Regret according to James Bond

I enjoy James Bond movies. There it is. I know they can be sexist, violent, sometimes mindless – and I’ve seen them all. It started with Ian Fleming books (before I was allowed to watch the movies), continued with watching them with my Dad, and went downhill from there. Let’s call it a guilty pleasure.

Sometimes you find wisdom in the oddest places.

In the latest Bond film, there is a moment after the villain’s been foiled, after the car crashes, after America’s (arguably) favorite British spy has survived yet another global threat, where he and “M” (his boss) reflect on the morality of risk and regret. Bond asks M if she has any regrets, especially regarding mistakes she might have made in the course of fulfilling her duties to queen and country. She says: “Of course not, that would be unprofessional.”

In other words, it’s M’s job to take the risks, make the hard calls, even make the mistakes that are part and parcel of her position. Regret? No, that would be unprofessional. Sometimes there are risks one needs to take.

In Fleming’s book Goldfinger, Bond calls regret the “death-watch beetle in the soul. In our own lives, regret exacts a high toll. While remorse for one’s actions can be turned into reflection, redemption and reconciliation, regret just sits there like a bad fruitcake. You don’t want to eat it but you can’t turn it into anything useful. Life is filled with inevitable losses, mis-actions, and mistakes. In the coming year let us look together in all aspects of our lives – in our church life, in our personal connections, and with our community and global responsibilities – for those places where we are stuck in regret, and where a dose of action might move us and our world toward reconciliation.

Regret. Unprofessional. Unproductive. In such light I look forward to a year of spiritual growth and continuing connection.


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