Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Suffering from joy deprivation

The news has not been good recently – unless you’re a Trump supporter. The media have been filled with incidents of hate, violence, death, and disaster. 

            The world is still reeling from the mass murders at the mosques in New Zealand. Followed by the copycat defacing of five mosques in the U.K. Where Brexit seems headed for disaster, taking Theresa May with it. And disaster aptly describes typhoon Idai’s effect on Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

            And that’s not counting an endless parade of house fires, vehicle accidents, thefts, and political conflicts.

            I admit to contributing to this flood of bad news. Ironically, journalists focus on bad news precisely because it’s an exception to the norm. It is news because it is out of the ordinary. 

            So we hear all about the accident where the bus full of young hockey players collides with a semi-trailer whose driver failed to stop at a stop sign. We never hear about the thousands of trucks, every day, that do stop. 

            It’s not news when a landslide doesn’t come tumbling down on an unsuspecting village. We expect hillsides to stay in place. 

            It’s not news when a passenger flight takes off and lands safely at its intended destination. Air travel is now safer than any other form of transportation. 

            It’s not news when a boiler doesn’t explode, a dog doesn’t bite, a child isn’t kidnapped. 


Ways of sharing emotions

            We should be celebrating the overwhelming volume of good news, rather than getting depressed by the bad news.

            But I’m not convinced that we know how. Especially as a social culture. 

            We know ways of expressing anger, both individually and collectively. A million women gather in Washington to protest Trump’s misogyny. Truckers organize a convoy, crossing the continent. Yellow-jacketed rioters trash the streets in Paris. 

            We know how to share sorrow. At makeshift memorials, people light candles and place flowers. In Christchurch, for the victims in the mosques. In Toronto, for pedestrians run down by a van. In London, extravagantly, after the death of Princess Diana.

            Individually, we share hugs and shed tears together.

            And we have ways of responding to fear. Our bodies shift into fight-or-flight overdrive. We scream; we faint; we run. Collectively, we become paranoid about conspiracies and imaginary threats. We build walls. We enhance security forces. We shoot those we think different.

            Do you see a pattern here? As a society, it seems, we have ways of expressing negative emotions – hate, anger, fear…  We also know – sometimes – how to respond to pain and grief and suffering. 

            But we don’t seem to know how to share in someone else’s joy or happiness. 


Stretching imagination

            Children dance, hold hands, bounce around. We adults have outgrown such silliness. The best most of us can do is wear a smile and have another drink.

            Occasionally, we indulge in local celebrations. When our team wins the Grey Cup or the Superbowl, for example. The greatest mass celebration ever was probably the end of World War II. 

            Were we disillusioned when peace proved merely an intermission, before the second act launched us into an endless series of regional wars? 

            Would anything today prompt a similar outpouring of wild, exuberant, uninhibited joy? Anything?

            Are we, in fact, suffering from joy deprivation?

inspired narrative, God did not call a committee to create the world.


Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca





In last week’s column I argued that artistic and literary brilliance may involve many collaborators, but it has to flow through a single intellect. Hanny Kooyman agreed, “As an artist I find this so true.”


John Hatchard cited his own experience with committee thinking: “That quoted passage -- apart from containing a phrase I have always distrusted, 'other key stakeholders' -- is a supreme example of what I call ‘politically correct gobbledygook.’ My experience with this sort of muttering was from the time in Australia where, for five years, I was on a national committee formed to produce a set of competencies for the practice of classical homoeopathy, their registration, and the training of students. Nine widely differing homoeopathic associations were involved but before work could begin, all relevant ‘stakeholders’ had to be contacted -- and some of those turned out to be exceeding weird. But eventually we succeeded, much to the annoyance of the Australian Medical Association!”


Tom Watson wondered “How many people are involved in a committee that approves the final draft of a politician's speeches? In the 1970s at the University of Western Ontario, one of the journalism profs was Wilson Bryan Key, author of ‘Subliminal Seduction’ and several other books. He told me about the time when he was a speech writer for President Eisenhower. He never took the speech directly to the President, only to a staff person. Frequently the draft would be returned with the comment, ‘This part is too clear. You have to fuzzy it up.’ The principle of deniability had to prevail...there always had to be a way for the President to say, ‘No, I didn't mean that.’ Perhaps that's why your Health Canada quotation is sufficiently obscure.”


Isabel Gibson also commented on that quotation from the Health Canada brochure: “Hahaha.  And sigh I understand one of the things editing classes do is exercises -- individually and collectively -- to improve this sort of mess. So I couldn't resist seeing your Health Canada brochure as an exercise.

Why are we here?

To give all Canadians better access to better health services: primary, acute, home, community, and long-term care.  

How do we do this?  

By helping governments and healthcare professionals work together to set priorities and tactics for Canada's health system. 

Something about a silk purse and a sow's ear comes to mind…

            “I read once that the Psalms reflect the writing/editing process nicely, in the sense that they likely originated in one person's creative impulse and then were successively honed by others, reflecting their own creativity, as well as the community's reaction (and responding to their evolving needs).  As a latter day Psalm adapter, you might have an opinion on that.”


Right on cue, Sandy Warren wrote, “I loved your Psalm 32 paraphrase.”


Mary Collins sent my column to a friend who does writing and editing. He objected to my comment that the King James Bible was “a literary masterpiece produced by a committee.” 

            “It was absotively posalutely NOT a literary masterpiece produced by a committee,”  Mary’s friend replied. “It was a translation masterpiece produced by a committee – a  phenomenon just as rare and incredible…

            “It resulted in a literary masterpiece, yes, but it was a rendering into 17-century English of an ‘already-masterpiece’. And the language was literary because the translators were learned and wrote like that all the time. But the triumph was a triumph of translation.”






Psalm 126 is about the Hebrew people being released from their exile and returning home. But there are many kinds of exile, and many kinds of prisons. This paraphrase is for men who are discovering how they have been imprisoned by their own macho myths. 


1          The truth dawns on us -- we are appalled at what we have been. 
For too long we have been captives of our self-image; 
For too long we have let ourselves live a lie. 

2          But now we are free! 
Instead of narrow roles, we can see new horizons! 
Our chains have fallen off -- we can move freely once more. 

Behind their bars, some still shake their heads, 
But those who preceded us into freedom weep tears of joy.

3          This change could not come through our individual efforts;
It must have been God's work. 

4          But now we are afraid, Lord. 
The uncharted wilderness of our new world stretches before us; 
we no longer know which way to turn. 

5          Fearful of falling, we take tentative steps. 
We would love to run effortlessly. 

6          We have thrown away so many opportunities; 
There is so little time left. 
For this chance to start again, we thank you.


For paraphrases of mostof the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalmsfrom Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.






If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

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                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                  And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetrywhere I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca,  or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blankemail(no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)






To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have been blocking my posts because they’re suspicious of too many links.

                  Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                  Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                  Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,”an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                  Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony”-- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’sreaders. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet



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