Move Over, James Bond
After rewatching Skyfall, featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond, I realized I had made a terrible decision in the direction towards which I’ve been pushing my life. Skyfall helped me realize that I don’t want to be an editor at a swanky New York magazine with a penthouse apartment. I want to be James Bond. Coincidentally, this has been the same realization I’ve made after every James Bond movie I’ve seen.
I started my career in espionage early with Tomorrow Never Dies, followed by reenacting fight scenes with my father. (Don’t worry, I was gentle.) So, perhaps my recent realization is just nostalgia. But, I swear, I want to be James Bond. My root motivation has changed over the years. When I was younger, I liked the spy aspect; then I got a little older and liked the Bond-woman aspect; and now I like the clothes and suave personality.
Unfortunately, there are some grave implications that go along with wanting to be James Bond—the gravest one being that I don’t think I’m the only one. And even if most people don’t want to be James Bond, almost everyone has looked at Clooney or Pitt or Jolie or Lawrence or other actors playing characters on screen and thought, at least once, “I want to be like that.” The problem is that we’re people, not movie characters. The other problem is that this fact doesn’t stop us from acting like movie characters.
I’ve noticed that small changes occur in myself after watching Bond movies. Typically, my walking slows, and I become more conscious of hand placement. I find myself trying out a suave smirk in the mirror after getting out of the shower. I even start dressing nicer, finding excuses to wear ties. That all sounds humorous and, perhaps, innocent. However, underlying and insidious is the constant comparisons I begin to make between myself and Bond. When we want to be someone, we compare ourselves to that person. To a small degree, comparisons are commonplace, but when the model we're comparing ourselves to is unattainable, there’s no winning.
Inevitably, after trying to be James Bond, I grow depressed over my humanness. Why have I been cursed with such a range of emotions as well as an inability to shrug off bullet wounds? I call these the “Saul Blues.” I’m referring to the biblical King Saul, the first king of Israel. After all, the funk Saul fell into toward the end of his days, which led to him exiling and chasing David, who became the second king of Israel, was caused by comparisons.
It’s common knowledge that Saul grew jealous of David and his popularity, which skyrocketed after killing that over-tall bully of a Philistine Goliath with the flick of his wrist. Ironically, David became the model for Saul’s comparisons. Saul wanted to have David’s popularity, his achievements, his ability. I don’t know for certain, but I bet it didn’t take long for Saul to wish he had stepped out to meet Goliath with a sling and five stones, or even used the armor he offered David, which David candidly rejected.
Of course, Saul could never know that in the future no one would fault him for not being David. After all, there are very few people who would have volunteered to fight Goliath, and even fewer who have been anointed with oil by a prophet (and Saul was one of those few). We fault Saul, mainly, for being a jerk for trying to kill David, who clearly loved him and spared his life when David had the chance to kill him. Such is the nature of comparing ourselves to an impossible model. It makes us lose perspective, self-worth, and in Saul’s case, his life. If James Bond were a real person, I’d probably exile him from my house. (“You can take that seductive smirk and impeccable suit someplace else, Mr. Bond.”)
The real secret that I’ve discovered is that there is no real model for comparison. Everyone is an impossible model—from James Bond to the UPS delivery guy. I can’t hope to do a good job being them. I can only really hope to do a good job being me. The only productive comparison I’ve found (besides trying to be more like Jesus) is comparing my current self to my past self, striving to become a better me. But we have to be careful here, too. If we spend too much time examining the past, we could slip back there. The point is to progress in the present.
Just to be clear, trying to be more like Jesus isn’t so much a cause for comparison as it is a source of inspiration. Jesus told his disciples, “I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 CEV). Jesus expected us to follow in his footsteps.
We were designed to be God’s “image and likeness” (Gen 1:26). We weren’t designed to be movie characters (we have far too many dimensions, emotions, and nuance), or anyone else, for that matter. So we might as well just try to be our best selves, precisely as God intended.