“Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World” by N.D. Wilson
One of the most fascinating topics I studied during my time in college was synesthesia. Translated literally, this means “joined perception”, and basically refers to a condition in which someone simultaneously perceives one sensory input with multiple senses. For instance, someone might hear the smell of fabric softener, or know exactly what the color blue tastes like.
The first time I ever thought I might have some idea what this could be like was at a Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. My senses were on overload to the point when I could barely tell where the boundaries were between sight, hearing, and touch. (This was by design of course; BMG aims — and often succeeds — at confusing the senses. They even have a song called “Synaestetic“.) I loved it.
Reading this book was sort of like that. As I read, it seemed that every one of my senses was firing at once. It looked, smelled, sounded, felt, and tasted good.
It did take me a little while to get into this book, however, but that’s because I was trying to read it, rather than to experience it. Upon first reading, I felt like I was living inside the mind of someone who is WAY smarter than me. I took the writing style to be a stream-of-consciousness type prose, and I wasn’t sure where Wilson was going.
By about the end of the second chapter, though, I realized that the mistake was in my approach to the book. Trying to read it line-by-line was a bit like trying to enjoy a Rembrandt painting by staring at individual brush strokes. So I went back to the beginning, and began approaching Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl as a piece of art.
Wow, what a difference!
It wasn’t long before I began to truly appreciate what Wilson had accomplished with this book. Theologians often talk about two types of God’s revelation: the specific (his Word) and the general (his World). Scores of great books have been written investigating God’s Word. This makes sense. Written words can help make sense of God’s written Word.
But what about His World? Can words ever suffice to explore the depths of what God has revealed in Creation? Romans 1:19-20 tells us that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” Men have wasted many words trying to parse out exactly what that means. Valiant apologetic efforts have been aimed at persuading those who “suppress the truth“, but all too often they result in simply accusing the unbelievers of being fools. It may be true, but strangely, calling someone “fool” rarely wins the lost (much less an argument)!
What N.D. Wilson has done, then, is simply brilliant. Rather than try to tell readers how God’s attributes are made plain in nature, he shows us. As the subtitle says, he writes with “wide-eyed wonder” at the world around him. By pointing out how truly amazing many every day occurrences really are, he reminds us how rarely we take the opportunity to witness God’s glory in the things that are made.
Along the way, he winsomely interacts with the many philosophers who offer alternative explanations for life and the universe around us. Kant, Neitszche, Darwin, Hume, Rand… all leave the careful observer of the divine Artist’s handiwork wanting, for none have offered anything so compelling as the Bible’s own description of the origin and nature of things. Better than anything else I’ve ever read, this book truly makes this plain. The truth was there all along; I just needed help to see it.
Wilson describes us as characters in a play, lines in a poem. We live do, after all, live in the greatest story ever told; one which the Poet himself entered as a fellow actor upon this very stage! I am grateful for this book, which has helped me to look with a renewed sense of wonder at God’s self-revelation in the things that surround me all the time. May I never lose this wonder!
I hope that many will read this book, which you can buy here. There is also a fascinating-looking DVD (available here) that goes along with the book. I’ve ordered it, but haven’t gotten it yet. I’ll be sure to review it as well when it arrives! I’ve heard nothing but great things. Here’s a trailer: