The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I’ll start this off with a disclaimer. Much of what you see below is inner monologue. I interpret this movie as if it is the universe trying to shine a beacon of light towards an answer. The question refers to the meaning of life, how to live it, and why it’s worth it to do so. As such some stuff may not make sense. Some stuff may be rambling. And maybe it all makes sense like that to me, point is there is no wrong to the text below. It is merely the way I think I see things. Today. This hour.

So here I am, fresh after seeing this work of imagination and, although it’s an interesting mix of inspirational posters and predictability (not to say it’s not good), I’m here to talk a little bit about the big picture. I guess the trailer is vague on what happens to Walter Mitty but it’s not that revolutionary an idea, so I’ll consider this post to be littered with mild spoilers.

So I’m here to talk about the ending. Well, not exactly the ending but rather the message this movie wants us to carry with us out of the cinema. And, beside being one of the kinds of works of fiction that I enjoy the most (i.e. the ones where imagination takes hold and the vision is more important than anything else), I feel there are two possible takeaways from this movie, at least as to help us understand the ending:

 

1. There is the straightforward interpretation:

You have a man by the banal name of Walter Mitty leading a banal life but dreaming passively about a life without restraint, where anything is possible and he is its center. Along the movie, he suddenly decides to (albeit passively I’d say) chase that life and becomes the kind of person he and culture dream him to be. The reason this falls short is at a certain point in time Walter Mitty turns into Derek Zoolander. And that point is when he chooses to follow a hallucination into a helicopter. You see this man keeping a record of expenses and then, well then he goes on an adventure. Him, mister grey. The guy who stands behind a desk inside a basement all day, dreaming about how life should be. I don’t like this, because it says the only way for someone like that to be free, to live this life of enjoyment and satisfaction is in his mind.

Because that’s the irony of this movie, going on an adventure can only happen when you dream it. A man like Walter Mitty would never take that chance, he couldn’t, there would be no possible way for him to do so. He would sit at his desk, expense sheet in one hand, head in the other, and worry endlessly about how impossible the dream is. Even if he would somehow find himself on the way to that destination he wouldn’t go on, not as simply and merrily as he does in this movie. The loose ends would not be so thoroughly tied, and probably he wouldn’t get the ending he did.

Rambling complete, I feel I should head somewhere with this. The message here is that the life we dream of, the one that’s drilled into our head by every movie and every book and every failed relationship, the one which will give us happiness and togetherness and purpose, is nothing but a dream. Something that can only be achieved if somehow we would, overnight, develop into this mythological being who’s the perfect height, the perfect weight, with attractive blue eyes and rugged stubble, with the ability to jump into adventure head first and keep on track,  suddenly knowing the right things to think and say, suddenly able to fit into the world.

And that’s something that makes me sad, because I think life is about more than scaling the Everest and riding down a perfect Icelandic road. True joy comes from being able to appreciate what happens around you, like a good wine, or a nice song. So I guess my point is the movie really misses the mark here because it doesn’t show Walter Mitty turning his life into one of awesome exploration, but rather it shows him turning into something he’s not. It just hammers home the massive fallacy of a teenage kid: the impression that being the cool kid is what matters, and once you’ve mastered that, you’ve won. But let’s move on.

 

2. There is the positive interpretation:

Hope is the point. Regardless of how much disbelief you hold in your life, there is an adventure to be had, and positive emotions to be held. Unbelievable coincidences and real good people will show you the way out of the gray existence you feel is the only possible way. Perhaps even after 16 years of the same grind the world will give you a way out. Even if now, and for the next unbelievably long amount of time, you feel small, meaningless, invisible, there will be a day when you will shake this away, a day when the world will recognise that you do matter. It’s hard for me to go very much into this because as it stands I find it hard to believe in this possible future revolution, because for so many people it doesn’t happen.

But of course that is the point of much of the movie, showing us what beautiful things exist in this world. Beautiful people, beautiful places, beautiful friendships which happen out of nowhere. And that is mostly what life is about. Looking at the amazing things that make up every waking minute of us being here. At least that’s what I think. I don’t know, I can’t really feel it. But, again, that is what the movie wants to suggest, that hope should be had, and that with just a minute amount of effort and fortune, things can become extraordinary again. I like a lot that the movie showed that Walter used to be hip when he was a kid and that, when no one’s looking, he’s pretty awesome. That is actually the part that fills me, personally, with hope. The fact that the awesomeness that once was or is and is hidden, actually does exist. That part is not dead and buried, but just dormant, and we should nurture it, maybe some day it’ll blossom.

 

Conclusion

Look, there’s a lot more to this discussion, but the truth is it’s late, and it’s not really going anywhere. That’s my issue with the movie I guess, that I leave it touched by how things turned out for Walter Mitty, but not an inch closer to understanding how to bring the same into my own life… I respect these movies because they show us fantastic worlds and possibilities, and because if you are in the proper mood, this kind of story can push you right over the edge in building something, creating the kind of surprise you like to see in the world. I guess the simplest example would be this… text. But I am still very far from understanding how one can practically change their life for the better without expecting things to turn into a wild and implausible spontaneous adventure. I would have love to see what the real Walter Mitty would have done. How he would have managed to reconcile the expense sheet with his pursuit of that goal, even with the horror of financial instability (after 16 years of order!) bearing down on him. How he would have let go of the fear and make the first few steps. How he would have quit but persevered. How he would have compromised and found the elements in his life that would have made him a happy, content man. Why is our culture so obsessed with things being perfect? Why is this message being sent that without perfection happiness is unattainable?!

Personally I’m glad that Walter Mitty went on an adventure, I’m glad that things mostly worked out, but feel that he just had a short brush with greatness and now he’s back. He’s changed some things but he is still heading for the same kind of common life. What is he left with now that it’s all done? That’s what the movie doesn’t say.

On the other hand, maybe I’m just reading far too much into this, and it was just another nice story, about a man who goes on a journey and comes back better. But it still hurts me that I can’t understand the how.

Transfer Pricing

As you may know should you know me, what I do at the moment is Transfer Pricing. I used to host a blog at simpletransferpricing.com but I don’t have the time or dedication to fill it with content so I’ve decided to just post here.

As such, expect a short summary of the recent OECD draft on TP risk  assessment to pop up here in this category, followed eventually by more similar content.

And if you’re having issues with transfer pricing, send me an email!

On being sad

Hi friends, how are you? I miss you, some of you quite a lot. It’s weird how my life has changed in the past year…

Hi friends, how are you? I miss you, some of you quite a lot.  It’s weird how my life has changed in the past year. Leaving home, working in a different country, then in a different city, and now dropping in to the main office for just a meeting. Then all the stuff that comes with taking care of yourself and being all alone. I guess it’s good that I have some surplus pocket change, helps with all those things you never thought you’d need to pay for like toilet paper and dry cleaning and dentists and taxis.

Still, I’m sad. I can’t really go back home since there’s nothing there, nothing waiting for me. I left for a few reasons and they still apply, which is a shame but such is life. I miss the particularities of that boring city because at the end of the day, that’s my city. Even though there’s much crap in it too, but that stuff is everywhere.
Romanians are rude and stupid. But Germans are indifferent and self-centered, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be. I guess every place has good and bad, and the place you come from is the best from this point of view since you’ve got used to dealing with the bad there.

I’m sad. I work in an environment where there’s lots of noise, a bunch of people I have nothing in common with, nor will I ever be able to talk to about the things that matter to me in life. I’m lonely, because people ignore the love I have and need and label me after how I look; they avoid me because I make them uncomfortable in their ignorance. It’s somewhat ironic, because people usually like me, if I’m interested in that. But they don’t love me, since I’m always the voice of reason, and people work very hard to shut that out. Maybe that’s the key, being able to tune out your problems.

But I’ve succumbed to apathy once and it didn’t really end well. Too much indifference towards life. Now I’m unhappy but at least I’m somewhat in control, trying to steer myself to the path of righteousness. I didn’t say I’m there, but objectively that’s where I’m headed. I’m sort of taking care of my health. I’m definitely taking care of what I need to do. Better to be awake and in control than to be asleep and lacking in understanding. Not that there’s a difference in the end.

But still, I’m drifting and I don’t know how to cling on to something. I need someone to cling on to, to use them as a mirror. All I need is a push and a reassuring.

I speak too much of myself, and it’s a shame because this blog could be such an artistic channel of expression and dreaming. But people don’t want to read about how I understand why some people are the way they are and why it’s good to be weird. People want to read about how to have fun and stuff. Pretend about their life being a movie, their love being more than a compromise at heart.

I’m heading out. Happy tomorrow’s date people.

Precipice

Here I stand, on the precipice overlooking my demise, and I wonder if I’m going to jump or not. And what that is, dear reader, is a complex metaphor, because it has layers and various references, which actually only mean anything to me. So just take it as some posh bullshit meant to be literary and fancy and leave it at that.

I’m going to start this by explaining the situation. I currently hate my job. And when I say that, I don’t mean I hate my profession, because that’s not it. Sure, it has its stinky bits but so do all, and while it’s not always fun, there are times when I really like it (a bit rare, but perhaps that’s normal for my age). So what I mean is that I hate going to work. It’s a combination of not having anyone to work with or talk to and the general attitude of the people working around me and the atmosphere of this place. I hate waking up in the morning and thinking there we go, here we put in motion the events which will, in about an hour’s time, bring you back to that place you loathe. Other people may enjoy this job, being far away from bosses, able to waste time like mad, but I don’t.

Perhaps it’s my fault for not being able to adapt in an environment which is nothing like what I dream of when I think of my life. It is definitely my fault though for not being able to leave things aside and just enjoy myself. But we’re not here to excuse or damn me.

What we’re here to do is discuss the passage of time and how perception shapes our world in a genuine way.

As stated previously I hate my job. It is a feeling that grows every day and suppresses any ability of positive thinking on my part. Since I hate my job, there is this ominous feeling looming over me every time I think of time. I know that regardless of how much time there is, the end result is that, inevitably, I will have to return to that place. To that place which fills me with dread and misery.

As such, I am the equivalent of a man who has fallen off a cliff and, even though the cliff is many miles away from the ground, he knows what’s waiting at the bottom, so all he can do is yell, growing hoarse as time passes, but yelling nonetheless. There is no time for anything else. There is no point to anything else.

But see, that’s not all! Eventually, he does hit the ground and the feeling lasts for hours but, somehow, he lives. He picks himself up, bruised and battered, and drearily walks home. He eats, he sits, and he sleeps. But the next day, it’s the same cliff, the same fall.

And a funny thing happens: the time between falls starts feeling shorter and shorter! Of course, it’s not the actual time that gets shorter, but the feeling becomes more obsessing, more ominous, so much so that there comes a point when there is no time between falls. There is only falling, and then there’s waiting to fall, regardless of what it actually is.

That is what my life has become lately, and I’m quite powerless to shift my gaze to anything other than the cliff. Sometimes, for a very short period of time, I forget about the cliff. It feels nice and I’m actually happy, released from a burden. But it also has an annoying side effect; I eventually remember about the cliff again and realise that the short period of bliss was nothing than an illusion, so I grow suspicious of such moments, and start believing that there is nothing but the cliff. So I actively start avoiding such joy, certain that they are nothing but things which will make me more aware of the cliff.

So here I stand, on the precipice overlooking my demise, and I wonder if there’s any time left until I have to jump.

Belief

Being here, far away from anywhere I’d want to be, I get a chance to think about what I believe in. I’m not a religious man, far from it. These are beliefs that truly matter, for they are mine, and they define me. They are my core and I feel that the path to inner peace must be through them.

I believe in being in a creative environment. I believe that the people around me should believe in what they do, and that they should always share ideas with each other, always interested in finding new solutions. I believe in being in a nice office, with a big window, a nice computer monitor, and everything else contributing to a sense of wellness. I believe in talking with the people around me, all the time, buzzing ideas back and forth, always focusing not just on solving the task at hand but also improving the underlying system. I believe in empowering people to the best of their abilities and being empowered to control things outside your normal function. I believe in judging people differently one from another, and in keeping job roles fluid. I believe in companies rewarding people not just with money, but actually paying attention to each of them and offering them what they need. I’d rather have company sponsored workshops to improve my creative side using company sponsored tools than I want another 50 euros to my salary.

I believe in the fact that people are generally good. I believe that people are also very selfish, self-centered, careless, mean, and even assholes. But that’s just the way we all are every now and then. I believe that what’s truly important with someone is what they can create. So what that this friend isn’t dependable or on time if they can make you laugh. So what that this other friend always borrows money and never pays you back if you can always give birth to brilliant ideas when you sit down together. I believe in finding the good in people and enjoying that with them, and I believe in accepting them regardless of their other flaws. I believe that almost anyone has something that can be enjoyable, although it might be tricky with some people.

I believe in respect and reciprocity. I believe that we all deserve each other’s attention, even though we might have to fight to impress some. I believe we all deserve to be thought of, and to be cared for, because in life we are alone. I believe that anyone who asks for help should have their request at least considered. I believe in always giving people hugs when they need them. I believe in reciprocating, both in kindness and in malice, without either the world falls out of balance. But I believe in leading with kindness, even though that results in pain often times. And if your kindness is met with malice then I believe that it is important to protect yourself.

I believe in dedicating your time to making things, even meaningless and ephemeral things such as this post. The wave of content will flow over it and bury it, a time capsule forever there but never to be found again except through randomness. For such is the web, it never forgets, but it lacks the filters to remember…

I believe in having stupid fun, rolling in the snow and through grass and doing things you used to when you were a kid. I believe being a serious persons spoils you. We are all free spirits my friends, and it’s a shame if we limit ourselves to what is expected of us. Wear a suit during the day, but have crazy stupid fun in your hoodie at night. Do the things that made you laugh — get into arguments about superheroes and cars, and don’t take them seriously. Eat gummy worms and paint your walls. Play old computer games and laugh with your friends at how serious you used to be about them. You’re not a grown-up; not today.

I believe in having something you believe in, but which is yours (flying spaghetti monsters are excluded). By that I mean that I think that you must have something inside you that you believe is important, be it your attempt to make art or your belief in your bright future, or your love for people who may or may not care. The important part is just having this ability to look further than what there is.

I believe that one day, maybe soon, maybe not, all of the things above will be true, and I will be surrounded by them. I believe I will be happy. I believe I will be working something that matters to someone, and where people really appreciate what I do and that it is me who does it. I believe I will find people who will care about and love me, just like I do them, and we will have tons of fun together.

I believe that you should also totally call me, I miss talking to you, and I’m serious.

Renting something – how it completely annoys me

Due to my exile to Cluj I find myself in a new position: renter. My most pressing concern upon coming here (and which I feel should have been at least organized if not paid for by the company) was finding a place to stay. And it was a bit of a journey, at the same time not as good and not as bad as I expected.

Finding a place to stay for me started way back in July or August, because I wanted to get something to live in for my three weeks here. I was told to ask later, then I was told that no one would rent a house for only a couple of weeks. So I ended up living like a Bohemian, in a decent hotel literally right next door to where I work. So that was fun and seeing as how I could afford it I didn’t really care.

This time around however I returned here for an indefinite period of time and not only did I not feel like spending tons of money just to pay the hotel but I wasn’t that impressedby it back in September. So I set out to find accommodation, again months in advance. I was told that it would be quite pointless and as it turns out it kind of was, so I deferred it to when I arrived here. I took over a week’s vacation in order to make sure I had enough and then started talking to the two big real estate agencies in town. Each had a different approach, one was sort of passive, sending me an email a day, then just calling once in the morning. The other guy invited me down to their office, we searched their (horrible) website together, and we went out to visit places that day already. All in all things weren’t bad but I had relatively few options. I wanted it to be close to the office and within a reasonable budget range. It only took a couple of days and maybe 4-5 places that I saw and I found the place I’m in right now, a nice 1 bedroom apartment, which is actually half a house, with enough space and a nice garden out back.

Of course it wasn’t all wonderful; after having 4 light bulbs pop and my computer screen going on the fritz I finally decided to tell the landlord to get an electrician, which he surprisingly did, and the conclusion was that the voltage was about 12 volts over what a generous one should be… And it may be fixed now, although I’m not certain, the screen played up a bit this evening as well. Seems fine now though.

Honestly, after starting to write this post I kind of realise this whole renting thing isn’t that bad. The process was almost straightforward and except for the pretty high initial cost (why the hell would you need a deposit? I thought you said we’re all honourable people!) and kinks of a place you don’t yet know, it’s starting to feel quite homey. And the great thing about renting is that you can find something to rent that’s close enough to go home for lunch. Tough to come back to work afterwards though!