"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a million miles

I love reading. Always have. I spent a significant portion of my childhood laying upside down in a big arm chair, feet up the back, head on the floor, book upside down on the floor in front of me.

I tried that again recently. Didn't go well.

I always have a pile of not-yet-read books in various places around the house. Some of them are listed over there, on the right. But not all of them. And you'll notice the list doesn't change that often. School takes up a lot of reading energy. Work takes some too. So I glance longingly at the pile on my nightstand, read a page and a half in bed, and fall asleep.

I just finished "A Million Miles in A Thousand Years" by Donald Miller. (He's the guy who wrote "Blue Like Jazz" if that rings any bells.) It started awfully slow for me. Rambling. Miller's a rambler anyway, which is fine. (Let's be honest, there's more than my fair share of rambling right here in this space, isn't there?) But I just couldn't figure out where he was going. And when I only get through a page and a half before drifting off ... well, it takes awhile to get into it.

But then ... well then there was this moment when I realized he hadn't been rambling at all, there was a plan all the way through, and it all tied together. I like those moments. I love communication that does that. Sometimes I try to do that when I speak, and it makes me smile when I feel like that happened.

Here's the idea that stuck with me. (spoiler alert) The book is about his decision to "live a story" instead of just allowing life to happen to or around him. It's surprisingly honest and vulnerable, once you realize what's happening. He talks about going on a long canoe trip with a group of friends.

"It's like this when you live a story: The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you're finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn't seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you'll paddle for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn't going to be over soon."

They stop to visit someone until midnight, and then leave again because they still have hours to go that night. Imagine ... canoeing in pitch dark ... you might as well be paddling in place. There's no sense of getting anywhere.

"I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can't see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses and they go looking for an easier story."

And then suddenly - the shoreline looms and you're instantly there.

"It's like this with every crossing, and with nearly every story too. You paddle until you no longer believe you can go any farther. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows fast. The trees get taller and you can make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand."

I liked that whole concept. It's been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now. I found it oddly encouraging.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - available to borrow, if you're interested.


Dwayne said...

It's about bein deliberate in living out your narrative. I've heard it said that some people let life happen to them ... That's the very thing Miller is talking about .... Not letting life happen to you.

I've been applying some of his con pets since I read the book three weeks ago.

Dwayne said...

Oops. "concepts", not "con pets". =). Blasted spell check onnthe iPad.

Dwayne said...


Patti said...

ROFL Dwayne! Dude! Your iPad is outta control!!! hahahahahaha

I remember putting that book on my Amazon wish list after you told me about it. Got it for Christmas. Finally read it.

Nice recommendation on your part. :)