful gift... that's why right now is called "the present", and it is something to be thankful for and humbled about. All we have are the moments... and then, the moments are memories. And whether it's what we do on the Internet or what we do offline with our friends and family... guys, life is too short to spend the least amount of it bitter about anything.
We have been brought together by a common love for Star Wars, the modern era's only true mythology. We share a special bond that transcends language or culture. In Star Wars we've been shown a metaphor for living this life with the fullest zeal and passion.
Whatever it is you do in life, do it with strength. Do it with heart. Do it with love. Don't be let down when the world bursts your bubble... keep pressing forward. When someone tells you that you can't do it, prove them wrong. Never believe someone who says you're "too old." Don't return bitterness with bitterness: there are better things to be spending this life doing.
Make the most of life. Make the most of it beginning now.
"Be brave. Don't look back... don't look back."
04/08/03 - Christopher Knight - Oscars Give Short Shrift to Fantasy
03/17/03 - Joshua Griffin - Put the REAL Classics on DVD
01/29/03 - Joshua Griffin - Imagine a Star Wars HALO Videogame
01/14/03 - Michael Potts - Clone Wars: Expanded Universe Editorial
09/03/02 - Joshua Griffin - Digital Pirates Sink Ships
05/17/02 - Chris Knight - Digital Projection: The Audience Is Watching... And Waiting
04/11/02 - TFN Staff - Thumbs Up, Tumbs Down for SW2 Marketing
03/08/02 - TFN Staff - Clone War Trailer Reaction
01/13/02 - TFN Staff - TFN Reaction to SNL N'Sync Skit
01/03/02 - TFN Staff - Boy Band Jedi Reactions
12/12/01 - Chris Knight - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
12/07/01 - Jeff Yankey - All I Want for Christmas
11/17/01 - Guest Editorial - Ritual and Romance of Episode II
10/04/01 - Guest Editorial - Why Episode I is Brilliant
10/02/01 - Guest Editorial - Episode I is Star Wars
09/30/01 - Guest Editorial - Why I Loved Episode I
09/25/01 - Joshua Griffin - Episode II: Make It or Break It Time
08/21/01 - Chris Knight - SW2: Attack On The Soul?
07/13/01 - Joshua Griffin - Special Time for SW Fans
05/14/01 - Joshua Griffin - AlphaCon is Finished
05/09/01 - Chris Knight - In The Beginning... Star Wars Comes To A Wired World
04/17/01 - Joshua Griffin - Global TFN - International Outlook on Star Wars
03/14/01 - Chris Knight - Palpatine vs. Hitler: Prequel Speculation Runs Amok!
02/13/01 - Chris Knight - "The Force" of Love: A Valentine's Day Editorial
01/17/01 - Chris Knight - Star Wars Could Continue... As Television Anthology
01/11/01 - Guest Editorial - A Review of A New Hope After the Prequels
01/07/01 - Guest Editorial - No - We Want the DVDs Now!
01/04/01 - Chris Knight - New Digital Disciple Says "Lets Wait On Star Wars DVDs"
12/21/00 - Joshua Griffin - Is George Lucas Really a Genius?
11/18/00 - Joshua Griffin - To Spoil or Not to Spoil
11/06/00 - Joshua Griffin - The Power of the Election
11/01/00 - Chris Knight - Why Isn't There A Star Wars Postage Stamp?
08/17/00 - Jason McCabe Calacanis - The SW2 Fan Trailer (guest editorial)
07/14/00 - Joshua Griffin/Scott Chitwood - TFN's Spoiler Policy
06/20/00 - Chris Knight - Star Wars and the Saga of Life
05/13/00 - TFN Staff - TheForce.net Wish List
04/08/00 - Special Guest Editorial by Skybaugh - Worth the Wait
03/30/00 - Joshua Griffin - What Star Wars Has Won
03/19/00 - Joshua Griffin - The Next Denver Celebration
03/14/00 - Joshua Griffin - Fair Weather Fans
03/07/00 - Joshua Griffin - Predicting the Academy Award Winners
02/22/00 - Joshua Griffin - Who should profit from Star Wars?
02/16/00 - Joshua Griffin - Episode I and the Academy
01/27/00 - TFN Staff - Flaming TFN over DVD
01/25/00 - Chris Knight - Motivations of the Sith
01/20/00 - TFN Staff - Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin?
01/10/00 - Joshua Griffin - World-Wide Star Wars
01/03/00 - Joshua Griffin - Mass Merchandising Menace
12/13/99 - Joshua Griffin - Questioning Star Wars
11/22/99 - Joshua Griffin - Trusting Internet Rumors
11/11/99 - Paul Davidson - Rise of the Empire: China and TPM
10/28/99 - Scott Chitwood - Signs There Probably Won't Be a Sequel Trilogy
10/18/99 - Joshua Griffin - Why not Episode I DVD?
10/15/99 - Joshua Griffin - What Makes SW Fans Special
10/01/99 - Joshua Griffin - The PG Rating of TPM
09/07/99 - Scott Chitwood and Paul Ens - Comic and Book Wishlist
08/18/99 - TF.N Team - Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down on Episode I Everything
07/11/99 - Joshua Griffin - Parody Site isn't that funny
07/10/99 - Brian Linder - The Jar Jar Factor
06/08/99 - Joshua Griffin & Chris Knight - Why is Jar Jar in Episode I?
05/06/99 - Darin Smith - Return of the Child
03/09/99 - Scott Chitwood and Paul Ens - A Chat with LFL
02/07/99 - Amy Pronovost - Convention Romances, Can they Work?
01/23/99 - Scott Chitwood - What's up with Prowse?
01/01/99 - Scott Chitwood - Uncle George and Episode 1
11/23/98 - Scott Chitwood - What Lucasfilm is doing right
11/05/98 - Scott Chitwood - Prequel Spoilers
09/28/98 - David Coates - First thoughts on the the Episode 1 Title
06/19/98 - Scott Chitwood - How Godzilla affected Episode I
04/09/98 - Scott Chitwood - The Art of the Space Battle
04/09/98 - Scott Chitwood - DIVX SUX
02/26/98 - Scott Chitwood - X-WING TV Series Should Fly
02/09/98 - Scott Chitwood - Xerox Sites
02/03/98 - Scott Chitwood - Canon Issue, Part 2
01/07/98 - Terrence Daniels - Canon = Personal Preference
12/17/97 - Darin Smith - Everything I need to know...
11/15/97 - Chris Kivlehan - Six Episodes or Nine Episodes?
11/07/97 - Scott Chitwood - How do you solve a problem like Ewan?
11/03/97 - Scott Chitwood - How we get our Prequel 'Spy' info
10/22/97 - Paul Davidson - Trek vs. Wars