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

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Published on Friday, November 19, 2021

Take a chance; make a new friend!

Thursday November 18, 2021

 

As I grow older, I realize how much friends matter. 

            I didn’t always feel that way. Friends came into my life; friends passed out of my life. I moved on and left the old friends behind. 

            There always seemed to be enough friends around. 

            Not any more. Far too many friends have died. Others still live, but too little contact and too many years mean the only thing we have in common now is youthful memories. 

            Author Frederik Buechner understood the importance of friends better than I did. In his book Whistling the Dark, he wrote: “Friends are people you make part of your life just because you feel like it. There are lots of other ways people get to be part of each other's lives like being related to each other, living near each other, sharing some special passion with each other like [author] P. G. Wodehouse or jogging or lepidopterology, and so on, but though all or any of those may be involved in a friendship, they are secondary to it.  

            “Basically your friends are not your friends for any particular reason. They are your friends for no particular reason. The job you do, the family you have, the way you vote, the major achievements and blunders of your life, your religious convictions or lack of them, are all somehow set off to one side when the two of you get together. 

            “If you are old friends, you know all those things about each other and a lot more besides, but they are beside the point. Even if you talk about them, they are beside the point. Stripped, humanly speaking, to the bare essentials, you are yourselves the point.”

 

Sampling the “Kingdom of God”

            The late Scottish theologian and philosopher John Macmurray (died 1976) did a series of BBC broadcasts about what Jesus called “The Kingdom of God.” 

            Jesus said contradictory things about it. That the kingdom could appear at any moment. And that the kingdom was already here, and known. 

            The only human experience true for both statements, Macmurray argued, was friendship. 

            We already have friends. We know about friendship. But we also know that friendship can blossom unexpectedly. You meet someone; something clicks; you become friends. 

            And the whole world is richer for that new relationship.

            Jesus, Buechner goes on, called his disciples his “friends.” He applied only one condition, to “love one another as I have loved you.”

            In other words, says Buechner, “To be his friends…we have to be each other's friends, conceivably even lay down our lives for each other…”

            Remember the old song: “For my friends are your friends, and your friends are my friends”? Is it too much to imagine a world where everyone can be friends?

            That doesn’t require unanimity. Even old friends have differences of opinion. But we can treat those differences with respect, even with sympathy. 

            To accept that someone else has a contrary view doesn’t mean endorsing it. 

            Few people choose their friends. Mostly, friends happen. 

            Try, for just one day, treating everyone as if they could become a new friend. Set yourself an attitude, a mindset, that chooses to see each new encounter as a possible friendship. 

            See if it could be a sample of the kin-dom of God.

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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

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YOUR TURN

 

I took a slightly odd tack in last week’s Remembrance Day column. Instead of defining peace in terms of legal agreements and treaties, I wondered how our senses would recognize peace. 

 

Steve Roney: “As to what peace sounds or smells like, the experts on this are the Chinese. Feng shui is designed to bring such mental calm. The sound that most brings peace is that of gently running water; or the light tinkle of glass on glass, or metal on metal. The sights that most bring peace are those present in a Chinese or Japanese tea garden: as you say, not regiments of roses in stiff order, and not randomness, but a use of contrast always slightly off-balance. Always an odd number of elements. Never two things at equal distance, but also never at distances too diverse. Never two things the same size, but not vast differences in size.”

 

Isabel Gibson had a different take: “Peace is being inside, warm and dry, on a dark and stormy night. Peace is sitting with the one you love, in person or in memory, and knowing you don't need to explain some obscure comment you just made.

            “Peace is not being afraid.

            “Jesus wept at the sight of Jerusalem, and said ‘If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace.’ I like it, especially if I'm allowed to move the modifier: ‘If only you had known what would bring you peace on this day.’

            “Maybe we could start with peace on THIS day and see how we get on.”

 

Diana Cabott: “Peace comes to me at random moments: walking the dog on a sunny day, at my daughter’s farm standing with a horse, or even just a few minutes ago, at Tim Hortons at Royal Colombian Hospital waiting to take a friend home after her colonoscopy...when suddenly Xmas music arrived and I smiled to myself....”

 

Like Joan, David Gilchrist has memories tied up with smells:          I guess we all have smells or tastes that bring back memories. The most powerful impact for me was working on a coastal oil tanker off Nova Scotia in 1945. They put a handful of tea in a pot, poured on cold oily water, and boiled it on an oil stove. It was more than 20 years before I could drink a cup of tea without smelling oil! I knew it was all in my head; but it took that long to convinced myself that there was no oil there. 

            “Other memories are much more pleasant, and I don’t try to wipe them from my memory. Some of them (like homemade bread) are a blessing, like a ray of sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day. They bring moments of joy, like meeting an old friend after years of lost contact.”

 

Penny Kirk: “I don’t know if my father ever had peace.,” Penny Kirk wrote. “He served in WWII before his 18th birthday and was shot in France. Returning home to Canada he was a different person (I was told by my second cousin). How could he not be changed after experiencing war? PTSD was not in our vocabulary. He never spoke of his time in France and we avoided asking questions due to his short temper. 

            “My father died when he was 48 in 1972. I was ten years old. 

            “Our local cemetery is peaceful to me. Beautiful big fir trees, dirt driveway, view of the valley. As I placed a poppy on my father’s grave yesterday I wondered what kind of man he might have been… without war.”

 

Fran Ota went through a war: “It feels odd here in Norway, as their day of remembrance is May 8. It’s all over my Facebook feed from North America, and a couple of European countries. However, on Remembrance Day my mind is always occupied with memories of life in Viêt Nam during that war, and the young men I saw in chapel, barely out of their teens. Some didn’t survive. Even more, [I remember] the children on the streets missing a limb blown away by a mine, selling newspapers. Because a fact of life in Viêt Nam was that every single family member worked, to help the family live. Child labour is a necessity in some places, to this day. Especially if humans are going to continue to start useless wars. 

            “As I look back on those three years in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, I can still hear the sounds -- incoming shells, gunfire in the distance; some of my husband’s students forced into the military and not returning. They never wanted that war, it was forced on them by foreign nations. As I get older, tears are closer to the surface. Will we ever learn? “

 

So did Jim Hoffman: “I remember Vietnam -- the sights, the sounds, the smells.  Vietnam was sandbag protected bunkers, the thump of helicopter rotors, the absence of feeling safe, jeeps, military vehicles and equipment on the move, dusty roads and paths, barbed wire, rifles and weapons everywhere, the constant feeling of uncertainty and insecurity..

            “Peace happened for me with thoughts of putting my arms around my wife and holding her close, driving with a cup of coffee and the open road ahead, dairy cows grazing in a pasture of green grass, crop fields of rich Iowa farmland, playing basketball, a game of cards with friends, teaching and coaching young people.  

            “I've been fortunate to have lived a good many years and am thankful to have lived in mostly peaceful surroundings with loving and peaceful family and friends.”

 

Bob Rollwagen: “Peace is not what it was, thanks to the constant presence of social media in our lives. War itself has not changed. The fact that there seems to be a war in progress somewhere on the planet at any particular moment is now new.

            “In 1942/3 large parts of our population were signing up to fight. Recent surveys of youth indicate very few would be signing up. Why? Because they believe social media is global awareness and the way is to negotiate peace. Interesting shift in less than 100 years. 

            “About the same time frame for climate change.  You and I are enjoying the world our grandparents and parents created. Our kids can see that their kids may not get the same opportunity. Thus will bring new meaning to the word PEACE.”

 

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Psalm paraphrase

 

When I read Psalm 132:1-12, I wondered how another people, in another geographical space, might express it. 

 

Great Mystery, remember how your children suffered.

Torn from their homes,

Given new names,

Forbidden to speak their own language,

Fed the slops from the kitchen,

And ordered to be grateful.

They were taught to worship the great god Clock –

Expected to get up on time,

Attend classes on time,

Work in the fields on time,

Go to sleep on time.

Yet they retained their identity, they knew not how.

 

Rise up, Great Mystery, reclaim your people!

Give your people purpose;

Give your people pride.

Let them shake off the apathy and alcoholism,

The self-pity and suicide,

That drag them deep into despair.

 

Manifest yourself, Great Mystery;

Make your invisible spirit known.

Once you revealed yourself in everything;

Now you are known only in elders’ memories.

Re-establish yourself

in our hearts and lives,

And in our children’s lives.

 

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.

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

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

            To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

            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

            If you’re interested in the poems I occasionally wrte, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry And 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.)

 

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PROMOTION STUFF

 

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”)

 

ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE

            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: Senses, Remembrance Day, peace

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