Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s 2011 Oscar-nominated movie, postulates that people living in every era think an earlier time was the “Golden Age.” Midnight’s Gil (played by the lovable Owen Wilson) is a screenwriter who wants to be a novelist in Paris. While visiting there with his cold-hearted fiancée and her stick-in-the-mud parents, Gil wanders the streets alone each night and is magically transported back to the 1920s.
“The Lost Generation” comes alive as Gil excitedly interacts with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali, Gertrude Stein, and a stunning French woman named Adriana—who herself longs for the 1890s, despite Gil’s protests that Adriana already resides in the best of times.
By the movie’s conclusion Gil manages this epiphany: By yearning for the past, he is missing out on possibilities close at hand. He chooses to follow his passions and makes tough choices, and the gentle rain falling along the River Seine serves as a metaphor for Gil’s freshly-flowing perspective.
Longing for another era, it seems, is as much of a trap as longing to be someone else or grow greedy in the desire to possess elaborate resources. All of it undermine the potential for stewardship.
During my own visit to Paris a few years back, I relaxed on a lobby bench inside the massive Louvre museum where Mona Lisa, Venus, and thousands of other works of art are visited by millions. I started pondering the elusive balance between “a simple life and a cultivated mind.”
The simple life, I decided, involves celebrating all that surrounds you right now: family, friends, neighbors, work, and the home you’ve established.
A cultivated mind is one that initiates occasional travel to interesting places and develops calculated risks, along with new relationships and lifelong learning. Such a mind serves as a constant reminder that the world does not revolve around your personal needs or beliefs, or your city, or even your overall simplified lifestyle itself.
Indeed, if anything, the intentional steward is grounded in the core belief, “It’s not all about me.”