In defense of cockiness 

In one of the most memorable scenes from Star Wars, intergalactic pirate and semi-affable roustabout, Han Solo, is running on the fumes of gravitas, testosterone, and sheer, cinematic intensity, navigating the Millennium Falcon through the Hoth Asteroid Belt.  Attempting to evade the Imperial navy was no small thing, and such navigations—the intergalactic equivalent of rolling under a stagecoach during a robbery—was part of the game.

A notable point of contrast in the writing is articulate, by-default British, and multilingual logician/droid C3PO, who, as if taking the place of an erstwhile Spock, starts elucidating probabilities to Solo, who has very little time for syllogisms:

C3PO: “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one.

SOLO: “Never tell me the odds!

If—the uninitiated audience had no reason to like Han Solo, they did now.


Because, in the midst of panic, disorientation and pandemonium, there is something comforting, even endearing—about a little gum-popping assuredness that speaks to our fears.  Solo manages to exhaust most of this grudging admiration when he leaves everyone hanging, to go back to whatever stellar Tortuga he was heading to before all these “interruptions” came along.

But then, right out of the blue, Captain Cocky shows up—right when he is needed the most–taking up the slack, and bringing the Falcon back into the imperial firefight.  At ten years of age, one of the most solidified memories I have is the collective roaring and cheering that happened in that movie theater when he shows up.

Were they cheering for an omnipotent, flawless character?  No. They were cheering for someone who could help us get an emotional grip on what seemed an insurmountable tribulation—for the guy that was NOT–taking defeat sitting down.

I lived this in real time, January 14th, 2000, when my daughter, Emma, was born. The pregnancy had, for the first time in my wife’s child-bearing line, caused what is called preeclampsia–pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

This all came to bear, around four AM, when the I found myself in the delivery room , watching the monitors, dispensing shaved ice, waiting . . . listening to muddled discussions about dilations and effacements. 

As I watched my wife push through the waves of labor, I also had just enought knowledge of BP ratios to scare me half to death.

I watched those numbers scroll up and down like the national debt (although, having them go down at all wrecks my analogy) . Then, it hit a zenith–one that screamed “stroke”—one that had me thinking somebody could actually die here:


I literally-was on the way to passing out. I could literally feel a sense of helplessness–as if I was frozen in some upright, conscious catatonia–waiting for a pickpocket to walk up and jack my wallet.  Suddenly  I heard Dr. Laura Davidson — calling to me from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon:

“Don’t sweat those numbers. That baby’s coming, and I need you in the game.” There was quick wink that accompanied the whole thing.  I was literally–knocked out of my zone.  I had this feeling; those numbers aren’t bothering her, maybe I should calm down a bit.

And after all was said and done, she was right. It all washed out. I’m not saying that her words had metaphysical power or anything–this thing could’ve gone bad. I got that from the subtle way she let me know:

“So . . . could she have actually had a stroke with those numbers?” I asked

“Could of,” she said. “But didn’t.”

Ahh . . .well . . . wow. As it turns out, I also “could have” wet my pants, but that was also apparently overridden by “didn’t.”

Lastly, I also remember, many years ago, when our local air show hosted the Navy’s Blue Angels (one of many times, actually). A girl I know had met them at a meet and greet the previous day, and couldn’t stand them.

“They were the most arrogant men I have ever met in my life,” she said.

“Good,” I said.  “That’s exactly who I want flying my fighter jets.”

And thus, my passionate, albeit narrow-in-scope defense of the cocky.  If I’m in an intergalactic conflict with helmet-bound, apneatic Lord of the Sith, I want Solo.  If I’ve got a wife dangling from a pregnancy-induced hypertensive cliff, I want Davidson.

And if my skies are in peril with a great cloud of evil witnesses, I certainly don’t want Wolf Blitzer in that cockpit.  Han Solo has his place, and Chewbacca’s seat isn’t it.

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1 Response to In defense of cockiness 

  1. Steve says:

    Ahh . . .well . . . wow. As it turns out, I also “could have” wet my pants, but that was also apparently overridden by “didn’t.”

    Okay, I know this is s serious piece, but you had me laughing out loud at this line!

    I think cockiness comes from a sense of supreme self-efficacy – I know I can do this, and I can probably do this better than most people. In my HVAC service tech years, I once went on a service call where a piece of welding equipment was not working. I quickly determined there was no power to the machine and went to the panel and reset a tripped breaker. Voila! The machine worked. It maybe took 10 minutes. I charged for one hour. As I was walking out and getting some sort of snide comment from one of the workers about not working that hard, I replied, “They pay me for what I know, not for what I do.” I’m not always that cocky; in fact, I rarely am. It just seemed to fit at the time.


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