A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller
What was this book about? And what did I think about it? Don, the author, paints himself as a fat, lazy, unmarried, boring man who spends too much time inside watching the television. He is portrayed as a man that is not living an exciting or memorable life. However, after writing a memoir about his life, Don was approached by a film-maker. The film-maker wanted to make a movie about Don’s life. Through the process of making the movie, Don had the opportunity to reflect on what makes a great life, what makes a memorable life, and similarly what makes a book or movie great and memorable. In many ways, every person’s life is a story. Some stories are bad, whereas others are exciting, intoxicating, and worth recounting. So how do you make a story out of your life that is worth telling? You essentially have a blank canvas, and you are the author of your story. What will your adventure look like? I like the examples that Don uses. On the side of the bad story, there is a guy who worked hard every day with the end-goal of buying a Volvo. After working for many years, the guy buys his Volvo, and he gets the thing that he spent every day striving for. Nobody cares about Volvo guy. Volvo guy’s story does not make people cry with sadness or excitement. His story is not interesting, and there is no emotional connection to Volvo guy. On the other hand, as an example of a good story, Don uses Bob Goff. Bob is an excellent example of a person who knows how to make life memorable. He makes life interesting because he engages other people in his story. As examples, he wrote letters to world leaders and invited them to his house in Uganda for interviews, he started a parade in his hometown neighborhood to celebrate New Years, and he says goodbye to his visitors by jumping into the river fully clothed. Bob is a person who is living a worthwhile and noble life. His story is good. I have read other books by Bob Goff, and I have always been impressed by him, so I thought it was exciting that Don used Bob as example of an excellent story-creator. Bob creates adventures, invites other people into his adventures, and is writing a story that is worth re-telling. How do I do this? I think the thing that stands out to me is that I need to invite people into my life and into my adventures. With other people. With other people is the key point.
The title, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” comes from a thought that Don had: What if I died and an angel carried me from earth to heaven? Along the way, traveling from earth to heaven with the angle, I was required to recount my life. I would need to talk about every day and every deed. The trip would be very long, and I would have many things to say. I would travel a million miles in a thousand years. During the trip, the angel and I would talk about every life event and decision. Hence, it would take a thousand years. During the trip, would the angel be impressed with my story? Would I be proud of the story that I was telling the angel? Would the Father be proud of my story?
One of Don’s stories that stood out to me was about a father and daughter. The father was disappointed one day to find marijuana in his daughter’s bedroom. Additionally, the father did not approve of the daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend did drugs and was described as a one-word boy, who gave only one-word responses such as “yes,” “no,” or “why.” The father was struggling go have a relationship with his daughter, and similarly things were not going well with his wife. So, what did he do? Without asking his wife, he took out a loan and decided to build an orphanage. Although the wife was furious that her husband took out a massive loan without consulting her, she later admitted that it was the best thing that ever happened to their family. Building the orphanage gave the family something to work towards. It gave them a goal and an adventure. The daughter became very excited about the orphanage and broke up with her boyfriend shortly afterwards. In the construction of the orphanage, the daughter found something to live for and be excited about; she did not need drugs or an unhealthy relationship anymore. This also makes me think about boys that abstain from drug usage simply so that they can play sports. For these boys, they need something to strive for, and athletics give them the motivation that they need to do well academically and abstain from drugs. We all need something bigger than ourselves to live for.
What makes life meaningful? I think that the answer is character transformation. The point of a story, a movie, or a life is character transformation. We want to see a character that faces challenges, overcomes conflict, and transforms into someone greater. In a good movie, most of the screen time will be used to get the audience to connect emotionally with the hero. The audience needs to feel like the hero is somebody worth cheering for. If this happens, that is, if the audience feels connected to the hero, then the audience will weep and cheer when the hero overcomes a conflict or faces a tragedy. When Don talks about character development and character transformation, I like his point that we only know as much as the film-makers show us. We only know what we see and hear on the screen. We have no way of knowing the thoughts inside of the characters’ heads if they are not shown on the screen or voiced through the speakers. It is the same thing with real relationships in our lives. For example, your wife only knows the thoughts and feelings that you tell her. She does not know more. For successful communication, your thoughts and feelings need to be communicated through words and actions that she can hear and see. Just like a movie needs proper communication via the screen and speakers to be successful, a relationship also needs proper communication through words and actions to be successful.
When we face conflict and challenges in our lives, I think that it is important to remember that God is not unjust. Rather, God is a master storyteller. A story is not meaningful without conflict, challenge, adventure, and transformation. We are all part of God’s story, and it is comforting to know that we can trust in the Master Storyteller. In the Bible, God basically tells his characters to write good stories for themselves by taking another person with them along their journeys and letting the Lord help. It’s like God says, “write a good story, bring somebody with you, and let me help.”
[Ecclesiastes 5:18] “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them – for this is their lot.”
[Ecclesiastes 12:13] “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this Is the duty of all mankind.”