Walter Mitty and the Danger of Fantasy
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a 2013 remake directed by Ben Stiller, put my wife and I to sleep – twice. It limped along at such a painfully slow pace that we just couldn’t keep our eyes open! If you can tough it out to the end, however, the film’s final scene makes the entire thing worth watching.
The film explores the personal fantasies of a typical American office drone. The worse Walter Mitty’s reality seems to be, the more he withdraws into the world of fantasy, until it gets to the point where his daydreaming begins to hinder his ability to relate to people in real time.
Imagination and fantasy are wonderful gifts, and are what make storytelling such an exhilarating experience. But this film does a great job of pointing out that, if left unchecked, fantasy can become an addiction that hinders us from becoming the people we most want to be.
Fantasy: The Good, the Bad, and the Terrifying
During my preteen years my family was technically “homeless” for about two months. We had sold all our belongings in order for my dad to take a new pastorate in Illinois, only to get there and have him realize that it wasn’t going to work out. We had already said goodbye to our former life, and drifted from state to state for a time unsure of where we’d end up. God had a plan in it all, and used this to lead us to the Dallas area (where I met my wonderful wife). But at the time, it was a difficult experience for all of us.
It was in this dark time that I saw the Star Wars trilogy for the first time. I couldn’t get enough of it! Retreating to a “galaxy far, far away” allowed me to cope with my reality by giving me a mental break from time to time. After a while, though, I realized that spending too much time in the land of fantasy would keep me from actually living, and I made a conscious effort to keep my imagination in check.
Drifting into other worlds in our mind’s eye can be beneficial and cathartic, but if we allow it to become an obsession it has the potential to do us great harm. What leads a serial killer to commit such heinous crimes? It usually begins with innocent fantasy. But after a while they decide that these fantasies need to be realized, with results that would make your blood run cold.
“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” – James 1:14
Capturing Our Fantasies for Christ
Believe it or not, Scripture has a lot to say about our thought life. We’d like to think that our personal thoughts are harmless and nobody’s business but our own, but the Bible wouldn’t bother with our private thoughts if it wasn’t essential that we address them.
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Have you ever thought about what it looks like to bring every thought into captivity in obedience to Christ? The context of the passage is talking about addressing false teachers, so the main point of this verse is that Paul was determined to cast down any prideful idea or theory that challenged the truth of God’s Word. But the Greek word he uses for “every” is pas, which literally means “all, totality – every single one of something, and every single kind of something.” Yes, we are to stand against false teachings, but Paul takes it a step further. It is also important that we bring every thought into obedience to Christ.
Which includes our fantasies. It isn’t wrong to daydream… unless you find it is hindering your walk with Christ. In that case, action must be taken on our part.
13 thoughts on “Walter Mitty and the Danger of Fantasy”
This is such a great post! I never thought off the dangers if such fantasies. One thing I do if my mind wants to wander to what my life does not have is to stop and reflect in all the wonderful things I do. I think if my wonderful children, my sweet husband, my freedom, my privileges, ECT.
Sasha, I think that concentrating on the positive blessings in our lives is so key today… especially in a world of social media where everyone offers an “airbrushed portrait” of their lives… thanks for sharing!
*of the dangers of fantasies… Stupid iPhone and spell check combo! 😉
Ha! I’ve been there! If only our computers would stop thinking they’re smarter than we are!
My husband’s been wanting to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty … so now I know to watch with a good book in hand! Ha! I have to admit, it can be difficult for me to keep my personal daydreams in check with the reality of the life God has given me. The only way I know to do that is to consistently pray, asking God what He wants me to do now, instead of trying to live my life based on personal fantasies.
I think that’s good advice… prayer definitely has a way of putting things back into perspective!
Excellent post. I always try to remind my kids of the same things. There is way too much fantasy and idols out there nowadays to get lost in….definitely a danger zone if you do not point it out to them early. Thanks for posting! 🙂
Absolutely…the world knows how to draw us in with imagination and fantasy, and it’s something we have to learn how to defend ourselves against from an early age. Your kids will have an advantage, for sure!
🙂 I pray that is true….Satan wages a rough battle–but our God is bigger! Have a great day!
The movie works because of how far Stiller was able to go with this material, and still not get in the way of the sweet heart of this story. Or even its message. Good review.
That’s a good point… I haven’t read the original short story yet, but I should! (At one point it was available as a free audiobook on Audible being read by Ben Stiller himself…I should check that out.) I’m sure that will help me see the film in an entirely new light…thanks for stopping by!
Back in my day (wow, how old do I sound???), our fantasies came from our imagination. Now, with every conceivable type of fantasy created for us, it’s a good deal more difficult to turn our back on it. I agree with Skye – the fact that it isn’t just “out there” but comes into our living rooms must be increasingly frightening for parents. We all must be ever vigilant about the roaring lion, as Peter warned us, waiting to pounce.
You’re right, too, John Mark – dreaming is fine – but let’s dream about God’s plans and His will, with our feet firmly planted on the narrow path.
I couldn’t have said it better – thanks for sharing your thoughts!