You don't actually go it alone.
One of the great icons of American masculinity is the image of the "lone wolf"...the man who needs no one and nothing, save for his wits, his rugged good looks, and the occasional female dalliance, and who always wins at the end of the story.
Frontiersmen. Jason Bourne. John Wayne. James Bond (who's British, but whatever).
As I watch "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," I'm struck by just how easy it is to buy this narrative again if I'm not paying attention.
A cursory glance seems to show the classic male story arc. One man sets out alone in search of adventure...in search of finding himself...and does...and returns home changed (and looking far more rugged) to win the girl, tell off the a-holes in his life...and win.
Except he doesn't do it alone.
Not even close.
On his own, it takes all of his courage to muster up the nerve to electronically wink at a girl.
On his own, he retreats into daydreams of the life he'd love to live.
On his own, he's a really nice guy who takes care of his mom, supports his sister.
On his own, he's slowly being crushed by the weight of the world that he's voluntarily strapped to his shoulders.
On his own, he's incapable of breaking free of the bonds of his past...the heartache from his father's passing and the false security he's found in going along to get along.
Alone, there's no chance of breakthrough.
Alone, there's no chance of freedom.
But with others...
With Sean O'Connell's spiritual intervention from the photograph on the wall, Walter leaves his safe, passive, soul-crushing small story to enter into a larger one.
With Ted from e-Harmony, Walter has the companion that witnesses his life from pre-transformation to redeemed and restored new man and who can marvel with him at the change.
With the introduction of Cheryl's son, Rich, Walter gets to reawaken his inner child...the part of him, even as a grown man, that is still in desperate need of play and adventure.
With the helicopter pilot, the fighter within Walter awakens.
With the Icelandic hotel keeper, Walter's spared from death-by-volcano eruption.
And let us not forget the woman...
With Cheryl, Walter is inspired to play the true man. With Cheryl. Walter pieces together the clues of his adventure. With Cheryl, Walter finds the courage to leave the bar in Greenland and leap onto a helicopter. With Cheryl, Walter finally begins to process the pain of his youth and the death of his father.
As John Eldredge says in "Wild at Heart", every man aches for 3 things...
1. An adventure to live
2. A battle to fight
3. A beauty to fight for
And none of those things happen alone.