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Stepping Up- (No, not Step Up) – 2/5/11

I saw a variety of movies recently.  Well, maybe not variety, as they were all a similar type.  First I watched The Taking of Pelham 123 on Netflix.  Next I watched The Next Three Days at the Dollar Theater, and I finished up the triad with Unstoppable also at the Dollar Theater.  I noticed quite a few similarities between the movies.  Well, obviously, 1 and 3 involve trains.  2 and 3 had some similar actors, while 1 and 3 both star Denzel Washington.  1 and 2 deal with people dealing with charges they might be wrongly charged.  But all three involve a striking similarity.  Well maybe not as striking as trains, but crucial upon reflection.

In Pelham, Denzel plays a subway train dispatcher who has to confront some hijackers and save the day.

In Days, Russell Crowe plays a college professor who has to figure out a plan to break his wife out of jail and save the day.

In Unstoppable, Denzel and Chris Pine play train engineer and conductor who have to stop a runaway train from wrecking havoc and save the day.

No men in tights and flowing capes.  No geniuses inventing away in their lab.  No super spies with guns and explosions.  Well, there are guns and explosions.  But these guys aren’t the experts.  At least, not experts in saving the day.  But here is point number 1 of todays’ post: Everyone is an expert in something.  Maybe expert is not the best word, but everyone knows something about something.  You prepare and live your life and learn and grow and work and become the person you are.  Everyone has a place, a sweet spot, a comfort zone, if you will.

They know their craft.  They have studied their line of work, like subway trains or literature or, well, trains.  They are good at what they do.  (Although, this disclaimer: Crowe’s John Brennan is seen less as a professor character and more as a father/husband character.  Which is even more of a lifestyle than simply a job.)  And something happens in their situation.  Whether it’s hijackers stealing a train and interrupting the schedule, murder accusations breaking up a family, or a series of goof choices by a couple of goofs causing a train to run amuck and charge onto the characters’ train line, it’s always something in their neck of the woods.  So, there’s point number 2 of today’s post: Trouble always finds its way home.  Not home as in origin, but home as in HOME- your home, my home.  Whether it’s weather or war or pain or rain, something is always coming or has already come.  It’s going to hurt and it’s going to smart, but it’s life, and you have to get used to it.

So trouble comes and what do they do?  They try to pass off the responsibility to someone else.  But that won’t stay or satisfy.  They try to pass the blame off on someone else.  But that won’t stick.  They try to live as if nothing happens, but that can’t sustain them in such troubling times.  Eventually, they can’t stand it anymore and are either called to step up, try to step up, or simply step up and do something about it.  Meet the hijackers.  Plan an escape.  Chase the train.  And there’s point 3 of today’s post: Sometimes, it’s you who has to step up and do something.  Sometimes.  Sometimes it’s the police or firefighters or politicians or philosophers or teachers or parents or trial lawyers.  But sometimes it’s you.  Sometimes.  And when it comes down to you—when the hijackers want you to come to them or the lawyers give up or the higher-ups keep goofing up and cause more mayhem—you have to do something.  And it’s going to be something out of your zone.  You’re going to leave your home, leave your sweet spot, leave what you know, or at least move beyond just knowing.  Crowe’s John Brennan is not prepared to kill or steal or break in or hide from the cops—but he ends up doing it, because he believes it has to get done.  Denzel’s characters are experts in the train systems, but not in running with a gun or atop a train or confronting killers, but it gets done because it has to get done.  They choose to sacrifice themselves for others, because– you want to know why?  Because they do it every day.

All three heroes (even Chris Pine’s character, who seems to fade in the shadow of Denzel’s Frank Barnes) are fathers.  They know what it is like to give up freedoms, personal feelings, lifestyles for their children.  They are heroic figures in these adventures because they are heroic figures in the everyday.  And even more, they aren’t perfect.  One is accused of taking bribes, another is making immoral choices to save his love, another is… well, Barnes is pretty much awesome.  (I guess he disobeys commands, but…)  But they all have something to fight for.  More than just their job or their workplace or the status quo- they are fighting for those who are the victims of trouble—a train full of hostages, a motherless child, towns of unsuspecting citizens.  In the end, the heroes fight the people.

And so, where are you in these stories?  Do you take the easy way out?  Do you cause terrible situations?  Do you let trouble come home?  Do you stay out of the way?  Or do you step up and do something?  We all have our areas of expertise, whether work or art or passion or just our own lives.  Trouble always comes.  But you have been prepared, trained, readied in your sweet spot to rise above it, rise above yourself, and become the hero.  If it’s your time.  But that should never be the excuse—“It’s not my fight.”  If trouble comes to your home, you need to pull out the shotgun and fight—(although it can often be done without violence)—for the ones that you love.  If it’s your place and time, it’s time to step up and save the day.

Is it your time?



Posted under: Opening Eyes

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