So I just got back from New Orleans and during my trip I decided to read N.D. Wilson’s book Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl. Their is a companion DVD to the book which I had already seen (& loved) and last year I read his book Death by Living and was absolutely blown away by that too so I decided it was time for me to read Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl.
N.D. Wilson is such a unique writer. Both of his non-fiction books (the two noted above) are a compelling mixture of story telling, spoken word, poetry, satire, and logical argumentation shaken into the most savory of literary cocktails! In Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, Wilson is concerned with opening his reader’s eyes to the wonder of this world, the world that God has spoken into being. Wilson has a way of showing how ridiculous our complaints are and how marvelous God’s story is, that is, the story of this world in which we all find ourselves. Moreover, the story that the author entered into and changed everything!
I don’t know about you but I am always a little skeptical when Christian authors start talking about “story”. I tend to be skeptical because so many times the idea of “story” is coming through the pen of someone like Rob Bell or Donald Miller & you know its just a matter of time before their “stories” no longer include any truth or hell or sin or even church. But Wilson presents an entirely different understanding of “story” than those who just don’t like the church and are looking for a way to be in Christ but not in his body (no wonder their “walks” focus on spirituality).
The main thrust of Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl is that the stories the philosophers have written about this world are really bad ones & that the only story that truly makes sense is the story that God has written. Wilson deals with some meaty theological & philosophical “problems” in Notes but he does so in a way that hits your stomach and your bones along with your head. Wilson shows how throughout the ages philosophers have generally been mad at God and the world. Here’s how he puts it:
Philosophers have long marveled at the world. But that’s not exactly accurate. Some philosophers have marveled. Most have responded to the overwhelming weight of reality with pontification and soft-boiled verbiage. The rest have just whined about what a terrible, hard, godless world it is. The world hurts their feelings, and so they fire back dissertations full of insults—cling it an accident, pointless, a derivative of chaos, occasionally even going so far as to deny its existence. But the world doesn’t care. It has thick skin, and all the most important thinkers have become apart of it. (pg. 11)
Wilson takes issue with the stories that philosophers write about the world mainly because they remove the world of its wonder. They tend to explain away the miracles and magic that are everywhere in this world. Wilson does not despair of science but he does despair when science blinds us to the fact that caterpillars really do turn into butterflies.
Marx called religion an opiate, and all too often it is. But philosophy is an anesthetic, a shot to keep the wonder away. (pg. 15)
Notes has a way of breaking down the barriers between joy and grief. God is infinite and all too often we associate Him with only one side of His character. We see a falcon in flight and think how majestic it is. Then we see a rabbit in the field and see how tender it is. God is seen in both of these creatures and yet he is also seen in the Falcon eating the rabbit for dinner. Moreover, God is seen in the shrewd rabbit who continually evades the falcon and refuses to leave the field. Both are glorious and both reveal God & both are completely different.
There is a crushing joy that crackles in every corner of this world. (pg. 49)
Ultimately, Wilson is concerned that God be seen as the grand architect and author. The greatest Shakespeare to ever compose a sonnet. Moreover, we are all artists in His image and we are all in this grand story.
What is the best of all possible things? That which is infinite, always present and I decaying. That which is both many and one. That which is pure, ultimate, and yet humble. That which is spirit and yet personal. They which is just and yet merciful. Yahweh, God. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. What is the best of all possible art? That which reveals, captures, and communicates as many facets of that. Sing as is possible in a finite frame. (pg. 108)
The book really is magnificent in my estimation and I really suggest it to anyone. It’s a pretty easy read and you will most certainly feel uplifted and thankful as you read it! Here is the trailer to the DVD which should give you an idea of what the book is like.
Food for thought.