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

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Published on Saturday, October 10, 2020

An Alternative Alphabet

A is for Apple. That’s how Alphabet books usually start -- not with A for Alphabet. Because Apples are red and round, and make a striking image on the page.

            And A is for Autumn. The time when apples ripen and -- like the little piggy -- go to market. The time when we set aside summer dreams, summer romances, summer indolence, and settle into the labour of daily living.

            A is for Adam, too –although I think “Adam-and-Eve” should be a single hyphenated unity. Whatever they did, they did it together. They had no choice – there was no one else to do anything with, or to. 

            Also because of that Apple, says the second story of creation, Adam-and-Eve were expelled from their summer garden and condemned to hard labour for the Autumn of their lives.

            Although I think they got a bum deal. After all, God put them there in the garden. Naked. Young people, naked? What did God expect? Of course they discovered sex. And then when grandpa God dropped by to check on them, they hid themselves. And covered their nakedness with fig leaves, so God wouldn’t know what they’d been doing.

            As if….


Adolescence forever

            A might also stand for Adolescence, that time when your offspring reject everything that you value, so that they can find out for themselves what they value. Adolescents have to try what they’re told not to do.

            Adam-and-Eve were adolescents, after all. No one has ever suggested that God created Adam as an 80-year-old with wonky knees and erectile dysfunction. 

            Adolescence seems like forever when your teens are in it, and yet seems to have passed like a breath in the night when they become adults.

            A is for Adults, too.

            And perhaps for Agnostics, or even Atheists, who maintain an Adolescent Attitude of rebellion against the status quo all through their lives, as they question the values that their Ancestors took for granted. I write as one of them. Often we know much more clearly what we no longer believe than what we still hold true and dear, even if we can’t explain it.

            Atonement, for example, a doctrine widely defended. The conviction that Jesus had to die to pay the price for generations of humans committing sins that grandpa God set up in the first place. Can you imagine a human mother having a daughter just so that she could kill that daughter to prove how much she loved all other children?

            Assuming God were human, some of the things He did would make Him the most despised human in history. 

            As in, say, playing favourites in wars. Or in football games. Or drowning every living creature on the planet (the ultimate ecocide) because He was Angry about human misbehavior.

            A might be for Audit, finally. For the infinite Accounting by which the kind of God I don’t believe in anymore keeps records of every good and bad thing I have ever done, so that He can inflict appropriate punishment on me, eventually.

            A is for Apple. And for Autumn, when leaves begin to fall. And maybe when we can let some Answers we’ve Accepted for too long fall too.


Copyright © 2020 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





Like me, Sandy Warren can get fascinated watching the effects of wind on water. 

            “I love all the images called up by your column,” Sandy wrote, “and also the idea of changes stirred up in people by unseen forces.

            “Your description of winds sweeping over mountains and through valleys made me think of an online forecasting map based on wind www.ventusky.com. At the lower left it shows all of the categories of forecasts, but I can be mesmerized just watching the wind patterns locally, regionally and globally.”

            JT: I checked ventusky. It is indeed a wonderful program, and a great way of wasting an hour or two.


Kim MacMillan: “Your article took me back to grade 5 when I was reading a series of novels about Miss Pickering. In one of them she was flying over the English Channel in a small plane peering down looking for the parting of the waves. She reasoned that on both sides of the channel the waves washed onto the shore. Therefore there must be a place in the middle where the waves parted, like a head of neatly combed hair. That book got me wondering about how the waves do that, a conundrum I have not completely solved.”


 “I like the image of God as breath or wind,” Isabel Gibson wrote, “which can mean anything from the gentle puff-in-the-face I use to startle a baby (just slightly, honest), to a hurricane.

            “And yes, sometimes what we experience as a zephyr hits someone else with the force of a tornado. Good to remember.”

            Isabel added a PS on whether lakes can have up or down: “When I moved to Ottawa a dozen years ago, I was mightily confused by the local habit of giving directions such as ‘Go up Bank Street’ when what they meant was ‘Go south on Bank Street.’ With the Ottawa River acting as the northern boundary of the city, I guess locals figured they were going up/away from the river. Or something.”


Bob Rollwagen mused, “When you observe something happening that is difficult to understand because there is no visible force, the imagination is allowed to use knowledge or experience and to be creative in the telling of the story.  I have seen walls of sand build from the Gobi desert floor in minutes or waterspouts lift from the ocean in what seems like seconds. No infrequently, Lake Huron has a gravitational force pull the water into the centre of the lake, pulling it away from the shore about half a kilometre and then weaken such that it appears like a huge tidal wave is returning all the water to the shore line. 

            “All unseen forces that are understood by science [but] scary events to those who don’t comprehend what is happening. 

            “But we also have new unseen forces creating stress without impacting the geography around us. Forces created by the human drive for power, or equally as stressful, created by those having privilege and not listening to or understanding what the impact of its abuse. Truly an invisible force.”


My column on winds reminded Tom Watson of a song: “The Wayward Wind.” 

Oh, the wayward wind is a restless wind

A restless wind that yearns to wander...

Tom remembered it being sung by Patsy Cline; I remember it by Gogi Grant.




Psalm paraphrase


Psalm 23 is listed as an alternate reading for this coming Sunday. But how could I resist it? This paraphrase takes a slightly less conventional approach to it, from the standpoint of a traveler returning home. 


Few feelings compare with coming home after a succession of hotel rooms, rental cars, and wearying meetings. 


It's so good to be home, 

to lie down in my own bed,
to play my favourite music,
to shed the tensions of travel
the way water runs off my shoulders in the shower.

Thank you, God.
You got me to the right gates in the airports;

You delivered me from dangerous drivers;
You kept me from getting lost in the concrete canyons of the city.
You gave me courage to face my critics. 

You did not desert me.
When I was lonely, you found me a friend;
When I was weary, you led me to a welcome.
The airline didn't lose my bags.

I am at peace.
I'd like to live in these familiar walls forever...
Come live with me, and let me live with you.


You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalms available from 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, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry I posted some new poetic works there a few weeks ago. 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 blank email (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 blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.

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

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                  I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)


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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: God, Eve, Adam, Garden of Eden



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