About two years ago, I read Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. An unbelievable novel that incited drastic change in my everyday life and overall outlook on what is truly important in this world. My paperback copy was instantly (and throughly) marked with annotations and dog-ears in an attempt to save all of the important lessons that Miller has to offer in the brief 253 pages. One of the passages that stuck out the most, however, goes as follows;
“all the while we feel a need for new furniture and a new television and a bigger house in the right neighborhood. We drive around in a trance, salivating for Starbucks while that great heaven sits above us, and that beautiful sunrise is happening in the desert, and all of those mountains out West are collecting snow on the limbs of their pines, and all of those leaves are changing colors out East. God, it is so beautiful, it is so quiet, so perfect. It makes you feel, perhaps for a second, that Paul gets it and we don’t–that if you live in a van and get up for sunrise and cook your own food on a fire and stop caring about whether your car breaks down or whether you have fashionable clothes or whether or not people do or do not like you, that you have broken through, that you have shut your ear to the bombardment of lies that never, ever stop whispering in your ear. And maybe this is why he seems so different to me, because he has become a human who no longer believes the commercials are true, which, perhaps, is what a human was designed to be.”
This, I feel, is a passage worth sharing. It is hard to hold back from simply typing out the two pages that precede and follow this passage, as all of the writing is deeply inspiring and inexplicably calming. I’ll wrap up this post with one more quote from later on in the book, which occurs after Donald and Paul finish a long and difficult trek through the Grand Canyon.
“‘You were right about the cereal, Paul.”
‘The cereal. Being the best thing to eat right now. I could go for a big bowl of Raisin Bran and cold milk’….
‘You know,’ Paul begins, ‘its funny. Two weeks ago when we talked about thing we wanted or our aspirations, we would have talked about houses or boats or cars. Now that we’ve been on the road for a while, everything is reduced to a bowl of cereal.’ Paul develops a smile as he stands straight again. ‘Isn’t that just beautiful? Cereal. There are people in this world who are killing themselves because they want more and more of nothing. And the only things you and I want in this world is a bowl of cereal. That just shows you how the things we think are important really aren’t important.'”
Both of these passages are good reminders that it is the small things in life that can bring us the most happiness. Miller’s work in this novel puts everything back into perspective, at least for me, reminding the readers that happiness and meaning do not lie in expensive possessions or approval from others. Cut back, be happy, and learn from Paul.