So in between school and work* and my social life (or lack thereof, *see previous, school and work) I’ve been trying to do some reading. I have a lot of books on my shelf and on my nook that I haven’t read yet, so naturally I’m trying to get though them so I can move on to others. Lately, not of my own choice it seems, the books i’ve been reading have been about story and also the question of why. I want to mention two books specifically. Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller and Epic by John Eldredge.
The first is about Miller’s road trip from Texas to Oregon. Him and a friend get in an old beat-up VW Bus and go, he leaves behind his friends and everything, not really knowing what he’s going to do when he gets to Oregon for money. Along the way he gives us little pictures of his trip and his conversations with his friend Paul, and his journey with God. He’s struggling to understand God and is asking the same basic question we all start out asking.
Why is it that we place so much emphasis on material things and things that really don’t matter? Everywhere you look advertisements tell you, you need this, this will make your life better. But why? Why is it that we strive for the car, and the house with the white picket fence and the 2.5 children (I still wanna know how we get half a child…that’s just weird). And what is it that makes us appreciate sunrises and sunsets, why do we get chills when we hear someone we love speak, why do we fall in love? Is it just chemicals like science says or is it more?
Maybe this is just a product of my age but, i’m inclined to ask the same questions. Why do we struggle so hard for things that ultimately won’t make us happy? Who has told us that getting all these things will make us happy? At the beginning of the book Don and Paul talk about what they want, and it goes something like, a boat, a big house, a car etc. And about half way through after hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon their wants have changed. By then all they really want is a bowl of cereal. I’ve heard we’re conditioned to want, but maybe it’s not true. I was at my boss’ house this weekend and him and his wife have a new baby boy. They remarked that earlier that week they heard a new cry out of him. Not the, I need something cry, but a pay attention to me cry. It seems that from the beginning we want more than we have, we aren’t satisfied with what we have and we want more.
You could say there are two basic questions we ask.
Why? and How?
I think the former is the more important of the two questions. Because why informs the how.
As children we’re constantly asking questions, why is the sky blue, why this, why that? Why? Because we want answers, we want to know. The older we get the less we ask why and the more we assume we know. The questions change too.
Why did God make me this way? Why does she like him and not me? Why didn’t he ask me out? Why can’t I go out at 3am with my friends?
I sat out looking at the stars last weekend after finishing this book asking myself the same questions. Why? Why am I in college? To get a good job so I can make money and afford all the stuff I want? Will that make me happy?
Why does it seem like our lives aren’t fulfilling?
There’s another book that Donald Miller wrote called, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, in it he talks about living a better story, the preface goes like this.
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 that 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 these 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. (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)
So maybe the reason we want more is because we’re living a story that isn’t fulfilling.
Part 2 coming soon.