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

I don't know that I've often recommended a Donald Miller book. The first book of his that I read, Blue Like Jazz, ofen seemed to be more of a reaction to the excesses of fundamentalism than an earnest attempt to explain Christianity. The book was well-written (and hilariously funny), but I wasn't sure how many had the maturity to read it without going to extremes. But with each book of his that I read, I become a bigger fan. The most recent book I read of his was A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

And I LOVED this book. I really was brilliant, meaningful, but very easy to read. It would be a great for anyone – from a teenager to someone in mid-life crisis. Really – it would be. 

My summary of the book would be this: It is a book all about the story of your life, and what makes a story worth telling, hearing, or living.

Reading these quotes may give you an idea if it is a book you might want to read:

  • If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn't cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn't tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you'd seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you'd feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make a life meaningful either. (The book is all about what he means by that paragraph.) (p. xiii)
  • I never know what to say to people when I first meet them. I can get tired when I talk to somebody new, because if there is silence in the conversation, I feel it's my fault. (p. 14, I REALLY relate to that statement… I talk for a "job" – so I feel like everyone thinks I should be a great conversationalist, which I'm not.)
  • Somehow we realize that stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. we think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller. (p. 32)
  • If Steve was right about a good story being a condensed version of life – that is, if story is just life without the meaningless scenes – I wondered if life could be lived more like a good story in the first place. I wondered whether a person could plan a story for his life and live it intentionally. (p. 39)
  • A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story. (p. 48)
  • When I got back from Los Angeles, I got together with my friend Jason who has a thirteen-year-old daughter. he was feeling down because he and his wife had found pot hidden in their daughter's closet. She was dating a guy, too, a kid who smelled like smoke and only answered questions with single words: "Yeah," "No," "Whatever," and "Why?" And "Why?" was the answer Jason hated most. Have her home by ten, Jason would say. "Why" the guy would ask. Jason figured this guy was the reason his daughter was experimenting with drugs.

    "You thinking about grounding her?" I asked. "Not allowing her to date him?"

    "We've tried that. But it's gotten worse," Jason shook his head and fidgeted his fingers on the table.

    Then I said something that caught his attention. I said his daughter was living a terrible story.

    "What do you mean?" he asked.

    To be honoest, I didn't know exactly what I meant… I told him… that the elements of a story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. Even as I said this, I wasn't sure how it applied to his daughter.

    "Go on," my friend said.

    "I dont' know, exactly, but she's just not living a very good story. She's caught up in a bad one." I said a lot of other things, and he kept asking questions. We must have talked for an hour or more, just about story, about how novels work and why some movies are meaningful and others simply aren't. I didn't think much of it. I just figured he was curious about movies.

    A couple of months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. "She's better," he said to me, smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story. (pp. 49-50)

  • If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you. (p. 59)
  • I've noticed something. I've never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking ALL movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked out on was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they've chosen to believe their whole existence is unremakrable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us. (pp. 59-60)
  • If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. (p. 68)
  • There is a knowing I feel that guides me toward better stories, toward being a better character. I believe there is a writer outside oursleves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness. (p. 86)
  • (Speaking of women in abusive dating relationships) The women in these situations are afraid to choose a better story, because though their current situation might be bad, at least it's a bad story they are familiar with. So they stay. (p. 101)
  • Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life. (p. 108)
  • 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)

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