There is a scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty where Walter Mitty looks at a picture of Sean O’Connell. Walter is the daydreaming, play life straight ahead guy, Sean is the bold, adventurous photographer who masterfully dances on the edge between chaos and order. Walter looks at the picture of Sean looking back at him and sees Sean waving to him “Come on, already!” as Wake Up by Arcade Fire begins to play. I find it impossible to not be stirred up by this scene, no matter how many times I’ve watched it. Because that’s all of us who play life straight ahead, looking at the bold and adventurous and wanting someone in that world to look us in the eye and tell us, “Come on, already!” Mostly we forget that we can say it to ourselves.
I took my typical plunge into deep water this morning and watched the sun beams streaming through the forest, lighting up each leaf it landed on in thousands of fluttering florescent green glowing congregation of the faithful. Those who remained in shadow seemed to gaze longingly at the brilliant dancers, and I understood the look as my own. I confess I’m awestruck at moments like that, and floated in the water watching the light probe deeper into the forest and continue the dance beyond my line of sight. Light and shadow and me treading on the surface, floating in wonder. It occurred to me at that moment that writing is capturing the light, and having the audacity to try. There was better poetry in that moment, and I don’t quite have the words to reveal it to the world. But I recognized it nonetheless and work to serve the muse who patiently awaits my contribution.
I’ve been pondering the word audacity since I woke up this morning, but I don’t feel like it’s a word I can own. After all, I’m not living an audacious life. I fancy myself bold and audacious, but really I’m rather conservative in every day living. I do audacious things on occasion – little exclamation points on a moment as I’ve written about previously. But upon further review I’m more Walter than Sean. I suppose most of us are, and that’s the appeal of a Walter Mitty moment.
Whenever the fog of life clogs my line of sight I put on those noise cancelling headphones and watch Arcade Fire perform Wake Up at the Reading Festival and I’m jolted to clarity. I suppose that’s what plunging into water does for me too. An immediate state change. An opportunity to reset. But ultimately I come back to the reality that I’m still in the Walter skin. And I choose to stay in it. Secret conspiracies for audacious living remain, but Sean hasn’t waved vigorously enough to shake the inertia just yet. Come on, already! Absolutely, but could you wait for tomorrow? I’ve got to finish this project I’m working on. That wouldn’t be a very good movie at all, would it?
Audacity has a negative connotation, but I’m rather fond of the positive connotation. It derives from Latin, audacia and means daring, boldness, and courage. Three traits we’d all like to think we have in abundance. Like most people, I’m chafing at the bit, restless at the quarantine and the impact on travel and getting out there. It’s hard to live audaciously when you aren’t allowed to cross borders. But then again, maybe it’s just waiting for you to wake up and get to it already. Audaciousness is capturing the light within ourselves and showing it to the world. Highlighting our spirit within for the world to see. It seems you don’t have to cross borders to be audacious. You just have to get to it. Cue the music.