Reimagining Jonah is a song for the soul. For those of us seekers who have jettisoned the controlling narratives of empire (with prescribed yet unsatisfying answers to our deepest questions), and now wander alone in search of an alternative neighborhood (generative communities where our true self can be known and fully loved), Wheeler reminds us that a rhapsody of the Ancient of Days still resounds a beckoning call to all who have ears to hear: “how shall we love God, neighbor, and even our natural world, if we don’t love ourselves?”
Riffing a new melody to this ageless refrain, Wheeler quests with the Prophet Jonah through his discovery of selfhood, excavating empathy from the sacred text in unexpected ways, and demonstrating the very flight to freedom he ascribes in being authentically human.
Beating down the cold rod of judgement for the warm embrace of kindness and understanding, Wheeler encourages readers to renegotiate the interior landscapes of our harrowing and most intimate journeys - braving the traumas and locales where the discovery of the true differentiated self is often found.
Wheeler’s willingness to confront outdated god images and other failed power systems is timely for today’s post-Newtonian quantum world where the noise of endless voices can leave you feeling dejected: adrift, alone, and drowning in despair.
Think of Wheeler’s text, not as a biblical commentary on the Book of Jonah, but more of a lyrical composition. And as Wheeler syncopates a new rhythm from a familiar old tune, something extraordinary occurs for readers - a consciousness awakens to the reverberations of a dynamic universe yielding a vast sea of possibilities - a cosmos alive with particles of light that sparkle and sing alongside the dark matter of ordinary life.
Readers will be encouraged by the polyphony of insights into the journey of the self, recognizing that when we are tempted by forces in life to disregard our thoughts and feelings, finally comes a poet worthy of that name, who unapologetically gives us permission to align our heads and hearts and locate our innermost longings. Wheeler is this poet. For those of us who are gasping for a fresh breath of hope, Wheeler’s improvisation is gentle as it is empowering. Reimagining Jonah welcomes the protests of our self-actualizing cries, reminding us of the stabilizing and revitalizing power of Love reborn within.
As a personal note to share: Wheeler’s book encouraged this reviewer to consider the cadence of my own “flight to freedom,” paying more attention to the poets and artists who have accompanied me in my journey of differentiation. Sitting in silence for just a little while after reading this book, a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, came to mind, filling my soul with goodness, acceptance, and a smile: Yes, I thought, “What I do is me: for that I came.”
C. Lynn Gibson, PhD, DPhil
C. Lynn Gibson, PhD, DPhil, is a practitioner-researcher, serving as a Research Fellow for Stellenbosch University’s Department of Practical Theology, the Chancellor of Park Lawn University - an international deathcare provider, and the Director of Operations for Smith Life & Legacy, in Maryville, Tennessee (www.SmithLifeAndLegacy.com). He and his wife, Angelia, have four children and reside in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the traditional lands of the Cherokee People.