Title and author: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, N.D. Wilson
Subtitle: Wide-eyed wonder in God’s Spoken World
Year Published: 2009
Page Count: 197
My Personal Summary
This book. Oh goodness. I’ll confess, this is not the first time I’ve read this book. I actually think it’s probably the third or fourth time. It was recommended to me by a college roommate my freshman year, and it’s been one of my favorite works ever since.
N.D. Wilson’s unique, artistic way of viewing the world allows him to paint graphic pictures that allow the reader to easily see his point of view. He takes my normal perspective of earth and turns it on its side, allowing me to look at it in a whole new way. His writing style is quirky, but conversational. When reading this book, it’s almost like living inside his head and peering out at the world (which he calls the “tilt-a-whirl”) through his eyes.
Another feature that I love about this book is that N.D. Wilson isn’t afraid to engage in argumentative discourse with philosophical theories. This is something that, as a Christian, I’ve always felt afraid to do. But he holds up theories one by one, examines them, and then argues his point as to why the Christian worldview makes more sense.
This book is intellectual stimulation, comedy, and art, rolled into one. Read it. Please.
Top Two Quotes
Quotes are hard to pull from this book… N.D. Wilson writes in such a way that his profound thoughts are set up by paragraphs of illustrative word music. So this is going to get lengthy.
“I love the story. I love being in the story because there are beetles and my wife and my children with wide eyes and ticklish ribs and dirt that smells and hands that blister and wasps and moths and every-flavored wind. I love seeing the story because it shows me who I am and how far I need to go. Because it knocks me down and waits to see if I’ll get up. Because we are always standing on a cliff’s edge, and the danger is real. The choices in front of you never go away. Scene after scene is given to you and the teeming universe in the audience waits for your reaction, for your line, waits to see if you’ll yell at the fat-faced child who spilled the milk, or if you’ll laugh and kiss a cheek. What kind of father will you be in their story? The hump on their back that will always haunt them, the one who gave them damage to overcome? The one who’s too busy? The one who drinks? The one who cheats?
Walk the cliff. Watch yourself walk the cliff. The ocean is always there, devouring.”
This paragraph paints beautiful perspective that we prioritize at GoalGetter: personal responsibility. Our lives are small stories that are apart of a much bigger novel, and we get to choose what our characters will do. We choose our actions, our attitudes, and our role.
“Of course, the nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes them evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the nonexistence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.
People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God-no authoritative standard over creation-the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted), but that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? Neither. You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral and immoral. In this country, we eat gyros. In this one, we at pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking.
Stunning. Such wisdom is like a kiss on the lips.
To quote one contemporary prophet: ‘You and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.’
I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb), I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but luckily you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole.”
I won’t say much, because I can’t say it better than Wilson. The postmodern worldview is one that claims to make the most sense in the world, but actually none at all. We can’t all be different, and all be right at the same time.
“Whom did Christ fight? The leaders of his own religion, His professed management. The righteous.
What did Christ do in the temple? He whipped people and flipped tables. Later He even ripped that big, expensive purple curtain.
With whom did He sit and eat? Whores. Thieves. The unclean.
From birth to end, He never left the trough. Christ walked from insult to insult, filth to filth.
Lepers. Prostitutes. Tax men. The Dead.
He chose fishermen to stand closest to Him, and from among the educated He chose one great man- a murderer who didn’t want to come and had to be knocked off his donkey.”
I don’t mean to pick a fight with my own kind, but I’ve noticed that often, when I’m surrounded by “Christians,” it seems like I’m surrounded by legalistic hypocrites: people who care more about what appears right than loving those whom our Lord loves. People who’d rather throw fits and send passive aggressive emails than have honest, understanding conversations with people who have differing opinions, because that would require addressing their cognitive dissonance and realizing that maybe their worldview is misguided.
We can love those who disagree with us. We can love those who stand against what we stand for. We can have honest, direct, patient communication without raising our voices. Trust me. It’s possible.
My Favorite Thing that I Learned
I shouldn’t be afraid to share my opinion. Something that I’ve learned about myself lately is that my opinion has value. I’ve been scared to share controversial thoughts all my life, as if there’s no way my opinion could be intelligent or correct. Wilson’s bold manner of writing is a fabulous example of how someone can contest a worldview that is so prevalent, such as atheism, and still come out alive on the other side.