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Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World Paperback – June 29, 2009
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About the Author
N. D. Wilson is a best-selling novelist, professional daydreamer, and occasional screenwriter. He enjoys hilltops, callouses, and the smell of rain on hot asphalt. He and his wife have five children, and he is currently a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College, where he teaches freshmen how to play with words.
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The first time I ever thought I might have some idea what this could be like was at a Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. My senses were on overload to the point when I could barely tell where the boundaries were between sight, hearing, and touch. (This was by design of course; BMG aims -- and often succeeds -- at confusing the senses. They even have a song called "Synaestetic".) I loved it.
Reading this book was sort of like that. As I read, it seemed that every one of my senses was firing at once. It looked, smelled, sounded, felt, AND tasted good.
It did take me a little while to get into this book, however, but that's because I was trying to read it, rather than to experience it. Upon first reading, I felt like I was living inside the mind of someone who is WAY smarter than me. I took the writing style to be a stream-of-consciousness type prose, and I wasn't sure where Wilson was going.
By about the end of the second chapter, though, I realized that the mistake was in my approach to the book. Trying to read it line-by-line was a bit like trying to enjoy a Rembrandt painting by staring at individual brush strokes. So I went back to the beginning, and began approaching Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl as a piece of art.
Wow, what a difference!
It wasn't long before I began to truly appreciate what Wilson had accomplished with this book. Theologians often talk about two types of God's revelation: the specific (his Word) and the general (his World). Scores of great books have been written investigating God's Word. This makes sense. Written words can help make sense of God's written Word.
But what about His World? Can words ever suffice to explore the depths of what God has revealed in Creation? Romans 1:19-20 tells us that God's "invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." Men have wasted many words trying to parse out exactly what that means. Valiant apologetic efforts have been aimed at persuading those who "suppress the truth", but all too often they result in simply accusing the unbelievers of being fools. It may be true, but strangely, calling someone "fool" rarely wins the lost (much less an argument)!
What N.D. Wilson has done, then, is simply brilliant. Rather than try to tell readers how God's attributes are made plain in nature, he shows us. As the subtitle says, he writes with "wide-eyed wonder" at the world around him. By pointing out how truly amazing many every day occurrences really are, he reminds us how rarely we take the opportunity to witness God's glory in the things that are made.
Along the way, he winsomely interacts with the many philosophers who offer alternative explanations for life and the universe around us. Kant, Neitszche, Darwin, Hume, Rand... all leave the careful observer of the divine Artist's handiwork wanting, for none have offered anything so compelling as the Bible's own description of the origin and nature of things. Better than anything else I've ever read, this book truly makes this plain. The truth was there all along; I just needed help to see it.
Wilson describes us as characters in a play, lines in a poem. We live do, after all, live in the greatest story ever told; one which the Poet himself entered as a fellow actor upon this very stage! I am grateful for this book, which has helped me to look with a renewed sense of wonder at God's self-revelation in the things that surround me all the time. May I never lose this wonder!
Not long after reading Notes, I picked it up again to have the same experience. And it didn't let me down. Wilson's book is pure magic, causing one to think about life and everything that happens in it as stemming from the Creator of it all. It is an overwhelming and beautiful work on the existence of a Creator in the midst of this spinning ball we call earth. From focusing on the minutest insects to the complexities of life, Notes will take you on a thrilling ride at the carnival.
It deserves to be read with care, and more than once. And if you don't have room on your shelf for another book, then get this because it worthy of replacing almost anything on your shelf.
Here is just a small sample of Wilson's writing:
Three postcards await our perusal, yea, three visions of a world.
One: I see a theme park where there are lots of rides, but there is nobody who can control them and nobody who knows how the rides end. Grief counseling, however, is included in the price of admission.
Two: I see an accident. An explosion of some kind inhabited by happenstantial life forms. A milk spill gone bacterial, only with more flame. It has no meaning or purpose or master. It simply is.
Three: I see a stage, a world where every scene is crafted. Where men act out their lives with tapestry, where meaning and beauty exist, where right and wrong are more than imagined constructs. There is evil. There is darkness. There is the Winter of tragedy, every life ending, churned back in the soil. But the tragedy leads to Spring. The story does not end in frozen death. The fields are sown in grief. The harvest will be reaped in joy. I see a Master's painting. I listen to a Master's prose. When darkness falls on me, when I stand on my corner of the stage and hear my cue, when I know my final scene has come and I must exit, I will go into the ground like corn, waiting for the Son.
I see my world (pg. 76-77).
What I really love about "Notes..." is that it is an exciting way to approach world views - a subject that many students don't understand well at all. It raises and responds to questions that most Christian teens do not think about but need to. It is intellectual, emotional, humorous, and exhilarating all at once... and solidly biblical.