i finished reading through painted deserts: light, G-d, and beauty on the open road by donald miller recently, a road trip story by the guy who wrote blue like jazz (which i've also read). this appears to have originally been written before his other books, although it sounds like it was cleaned up and fleshed out after years of sitting in a rough state. i must say i believe it was a better read than blue.... when reading blue... i felt like sometimes he was too clever and ironic for his own good -- like the style was so constantly used that it became overbearing and was less effective than if it would have been used more sparingly.
this book finds donald deciding to leave his hometown (houston, Texas) and go on a trip to oregon by way of the grand canyon. the friend he's going with owns a vw camper bus, which is their means of transportation. it broke down and had problems, of course (though not nearly as much as my pea green albatross). the book has a casual, easily readable style, and is more suited to his clever quips and turns of phrase. there's also plenty of ruminating about G-d, life, girls, nature, etc.
something that seemed to be a theme of the book was his constant wondering of "why?" and the thought that people who are able to ask "how?" and not "why?" are probably able to live a much easier life. he also seemed to think of most people as better than himself, but he obviously has some pretty deep thoughts. i guess some kind of mental torture and deep thinking tends to go hand in hand, as philosophers having one of highest suicide rates attests. although i think most people who call themselves philosophers tend to be pompous 4ss3s who use their knowledge as a weapon against others in what they view as a giant game of mental oneupmanship, instead of being how the profession is pitched -- altruistic intellectuals on a quest for Truth. (come to think of it, maybe it's not a surprise their suicide rate is so high.)
another big theme seemed to be the fact that we as humans strive way too hard for success and making it and become "comfortably numb" (to quote something else) and/or never fulfilled, when perhaps what we should be striving for is to simplify and seek G-d in nature and the skies and the stars. how many people live in a way they can and do take the time to just sit in nature or in the open and enjoy the world around us? to really just sit and watch and appreciate a sunrise, or a sunset, or a lightning storm? instead we're running from here to there, trying to climb the corporate and social ladders, gathering more and newer stuff, never feeling like we have time to just relax and enjoy life. have we lost something critical by insulating ourselves from the real world with asphalt and sheetrock and plastic and concrete and glass and metal? by buying into the idea that money -- that stuff -- will make us happy, will make us content, will make us fulfilled.