“I believe there’s a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness.” –Donald Miller
Reading–battling–a nonfiction book right now, called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. An old friend turned me onto this author, who has an easy writing style, and writes about his struggles with spirituality. Reading this book feels like this guy showed up at a party, and stayed after everyone left, helped clean up, poured a glass of wine, and just kept talking, casually, the whole time. I like reading about his struggle. I get uncomfortable when his struggle becomes abstract enough to resemble some things I should ask in my life. I also get uncomfortable when the metaphor gets spread too widely–because I’m a pretty hard critic with metaphor. I’m also a lazy reader. I don’t like to work when I read, but this book makes me work on two levels–the writer in me, and the spiritual person in me. That’s like double overtime. I’m already working overtime at my real job, the one that pays the money to help my family, and I’m already feeling like I’m spread as thin as mayo on a diet sandwich with all the rest of the non-work parts of my life. I believe the term “glutton for punishment” comes to mind…
But this is stuff I’ve been thinking about more and more lately, so it’s good to make time for it. I like Donald Miller’s way of expressing himself without sounding pedantic or preachy, without being holier than thou. He doesn’t leave everything up to you, though, and I find myself arguing with him. Again, not in a debate-yell-at-each-other kind of way, but in a Tontozona-Forest-Writer’s-Retreat-Weekend kind of way. It’s not that I disagree with some of what he’s saying, but I’m not exactly sure I agree, either. It’s food for thought.
Last weekend, the entire Back to the Future trilogy was on TV. I was up at my mother-in-law’s, and caught parts of the second and third ones. I love this trilogy because it follows the true trilogy format. I also love Michael J. Fox, had a secret crush on him when I was a teenager, and when I saw Back to the Future (the first one) in the theater seven times with my friend Carolynne. We would walk to Burger King, get the $2.00 combo meal, take the 109 down Linden to the Showcase Cinema, and buy the $2.50 movie ticket. We’d do this almost every other weekend. We saw a lot of movies like this. It was almost our religion. We’d quote movies to each other, to fit into the problems of teenage-girl life, to inform us, to illustrate us, and to entertain us. We could both recite the movies The Goonies and Aliens from memory. For us, these were our stories, that at least were better than our own, that helped us deal with the fact that ours weren’t the most entertaining, or best, stories around. So this weekend, when I caught the time when Marty McFly says to Doc Brown “Great Scott!” and Doc says, “Woah, this is heavy,” and I realized the irony of them swapping places in saying these things from the first movie, I realized that even if we know what we’re supposed to do in life–for our jobs, for our vocations, for our morals or our spiritual path–sometimes a leaky gas tank in a Delorian in 1800 will ruin your day long enough for you to realize your true love.
In college, I was cajoled into working in the theater. I loved it–backstage working. I’m sure I still have my “Shift Naked” shirt somewhere in the nostalgic T-Shirt pile. I worked as an assistant stage manager under the Queen of Stage Managers, who taught me everything I know. But what I learned as stage manager, is that as much as you direct, as much as you block and tell people where to stand and call out cues, you’re just an enabler… you enable the good play to happen. You’re part of the story, yes… you influence, you make some things happen, but you’re also not the boss. It’s the collective that makes the play good. You can’t place all the props, run the lights, do the costumes and makeup, run sound, be the only actor on stage, and still expect a good play. At the same time…. this is your play. This is your story.
See? What did I tell you? Heavy.