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

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29

May

2019

The oneness of life and love

Author: Jim Taylor

God is love, I hear, over and over. God is love.

            I wonder what the speaker's definitions are.

            About God. Do they mean the traditional God, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who knows everything, created everything, and still controls everything? Including playoff games…?

            That's a comfortable notion, I suppose, if it lets you blame God from everything that goes wrong, from avalanches that wipe out holiday resorts to tsunamis that flood a nuclear power plant and poison the entire Pacific Ocean.

            To say nothing of demented people who run down holidaying crowds with a truck, or open fire in a movie theatre, or abuse small children.

            "God moves in mysterious ways," they will say. "I guess we'll never understand God's will...."

            Such a belief may offer comfort, but it's not a God of love.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, God, love

27

Feb

2019

Beyond human perceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve never heard a snowflake fall. It must make a sound, even if, as an Asian parable says, a snowflake weighs “Nothing, or less than nothing.” And yet there must be a point of contact, and with it, a sound, however slight. 

            Even if human ears are not sensitive enough to hear it. 

            I can’t hear a worm, burrowing through moist soil towards a dew-dappled lawn. But a robin can. 

            A dog can hear a whistle way above my frequency range; at the other end of the frequency scale, elephants use a sub-audible rumble to communicate with other elephants out of sight over the horizon. 

           In her book, A God That Could Be Real,author Nancy Ellen Abrams explores some implications of our human limitations. We can only comprehend things that fall within a certain size range, she asserts, relative to our own size. 


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15

Sep

2018

A shining

Author: Jim Taylor

It’s easy to say what I don’t believe in anymore – an all-knowing grandfather God who sits on a cloud somewhere up there, out there, distant but keeping an eye on everything, delivering rewards and punishments,, and upsetting things here on earth with what we call “acts of God.” But then people ask me, “So what kind of God do you believe in?” And I find prose can’t do it; poetry at least comes closer. 

 

 Faces  talk around a table

knees warm around a campfire

voices sing in a circle

hands clasp in the darkness

and in between, among, around them

hovers a shining.... 


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: God, shining, presence

13

Aug

2018

Perplexing pronouns

Author: Jim Taylor

I’m not sure whether this is a poem, a meditation, or an experiment. And I almosthope you find it confusing. You see, we all know what pronouns are. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines them as “a word used instead of a noun to designate a person or thing already known…” In theory, then, a pronoun  is simply a stand-in. But a pronoun  is also a word in its own right; the choice of pronoun has its own implications. It conveys singular or plural, gender, and even the closeness of the relationship. So how, I wondered, do the pronouns we use for God affect our perceptions of that, umm, whatever?

 

...Can one still be one when two are one?

Now am We, and They are I

And He and She are You and Me— 

And I don’t know who I is anymore.

 

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: God, pronouns

27

Sep

2017

What does God worry about?

Author: Jim Taylor

Does God lie awake at night, worrying about things?

            Yes, I know -- that image immediately pictures God as a person. A person who sleeps, in a rumpled bed, tossing and turning. In other words, someone just like one of us, only more so. Psychologists call it “anthropomorphization”-- seeing others in our own image.

            It’s the kind of misplaced identity that led Marc Gellman to title one of his books, “Does God Have a Big Toe?”

            But basic question is not whether God lies awake at night, but whether God -- whatever God may or may not be -- worries.


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9

Aug

2017

A different kind of God

Author: Jim Taylor

           I cannot deal with a world in which there is no God at all. As I wrote last week, I need something that I can call God. 

            That’s why I write about God. Writing about God is how I sort out my thoughts. Often, I don’t know what I think until I try to put my vague intuitions into words. 

            But those words convince me that I am not just an atheist, an unbeliever. Yes, there is a God. I am obsessed by God. I don’t know how to understand that presence. But I keep trying.


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2

Aug

2017

Why I keep writing about God

Author: Jim Taylor

“Why do you keep writing about God?” a reader asked.

            Good question. The only answer I can think of is that I have to write about God.  I need something that I can call God.

            I use the term “something” loosely. It doesn’t have to be a thing. Or a person. Or a being, supernatural or otherwise. It doesn’t even have to be an idea. It just has to be more than me.

            And it has to have some kind of volition. It has to be something more than blind chance, more than a probability field in quantum physics. Whatever it is, I want it to have an ethical sense – to want, even to desire, a better outcome for all.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: God

31

May

2017

Help wanted: divine intervention

Author: Jim Taylor

Okay, God, I apologize. In the past, I have occasionally argued that you don’t intervene in worldly events. I have even suggested that you cannot intervene to fix things down here.

            I was wrong. I must have been. Because Dan Rather writes in his Facebook blog, “I end each of my days with a silent prayer for my country… I hope against hope as I slip off to sleep that our rapid descent into governmental chaos has hit a nadir -- only to awaken to a new set of incoherent tweets or explosive headlines. I pray again that our Constitutional government, the great gift of our Founding Fathers, will provide a safety net to catch us before everything we hold dear is no more…”

            If a famous news anchor like Dan Rather believes you can do something about the state of the world, who am I to disagree?


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24

May

2017

Something bigger than ourselves

Author: Jim Taylor

Your average termite is a stupid creature. It's a whitish grub. It has only rudimentary senses; it can't really see where it is going. It can do only two things -- crawl and chew.

            But put a number of termites together and they will immediately start to build a home for themselves.

            The mound that emerges is astonishingly complex.  And the termites do this with no direction. No blueprints. No planning.

            No one termite – especially not even the queen, who is little more than a living ovary -- has the intelligence to direct this construction. None of the termites knew what they were doing when they created it. But it is unquestionably real.

            Nancy Ellen Abrams calls this an "emergent" phenomenon. It derives from the collective activity of those termites. But it is not them. It is more than them.


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3

May

2017

An inferior God? Why not?

Author: Jim Taylor

This column started as a casual email chat among editorial colleagues, about the virtues of knowing other languages and cultures. Somehow, it morphed into a discussion about the relative merits of the gods of various cultures, and the way every religion felt that its god was superior to any other god or gods. 

            And someone asked, “Who’d want to worship an inferior god?”

            The concept intrigued me. An inferior god? Why not?


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