Looking Past the Edges

Frank and I finally watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the other day. It was a great film – I loved the whimsical story and the message that life is about the journey, not the destination. As someone who loves planning and being prepared, I am drawn to stories about the journey, as it’s something I so often need to remember.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the movie, there are some spoilers…

Himalayas - Aerial view from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Partha S. Sahana, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

The climax of the film is when, after months of searching, Walter Mitty finally finds the photographer, Sean O’Connell high in the Himalayas, about to capture a photo of the elusive snow leopard. The two are watching as the leopard finally emerges and looks directly at the camera. Rather than taking the shot, Sean sits back and watches. He explains to a baffled Walter that sometimes life is about looking and not taking the perfect picture.

What I didn’t like about the movie was the ending. After making the beautiful point that life’s best moments cannot be captured, that sometimes it’s better to watch the amazing scene in person rather than focus on the camera, the last scene completely undid the message by showing us the image. I was so frustrated – why can’t film makers leave the ending to the viewer’s imagination? Why must everything be so spelled out?

As Frank and I were talking about favorite movie endings (my faves tend to just end without neat resolution), I realized I view life in the same way. I’d like to think that I want things to end with a beautiful, neatly tied ribbon but in reality, I’m disappointed with those endings. After a long, tough journey, sometimes a pretty ending can be anticlimactic. If life is about the journey and not the destination, then the destination is about the messy journey and not a perfect denouement.

I don’t know what the answer in all of this is. While not all endings are perfect and the journey is often messy, sometimes things go incredibly well and without bumps. Often, I don’t allow myself to enjoy the beautiful endings because I convince myself that an ending can’t be perfect – there must be some twist in it all.

And that’s not what Walter Mitty was about. It’s not that the ending can’t be perfect or neat. It’s that we often spend too much time looking for the perfect picture or setting up the perfect scenario that we miss the beauty in reality. I need to remember to step back from life and look at the beauty in the edges. Even when things are framed in exactly the way I hope, there’s always something just out of view that adds to the picture.

It’s made me think about the snow leopards in my own life – those rare moments of awesome beauty. Am I too focused on capturing that moment and documenting it or am I willing to sit back and enjoy the experience?

What about you? Are you a destination or a journey sort of person? And, how do you like your endings – neat or messy?

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One thought on “Looking Past the Edges

  1. I like both. I like the adventure, twists and turns, surprises of the unknown parts of the journey. I also like the ah, I made it!, it’s everything I hoped for, now I can relax, enjoy and savor part of the destination. Both have challenges, joys, expectations met and disappointments. Fortunately, that’s called life!

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