For Christmas, my sister gave me a new perspective on life. A powerful bolstering of my faith. Resolution to questions that have been bothering me for years. Eye surgery to see life as God intended it to be. All of this came in a relatively small package: a 201 page paperback book written by a guy from Idaho. It’s called Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Winder in God’s Spoken World, and the guy from Idaho’s name is N.D. Wilson.
No writer has earned my gratitude so much as N.D. Wilson. Through his fantasy trilogy, 100 Cupboards, he opened my eyes to a new way of looking at life and a new way of story-telling. Those three books changed the way I wrote, the way I read, and the way I lived. (My July 2012 blog post “What a Wonderful World” goes into more detail about the perspective on life his works gave me.) If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then I’m a prodigious flatterer of Mr. Wilson. If you have read and liked anything that I have written on this blog or in my short stories, then don’t thank me. Thank him. I owe 99% of my excellence (little as it is) in writing to the author of 100 Cupboards.
But now I have a new reason to be thankful to him.
I knew before starting the first page of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl that Wilson’s goal in writing it was to wake readers up to the wildness, the beauty, and the wonder of the world we’ve been given. He’s said that that is his goal in almost everything he writes. I got a delicious taste of that wonder when reading 100 Cupboards. Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl was the entire meal.
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl is a difficult book to describe. It is one man’s attempt at explaining, or capturing, the world within the two covers of a paperback. It’s his attempt at seeing the world in the way that God made us to see it. It’s his attempt at peeling the cataracts off our spiritual eyes and reminding us how incredible life is. And in my opinion, he succeeded brilliantly.
Before I sing its praises, though, a quick word of warning. There were times when I winced at his use of words (some of them were words that would earn severe punishments if spoken in my house). White-out took care of some that were too strong for my taste. And though it seemed strange to think of having to white-out curse words in a Christian book, I soon got over it. I marked out the words and kept on trucking. The rest of the book was much, much too good for me to be tripped up over some of the words. Wilson explains himself in the preface, “There are times when my word choice may seem odd for a ‘religious’ book hoping to reach a ‘religious’ audience. But rest easy – I never reach the level of shock and surprise achieved by such writers as the prophet Ezekiel.” While I learned to appreciate the initial sting of the passages of “shock and surprise” because of the eventual (and eternal) good that they did me, I couldn’t really appreciate the swear words. I recommend Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl without a doubt – I just recommend that you take some white-out with you.
That being said, on with the praises!
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl tries to wrap its mind around, and answer, lots of questions. What is the world? Who made it? What’s it made of? Who is God? Is He good? Is He safe? Why is there hell? Why is there evil? And when it’s all said and done, how then shall we live? What should be a Christian’s approach to life? While I don’t agree on every single point with Wilson, I found his biblical, logical (and often bizarre) approach to these questions to be extremely, exceedingly helpful. His explanations of creation, death, evil, beauty, purpose, and life were without a doubt some of the most powerful truths I’ve ever encountered in the pages of a book.
One of the most poignant truths that N.D. Wilson unfolds as Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl progresses is the concept of gratitude, and its immense importance in a Christian’s life. I’ve often (like many others) wondered, “In the grand scheme of things, what does [fill in the blank] matter? Why should I even bother to [scrapbook/cook dinner/write a novel/watch a movie with my sisters], since all of these things seem so meaningless compared to God, and eternity?” Near the end of the book, Wilson answered that question for me once and for all. He describes how his 5-year-old son struggled to make sense of things after his grandfather died.
“…Rory examines the trees and the ground beneath his feet.
He cannot think of a way to express himself, and so he takes out the wallet we gave him to hold ice cream money from his grandmothers. He takes out his dollars and throws them in the grass.
‘They’re not important,’ he says, and shrugs, blinking.
I help him pick them up.
Paper and ink are not important. Wealth is unimportant next to souls. So are legs and fingers, all five senses. So is life.
But gratitude is all-important. Everything is a gift. Every smell, every second, every ice cream dollar. Gratitude for the whole story, from beginning to end, gratitude for the valleys and shadows that lead us to the novel’s final page.”
Wilson reminded me to enjoy the world. To be thankful for life, for every single moment that God has given me on this earth. He reminded me to transform every single blessing from something material (scrap booking or watching a movie with my sisters) into something eternal: gratitude and a thankful heart.
There are a thousand other truths in Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl that hit me just as hard and just as radically transformed the way I live (or the way I try to live). I don’t have room to tell you about them here, but you can read them for yourself in the 201 page book written by the guy from Idaho.
“Welcome to the Carnival… There’s a story to tell, a world of surprises and questions to explore, a personality often searched for to be unearthed and understood in the reality around us. And there’s someone behind it, uncomfortable answers to the hows and whys and whats.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Through him were all things made.
Welcome to His poem. His play. His novel…
This is His spoken world.”
~ N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl