I power-cried several times while reading this book. There are many spot-on books I can endorse from authors I respect. But it is rare for a book to come along that I can recommend with such fervor as Death By Living. N.D. Wilson sports a bouncing anecdotal cadence that will lose unreflective readers quickly. But if you’ve ever wondered about the meaning of your story on the sweeping curve of time, take up and read. Wilson flirts with original expression in a land where there is nothing new under the sun.
Many books with great content manage to remain under translated for current culture. But Wilson doesn’t presume worldview from his audience; just shared existence. With a verbal rapier, he carves life-as-story deliberation that requires every heartbeat be critical in a short existence. Death by Living is carpe diem with a reason. Wilson is masterful at phrase-turning and word-smithing to connote explanation where dictionaries may not tread. The book presents a bold choice that exchanges desperation for the slap-me-alive, real life path to irrepressible joy. We can mindlessly autofill our lives with distraction. Or, we can ponder the past as a storyline that God intends to break the spell of normal-is-mundane: “not just to stare into the fog of distant years but to see the crystal choices as they race toward us in this sharp foreground we call the present”. Wilson’s insights flow through skepticism’s cracks with naked articulation– unashamed recovery of meaning that forges a game changing weapon against life destroying lies.
Death By Living then is resolved ambivalence toward complexly related meanings. It is layers of celebration from a Christian Hedonist who perhaps could have endlessly swam in Tinker Creek or bathed in Walden Pond, but instead pivoted with courage into the troubled narrative of relationship and found redemption in the plot. My soul received the book’s musings not as new revelation, but as confirmation of uncomfortable existential addresses. Why aren’t more people talking about the weighty things of human desire instead of toying about with jobs, entertainment, and semiconscious compulsions?
Wilson masterfully extracts meaning from familial joy and trauma. Everyone has a call from God to grapple with their own life, pain, and desire. Death By Living is more authentically therapeutic than a dozen self-declared self-help books. If you’ve resisted relentless distraction from pain enough to think about reasons for your pain, you need to read this 190 page book slowly and open your mind to memories of who you were supposed to be by pre-sin design. A real but imagined time before lies bludgeoned your appearance in the mirror.
May we all detach from the corn syrup drip-feed diversion of “hunkering down on our piles of whatever we use to give ourselves some sense of worth”. May we rethink life as an intended story with critical choices remaining before descent into “puckered mounds of sod-swallowed tombs”. And may we all read Death By Living.
Some assembled thematic lines from Death By Living:
Christianity is no good at all as an idea. Stop thinking that an asserted proposition is the same thing as faith. What is Christianity incarnate?
You are Adam, charged to name yourself. But you cannot do it with words made noise– only with words made flesh.
God tells stories that make Sunday School teachers sweat and mothers write their children permission slips excusing them from encountering reality.
You aren’t doing anything that makes you be. We aren’t the Author. You and I are spoken. We have been called into this art as characters.
Stories mean hardship. The fall of man did not introduce evil; it placed us on the wrong side of it. God is not an aura ruling auras. His son has flesh even now. You have flesh. This story is concrete, it is for real, and it is played for keeps.
Time is that harsh current that thrusts us down the rapids of narrative causation. Time is rough on mortals.
The ungrateful always farm bitterness in their hearts. Those with faith (yet another gift) rejoice even at the end and after. They wipe tears, more profoundly feeling the full wealth of lives given when those same lives are lost.
Living to live always reaches inevitable and pointless Darwinian burnout– bigger fears, deeper mortal panic. Live to die. If you do, inevitable success awaits you.