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In Wishful Thinking, the first book in his much-loved lexical trilogy, Frederick Buechner puts the language of God, the universe, and the human spirit under his wry linguistic microscope. In his often ironic and always keen-sighted reflections on such terms as agnostic, envy, love, and sin, he invited us to look at theses everyday words in new and enlightening ways. Freshly revised and expanded for this edition, Wishful Thinking is a "beguiling" [Time] adventure in language for the restless believer, the doubter, and all who love words.
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About the Author
Frederick Buechner, author of more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction, is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent work is Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith.
Read an Excerpt
For what Wishful Thinking means, see under W -- that is to say for what I think it means. Wishfully
What follows is a kind of mongrel litter by Pascal's Pensées, out of Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique, via The Devil's Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce. As in the case of any such enterprise, you stand to learn considerably more about the prejudices, limitations, and enthusiasms of the lexicographer than about the words in his lexicon. I suppose it can't be helped.
As for the words, most of them are so familiar or formidable or both that nobody pays much attention to them any more, and yet they stand for realities which everybody, religiously inclined or otherwise, has to keep on dealing with year after year like it or not. Faith, for example. One way or another, it is what gets us all out of bed in the morning. Or fails to. Needless to say, the definitions make no claim of being even close to definitive. At their best they may serve to raise an unsettled and unsettling question or two. It is in essence a Doubtful Dictionary -- dubious, full of doubts, and aimed especially at doubters.
From Paul the Apostle down through C. S. Lewis, W. T. Stace, and Paul Tillich, many a better man is echoed here, and I have also pillaged shamelessly from the miscellaneous utterances of the likes of David H. C. Read, James Muilenburg, Agnes Sanford, and more. I am sure that I have unconsciously cribbed from others too. My gratitude and apologies to them all.
Abraham (See Faith)
An agnostic is somebody who doesn't know for sure whether there really is a God. That is some. people all of the time and all people some of the time.
There are some agnostics who don't know simply because they've never taken pains to try to find out-like the bear who didn't know what was on the other side of the mountain.
There are other agnostics who have taken many pains. They have climbed over the mountain, and what do you think they saw? Only the other side of the mountain. At least that was all they could be sure of. That faint glimmer on the far horizon could have been just Disneyland.
Sleight-of-hand magic is based on the demonstrable fact that as a rule people see only what they expect to see. Angels are powerful spirits whom God sends into the world to wish us well. Since we don't expect to see them, we don't. An angel spreads its glittering wings over us, and we say things like, "it was one of those days that made you feel good just to be alive," or "I had a hunch everything was going to turn out all right," or "I don't know where I ever found the courage."Wishful Thinking. Copyright � by Frederick Buechner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.