Watch My Brain

They are making a movie about my brain. Starring Ben Stiller. The movie, called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is based on James Thurber’s short story of the same title.

Sadly, I don’t remember much from my homeschool education, but I do remember the first time I read that story. I was feeling resentful about having to read certain “classic” stories and books, because I wanted to read Harry Potter. Again. Maybe for the fifth time. But there were 300 books and stories on my list and I had to read 150 of them to graduate (my mother is the sweetest woman alive since the Virgin Mary and a slave driver the likes of an Egyptian overseer. It’s a paradox I expect philosophers will still be contemplating at the turn of the next century.)

So I read about Walter Mitty. The story opens with a scenario of epic proportions – Mitty is the captain of a Navy aircraft that’s struggling against the worst storm in twenty years. But the scene quickly shifts to reveal that Mitty is actually daydreaming. In reality he is the husband of a nit-picking wife who demands that he buy himself overshoes and wear driving gloves while she gets her hair done. For the rest of the story, Mitty drifts in and out of extreme daydreams – situations where he is the hero, whether he is a lawyer, doctor, or indomitable man about to be executed by a firing squad.

As I read the story the first time, I wondered if this James Thurber fellow had been wandering around in my brain and taking notes while I was sleeping. It was mid-morning and I’d already been a marine in battle, a student in class at Hogwarts, a college kid on summer vacation, and an athlete at the Olympics. It was unsettling, but the emotions and thoughts came in two waves. First, I thought, “I’m not the only one that thinks like this!” Relief, enthusiasm, excitement.

Then I realized that the person with whom I had so excitedly related was a fictional character, an oddball so unique and uniquely explained that people the world over had been reading about him for more than sixty years.

So if you go see the movie, enjoy your walk around my brain, and revel in your normalcy. I only wish that in casting the movie, they’d chosen someone a little less weird to play Mitty. Walter and I are good friends; he doesn’t seem weird to me at all.

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