Before death struck my family, I bought this book as I had heard some good things about N. D. Wilson. (I also had been watching a bit of Wilson on youTube.) From the preview of this book (embedded below), I thought it would contain more of Wilson waxing lyrical, covering epic themes while using groovy metaphors and making spoken word feel manly. There was some of that, don't get me wrong, but I was surprised how biographical this book was.
Wilson's thought in this book is that in order to think about your own life, you should also consider how you got to be where you are and how you will die. From this we learn a lot about his grandparents. They lived in a different time when life was more free and more tough. They could jump on to moving trains and leave town for a week without notice; they also fought in wars. Wilson's grandparents really should have died in World War II, but they made it and continued their lineage by marrying and raising a family.
Wilson too has a family. He talks about how he took his mob to England and visited Rome. He talks of his time when he was a boy, playing on the carpet seeing dust mites in the air for the first time, and how he wrote his wife a poem when he was in England without her. There was a story about him in the ocean and a sunset and some birds, but I didn't quite follow as I may have been tired, or it was too dense with metaphors.
The main point of this book is that life is a story. Sounds like a hipster cliché, but Wilson also deals with that. Life is a story, except there is no draft and it is taking place in real time. We are placed here, in this time period, with no consultation, with an already existing history with the task of living. It is also important to know our place in the story. We are not God. We are created by The Word, we are spoken into this story.
How are we to rise to this task of living? Do we use caution? Do we consume? Do we horde? Do we shrink back from adversity or find enjoyment or duty in the challenge? Wilson offers some advice.
Don't be a dragon. Dragons store up wealth and then sit on it in their cave. Life is meant to be spent. Go to bed tired. Sacrifice is a good thing, God thought so.
Respond with gratitude, even when life is hard. In fact life is meant to bring trouble. There was trouble before the Fall. Just think - Eden was not trouble free, the Serpent was there. Wilson's talk on being a trouble maker has some overlap with this theme.
When faced with good or bad we can either say: "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord" or we can curse God and die. Just ask Job. Chesterton said: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” and “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” Wilson too took little digs at atheism.
Wilson tries to make you think how you would like your life to end. This may sound morbid, but time is moving at a rate of one second per second and you can't do a thing about it. When you run across the wet cement of life and look back, what will be in your path? What would you like to be there? Know what those things are and do them. Don't be scared, well maybe be scared, perhaps you should be, but every good character in a story faces daunting tasks. Do hard things and laugh at them, they are building your character.
But we are not to take. We are to give. We are not to hoard. We are to spend. We are not to self-promote. We are to love. Wilson gives two rules for mortals, which I think he stole from somewhere else. First: love God. Second: love others. This means the hard things we are to do, the trouble that we face is to framed by love and gratitude, and not by taking.
If you are alive now (and I think you are), death is in your future. Face it. Live now in light of this shadow. If you believe there is nothing other death, then who cares about your character? So what if you love or not; if you give or take; spend or hoard? But, if you realise that your life is a story, that there is a purpose and there is life after death - the way you live now, the way you build your character now, has lasting impact, for you will go on. That is why we have been written into this story (of which we are not the main characters).
David Emmanuel Vella nearly made it to 20 weeks. We buried him on the 26th of August 2015. It was raining and then we had Turkish for lunch. We have a proof of birth certificate and a 20 page autopsy report saying that medical science does not know why David died. They do however know many things he didn't die from. But let me tell you why David died: he died because he had lived.
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