I want to be like John McClane. No, I don’t want to go around blowing things up, cursing and generally being every bad guy’s worst nightmare …
Let me explain.
I had a revelation recently while I was sitting through a marathon of all five Die Hard movies. Yup, 12 hours of explosions, family issues and “yippee-kai-yay-ing” on the big screen. It was bliss.
But, honestly, I had these niggling moments before we started where I wondered if it was a good use of my time. After all, I’m generally a responsible person and twelve hours is a long time to sit and stare at movies during the work week. Turns out though, I can still learn things from movies I’ve seen a hundred times before, and it was only because I was seeing them one right after the other that I had my big epiphany.
Somewhere in the middle of Die Hard 2, where the bad guys have just adjusted the altitude meters and a plane is about to crash… and everyone in the tower is wringing their hands about it, I realized something.
John McClane NEVER stands back and does nothing.
Every other person in the film considered the plane crash an inevitability. It was going to happen and there was nothing they could do about it, so… why bother even trying?
John McClane on the other hand took all of 4 seconds to look around, find whatever tools he had near him and fabricate a plan to do something, anything, to try to stop the crash.
Was it his job to? No.
Did he know anyone on board? No.
Did he cause the problem? No.
He had every justifiable reason to stand around like the rest (whose jobs it was to stop the crash, I might add). McClane’s body had already suffered a beating and he had just taken out an entire special forces team. He could have said “I’m too tired,” or “not my problem,” or “I told you so,” and pointed all the blame on Lorenzo and those who ignored his earlier warnings. Instead McClane grabbed a pole, made a torch and tried to warn the descending plane.
Throughout the entire series of films he repeatedly runs headlong into situations where he does not have to be, simply to save lives. Oh, he makes it very clear that if he could he would be elsewhere, but he never allows “inevitability” or “impossibility” or anything else to keep him from acting. From trying to save those in peril. There is even a running joke in Live Free or Die Hard that McClane is “that guy.” The hero, the one who always saves the day. He counters that he’s not a hero, but what else can he do? After all, the only other option is watching people die and letting the bad guys get away with it. And he doesn’t really consider that an option.
So that made me stop and think: Am I the type to just stand and watch when I can do something?
Do I see people around me in peril, people going to their deaths so to speak, and do I try to prevent it? Or do I figure, eh, someone else will take care of it… That what is going to happen will happen, regardless of little old me? That is isn’t really my responsibility, so I don’t have to worry about it?
As a cop, McClane had skills people needed, skills he put to use in every situation he found himself, whether he wanted to be there or not, whether he liked the people or not. So do we have skills, or knowledge, that people need, but we’re keeping it to ourselves? Are we figuratively watching jumbo jet after jumbo jet plow into the tarmac because we’re not putting those skills to good use, or sharing what we know?
I might not have all the answers, but I do know one thing: I want to step out, try to make a difference and live each day a little bit more and more like John McClane.
Though maybe with a few less explosions.