Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

"Act not without thought, and then you will have no regrets." Sirach 32:19

The newest movie version of Sherlock Holmes, staring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role (with Jude Law as his sidekick Dr. Watson), certainly ups the adreneline more than previous incarnations. But there is still one thing that hasn't changed in the reboot: Holmes' incredible ability to think before he acts.

There are two major times in this movie when the titular character is seen thinking before he acts (and my only major complaint about the movie is that I wish there were more): the first is during a rescue operation in the opening scenes of the film when Sherlock thinks about how he is going to get past a guard; the second is during a boxing match when Sherlock is trying to figure out how to defeat a much larger opponent in the boxing ring.

These may not be the best examples (since they involve violence), but they showcase the ability to think before taking action - a nice antidote for a reactionary world (inspired, ironically, by the action movie genre this film sits within).

The biblical sage Sirach tells readers of Hebrew Scriptures: "Act not without thought, and then you will have no regrets. Walk not down a path where you might be trapped, and don't let the same thing trip you twice... Pepare your words before you speak them and you will be listened to. Draw upon your training and then give your answer." (Sir. 32:19-20, 33:4)

When people get into arguments, it escalates when one side speaks before they think, often blurting out something with little evidence or support. A salesperson relies on these impulses, hoping the buyer won't give too much thought to the financial concerns. And still others rush headlong into major life choices without thinking thoroughly about the consequences.

The character of Sherlock Holmes is a great example of the thoughtful action hero, especially in this cinematic incarnation. Yes, he is a man of action and quick wit, but this is based on a lifetime of extensive thinking.

Few are immune to an impulsive nature - and sometimes it serves us well. When we know what we want, it's important to proactively pursue it. However, good decisions are rarely made in haste.

Consider the parable of the ten virgins (cf. Mt. 25:1-13). Five women acted impulsively and forgot the oil for their lamps, while other five thought ahead and prepared their oils for the long night ahead. When the time came for the guest of honor to arrive, the five without any oil left were out making up for their mistake and missed the wedding feast. Here Jesus tells us that even the smallest details must be thought out first before acting impulsively - otherwise we might miss something as important as the Reign of God in our midst.

In whatever we do, the sage Sirach and Jesus both challenge us to think first (or as the old carpenter's adage goes, "Measure twice, cut once").

So before making that next decision, whether big (career, house, relationships) or small (what to eat tonight, what to wear today, etc.), think first - for the consequences of any action might be more than we realized.

Elementary, my dear Watson...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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