Do Dreamers Dream of Being Present?

Since returning to DC after the holidays, I’ve spent a total of 4-5 hours in a darkened theater – on two separate occasions – watching the same film.  While this generally isn’t a surprise, what is is it wasn’t a science fiction film, a superhero film, or The Hobbit:  Desolation of Smaug.  In truth it was something most would consider – at least on the surface – all-together different: a Ben Stiller directed remake of the classic film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

I’ve a confession to make:  I’ve never seen the original take on Walter Mitty and I am not sure I’d like it after seeing the remake.  In the latest iteration, Stiller plays the title character who is both a daydreamer and a cover-photo specialist/archivist for LIFE Magazine as it goes digital after acquisition by TIME.  The merger puts his job in jeopardy and he is responsible for processing a missing photo that is to grace the final cover.  The films opening finds Mitty trying to communicate with a co-worker via eHormony and trying to resolve the difficulty by talking to a specialist who works for them.  In the middle of this conversation, Mitty “zones out” and begins to daydream a sequence involving rescuing the co-workers dog that would be worthy of an action film (one that is topped later in the film by another dreamed action sequence involving Stretch Armstrong and ski-ing on pavement).  Such scenes set up portions of the film in flashes between fantasy and reality.  His work with photographs find him tracking down the missing photo – the elusive No. 25 – by traveling internationally to find the photographer.  As Walter travels, his daydreaming takes a backseat to searching for the the cover photo.

What might lead a epic sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movie uber-fan to enjoy such a film as to see it twice in a week? In a word, Quest.  While this film isn’t filled with lightsabers, characters with superpowers, enchanted blades, or magic rings, it still contains the crux element that makes those movies great: The Hero’s Journey.  Over the course of the film, Walter Mitty goes from a nerdy introvert – who has never done anything mentionable or noteworthy and often uses photo glasses that make him look like a Tusken Raider – to looking “like Indiana Jones became the front-man for The Strokes” (as one character comments later in the film after telling Walter that the mental picture of him was one of a boring grey piece of paper); a “real-life” Steve Rogers.

In one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” moments later in the film, Walter is asked if he still daydreams and the response is “less”, but he makes the observation that dreamers have difficulty being “present”; alive and focused in the moment being lived (a lesson he learned in his travels in a beautiful way thanks to a “ghost cat”).  Walter who worked for LIFE has difficulty following the wisdom of one Qui-Gon Jinn:  “Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment; keep your concentration here and now because your focus determines your reality”; old Walter dreamed of an adventurous life but never took that next step, never acted on the nucleus of those dreams.  Nevertheless, I think “Indy Walter” would agree with Scott Pilgrim, in that “I feel like I learned something…”  Indy Walter acted, and in so doing, learned that he is more than his job and there is more to LIFE than processing photos.  Circumstances forced an adventurous journey into the life of Walter Mitty and change happened.

Which Walter are you; what journey do you need to go on?



Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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