Sunday, January 5, 2014

Walter Mitty motivates Alaskan dropped in Missouri

The other day we saw the newest film rendition of the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”  I believe I had
read the story many years ago, but had forgotten the details of Thurber’s plot.  Commonsense told me that the current version was not true to the finer points, however.  It did not matter to me, or any of the members of my family who saw it with me. 

The critics were fairly ambivalent about the movie – not a big surprise to me as I imagine them sitting in some brownstone or high-rise office building in Chicago or New York not being able to relate in the least to Walter’s quest for adventure.  I imagine them thinking, “I could not care less about adding adventure to my life and I do not appreciate the implication that my nine to five existence leaves me wanting.  I am comfortable and do not want to be cold, tired, scared, or uncertain about life.”  The critics covered their less than enthusiastic reviews with excuses, in my mind completely off base, such as lack of character development.
There really is no part of me that wants anyone to feel lacking if they do not have that desire for adventure.  I have certainly experienced far less of it as my life has settled into a more mundane reality,
but I still relish knowing people whose lives are full of it, and experiencing it vicariously through movies and books.  There is a reminder in each of these vicarious experiences, that at least for me, there is still a need for adventure, albeit at a scaled down level.  It causes me to dream, and occasionally plan adventures that at age 50 I can still experience with a fairly high likelihood of surviving.  These are the things that keep my mind alive, and truthfully are solely responsible for me not lapsing into a physical state of morbid obesity.

Viewers of “Walter Mitty,” at least those who watched it with an open mind, likely reacted to the film in a multitude of ways.  There are those who likely see themselves as Water Mitty’s – never having experienced any kind of adventure…those who have never been anywhere interesting.  I am blessed that I have had at least the experience of adventure and grew up in an interesting place – Alaska.
So, for me, the challenge perceived was that now that I live in Missouri and work in a suburban school district and am at least relatively comfortable, do I just look back and hobble into old age telling stories from many years ago?  Or, do I endeavor to add to the adventures I have been blessed to experience. 
I do not anticipate riding out storms as a deckhand on a fishing boat off Cape Fairweather,
working for a crazy skipper, or working at a remote site for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game building salmon weirs and trying to keep bears away long enough to count the salmon trying to migrate upstream to spawn.  My adventures must fit into some realities of family responsibilities and physical limitations. 

I am lucky to have a family that enjoys seeking out some of these adventures at least on a limited scale.  We have camped for the better part of a summer in the West – even staying in a firetower for a week atop one of the higher peaks in the Cabinet Mountains of Northwest Montana.   We have canoed and kayaked whitewater streams all over the country.  Even Laura, my wife who was not naturally endowed with the inclination to live on the edge, has experienced many of these adventures with my two sons and I (as well as various dogs), and is likely better off for having done so.  I know our family
is better off for us having done these things together.

So for me, looking back is a treasure, but also a reminder to look forward to seek further but appropriate adventures.  Implied in adventure is challenge, and for me the challenge is to push myself physically to be in condition to go on these future adventures. This is not a roundabout way of bringing up a New Year’s Resolution – I do not do them.  But I am going to be in better shape this year through
diet and exercise. 

I hope that you see the movie, and enjoy it.  I hope that it inspires some sense of adventure in you, if even to enjoy the adventures of others.  It is sort of cliché to suggest that one not live life such that they will regret adventures missed.  But clichés are so for a reason.