Sunrise After Skyfall
The James Bond movie franchise had its 50th anniversary recently. Despite many themes of death in their titles, say, ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘Live & Let Die’, ‘A View To A Kill’, ‘The Living Daylights’, License To Kill’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, ‘Die Another Day’… Bond never really dies. He bounces back to life after many near-death obstacles, in many manifestations, played by different actors. As ‘Skyfall’ puts it, he is ‘an examplar of British fortitude’?
Bond, in Skyfall, despite being seemingly betrayed by M, his espionage operations director, never blames her, as he agrees that is was a matter of possibly taking him down or endangering many other fellow spies’ lives when she had to order a close shot, that did strike him instead of the moving enemy target in a scuffle. Such is his ability to readily sacrifice.
As if with the Bodhisattva spirit, after healing in hiding, he is eager to be back in service, to seek and serve justice. As we know, Bond has had a string of lost loves in his dangerous career – but he strives on, moving on quickly after healing his broken heart. (Recall ‘Quantum of Solace’.) Okay, his romances are sometimes lusty, and his exploits are at times with a streak of vengefulness. Not a perfect Bodhisattva after all. Yet, generally heroic enough a character to endure in the Hollywood limelight!
In Skyfall, there is an unnerving ‘speech’ by Raoul Silva, the enemy, when he held Bond captive – ‘One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats. They’d come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm? My grandmother showed me. We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid. Then we wired coconut to the lid as bait and the rats would come for the coconut and… they would fall into the drum. And after a month, you have trapped all the rats, but what do you do then? Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No. You just leave it and they begin to get hungry. And one by one… [mimics rat munching sound] they start eating each other until there are only two left. The two survivors. And then what? Do you kill them? No. You take them and release them into the trees, but now they don’t eat coconut anymore. Now, they only eat rat. You have changed their nature. The two survivors. This is what she made us… You see, we are the last two rats. We can either eat each other… mmm… or eat everyone else.’ In a showdown scene, as Silva falls, Bond has the last word when he says, ‘Last rat standing.’
If rats can be conditioned to be viciously carnivorous of their own kind, they can be de-conditioned to regain their original nature too. Why must we imagine ourselves or others to be conditioned beyond hope of change? In the larger picture of things, our truly original nature is our Buddha-nature, the ability to actualise Buddhahood. All other defiled natures based on greed, hatred and delusion are transitory, unsubstantial. Will we see Bond evolve closer to his Buddha-nature in the next instalment of the franchise? We’ll see!