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

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Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

We are more than our masks

Thursday December 9, 2021

 

The woman standing in line looked vaguely familiar. But because she was wearing a Covid mask, I could see only her eyes and forehead. 

            “Holly?” I asked, tentatively. 

            Her eyebrows shot up. Her eyes crinkled. “Jim!” she exclaimed, flinging her arms around me. (Take that, Covid!)

            I find it hard to recognize people with half their face hidden. 

            In the old days, people used masks to cover other parts of their faces. The Lone Ranger and Batman wore masks over the upper half. (It occurs to me, now, those masks must have severely limited their peripheral vision.)

            Presumably, if people couldn’t see your eyes, they couldn’t recognize you. 

            Now it’s the opposite. We can see each other’s eyes. We can see if they crinkle in pleasure, or wrinkle in disgust. But we can’t see their mouths. Their cheeks. Only when we add a voice can we fully connect a real person with those disembodied eyes. 

            On Zoom, I do get to see a whole face. But only in postage-stamp size. With none of their body language. 

 

Whole-body people

            I would never claim any expertise in reading body language. Indeed, sometimes I have been remarkably obtuse about it. In one meeting, I didn’t sense the daggers being flung across the room until the person sitting next to me, the one who felt under attack, sought emotional support by clutching my hand. She almost crushed it!

            A clergy friend, Dr. Bob Wallace, used to offer training in public-speaking. A popular theme was the message you convey with your hands while your mouth utters speech.

            Arms across your chest implies that you fear of getting the wind knocked out of your sails. Folding your hands together in front, you’re defending your genitals. Behind your back, you’re covering your ass (as the saying goes). And so on. 

            So what should you do with your hands?

            Long ago, I took speaking courses from a teacher who insisted on a proper posture: one foot planted slightly in front of the other, hips straight, one hand free to gesture, the other tucked securely into a jacket pocket. (Old school; he couldn’t imagine that a speaker might not wear a jacket.) 

            He scorned speakers who slouched, shifting weight from one leg to the other. “You look as if you’re struggling with an ill-fitting girdle,” he’d snap.

 

More than just spiritual

            We are whole-body people, you see. We are never just our words or ideas.. 

            Nor are we, as some like to believe, immortal souls temporarily housed in human bodies.

            In this Christmas season, preachers frequently speak of “Incarnation.” It’s a fancy way of declaring that God lived here on earth in Jesus of Nazareth. 

            That message sometimes gets lost in the tinkle and tinsel – Jesus was a whole-body person.

            As a baby, he sucked Mary’s nipple. He had his bum wiped. He probably had acne in his teens.

            And at the other end of life, he knew pain. Betrayal. Abandonment. And real death.

            He was not just some kind of spiritual entity, wearing a human mask. 

            The Christmas story should  remind us that we too are whole-body people. Our aches and pains, our joys and insights, all weave together in the holy fabric of life. 

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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

 

Last week’s column, about the hummingbird who shouldn’t still be hanging around my house in winter, brought out the bird-watcher in a number of you. 

 

Betty Robbins wrote, “I enjoyed your account of the hummingbird's untimely visit. I'd call such an occasion a ‘God nudge’ so I hope the little bird's visit continues to provide you with warm, fuzzy feelings in this Advent and Christmas season.”

 

Tom Watson called it “A very touching column. Ah, the beauty and diversity, and often unpredictability, of the natural world around us. Your story reminds me of Guelph author Nick Ruddock's latest book, Last Hummingbird West of Chile. In the story, one lone hummingbird survives the circumstances that decimate the rest.”

 

My cousin Michael Parmenter is a serious bird-watcher himself:  “Looking into field guides, I've found that Anna's Hummingbird is the only hummingbird wintering north of Mexico. One guide indicates southern British Columbia as a winter location as well but other guides don't show that. There's a possibility that this is what you had and also that it didn't have to go too far to find a place to stay till spring.”

            JT: I’ve managed to get some closer looks at my hummingbird’s underparts, and I’m fairly sure now that it is an Anna’s Hummingbird, possibly blown in from the coast rather than from regions farther south.

 

Isabel Gibson usually spends her winters in Arizona, taking wonderful pictures of hawks and roadrunners: “Being at home this past winter allowed me to get a better view of the seasonal comings-&-goings of birds, even in my backyard.

            “I would say that we don't have hummingbirds in town, but then I don't put up a feeder for them so I'm not sure how I think I know. Is this a chicken/egg situation?

            “I wish Jade well.”

 

Stephanie Wakelin promised prayers for Jade’s safety.

 

Brent Waterhouse: “My wife & I really enjoyed your article about the hummingbird. We also live in Lake Country and a few years ago noticed hummingbirds show up in January or February. We did not have a feeder out at the time, but I quickly rigged up a heater for our feeder” (JT: to keep the sugar syrup from freezing).

            “Since then, we have noticed some hummingbirds stick around (as do some mosquitos). So, we keep the feeders out with attached heaters. If you don't have a heater setup you can alternate 2 or 3 feeders, so they don't freeze, keeping one outside at all times during the day.”

            Brent also advised that the Backyard Bird Centre in Vancouver sells heated hummingbird feeders.

 

Peter Stigings lives in Vancouver: “Maybe the hummingbird that you witnessed was an Anna’s Hummingbird who flew east with the Atmospheric Rivers, formerly called Pineapple Express. In the lower mainland and the southern end of Vancouver Island Anna’s Hummingbirds are resident 12 months a year. We continue to feed them and enjoy them even in the very unsettled weather we are currently experiencing. 

            “In 2017 the City of Vancouver proclaimed the Anna’s Hummingbird as the official bird for our city. They are very discreet eaters; if a single bug or fly gets in their feeding tray they will instantly stop eating from that tray and move on to another one. Living in a Condo building we are not permitted to have ‘seed’ type feeders due to the current rodent population, but there are no restrictions on hummingbird feeders.”

 

Sandy Warren wrote about two subjects: “I hope that, against all odds, your little Jade survives. Your offering of a thick hiking sock was a good idea!

            “I don't know the answer to either the Islamic practice or blasphemy questions (JT: referring to last week’s Psalm paraphrase), but I appreciate this new perspective -- it surprised me how mind-stretching it felt to read it.”

 

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Psalm paraphrase

 

The “Psalm” for this Sunday isn’t a psalm, but the prophet Isaiah’s song of praise (12:2-6). Isaiah plays with images of springs and wells as a source of life in the desert. But it occurs to me that arid deserts are not limited to the Sahara.

 

My soul has dried up.

I am a bell without a clapper, 
a well without water, 
a heart without feeling.

Where can I look for hope?

When hope swirls down the drain, how do I call it back?

I have faith that I will have faith again.

The holy mystery of life will bubble up within me again, 
like an effervescent spring rising out of the rocks, 
like the morning sun rising over the darkened horizon.

Joy shall come, even to the wilderness.

It has been so in the past; 
I believe it will be so in the future.

I can only hope…

 

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: COVID-19, Masks, whole body

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