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

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Published on Thursday, July 29, 2021

Going ‘round in circles

Thursday July 29, 2021


Long long ago, I had a Baby Brownie camera. It had no settings at all – just point and click. But it let me take grainy black and white pictures. 

            As time went on, I graduated to a 35mm camera. Which required me to guess at settings for distance, light, and shutter speed. It let me take slightly less grainy black and white pictures. 

            I bought a light meter, so I would make fewer mistakes with the various settings.

            Then a through-the-lens 35mm reflex. Clearer, sharper, pictures. In colour. But still with a separate light meter. 

            Several cameras later, I had a digital through-the-lens unit that would do almost everything for me except choose my subject. It would set the aperture. Choose the shutter speed. Auto-focus on whatever I had on the screen. 

            I didn’t have to think anymore. I was back to point and shoot. 

            Except that one of its dials sets “picture mode,” in which the camera automatically amends its settings to suit special circumstances -- portraits, landscapes, close-ups, etc. 

            Not long ago, I took a series of photos of our Rotary club picking up litter along a popular walking route. Somehow, I bumped that dial from “Auto” to “Art.” 

            I got grainy black and white photos that I might have taken with my old Baby Brownie.


What goes around, goes around

            Life seems to move in circular patterns. 

            You leave home, you get your first one-room apartment. You rent bigger apartments. Buy a condo, perhaps. Buy a house. Buy a bigger house. 

            Then as you near the end of life, you find yourself back in a single room. 

            You get your first paid position. You do the odd jobs no one else wants. Gradually, you gain responsibility. You move up the corporate ladder. You have people who can do all those odd jobs. 

            Then you retire. And have time to do all those odd jobs you’ve been putting off. 

            You’re living solo. You meet someone. You become a couple. You go through life together. You have children, maybe grandchildren. Then a life ends, or a relationship ends, and you find yourself flying solo again. 

            As Harry Chapin used to sing, “All my life’s a circle…”

            In one of his books, philosopher and futurist Ken Wilber sketched a life cycle as a circle. You start off helpless, dependent on others. As you grow, sod does your circle of friends, associates, and influence. And then it shrinks again. Until, at the end, once again, you’re helpless and dependent on others. 

            No, it’s not a pretty picture. Not something you want to anticipate eagerly. But surely it’s better to be realistic than to pretend your time machine froze 20 years ago?

            To me, this means learning to let go. To let go of possessions I’ve been moving from home to home for many years. To let go of ideas that haven’t been dusted off since I was a child. 

            And perhaps to let go of trying to live up to other people’s expectations. of who I am. I am not a store on a western-movie set with a false front, to make me look bigger.

            I am who I am. 

            Full circle, that’s the only picture that matters. 


Copyright © 2021 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





There is no “Your Turn” this time, because I’m posting this column to my webpage before it actually gets sent out to subscribers. 




Psalm paraphrase


I used Psalm 51 earlier this spring. It comes up again for this Sunday. I like it, so I’ll use it again.

            In spring, when the frost came out the ground and turned our back yard into gooey mud, our children came in filthy and half frozen. We popped them into a tub full of hot water, and washed them pink and clean again. 


1          Scrub me clean, Lord. Rub me down gently;
By your touch, show how much you love me;
Flush away my failures;

2          Sponge away the stains of constant compromise;
Help me clean up my act. 


3          You don't have to tell me -- I know too well what I have been doing. 

4          I know I have let you down;
I have betrayed your trust in me.
You warned me; you have every right to be angry.
Don't blame yourself because I blew it;

5          I was born this way.
How can I help it; I'm only human. 

6          So wash out my mouth, and rinse out my heart.
New life starts on the inside, with knowing myself. 

7          Scrub my spirit clean, and swirl my soiled nature down the drain;
Let me step out fresh and sparkling.
Mend my fractured spirits;
Turn a blind eye to my faults and cherish the scars where I have fallen down. 


10        A fresh start begins with a pure heart, God,
So let me share your spirit. 

11        I do not want to be cut off from you;
I do not want to live without you. 

12        Take me back into your good graces.
Help me, Lord, for I really want to please you. 


You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable 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 several 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 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: aging, letting go



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