Review: Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson

Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl sort of fell into my lap after a friend recommended it to me and I clicked a few buttons on Amazon. (Thank you Justin and Amazon Prime *salutes*) I’ve got to say that I’m rather surprised that I hadn’t heard of this before, considering it’s exactly to my tastes but also challenged me in a number of ways.

N.D. Wilson’s book is essentially about viewing the world as God’s artwork, his masterpiece, his magnum opus, etc. And just as a painting reflects its painter, or a poem its poet, the world reflects God. Now of course, this is a fallen and flawed place but nevertheless it still speaks of his glory – albeit not perfectly – but still.

This was definitely not a shy book; it looks at the world unflinchingly yet without pessimism or unrealistic optimism. Wilson’s quirky observations of the world made me smile and laugh, sometimes tear up a little, and feel somewhat convicted. I want to open my eyes wider, and reading this made me see that more often than not I’m squinting and not absorbing or learning. Through examining the everyday beauty around us, that really is so full of wonder/revelation, Wilson pokes fun at the cold and pompous approach philosophy often takes in looking at our world.

In that sense, I was somewhat reminded of Tolstoy’s tone in the narrative bits of War and Peace. The two books don’t share many similarities, but both authors are concerned with making their readers understand that the ordinary is more extraordinary than our narrow vision allows us to see.

I really feel I need to read Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl again to really grasp all the nuances of it (isn’t that how it is with every book though?). But for now, that’s all I have to say. I’ll close with some of my favorite bits (in no particular order).

“Beethoven, struggling with deafness through most of his life, stormy and suicidal, while he lay dying of lead poisoning: ‘I shall hear in heaven. Clap now, my friends, the comedy is done.’ Or, Beethoven died in a thunderstorm, with a foul expression on his face, shaking an angry fist at the skies. There are other versions.” 

“If you want to love Him, then He has already begun giving you change. He has already begun unflinching your fists, taking your filth to be laundered on the cross. He is spitting in the dust and making mud to bathe your eyes. Your crippled soul will pick up its mat and walk. He will lead you down the path and through the whale’s belly. On the other side, you will stand up straight, remade. 

Bend your neck. Do not mourn the leaves. Do not mourn the tree.

But be warned: here the company is low and classless. Here are the whores and thieves, the deviants and the downtrodden, the slaves, the unbeautiful, the lumpy, the people who look bad in suits. Even Christians.

Here are the people who knew their own worth.” 

“Our art is tiny in comparison to His. Our personalities are tiny in comparison to His. And yet He says that we are in his image. He is infinite (what can that really mean to our minds?) and the narrative of this universe, the song of this universe, the epic of this universe, the still-frames of this universe on every level – from quarks to galaxies – reflect His self, His character, His loves, His hates, His mercies, His judgements, His kindness, and His wraths.” 

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