This week is finals week. Which I am very glad for. Finals week is always my favorite week of the semester. That sounds weird to a lot of people, but I really don't mind taking tests (I actually prefer that to having regular class, usually), and I only have one or two a day, and then I get to just hang out the rest of the time! Also, our dining hall opens up late at night during finals week and gives us free food, and nothing helps me study (or play cards) than being there with everyone drinking glass after glass of soda. Sometimes my kidneys just need to take one for the team.
As I said in my last post, I was recently reading Donald Miller's new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and I just finished it a couple days ago. It's good. Really good. It's all about viewing life as a story and how to live a more meaningful story than one spent eating cookies and writing blogs. I really like that idea of life as a story, and it's something I had thought of some before this book came out, so I'm glad that he wrote it and explained it all in a way better than I ever could.
I really love "epic" books and movies. The ones that cover big periods of time and have all kinds of characters that have some bearing on the story. Some stories just cover a little period of time and present some crisis that is solved pretty quickly. But epics are more drawn-out. The plot rises and falls, characters change and change again, relationships are strained and reconciled.
In elementary school, they did this program called Accelerated Reader, where different books were worth a different number of points, and you had to read and take quizzes on the books and get however many points a quarter. In sixth grade, I read David Copperfield because it was worth more points than any other book in the library. For good reason too, because that thing is thick. It was my Everest. After slogging through it for weeks, I finished it and took the quiz. And I thought it was great. The novel basically covers a guy's entire life, all the way from his birth. Because of this, a number of characters enter into the story and then exit, and some die. (It's actually pretty depressing in parts. If I remember, David's wife and dog die the same day.) Although the book is at times slow and perhaps wouldn't be a bestseller if written in today's action-saturated culture, I thought it was fantastic because it was epic. It told a big story about one man's life.
And in that sense, everyone has an epic story of their own. Lives are stories. I'm only 21 years old, and when I first think about it, I feel like my life story is pretty uninteresting, and nobody would really care to hear it. I've grown up in the suburbs, have always had life pretty easy, and I haven't taken too many risks. But when I think about it more, a lot has happened in those 21 years. I've gotten to go to a lot of cool places, I've seen some crazy things, and I've met a ton of awesome people. My life is full of a sorts of different scenes: funny ones, sad ones, unfortunate ones, happy ones--and they're all woven together into a tapestry of story that is my own.
We all spend so much time throwing ourselves into various stories. We read books and watch movies and TV shows because we want to enter into the story. Maybe what we don't realize is that all the time, we're walking in and out among those who are living stories. The world is like a giant library. But often, we don't crack the covers to these stories. We don't ask people about their lives. We're masters of small talk, and we'll sit and chat about the weather or movies or sports. And we leave it at that. There are people we may even consider close friends, but we know almost nothing about their stories, about their lives.
I think that, to a point, pretty much everyone wants to be known. Really known. They want someone to take interest in their story. In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes about a time when he lived with a group of hippies in the woods, and he says that we loved the hippies because they showed real, genuine interest in people. He writes:
They asked me what I loved, what I hated, how I felt about this and that, what sort of music made me angry, what sort of music made me sad. They asked me what I daydreamed about, what I wrote about, where my favorite places in the world were. They asked me about high school and college and my travels around America. They loved me like a good novel, like an art film.Do we see other people like that? Do we see them as a beautiful story to be enjoyed, or do we just see them as someone to be passed over? Do we ask each other about our dreams, fears, memories, interests, yearnings, goals, and hurts? Or do we remain content to just talk about the latest episode of The Office? Often, we don't do this intentionally. Instead we think that others probably don't want us to ask much about their lives. In our modern individualistic culture, after all, that seems awfully nosy. But I think that, to a point, pretty much everyone wants to be known. Really known. They want someone to take interest in their story. But no one can just go out and tell everyone about their own life, unless they want to look like a jerk, or if they write a book. So we all walk around, wanting to let others into our stories but feeling too awkward to ask about anyone else's. So I guess my encouragement is this: read each other's stories. I'm awful at this. I'm all about staying the surface. But good relationships require something more than that. They need a sharing of story. Sometimes we just need to put forth a little more effort to get past the title page.
I really like winter. Winter makes me feel reflective. Not that I really reflect on anything in particular. But I just feel like I should be sitting by a window reading some insightful book and, if I were into such things, drinking some sort of pumpkin-spice coffee thing. With luck, this reflective mood will result in more frequent blogging. It all depends on how caught up in watching TV I get when I'm home, I suppose.