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  • Writer's pictureLester Dela Cruz

What Good is The Best, If It Lives in Fantasy - Lessons from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty



In the hustle and bustle of our technologically-driven world, there's a tendency to fall into a pattern of dreaming about the 'best' scenarios or solutions rather than taking concrete actions. It's the classic trap of analysis paralysis, where we get lost in the world of 'what-ifs' and 'could-bes,' forgetting to focus on the 'here' and 'now.' The 2013 film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, provides a thought-provoking exploration of this phenomenon.

Walter Mitty's life is a testament to the power of dreams. As a negative assets manager at Life magazine, Mitty spends much of his time lost in his own head, crafting elaborate fantasies and grand adventures instead of actually living them out. This consistent retreat into his daydreams is an apt metaphor for how we often get lost in the fantasy of perfection and the 'best' scenarios.


The Unlived Life


In one of the early scenes of the movie, Walter zones out in the midst of a conversation, diving into a heroic fantasy of saving a dog from an explosion. In reality, he merely stands in front of his colleagues, lost in his own world. While it's a comedic moment, it also serves as a stark reminder of how we might become so consumed by the idea of the 'best' outcome that we miss the real, tangible opportunities in front of us.


The Leap of Faith


When Mitty finally decides to step out of his fantasies and embark on a real adventure to find the missing negative 25, he begins to live his life in a way he never had before. He jumps onto a helicopter flown by a drunk pilot, skateboards down a long stretch of Icelandic road, and even climbs the Himalayas. The thrill of these moments, the raw and visceral reality of them, surpasses any of his previous daydreams. It's in these scenes that the movie posits a crucial argument: The best isn't some abstract concept living in our minds, it's the reality that we craft with our actions.


The Power of Creation


In the film, there's a beautifully symbolic scene where Mitty carves a small stretch of wood with his sister's boyfriend's longboard, creating a keepsake of his journey. This moment ties back to the theme of our discussion - making things with our hands and bringing our dreams to life. It's not enough to dream about the best, to analyze the best. What truly matters is giving shape to those dreams, much like Mitty crafting that piece of wood. Only then does the 'best' cease to be a fantasy and become reality.


Embracing the Imperfect


The climax of the film, when Mitty finally finds the elusive negative 25, offers another profound lesson. The image captured is not of a grand spectacle, an exotic animal, or an extraordinary scene; it's a simple, candid shot of Walter himself. This highlights the idea that 'the best' does not always have to be extraordinary or perfect. Sometimes, 'the best' is the seemingly mundane reality, the lived experiences, the tangible objects we create, and the simple joys of life.

In essence, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty invites us to stop dreaming about the 'best' and start living it. It asks us to value the power of creation, to cherish the act of making things with our hands. Because, in the end, "what good is the best, if it lives in fantasy?" The answer is clear: the 'best' only matters if it manifests in reality, in the things we create, in the lives we live

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