Pew! Pew! Slowly, I inched around the bookshelf, peering around the corner. I had heard the footsteps, the clank of the boots on the platform of the Imperial base. This was my chance. My chance to prove that I was worthy of the title of “General” Solo.
With a swift tuck and roll, I moved into the bedroom, leaning out of the doorway to blast the bucketheads with my DL-44 blaster, especially camouflaged for the forest moon of Endor. The stormtrooper let out a loud Wilhelm scream as he plummeted to the terrain.
Such was many a summer spent in my childhood apartment. I cannot calculate all of the hours I spent pretending to be the lovable rogue, Han Solo. From the moment he pointed to himself and declared, “Han Solo, I’m the captain of the Millennium Falcon,” I wanted to be him. I read every Han Solo book I could find, obsessed over his kids (cause how cool would it be to be a Solo… oh, wait) and imagined what happened to him after Return of the Jedi ended.
It was not until many year later that I learned that many other people wanted to be him, too. That other people were connected to the space cowboy the way that people attached to heroes like Hercules and Batman. That he, in fact, was a great ambassador for so many.
Why is Solo so beloved? As his name belies, he should be Solo, out there on his own with no support. Maybe that is just it, he is alone, and yet he’s not. He’s a scoundrel, a bottom feeder of the galaxy, yet he still finds love and support.He tries to play off that he’s got it figured out, yet he always needs the help of others to succeed. Is that not the lipstick we all put on the pig we call life?
He may not be the galaxy’s new hope, but he most certainly is ours.
It, then, becomes quite ironic when, in The Force Awakens, he says to Finn, “Did you just call me Solo?” On the surface, it seems a comical moment where the cocky pilot once again comes through with the same “don’t you know who I am attitude” he gave Ben in the cantina. Yet below that, in the depths we see something else: Han is admitting that he is no longer solo. He has become more, admitted that he needs others in order to make it. He may be a Solo, but he no longer identifies as solo. Why else go and help the Wookies on Kashyyyk (see Aftermath: Life Debt)? Why else stick around to help two fugitives knowing it might cost you your head? Why else go after your son, knowing that there’s not a railing in the world that could save you from that fall?
That is inside all of us. It may not be the Force, but it is a force. I talk with students constantly about asking for help from experts and not trying to go it alone. More than that, though, is how we can help lift others up.That is the lesson of Han not-so-Solo: the world exists in symbiosis. We need each other, much as Han needs Chewbacca and the Naboo need Jar Jar.
It took me many a years, and in fact until the very moment I am typing this, to admit that we all need others. Right now my girlfriend is in her first year of dental school, which makes flying through an asteroid field look fun. If she did not have the great support around her, from her mentor to her study group to me, there is no way the whole thing would not blow up. Not because she couldn’t do it (she is stronger that you can possibly imagine), but because everything works better when we work together. It is amazing to listen to her study group talk about their grades because they are all so close to each other’s. There work together leads to their result together.
Everything and everyone matters. It is the lesson Obi-Wan tries to convey to the Gungans, but it is a lesson never truly learned in full. For if it were, there would be no room left to grow. That is why it is so important that we see Han still learning to work with others some 30 years after the Battle of Endor. We all must strive to grow, together, all of the time.