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Songs of Ourselves
Last week we spoke with author Donald Miller about, among other things, his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. After the show we got an interesting post from Pembquist, who had a pointed comment and question:
I guess I'm a curmudgeon. I don't really like this phenomena of filmic self-centeredness that seems to be our cultural touchstone. From the Moth to the memoir we seem to be craving meaning in "authenticity." We become furious at deception, exult pathos and sentimentality, we crave the fusion of fame and self revelation.
This tedious ranking of meaningfulness seems vapid and trivial but for the fact that it is iconic of American pop culture. If Bernie Madoff had an ironic self revelatory personality, if he could reveal some attractive personal demons or insults, if he had a flair for blarney wouldn't that be a great story?
For some reason there is a hollowness in American life, perhaps it is our affluence, we crave meaning. I wonder if the problem is not an absence of meaning but a craving for love.
Donald Miller responded via email:
Thanks for engaging the conversation. The notion that self-infatuation in the age of reality television is shared by many, including me. My book is more an exploration of meaning, and what makes up a meaningful life. But many share your criticism. Moving past that, though, it is possible, I believe, to tell a meaningful story with your life, and those stories are often told without an audience.
As for the desire for meaning actually being a desire for love, I think those are two separate desires. Love plays into a meaningful experience, but it doesn't define it. Frankl talked about the need for love, for work, and for dignity in ones suffering to account for an experience of meaning, so I see love as a part but not the whole.
Again, thanks for engaging in the conversation.
(In case, as it was for me, that last reference was over your head, Donald Miller is referring to Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust.)