“Why didn’t you take the picture?”
“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment – I mean me, personally – I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
“Stay in it?”
“Yeah. Right there. Right here.“
Excerpt of dialogue from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I watched this film last night, and I was struck by the simple beauty of the message. Don’t let life pass you by. Grab hold, live full, go big, and stay in it. Don’t miss the beauty of the moment lost in day dreams, or mired down in the need to document each moment in time.
Two main characters captured this film, though we only saw one of them for a few brief moments at the end. Walter Mitty was a man who let the difficult moments of the past define his present. He quit living when tragedy struck, and he pushed aside his dreams and passions for a life of practicality.
The consequences of this decision left him with nothing but his imagination, and he lost himself in daydreams, longing for a life he might have known if he hadn’t let it slip through his fingers.
The other character, Sean O’Connell, was a famous photographer, a man who grabbed life by the horns. He had no address, no phone, nothing but his camera, and his vision of the world around him. They were unlikely friends, a relationship having been forged through letters and photographs, until Walter needed to track Sean down to find a particular photo, and he finally began living life. Really living life.
When he finally caught up to Sean on a mountaintop in the Himalayas, he watched as the man let the beauty of nature sink in. Though Sean’s camera was set up and ready to capture an elusive moment in nature, when it finally came around, Walter wanted to know why he didn’t snap the picture.
“Sometimes if I like a moment…I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera,” Sean said. “I just want to stay in it.”
I love this line. In fact, I really liked this movie. I loved the message, and I found myself chewing on it for a bit as I drifted off to sleep. I think that everyone has the potential to fall into the trap of Walter Mitty. We all let life swing past us as we give in to responsibility, to laziness, to fear, or simple apathy.
We could all use a little more “Sean O’Connell,” though. We could all stand to grab life by the horns just a little more. To live fully and bravely in this world that threatens to pass us by.
The real trick is recognizing the moments when we simply need to stay in it. Without the distraction of a camera, of social media, of the pressure to document and record. We just need to stay right there.
As kids finish up school and you head into summer, I encourage you to make every effort to stay in the moment. Don’t be afraid to unplug, to step away, to capture a moment by living it rather than recording it.
I’m issuing myself this very challenge, and maybe together we can push each other forward to a life more fulfilled, more purposeful, and better captured than we thought possible without the benefit of a device in hand.