Tuesday, August 20, 2013

*Death By Living*

Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
Last month, I read N. D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl. 
Well, read is the wrong word. I experienced it.
This book had me swinging from snow-melt streams to small children laughing.
It made me replay my own memories and dive into the author's descriptions.
Notes from the Tilt-A_Whirl starts off in familiar territory and then opens up our horizons so that we see that our daily life in this world is an adventure in the amazing.

Death by Living is another turn-you-upside-down-open-your-eyes book.

We've probably all heard the phrase "You're dyin' from the moment you're born."

This is usually considered to be a cynical assessment, and sometimes the person saying it means it that way. But here's the thing: It's true.
And that truth, rightly understood, is what makes this book so powerful.

We need to spend our lives fully, or to use the C. S. Lewis phrase that I love, King Tirian's thought for how he wants to die in The Last Battle: selling his life dearly.
It must be a kind of combination of living with your hands open, giving it all, and living so that you take it all in, in the reality of the moment.
This book is a meditation on life and death, a meditation that lets us see the snowflakes rushing at us when we're night driving, that makes us pause and watch the slow golden float of dust in a sunbeam, that takes us back to our ancestors close or distant, and all the people who lived for them and died for them, whose choices in their life gave us our lives.

This is a book that you will want to read slow and contemplate, but then you will want to read fast because it makes so much sense and you are being pulled into the stories that the author tells, identifying with them.

Some quotes (because I can't resist)

"The God who looked on you with joy when you were small and racing across His gift of green grass on His gift of feet beneath His gift of sky watched by His gift of a mother with His gift of Love in His gift of her eyes, is the same God who will look on you as that race finally ends. He is the same, but we have changed, between our opening lines and our final page." 

"Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain. They can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter." 

"This (The fact that we can't hold every impression of every moment) shouldn't inspire melancholy; it should only tinge the sweet with the bitter. Don't resent the moments simply because they cannot be frozen. Taste them. Savor them. Give thanks for daily bread. Manna doesn't keep overnight. More will come in the morning." 

When a story is told: "An experience is always created, captured, given and hopefully received. The gift is always one of vicarious experience. A critic told me recently that she remembers scenes from one of my newer adventure novels (The Dragon's Tooth) not as scenes from a book, but more like personal memories from her own experiences. She couldn't have made me happier.
Fiction loves to thwart the filing systems of the mind. 
And the mind loves to be thwarted."

Thank you Booksneeze for sending me me Death by Living to review.
I'm passing this one on to at least three family members.

N.D. Wilson
 I was born in 1978 to a couple of Jesus People hippies. An older sister was waiting for me. A younger followed.
My father accidentally became a pastor (it’s a long story and I was very young) and has been one ever since. I remember attending church in a large auto body shop, with a beer truck pulled off to the side and frogs and crickets singing back-up. I also remember chasing one of my friends around afterward, and causing her to fall and peel open her chin on the concrete. After that, I caught her easily.
In pre-school, I dug up a dead (and at that point furless) cat in my sandbox. We never learned who had buried it, but I would like to thank them. It was an exciting day. I carried it to the kitchen door of our duplex and told my mother that I had discovered a chicken.
My father helped to found a school with a classical emphasis, which I attended K-12. I have a real fondness for the classics (ancient and modern) as a result. Through my elementary years I spent innumerable hours enjoying and getting into trouble with my friend Joe Casebolt. He lived on the edge of town with creek, large barn, fields, and abandoned rock quarry readily available. We floated the creek on a large chunk of Styrofoam (and sank), went fishing (and got caught) in a bull pasture, collected dozens of mouse skulls (from owl pellets), and took possession of the abandoned combine in the the old quarry. In some elementary grade or other, we were assigned a class presentation on the subject of religion. We constructed an idol (of sorts) out of legos and when the time came we walked calmly to the front of the room, bound a lego-man to a popsicle stake, and lit him on fire. His head swelled up nicely. I couldn’t tell you what grade we received, but our classmates approved.
Speaking of fire, when I was in sixth grade, my mother gathered the family around the television to watch a documentary entitled “The Story of English”. Instead, after noticing the kitchen light flick off, I investigated, and found the ceiling crackling merrily. The roof burned off, we avoided finishing the documentary, and then we went to live with some friends who were house-sitting for someone else. The backyard was a large pond, and over that summer, I became closely acquainted with turtles, streptococcus and penicillin shots in the rear end.
After my turtle-and-shot period, after high school and college, I met (it’s complicated), a surfer girl from Santa Cruz, California. And I love her. Never having desired to be entirely governed by reason, I asked her to marry me one month after we met, and I offered her my great-grandmother’s ring. In a momentary but sufficient lapse of judgment, she took it, and I haven’t stopped smiling since. At least not for long. Now, we have five imaginative and jolly children, and they serve as our primary source of entertainment.
Not everything I write is for children, but all of it is childish. I love the dark flavor of Flannery O’Connor and the supra-realism of Borges, though I can’t help but try to add the laughter of G. K. Chesterton. P. G. Wodehouse and C. S. Lewis have been with me my entire life, and always will be. J. R. R. Tolkien cannot be imitated.
Now you know me. But not really. Because I left out all the joy of the dinner table, how my parents read and inked everything I wrote, and the collective imagination that I shared (and share) with my sisters. You haven’t heard about the fabulous eight months during which I had a dog named Tyler, or my Grandfathers’ war stories, or anything about birthdays or Christmas. And there’s nothing in here about Zorro. Oh, well.

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