Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS [book review & giveaway]

A good friend of mine posed a question to me a couple years ago that has since become a favorite conversation topic of mine with many different people. “In the movie of your life,” she wondered, “what actor would you choose to play you? What about your best friend? What about your love interest? What songs would be on the soundtrack?” It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?

Donald Miller begins the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by writing about when two film producers approached him with the idea of making a movie based on his memoir Blue Like Jazz. His description of the screenwriting process is fascinating. Although the book is taken directly from Don’s own life, the movie is to be a fictional portrayal of the character Don. The struggle he faces is unique: turning the events of his life into a cohesive story that grabs an audience and wraps up in two hours, and along the way coming to terms with the fact that his life is, frankly, quite boring. When Don asked one of the producers if people would be bored if the movie showed his life the way it happened, the reply that came was “I think they’d stab each other in the necks with drinking straws.” But really, all of our lives would probably be pretty boring if they were made into movies. “Life is slower [than film],” he writes. “It’s like we’re all… waiting for something to happen, and every couple months the audience points at the screen and says, ‘Look, that guy’s getting a parking ticket.’”

How many times have I daydreamed about my life-movie? The more I thought about it after reading the first few chapters of A Million Miles, though, the more I realized that the movie in my mind is based on a completely fictional life – one where I wear designer shoes and look like Reese Witherspoon and fall in love with someone who has a British accent, with a charming indie-rock soundtrack following me all the way. But let’s face it, Reese would probably not sign on to do a movie where her character sat around and studied most of the time except when she was taking naps or watching television or e-mailing a friend. If I wanted to make my life into something anyone would pay nine dollars to come watch, it would take some serious editing.

So, most of our lives would not make very exciting movies. What do we take from this? To me, the rest of the book after the initial setup served as a personal challenge. Don weaves elements of his own story in with parts of many other peoples’ to illustrate that the most fulfilling parts of our own lives are those where we made choices to create our own stories; when we consciously point ourselves in a new direction. We’ve got to take risks, we’ve got to learn from other people, and we’ve got to create memorable experiences. Because when you look back on your life, I’m sure you don’t want to see it as one endless cycle of sitting around and eating food and watching television and going to the gym. You’ll want to look back at the time you rode your bike across the country, or took a risk and pursued a relationship with someone, or jumped off a cliff. “There is a force in the world that doesn’t want us to live good stories,” Don writes. “It doesn’t want us to face our issues, to face our fear and bring something beautiful in the world.” We have to overcome our complacency in order to live a bigger life.

This was one of those books that I read at the perfect time. It seemed like every chapter spoke to me directly and encouraged me to live just a little differently. It’s definitely one I’ll keep on my shelf and pull out again sometime soon and I’d highly encourage all of you to read it.

Here’s the exciting part. I got this book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and they sent me an extra copy to give away to a friend. So I’m going to give it to one of you. All I’m asking is that you tell me part of your story – something memorable that has happened to you, whether it is funny, or sad, or even if it’s a little bit boring. You can leave it in a comment or e-mail it to me at allisonlott [at] gmail.com. On Friday, I’ll pick someone to win the book. Have fun – and I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.


Neal said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Prior to it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this newest book, but subsequently, I think you may have changed my mind. Talk about an efficacious review. I've got a huge stack I need to get through currently, but I hope it makes it into the rotation eventually. This is not my putting my name in the hat, by the way. Just a li'l ol' comment. My two cents. A thought from the peanut gallery. And other such platitudinous offerings.

Joanna Caldwell said...

I've always had an attraction to the dramatic and used to imagine my life as a movie. I agree the mundane may not make very good material, but reading your post yesterday, I started thinking about all the times I've wondered something along the lines of "will we/I survive this?" Like one time John and I were touring around Europe and arrived in a deserted, dark, Frankfort Germany at 1:00 am. Rather than lugging our bags around downtown in the middle of the night, John left me there with them while he went to try to find a hotel. I tried not to think about the sketchy looking guys hanging out in the dark corners of the terminal and I prayed hard. Then John got back and we ended up in a really cool old hotel. Then there was the time we were caught in a white-out while cross country skiing in the mountains of West Virginia. More praying. I could barely see John's backpack (a bright cobalt blue) in front of me but we miraculously found our way back to our little car because we found the snow fence and were able to follow it back to the parking lot. Of course, not wanting to be trapped in the cross country ski place that had only been dug out the day before, we hopped in the car and decided to try to drive out of there....down the one lane that had been plowed out, with the snow piled up higher than our little honda, and it was still blowing snow so hard and so white, that John had to drive with his head out the window so he could figure out what was snow bank and what was road....prayed hard again. We made it back to our hotel and spent the next three days playing in snow 6 feet deep in Blackwater Falls State Park....amazing! Another time we were hiking up in Toloume Meadows in Yosemite up above the snow line....just kind of making our own trail. On our way back down, we noticed huge mountain lion prints following along our foot prints....we had been tracked for quite a while....never saw the cat, but we kept a sharp eye on the ridge just above our trail. Then there was to scuba diving in New Zealand. Through a comedy of errors, John got seasick trying to connect his oxygen to his buoyancy compensator while sitting on a rock outcropping about 50 yards off shore. His buddy (me) had missed this detail in the pre-dive check because we had focused so much on the problem with the weight belts the outfitters had given us...way too much weight and we could not get any of the weights off the belts...We could barely stand up with all that weight on. It’s no fun to scuba when you are sinking like a rock and feeling like you're going to hurl into your regulator any minute, so we decided to call it quits. Except the tide had started going out and we found that when we had swum as close in as we could we were still about 200ft away from shore on a rough coral shelf. Also, because of the problem with the weight belts, I couldn't stand up and John couldn't help me up. So he struggled back to shore to take off his gear, while I waited on the coral in ankle deep water. Then the waves began breaking right on me, tumbling me in the surf. All I could think while I struggled to get the regulator back in my mouth so at least I could breathe while I was drug across the coral by the waves was how embarrassing those headlines would be. The rest of our New Zealand trip was tremendously amazing. There are so many more moments: amazing, beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking, terrifying, full of grace and wonder, that I could relate and maybe no one would ever be interested besides me. But that's ok. I'm thankful for God's gift of life and the rich adventures I've had. I'm also very thankful that God hasn't abandoned me to fully suffer the consequences of my stupidity....hopefully I've learned from them and I'm still learning. Like yesterday, when I took a 5 minute walk with the dog out in the deliciously cool last golden minutes of the day. To enjoy the miracles of moments like that, to be able to hear the music of my soundtrack in my head while I walked along---and I looked kind of like Meg Ryan by the way.....