My favorite line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beautiful things don’t ask for attention. When Mitty finally finds Sean O’Connell, whom he’d been looking for throughout the film, O’Connell had been in front of his lens for hours, watching a white tiger.
O’Connell declares beautiful things don’t ask for attention.
“When are you going to take it?” Mitty queried.
“Sometimes I don’t,” O’Connell responded. “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
“Stay in it?”
“Yeah,” O’Connell clarified. “Right there. Right here.”
Real beauty is only visible for true beauty seekers to see. The Apostle Peter referenced much the same in 1 Peter 3:4-4:
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
O’Connell, however, was referencing the infamously lost photograph, number twenty-five, to which the audience sees only at film end. Only then do you realize O’Connell was referencing Mitty.
Mitty, “What was the picture?”
O’Connell, “Let’s just call it a ghost cat, Walter Mitty.”
Like a Zen master teaching, we’re reminded to live in the moment – to stop and be open to the beauty surrounding us. We need to just “enjoy” the moment.
Prior to his journey, Mitty’s lifestyle was drab. He went to work, hid in the background, and took care of his unemployed mother and sister. This version of Walter is kind of depressing for he reminds us of who we are right now—the person who’s just a number in society, who’s working hard to support other people. What’s sad is Walter resigned himself to the meaning others ascribed. And sadly, many of us accept these labels and become them. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us our time and work in life derives the most meaning only when we are working in and for the lives of others.
When O’Connell decided not to take a picture of a snow leopard, he told Walter he wanted to experience the moment rather than seeing it through a filtered lens. The ‘lens’ in this sequence is metaphoric of Walter’s daydreaming, even of our own.
“Number 25 is my best ever, “O’Connell wrote in the opening film sequence. “the quintessence of life, I think. I trust you’ll get it where it needs to go, you always do.”
In truth, the most beautiful things don’t come from self-indulgent movie stars. These come from ordinary everyday people … like you and I. Some things don’t require a photo or an iPhone ‘selfie’ – you just need to live them.
Maxwell Maltz phrased it well:
“Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”
Just be. Live.