from the bookshelves: blue like jazz by donald miller
i have been reading blue like jazz recently, and i like it. i haven’t finished it yet, but i have just a couple more chapters to go. miller’s styleis mostly unpretentious, often humorous, and very honest. i don’t agree with everything he says, but then i also don’t agree with everything my mom and dad say. he made three homonym errors and one sentence had me saying “what the crap is that supposed to mean?,” so i wondered for a little while if he needed a good copy editor. but then i remembered that he wrote this book way back in ’03, so he’s probably mastered tricky things like homonyms in the intervening five years. but just so you know, mr. miller, i’m good with things like homonyms. but anyway.
i was a bit disappointed when i found out that he isn’t bald. not that i thought he was old as the hills and therefore losing his hair or anything, but he just … sounded bald. you know, like phil dalhausser, the “thin beast.” the trendy kind of bald. he also reminds me of this writer fellow i know (who also has a lot of hair). it gets kind of creepy after 240 pages, hearing a voice in your head that is definitely not your own reading this weird and kind of whimsical book about Christian spirituality and life and cartoons.
but telling you that i “like” miller’s book isn’t really telling you much, now, is it? so here’s what i like about it, more specifically.
he talks a lot about self-addiction. in the chapter on community he describes his first experience with living with other guys after six years of living alone, and all the conflicts that occurred because he was used to the universe revolving around him.
life was a story about me because i was in every scene. in fact, i was the only one in every scene. i was everywhere i went. if somebody walked into my scene, it would frustrate me because they were disrupting the general theme of the play, namely my comfort or glory. other people were flat characters in my movie, lifeless characters. sometimes i would have scenes with them, dialogue, and they would speak their lines, and i would speak mine. but the movie, the grand movie stretching from adam to the antichrist, was about me. i wouldn’t have told you that at the time, but that is the way i lived. — donald miller, blue like jazz, pg. 180
i read that and was like, holy crap, that’s me exactly. and not in an excited way. through this year God has been showing me that i have to learn to live outside of myself, that there’s no way i really can live if the person i’m wrapped up in and always thinking about is me. and for a long time it has been. because of my self-centered attitude i’ve screwed some relationships up pretty badly (whether those people know it or not — sometimes it’s just a heart screwed-upness that threatens to come out in my actions). other relationships that have developed in a somewhat better way recently leave me wondering whether i love these people for who they are, fallen beings made beautiful by Christ, or if i love them because they seem to like me and i feel happy when i’m around them.
and seriously, what the heck kind of friendship is that?
it kind of sucks for a while when you realize that you’re a totally self-absorbed being. my tendency is to become introspective and root around in my heart for a while until i find something tender and then just sit and mope and think about what a failure and fake i am. but this, you know, just feeds more into the self-absorbed thing.
another thing i’ve been thinking about is passion. God is a passionate Being. did you know that? He is passionate about people, passionate about His Bride, the Church, passionate about His glory. and He created us to be passionate, too. part of overcoming self-absorption, i think, is becoming passionate about Christ’s message and about His love. well, duh, that’s more like all of it, really. but the whole idea is caring about something and Someone bigger than yourself. and that is hard at first, getting out of the me-rut. i think it’s an instance where you just sort of have to throw yourself into reading the Word and serving and loving other people.
if you actually want to read a review of blue like jazz, check out this other writer fellow.