Roots and Wings
Roots and Wings: The Human Journey from a Speck of Stardust to a Spark of God
by Margaret Silf
Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007
London, UK: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2006
Reviewed by Margaret A. L. Blackie, PhD
Roots and Wings: The Human Journey from a Speck of Stardust to a Spark of God is a thoughtful, provocative book. It winds its way through history starting with the beginnings of time, through the origins of humanity, into a launching point for the future. The title is well chosen. This book encourages the reader to pause and to reflect upon our origins in order to take flight into the future. The primary thesis of Roots and Wings is that we have reached a significant point in history: a point at which we can choose to embrace what it means to be fully human, or not.
In much of Western Europe, traditional ways of practicing the Christian faith have eroded almost completely. Margaret Silf has clearly spent time reflecting on this process and has come to her own decisions about the meaning of faith and relationship with God within her environment. Roots and Wings is not focused on her personal journey, but the fragments of her story which inevitably turn up through her writing lend weight to the primary thesis of the book.
The central portion of the book is focused on the person of Jesus who is frequently referred to as the Guide. Jesus is presented as one who emerges in the midst of the development of humanity to point to a potential future—a future in which love is the dominating force in contrast to mere survival.
The strength of this book lies in the way it encourages the reader to test the presented ideas by measuring them with his or her own experience. The idea of examining our origins in order to step into our future is not unique to this author. However, this is not simply an exploration into personal history but rather an examination of the experience of humanity as a whole. Silf emphasizes the authenticity of one’s own experience, but she holds this in an atmosphere of the interconnectedness of the universe. We are made of stardust; the molecules which make up our cells comprise atoms which have their origin in the very beginning of time. It is against this background that we are invited to pause and reflect on the opportunities for generosity and love which are presented to us today.
This is a practical book. Each chapter ends with thought provoking questions. It is to be read slowly and ruminated upon. This book is recommended to any person who desires to think about his or her place in the world, his or her response to current challenges, and the place of Christianity in the midst of it all. The invitation to journey with the author is hard to resist.
Margaret A. L. Blackie, PhD, trained and worked for four years at Loyola Hall, Jesuit Spirituality Centre in the United Kingdom. She has recently returned to Cape Town in South Africa to take up postdoctoral research in chemistry. She continues to minister part time as a spiritual director.