Into the Book


Corey and I go back and forth on ND Wilson books. Sometimes I get one first, other times he’s way ahead of me. Scandalous that an ND Wilson fan such as myself should not have reviewed Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl yet! Like Death by Living, this is a typical ND Wilson book — which is to say that by every measure it’s nontraditional and fantastic.

Notes is part personal memoir, part science textbook, and part sermon. It was Wilson (along with Annie Dillard) who introduced me to the beauty of science and natural wonder. This is not laboratory science – this is a book of real life. First, Wilson talks about ourselves: what it means to be human. He calls us to exploration:

We have been given many tools to get at this world, to become members of the audience as well as players on the stage. We can step off the canvas (if only slightly) and examine a part of the painting. . . .what is being said; what flavor is the story that swirls in your immediate paragraph and which character are you within it?

A dry, surface-level description of the book would describe Wilson’s exhortations as a call to discover our purpose for living amidst creation. But this is missing so much of what the book communicates. Wilson does not paint with his own colors, they are pulled liberally from God’s two books: nature and the Bible – and that is a beautiful thing, for these are vibrant life-changing colors.

Wilson has seen the tree with gleaming lights in it, and he is excited. In the style of Annie Dillard, he writes with his eyes wide open and his jaw wider open. Wilson doesn’t dryly tell you that colors exist — he shows you gleaming white and shimmering oranges, sunsets and snowfalls and rolling oceans crashing on the beach. This book is full of color.

But Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl really isn’t just a book — it’s a tiny slice of the journey we’re all traveling. The book opens, “I am a traveler,” and ends with “The story has begun.” And really, the story only has just begun. It’s a crazy carnival ride. It’s a wacky, beautiful, spinning world of excesses and hidden wonder, a world intricately prepared and created by a Creator. It is textured and layered, rich and deeper than any one of us could discover.

“We can’t see everything, and we can’t describe everything that we can see — not even through this small cardboard tube. But there is enough that we can. The Infinite speaks us. We are in the frame, playing our roles alongside the ants and the moss and Orion. We fell away, and our world fell with us. He stoops for us, and in the end our running and our suiciding will only picture the depth of His love, His humility. It magnifies His ultimate triumph. ~ N.D. Wilson

Notes is a call to come and explore. Wilson masterfully echoes the beauty of creation, and he stirs within you a desire to go exploring, to get lost in this crazy world, to spend a lifetime, perhaps, exploring the bizarre reproductive patterns of wasps, or the trackless wastes of Antarctica.

“Blister your hands. Tend to the ants. Push the shadows back. Sing. Make a garden of the world.”

This book is not beautiful because of what it says – it is beautiful because of what it points towards.

~ Andrew
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Published on 27 October, 2013. Last updated on

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