A Book Worth Reading: “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” – part 2

Yesterday, I gave you part 1 of some quotes from Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Here are some more quotes. If these quotes stir your heart and imagination, you will love this book:

  • Last year, I had to go through all twelve months of my bank statements and highlight anything I could write off. At first I started the assignment sort of excited, because I thought I might save money on my taxes. As I highlighted potential business write-offs, however, I began to realize the stuff I spent money on indicated the stories I was living. By that I mean the stuff I spent money on was, in many ways, the sum of my ambitions. And those ambitions weren't the stuff of good stories. (p. 121)
  • I'd bought a new truck that year, and I'd moved from a house to a much nicer condo. Nothing against a nice condo, but I privately wondered whether I was a protagonist telling an exciting story who happened to live in a nice condo, or whether I was a protagonist telling a boring story about trying to pay off his nice condo. Looking over my bank statements, I feared the latter might be true. My only consolation was I wasn't alone. Most Americans aren't living very good stories. It's not our fault, I don't think. We are suckered into it. We are brainwashed, I think. (p. 122)
  • Last week I read an article in the paper that said the average American encounters three thousand commercial messages each day. It went on to discuss how advertising causes us to think in wish-fulfillment dynamics. The article was printed on a page across from a Best Buy ad announcing a sale on remote controls, including one that had a touch screen like an iPhone. The ad said the remote control could command all the electronics in your home. I had trouble finishing the article about the effects of advertising because I kept pressing my finger against the picture of the remote, imagining my television turning on and off. Before I started writing for a living, I had a job as a marketing guy at a start-up company that sold textbooks to the education market. In learning about my job, I had to read all kinds of other books about how to sell people stuff they don't need. As near as I could tell from reading those books, marketing is a three-step process. The first step is to convince people they are miserable. The second step is to convince people they will be happy if they buy your product, and the third step is to include a half-naked woman in your pitch. I read so many of these ideas I actually considered creating a magazine ad showing a teacher in a bikini wrapped seductively over a pile of geometry books. (pp. 122-123)
  • 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. (pp. 124-125)
  • (He's telling a story of hiking in Columbia) Carlos said if we would have stayed on the trail along the river, Machu Picchu was only six hours away. In ancient times, the river was used as a commercial route, Carlos said, but if you visited Machu Picchu on a pilgrimage, you had to take the Inca Trail. When he said this, he pointed toward the Andes, up toward the snow, above the thick trees and the rain forest that rests above the desert valley. Then he said we would take four days to get there.

    "Why would the Incas make people take the long route?" my friend from Alabama asked.

    "Because the emperor knew," Carlos said, "the more painful the journey to Machu Picchu, the more the traveler would appreciate the city, once he got there."

    We stood there appreciating the universal significance of what Carlos had said. There wasn't a person among us who wanted to take the shorter route. Except me, perhaps, but I didn't say anything. I just stood there looking appreciative like the rest of them.

    (later) And it was like Carlos said, because you can take a bus to Machu Picchu; you can take a train and then a bus, and you can hike a mile to the Sun Gate. But the people who took the bus didn't experience the city as we experienced the city. The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way. (pp. 139-140, 143)

  • It made me think about the hard lives so many people have had, the sacrifices they've endured, and how those people will see heaven differently from those of us who have had easier lives. (p. 143)
  • 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 tress 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. (p. 179)
  • (Speaking of a broken relationship) I knew then the shock was wearing off. A certain fear grew. They don't have an emergency room for the kind of pain that is about to happen to me, I thought. (p. 194)
  • I didn't want to get well, because if I got well, nobody would come and save me anymore. And I didn't want to get well, because while I could not control my happiness, I could control my misery, and I would rather have had control than live in the tension of what if. A chance of hope is no pacifier against a sure tragedy. (p. 198)

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