Before I get into a lengthy diatribe of translating the good experience of taking my grandson to his first book store as a 4 month old lad, I must comment on the video below featuring a middle-aged couple being hounded by their grown children after seeing the new movie release of Les Misérables featuring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crow and Anne Hathaway in a fantastic rendition of the popular play and book. The couple is noticeably emotional as they left the theater and were in the car on the way home. The sons of the couple thought the sight of their parents emotional state worth capturing for the YouTube archives. Les Misérables (usually pron.: /leɪ ˌmɪzəˈrɑːb/; French pronunciation: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]) is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. In the English-speaking world the novel is usually referred to by its original French title, which can be translated from the French as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.
I don’t have the same experience with Les Misérables as the couple above. For me, the French Revolution was a failure, and the aftermath led them to become a country continuously conquered by the Germans thereafter. But, in American society, much of the love of Paris, Mardi Gras festivals, and even the roots for socialism among the so-called educated and cultured East Coast residents can be traced back to the popular play and their love of it. For me, the characters in Les Misérables do not have enough Übermensch in them, which is all that I find worthy in works of art these days. But I was thinking of that poor couple as my wife and I took our grandson to our weekly outing to the bookstore to stock up on more books for the week. Before our shopping spree however we went to Chili’s as I watched the preview show for the BCS Title game between Notre Dame and Alabama on ESPN. As I looked around the bar, everyone’s eyes were fixated on the same information being broadcast from the flat screen televisions all around the restaurant. As we ate, I discussed all these elements with my wife and grandson, we spoke about the BCS game, Brian Kelly in leaving the University of Cincinnati to bring Notre Dame to dominance in just two years, the consistency of the Alabama program, and why the poor couple coming home from the Les Misérables movie were so sad. I explained to my grandson that many adults have turned off their minds. Football, even though I enjoy the drama of the game is an accepted entertainment that occupies the neural development of the brain’s core processes and serves as a great distraction from the helpless, out-of-control nature many people feel in their lives. Many adults have turned their minds off to many forms of mythology unless the orthodox society has determined that something has great sophisticated merit over other forms. In other words, most adults wish to believe that they have arrived in their advanced age at a place of mental superiority over children like my grandson.
My grandson looked at me gurgling milk bubbles from his mouth as I spoke for nearly a half hour without pause. I’m not sure how much he understood, but he looked at me and didn’t interrupt as my wife fed him his bottle. I was feeling relaxed as we are on the third week of our unconventional vacation in the Star Wars galaxy of The Old Republic video game, and my wife and I have been having a blast. Unlike Les Misérables or sports of any kind, the philosophy of Star Wars deals often with topics of the Übermensch so more and more I turn to it for the level of thinking I enjoy indulging in, and two solid weeks of gaming on the new MMO The Old Republic with my wife and kids solving various political problems as Jedi Knights on the worlds of Nar Shaddaa, Coruscant and the shattered world of the once thriving Taris, I am at the closest place to complete bliss that I think is possible, and I suddenly felt very sorry for my adult contemporaries who only had the BCS Title game to look forward to, or a screening of Les Misérables. To me, those are passive—or dead mythologies. But Star Wars has always been a vast and creative mythology. The concepts set in the mind a motion that unifies complex ideas under the powerful process of mythology and in human history, there is nothing like Star Wars, and sadly parents like the couple crying over Les Misérables deny themselves the same experience with Star Wars because they mistakenly believe that Star Wars is for kids alone. It’s not. For the adults who can share those mythologies with their children—and in our case—grandchildren, Star Wars is the building blocks to the next great philosophic movement.
The start of this new philosophic/religious awaking is just beginning. Star Wars the Clone Wars just had their 100th episode aired on the Cartoon Network during the second Saturday of January 2013 and Kathy Kennedy is moving the production of the new movie trilogy into the casting stage. The servers are thumping for the MMO game that my wife and I were eager to get back to after our dinner and trip to the book store—so BioWare has been successful in bringing new interest to the game which I think is very valuable. But the reason for our outing was not to buy a new video game, see a movie, or even to eat out with our grandson. The purpose of our journey to the book store was to buy the new Star Wars book called Scoundrels which just came out on January 1st and is a book that my wife has salivated over for nearly 6 months. So after dinner we headed over to our favorite bookstore and suffered through the numerous people who wished to stop our progress and gaze at our grandson who was wide awake and smiling. I was happy to show him such a place of freedom—a book store. For me personally, there is no place better on Earth. I love the smell of them. I like the people in them. And I treasure the vast vaults of knowledge contained in them. So long as there is a free press, tyranny of any kind can never take full hold in any culture. Bookstores are the backbone to freedom and this was my grandson’s first experience in one–his first of millions—I will make sure of it.
For me, when I was only 9 or 10 years older than my grandson is now, I would spend all of my time away from home in two places, the arcade and the book store. When I ran out of money in the video arcade, I would then go to the book store and read through the titles for hours and hours never getting bored. In fact, I read the Egyptian Book of the Dead complete with hieroglyphic translations during these visits before I was able to purchase my own copy many years later once I started working at age 13. Back then, Star Wars as a mythology only centered on the original trilogies and had three novels out, the novelization of A New Hope (the first Star Wars film) a novel called A Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, and a book called Han Solo At Star’s End. Now, there are hundreds of novels, and they take up an entire section of the book store. In fact, there is no other section in any book store that is larger than most of the sections dedicated to Star Wars books. And I am proud to say that my wife and I possess every single Star Wars novel or junior book ever written and have them in our personal library. She has read them all, I have read about 2/3rds of them.
The book we came to get, Scoundrels was sold out in just two days. The book features Han Solo in a Timothy Zhan story taking place immediately after A New Hope. My wife really wanted to read this one, because it takes Solo back to the time of his late 30’s. In the books that will lead up to the new films being produced by Lucasfilm and Disney where Harrison Ford will reprise his role and introduce Han Solo’s glorious daughter Jaina to the silver screen, Solo is well into his 70’s—so he’s been around a long time. (No Lucasfilm has not confirmed that Jaina will be in the new film. I just know it to be the case—my own deductive reasoning.) Well, apparently we weren’t the only ones wanting to buy Scoundrels. The book store employee who was very excited to talk about the Star Wars books he’s been reading with us, called around town to find a store that had the new book. While we waited, a young man was in the Star Wars section buying up four paperbacks while his girlfriend waited patiently. I was impressed to see his ambition as he declared to me that he “loved Star Wars.” I saw on his face a more mature and controlled emotion than the one shown by the distraught Les Misérables viewers. With that being said, I noticed that the book store had more Star Wars books than usual and it was explained to me that a combination of the BioWare game The Old Republic, The Cartoon Network television show The Clone Wars, and the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy coming to theaters in 2015 along with a very aggressive publishing effort pumping out books like Scoundrels every couple of months–nothing is selling hotter than Star Wars these days.
I enjoyed the passion of the young man in the Star Wars section and the book store worker. I saw on their faces an enthusiasm that was much different from the patrons at the Chili’s bar watching the BCS pregame statistics. That football game will come and go and be forgotten within months. Star Wars will be remembered and built upon by the fans who read the books in a mythology that takes place over 37,000 years of interconnected story that spans thousands of characters arcs. Nothing against Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables but as a literary endeavor alone, Star Wars is the greatest single work of literature ever created—and it’s not just for kids. Adults could learn a lot.
We traveled across town and picked up the book that was being held at the counter for us. Barnes and Noble at The Streets of West Chester had a copy left and my wife erupted into delight when she put her hands on the meaty hard cover book. “It will be so nice to read a story where Han and Chewie are together again” There was a love on her face that was much more sophisticated and honest than the poor people who were broken up over the ending of Les Misérables. There is a truth in Star Wars that is eluding the rest of our 21st century society and only Lucasfilm has really managed to put their finger on it fully. I have been visiting book stores for nearly 35 years and this was the first time it really hit me that a wave of new philosophy is about to impact the human race with a freshness that modern mankind has never experienced. And it happened during my grandson’s first visit to a book store to get a Star Wars novel.
If there is one thing that I have learned on my 3 week vacation in the Star Wars galaxy it is that there is a New Hope manifesting in reality. It is percolating subtly through art, politics, and philosophy through the work of children’s stories that contain within them the answers we are all seeking. If Les Misérables is about the harsh conditions and sympathies toward revolution and oppression, Star Wars is about the hope of crushing that oppression with a balanced life of kindness defended with passion and aggression—a very different message than the one provided by the great Victor Hugo novel which Ayn Rand loved so much.
But Star Wars is the next artistic step in mankind’s long quest for truth, justice, religious purpose, and the endless desire to discover what’s over the next horizon. At least, that’s what I told my grandson, and judging by is facial expressions—he was listening intently, even if he has not yet constructed the ability to express himself with anything more than a smile.