3 Things to Learn from James Bond in a Catastrophe
"The name's Bond, James Bond."
There's no more iconic spy than MI6's Agent 007. In honor of the upcoming No Time to Die, which will feature the first female 007, here's a look back at some of her predecessor's best (and worst) traits...and what we can learn from them.
We'll start with something Bond does that we absolutely should try to stay away from (after all, sometimes the most important lesson you can learn from someone is to avoid behaving the way they do)...
1. Bond's morality is one of racism, nationalism, and sexism.
These are three big buzzwords in today's society that are sometimes weaponized in political dialogue. Even a cursory glance at Bond (whether in Fleming's novels or in the films), though, makes it pretty clear that all three words describe Bond aptly.
Bond is quite fond of lumping people into groups and then setting them in opposition to his own group (White, Male, British). When we view people around us as individuals with unique and meaningful experiences, however, then we realize how limited our own experiences are. Without ready-made group identities to project, we are forced to judge individuals by their actions.
The Takeaway: Evaluate the actions of individuals, don't attempt to assign them an identity.
Now, onto a pair of more positive qualities.
2. Bond is present in the moment.
The trait that probably distinguishes Fleming's Bond from the villains of the novels (and, later, the films) is Bond's focus and attention to the details of everyday life. While Bond villains are focused an intent on their plans for shaping the future, Bond dwells in the rich aspects of everyday living. He pauses during his adventures to enjoy large breakfasts, savoring his meals. By engaging in this rituals of mindfulness Bond trains his mind to respond to subtle changes in the environment--which is important when the trained hitmen of SMERSH are on your tail!
This mindfulness also extends to his attitude about difficult situations. When facing off against a syndicate of American jewel smugglers in Diamonds are Forever, for instance, Fleming's Bond never laments his unfamiliarity with the diamond business or being cut off from his homeland while undercover in America. Instead, he considers what he can do in the present moment to improve his life. By focusing on what he can change, rather than his own inadequate preparation, Bond is continually improving his situation.
The Takeaway: Learn from the past, but don't dwell in it. Engage with the present.
3. Bond focuses on capability rather than appearance.
Fleming's second novel in the Bond saga, Live and Let Die, is a difficult read these days for reasons too numerous to mention (we'll just mention one here: horrifying racism). Still, there's one moment in the text that stands out as admirable even today. Bond, having been relegated to a desk job, takes out a portion of his day to get some exercise via calisthenics. Staying healthy is important, after all (we won't go into detail about Bond's three-pack-a-day cigarette habit).
But Bond doesn't just perform daily physical exercise. He also is trained in Judo, can salsa and tango, speaks a handful of different languages, and is the best pistol-shot in the Secret Service. He knows a fair bit about cars, too. As an individual, Bond dedicates his spare time to cultivating skills and honing his knowledge. Ultimately, this is probably the most useful aspect of Bond to emulate. After all, most of us already possess a few slightly specialized interests that we could use to improve our lives (and the lives of others as it is). Why not take a class in First Aid or woodworking? Or, if you're a movie buff, spend some time reading up on cinematography or history online. And following a light exercise plan developed in consultation with your doctor is never a bad idea.
The Takeaway: Just because you won't have an opportunity to show off a skill in day-to-day life doesn't mean it isn't worth developing. Become skilled at something!