“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it wont work in a story, it wont work in real life.” – Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years
I don’t read often – not often enough at least. I’m a slow reader.
I tackle large books with all the grace and ease of a child running neck-deep though a swimming pool. Generally speaking it’s a whole lot of effort and not a lot of progress. But I breezed through this book; it was an unusual and thrilling sensation – what I imagine a small dog feels when he sticks his head out of a car window on the highway.
Donald Miller’s, ‘A Million Miles In A Thousand Years’ is the true story about how the author, through the process of editing his memoir for a film adaptation, comes to find that he’s not living a compelling life story. It spoke to me with unnerving accuracy; I was at once captivated and admonished.
You see, I spent the better part of my 20s ‘living small’ – in other words, my ambitions ended at the borders of my self-interest. I had convinced myself I needed to find a job where I felt significant, make enough money so I felt significant, spend it on things so I felt significant and – at the very least – distract myself on the weekends to placate my feelings of insignificance. I was intoxicated by, and preoccupied with, narrow-minded personal achievement, and it worked… sort of…
I had settled into a comfortable, and altogether uninspiring, lifestyle. Like a merry-go-round, with all the light and sound and movement, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually going anywhere. And having closed the back cover on Miller’s book, I was confronted with a distinct, and uncomfortable, sense that I was not going anywhere. Not anywhere meaningful at least.
And yet I feel – as I believe we all feel – that we are called by our better natures, in those quiet moments, to want more of our lives. There is a gentle voice inside that lovingly nudges us in this direction, but it gets almost immediately drowned out by the clamor of modern life. My voice whispered then, and still does, that pursuing merely self-interested goals is a fool’s errand – and that fulfillment is only found in service to others.
So this is where I begin to write a better story.