Christian reading The Scorch Trials.
Christian loves science in all forms: proven, theoretical, and fictional. The kid is fascinated by the concepts of time travel. His highest aspiration is to invent a time machine and be the first person to travel into the past.
We have discussed theories from fiction, fringe sciences, cutting edge research happening at CERN, and the discoveries of the New Horizons space probe and the Curiosity rover.
Our conversations cover topics foreign to most elementary aged students. String theory. Uncertainty principle. Quantum mechanics. Parallel universes. Time dilation. Paradoxes. Historical elasticity. Schrödinger's cat. Many-worlds theory. Wormholes. Dark matter. Teleportation. Theory of relativity. DNA engineering. Holograms. He is the only 10 year old I know who understands how some particles behave differently when they are observed than when unobserved.
We have these conversations because he reads comic books and dystopian novels. Because he enjoys fantasy and science fiction and he wants to know how much of it is grounded in reality. Because he has an insatiable desire for knowledge.
His favorite scientist is Albert Einstein. His hero is Luke Skywalker. He wants to be the next Bill Gates.
A couple weeks ago, Christian watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. He and I spent an afternoon talking through his favorite parts of the three movies. A friend of his introduced him to Star Trek last summer so I asked him which franchise he preferred.
Christian: "Star Wars. Star Trek seems smaller and less exciting.”
Me: “Did you know there is a big debate in geekdom over which is better: Star Trek or Star Wars?”
Christian: "What's a geekdom?"
Me: "It's like a kingdom of geeks."
Christian: "That's awesome. If that was a real kingdom, you'd probably be their king."
Christian: "What's so funny."
Me: "I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I'd more likely be their priest than their king."
Since then, he has been brimming with questions, asking at every opportunity.
Would you rather live on Hoth or Tatooine? (Hoth.) Would you rather own C-3PO or R2-D2? (C-3PO.) Who do you like better, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? (Han.) Would you rather be a wookie or an ewok? (Wookie.) Would you rather fly a TIE Fighter or an X-Wing? (X-Wing.) Which movie is your favorite? (Empire.) Did Leia know that Obi-Wan Kenobi was Uncle Ben? (No, and Luke didn't know Uncle Ben was Obi-Wan.) Which character had a better cool-factor, Lando or Boba Fett? (Both.)
These discussions start simple and often grow into something meaningful. Opportunities to build character, spark creativity, and form values that will carry him through life.
One deep question led to another, begging for an answer bridging the world between fantasy and reality. Christian wanted to know how the Empire came to power. If they were so evil, how come no one stopped them? I explained their rise happened in secret. They operated in the shadows so their actions went unnoticed until it was too late. Those who could have prevented it were taken by surprise. This spawned a conversation about how those who do bad things operate best in darkness when no one is aware or paying attention.
Digging back into the movie, Christian confirmed that both Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine died during the final confrontation with Luke, and most of the Imperial forces perished when the second Death Star exploded. Were Vader and Palpatine the last of the Sith? His mind was trying to connect the events of Return of the Jedi with the upcoming The Force Awakens.
He asked a follow up question. "If Vader and Palpatine died at the end of Jedi, then how can there still be bad guys to fight in the next movie?
I cannot answer that within the framework of Star Wars mythos. The new movie will not be out until Christmas so any plot related explanation would be nothing more than speculation. But there is a good answer found in the real world.
"Is the force similar to anything in real life?" I asked him. No, not superpowers. Nothing magical.
"For the Jedi, having the force is similar to religious faith." I said. "But the Sith had it too. People are not automatically good people because of their religion. The force was not something that made a character good or evil, the choices they made determined how the force was used. Those who were wise and kind became Jedi and those who were selfish and hateful became Siths."
He nodded. He understood.
I continued, "In life, we are all given the same power. We can choose to do good or we can choose to do evil. Our actions reveal what kind of person we become. We have the freedom to make those choices so even if you got rid of all of the evil people in the world, future generations would still be able to make the same decisions to do good or not do good. Much is the same in Star Wars; Vader and Palpatine died, but the force still exists. Even without their villainous influence, those who have the force still have the option to follow the path of anger."
"Whoa." In one word, I could hear the gears turning in Christian's head.
We live in a fallen world. It is broken and messed up in a million ways. Bad people will always exist. The dark side will always be a lingering temptation. We will always need a few brave souls to stand up and fight for what is right and just.
Thankfully, we have a space opera that demonstrated this life lesson for my padawan learner.