An uplifting crash landing?

On Friday this week Harrison Ford crashed landed his small WWII training plane on a golf course in Los Angeles.  Despite fears the 72 year old appears to have been largely unharmed in the incident.

Normally I am a little bit averse to News reports of celebrity incidents. Every day many people are hurt, robbed, divorce, have affairs or pay for liposuction. It can sometimes seem that only the sufferings of the famous are worth reporting.

Harrison Ford’s accident touched several nerves for me however.  He is an apparently ordinary man who has had an incredibly successful career. Unquestionably a fine actor, he has played leading roles in everything from action films and science fiction to political dramas and romance, but he is probably still best known for his role in the ‘Indiana Jones’ films and the Star Wars trilogy.

From this latest escapade that ‘man of action’ concept of him that comes across in these films translates off-screen as well as on.  Here he is, living his dream, flying his own plane – a collector’s item, at an age when some people are drawing their pension, playing golf and pottering about the garden.  He has sufficient skill and experience in an area completely separate from his professional career, to be able to perform a ‘death-defying’ landing in a plane that is dead in the air. And he is a hero too, it seems.  He apparently chose to crash onto a nearby golf-course to avoid hitting nearby buildings and harming others.

Some would say that there was an element of luck in all this too. The Independent Newspaper quotes Patrick Jones, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, as saying that:

‘anytime someone walked away from such an accident they were “absolutely lucky”‘.

Of course they are right.

‘Luck’, as many call it, plays a great part in our lives. Was there an element of luck in Harrison Ford becoming the megastar he is now?  I’m sure there is, but I am pretty confident that there was a great deal more hard work involved.  Just a quick glance at the filmography on the Internet Movie Database shows that among some major film successes there were also roles in TV series such as Ironside, the Virginian and Petrocelli.  Even getting these minor parts in his early career might have involved an element of luck.

Some people define themselves by their ‘luck’. ‘I’m never lucky, I never win anything’. ‘I never seem to get a lucky break’. ‘She’s the luckiest person I know, it just isn’t fair’.

How exactly does this luck thing work then?  Is there some sort of apportioning of ‘luck quotas’ to each of us on birth that stays with us for the remainder of our days? Or is it some sort of innate quality in us in the same way as some have, say, a ‘good sense of humour’, or ‘natural charisma’?

I think chance plays its part only from moment to moment. A die has to fall one way or another. It is just a matter of attention.  Do we pay attention to the number of sixes we throw, or to the fact that we are alive to watch it fall again and again?

If Harrison Ford had died that day, if his last die had been thrown, the newspapers would break out their pre-written obituaries and they would be full of what he had achieved, how hard he had worked, how talented he was. I don’t believe anybody ever got lasting fame or success for being lucky, and I think that is an encouragement for us all. Whatever we want in life, we just need to fly the plane and keep an eye on the direction. Luck will buffet us, and it may even pull us to the ground on occasion, but we can get there in the end on our own merits, even if we end up walking.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.