Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"There will be butterflies" A Review of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

If you are an artist, or have the soul of an artist... if you are disenchanted with church-going and religion, and the usual slogans and anthems bandied about therein... if you are tired of seeing the world as hum-drum and painful... then you should put Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World by N.D. Wilson on the top of your pile of books to be read. In a full-bodied, richly-colored discussion of everything from the nature of reality to the problem of evil, Wilson manages to paint an impressive panorama of life, death, and a decent chunk of everything that lies in between. It is intelligent, it is insightful, and it is beautiful.

The author aims high with this book, but in something of a non-traditional way; he intends to use words "as paint, spreading them on canvas instead of on paper." He wants "to write to the body and the senses as well as the mind." Largely, he succeeds; Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is a collage of impressions, logic, memories, thoughts, philosophy, and distant times and places. It is a fun ride, but the title is honest... parts of the book may well leave you dizzy and breathless. You should strap yourself in before embarking on this journey, and you might want to pop a Dramamine while you're at it. But it will be a lot of fun, if you like the whirling, twirling, adrenaline type thing, and unlike ordinary carnival rides you might disembark with a different set of lenses for looking at the world, and perhaps even an entirely new paradigm for reality.

Yet, the ride might be a hard one for you if you're already a bit spiritually queasy. In fact, if you're in a place of struggle and uncertainty, then I would probably advise you to skip the chapter "Unwomb the World" altogether. Why? Because though the destination of the book is beautifully truthful and heartening, the author is also honest about the experience of hardship and the process of wrestling through the lies and ugliness and fear that life on this planet involves. It is easy to get bogged down in that, and stop reading... spending more time wallowing in the dark and queasy moments then in the reality of justified hope and faith. If you pick up the book (and I hope you do!) and find this to be true for you, then use it instead as motivation to keep reading. Recognize that the author has felt all you are feeling, and that the book was written because the experience was a deception, not a conclusion. If you have patience to keep plodding through a narrative that might reflect the darkest corners of your mind just a little too well, then you will be rewarded. Wilson walks you out of that darkness and into the bright sunshine of a day-to-day that is also glorious, if you can have eyes to see it, and the bracing reality that what will finally await us is joyous beyond anything we can anticipate. The ultimate message of the book is aptly stated about half-way through:

"You have been born into a narrative, you have been given freedom.
Act, and act well, until you reach your final scene."

Is that comforting to you? It is to me. It acknowledges all the variances of life, all the snafus and pitfalls and agonies... and yet also embraces an ultimate structure. There is purpose, and there is freedom to act and move and change reality. Wilson goes on to describe that "final scene" thusly:

"When we die, wherever or whenever that might be, there will be other characters in the story with us, evil characters, good characters and confused ants. But God is also there, shaping the story, off the stage and on the stage, closing a chapter as a turtle bounces, and smiling as it does. To His eyes, you never leave the stage. You do not cease to exist. It is a chapter ending, an act, not the play itself. Look to Him. Walk to Him. The cocoon is a death, but not a final death. The coffin can be a tragedy, but not for long. There will be butterflies."

That is a paradigm, and a reality, that I can accept despite pain and trouble. I can even thrive. To the King, and to the restoration of his Kingdom! Thrive on, fellow kingdom-dwellers, as we do our best to act our parts out well.



No comments:

Post a Comment