The new Star Wars trailer has got me excited. I’m trying not to be but I can’t help it. When I was young, very young, all I wanted to be was Han Solo and fly the Falcon and do the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs . Either that or a trucker in America, driving one of those big long-nose cabs across endless state roads and stopping off in greasy diners to eat burgers, have fights with other drivers and meet waitresses. These ambitions may have come from having only two films on video tape that were actually mine; ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Convoy’, both of which centred around men who perhaps didn’t quite know their place in the world. Or a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars was important to me, even more than Rubber Duck and his lorry-based litany of loveable rogues, but I have been burned once already. Actually it’s thrice. I’m not going to talk about them because they’ve been talked about to death but those three films were the biggest disappointment of my life, bigger even than the day I realised I would never be Han Solo, never fly the Falcon, never drive a long-nose truck. And now we go again, waiting for the disappointment but daring to hope. This is, you might say, a new hope.
Childhood dreams are ace. My eldest is currently convinced that he’s going to be a professional footballer. And not just any old pro but a multimillionaire in the ranks of Chelsea. How do I tell a boy that he will almost certainly never be a professional footballer? No idea, so I let him dream and I tell him that whatever he hasn’t got he has got the will to dream. Am I setting him up for a life of disappointment? Are the cheering crowds at Stamford Bridge to be his unmet waitresses and desolate Kessel run? Yes.
But it’s a more realistic dream than mine. I tell him that if he plays football he will be a footballer. Kicking a ball is easier than driving a truck. It really is as simple as that. Of course, he wants more than simply to play and so football can be a source frustration and then dreams quickly turn to anger. (I didn’t mean to sound like Yoda there. His dreams, to anger, quickly they turn. (I did then.)) I suppose that regular visits to watch Conference football don’t do much to persuade him that football is a difficult game at the top. He sees grown men earn their living pumping the ball and running and kicking and mistiming and fouling and missing and generally looking as if they’re not quite good enough. Which, as I try to remind him, is is true and if it weren’t, they would be playing higher. In a game of margins, where players are almost but not quite fast enough, strong enough, skilful enough, it’s hard to judge what is good and what is bad. So why can’t I do it, he probably always thinks to himself and, often, asks out loud.
Dreams are ace. Reality is crap. So, do dreams do nothing more than allow us to measure the misery?
Possibly. How do I explain that to a child ? I don’t. The will to dream is living itself, the disappointment that comes with failed fantasies is the only way we know we’re alive. In the Red Dwarf novels by Grant Naylor, there is a game called ‘Better Than Life’ where players are submerged into a reality of their creation. It was so realistic and addictive that players would die as their real body withered while their virtual life thrived. The only way a player could know that he was alive was to leave the game, the dream, and face his/her own emaciated weakened body.
Why would you want to? In his ‘Better Than Life’, eldest is adored by thousands as he scores his 45th goal of the season to seal the Premier League title and in mine I’m flying the Falcon to a greasy diner, Princess Leia is serving coffee and Lando Calrissian is driving for a rival firm.
The new Star Wars movie may disappoint but for now I’ll allow myself to dream. One day eldest will have to wake up and face the fact that he will never be a professional footballer. One day. But not today.