I don’t often do this, but I want to highlight this post by Donald Miller. I read the post a couple weeks ago when it was fresh, but it’s been finding myself weeks later now still addressing mental comments to it as I walk to the park.
The premise of the post is that people watch television because they are dissatisfied with their own boring lives. Why are their lives boring? Because they play it safe.
Actually, the whole post is bait to increase your interest in this Storyline Conference which will apparently help you better understand your life in terms of Myth and Story. I won’t make fun of it (much), because actually, I really like the premise.
Here are the things that Miller (and the Storyline Conference) want to get you to consider:
Your life is a Story – As totally cheesy as the idea of “You’re the lead actor in your own life” is – it’s true. Looking back on what you’ve done, what has happened to you, and how you handled it is a great way to frame your life. But – I would add – only if you refrain from using a negative lens. Take the Kelly Clarkson et al. way of viewing it – “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the “chapter” you are in right now that it’s easy to overlook the “whole book” picture, or to realize that you can make the chapters flow together pretty well with a little forethought.
Having a “Mission” in life will change your outlook during the mundane moments – There ain’t no way of living a totally radical off the wall life all the time – unless you decide to change the way you think about things like washing dishes, changing diapers, being poor, and getting education. Those are things that (at some point or another) need to happen and get done. And some of them will go on for years at a time – but they aren’t the focal point of life. Changing diapers and doing dishes is a contribution to family and a home filled with hospitality. Being poor is just a phase. Getting education is a way to better yourself, but then also to better the world by applying what you’ve learned. As Jane Addams would say –
“We are learning that a standard of social ethics is not attained by traveling a sequestered byway, but by mixing on the thronged and common road where all must turn out for one another, and at least see the size of one another’s burdens.” (Democracy and Social Ethics, Introduction.)
Having a mission in mind while your performing these actions will change your outlook, and will be a touchstone as you go through seasons of activity or solitude, despair or triumph.
Get yourself a Role Model – At first I really criticized the gimmick-y accusation that Americans watch a lot of television because their life is boring. Especially since the Storyline Conference seems to help people match up their life with some of literature’s great characters, at first glance, a pretty similar thing. Yet, it’s all in the quality. Many of the character’s on television are leading their own superficial stories. (I won’t touch reality TV right now.) However, some really are attempting to lead great lives, but they are constrained by the medium of television. They are reduced to caricatures of people. This is why literature has more to offer – it allows characters to develop, change, and deepen.
Do you think of your life in terms of a story? What is your mission in life? What are your values? How are they reflected in action? Do you know any other conferences or seminars that do this same thing?