Archive for the ‘Life in Athens-Clarke County Georgia’ Category

The Joys of Reducing the Quantity of Possessions   Leave a comment

An Account of Deliberate and Purposeful Activity, as Well as Serendipity

I used to have a pattern:  I reduced the quantity of my possessions, accumulated too much again, and repeated the cycle.  One summer, years ago, for example, I sold about 1000 books to a family.  Then, over time, I build up my library again.  Then I needed to purge it again.  The trigger for it was helping a local hoarder who, quite frankly, offended and scared the hell out of me.  She was endangering her health and the health of her son; that offended me, for both of them deserved better, and her son did not ask for his circumstances.  Her excess inspired me to commence a material purge of staggering proportions, not that I was ever close to being as possessed by my possessions as she was.

During the subsequent years I have undertaken occasional, less dramatic acts of reducing my possessions.  Instituting the policy of reconsidering possessions throughout each year has been a wise decision.  This week, while searching for my digital camera (which I had forgotten I had left in my car), I spent much of a night emptying bookshelves and spraying and wiping them.  Along the way I filled two boxes with books to donate.  It was an unplanned act of weeding out my library, which remains relatively large, compared to the collections of many people.  Now I have reduced my library to about 700 volumes–about right for me.  My library used to be about 2,400 books.

I have begun to donate the weeded books.  I have given the Lutheran denominational histories to Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Athens, Georgia.  I have made plans to add the other volumes to the library at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, where I serve as the librarian, tomorrow.

I have also reduced my wardrobe so that it fits into one medium-sized closet easily.

I have more than one reason for doing all this.  One is consideration for other people, especially those who will have to pack up and dispose of my possessions after my death, whenever that will happen.  Ideally they will be able to complete that task between breakfast and supper, with a break for lunch, in one day.  Other reasons are purely aesthetic and selfish.  I like seeing walls and floors.  I adore having empty surfaces.  I like being able to see almost all of my kitchen counter tops, for example.  If I own an object, it must occupy space.  Too much occupied space causes me stress.  As scripture says,

Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

–Luke 12:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Indeed, too much abundance detracts from the quality of life.  Furthermore, excessive abundance proves burdensome.  Is freedom from such a burden not a virtue?

For now I am content with the volume of my possessions.  A year from now, assuming I will be alive (as I hope to be) then, I will probably have less in that category.  Maybe owning fewer books and movies will be a good idea.  The occasional reviews will continue.  Along the way I intend to keep what I use, what enriches me, and what I need, as well as to add that which I should add.  I also mean to continue to strive to follow the rule that, except in a month in which I move from one abode to another, the combined volume of that which I remove from my home and decide not to bring into should exceed the volume of what I bring into it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

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College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at turnitin.com by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Gratitude for Athens, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Dome of the City Hall, Athens, Georgia, August 5, 2009

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-04138

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Seeking reasons for gratitude to God is a daily activity; it is an easy one, fortunately.

During the last few days I have been thinking deeply about a subset of those reasons; I have been pondering reasons I am blessed to live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Many such reasons–too many to enumerate in a succinct blog post–have come to mind.

A few follow.

A visit to relatives in Americus, Georgia, followed shortly by a lecture at The University of Georgia (UGA), started me down this path.  Last Tuesday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Richard B. Miller, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Religious Ethics at The University of Chicago Divinity School.  Miller spoke about St. Augustine of Hippo‘s concept of the common good and of its implications for today.  The full explanation of St. Augustine’s definition of sin as disordered love proved especially helpful.  As I listened and learned, I also thought about how fortunate I was to live in the town in which that event happened.  UGA, my relationship with which has been both positive and tumultuous, at different times, since 2005, made that lecture possible.

Indeed, I have may reasons to be grateful for and to UGA.  It creates a wonderful intellectual environment in Athens.  I care nothing about the athletics of a university, for the purpose of such an institution is supposed to be primarily educational, is it not?  The presence of UGA in Athens not only makes Athens what it is, but also makes me feel at home in this town, a colony of members of the intelligentsia.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in small towns and communities in southern Georgia.  The intellectual atmosphere (not in the parsonage, of course) was generally lackluster, even anti-intellectual.  (Nevertheless, I do recall that sometimes even my father angrily rebuffed some of my attempts at academic discussions, especially of the Bible.  There was no good reason to fear Higher Criticism.  No philosophical meat grinder will grind up the truth, after all; the truth will break the meat grinder.)  I usually felt like an intellectual outcast and the resident heretic.  (Today I wear the label “heretic” with pride.  As churchy as I am, given the option of avoiding church or facing allegations of heresy in a congregation, I would choose the former.)  Politically and socially most of the neighbors were or seemed to be beyond conservative–reactionary, actually.  Many were openly and unapologetically racist.

Of course I gravitated toward the left side of the spectrum.  I have remained a man of the left, although I have, with greater frequency, found myself in rooms with people to my left–sometimes far to my left.  I have shifted slightly to the right in some ways, and far to the left (relative to my former position) in others.  Overall, I have continued to occupy a center-left position.  (I tend to be center-right in liturgical matters and to the left politically, socially, and theologically.  My unapologetic Western Classicism in music is prominent in my daily life.)  I have ceased to be the resident heretic, for (1) I worship with people, many of whom are to my left, and (2) I worship in a faith community where nobody accuses me of heresy.  Charges of heresy have usually come from the right, not the left, after all.  (This is why most ecclesiastical schisms occur to the right and the majority of church mergers happen on the left.  Tolerance and acceptance are antidotes to Donatism.)

St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home since August 2005.  The parish has saved my life (in 2007) and become a means by which I offer gifts and talents to God.  I have, for years, curated a movie series, functioned as the librarian, and taught adult Sunday School, for example.  For nearly a decade I sang in the choir.  (I have many fond memories of that time.)  Although some people roll their eyes when I obsess over the proper arrangement of chairs, hymnals, and prayer books in the worship space, tending to that matter has long been something I have offered to God.  (I have come to long wistfully for pews.)  Also, the music has long been mostly excellent in the parish.  Last Sunday, for example, a string quartet performed at the 10:30 service and accompanied the choir during a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus.

As much as I enjoy visits to relatives in Americus, Athens is my place.  As much as I visit Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, occasionally, and find my spot in a pew there comfortably, St. Gregory the Great Church is my place.  As much as I enjoy visiting Americus, I also enjoy returning to Athens.

I am also grateful for friends and acquaintances. all of whose privacy I respect in this post by preserving in this post by naming none of them.  Some of them have saved my life and seen me through difficult times.  I have also performed my sacred duty and helped one friend to the point of self-sacrifice.  If necessary, I would do it again, without hesitation.

I hope to reside in Athens for long time.  The possibility of leaving eventually remains, of course; I admit that doing so might be proper one day.  That hypothetical day is one I hope is far off, if it is extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

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Tallassee Shoals XXXII: Arborial Angles   1 comment

Above:  Trees, February 11, 2018

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

This photograph comes from near the location of the old dam.

Nature contains many magnificent curves and angles.  The tree in the center of the photograph is especially impressive and beautiful.  The colors in the image also impress me.

The Middle Oconee River is visible through the trees.

The major reason I post this image is to share beauty, to counteract some of the ugliness and meanness rampant on the Internet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XXXI: Woodland Trail   1 comment

Above:  The Terminus of a Trail at Ben Burton Park, Athens, Georgia, February 11, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

All Photographs Dated February 11, 2018

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

A most pleasant trail links Ben Burton Park to the cul-de-sac near my home.

The trail contains some shortcuts, such as the one on the left.

The trees in the middle of the image form fascinating angles.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XXX: Small Stone Structure   1 comment

Above:  Two Trees and One Small Stone Structure, February 11, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

All Photographs Dated February 11, 2018

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

One of the joys of wandering off trails is seeing sights I would never see otherwise.  One of these is immediately north of Ben Burton Park and between the Middle Oconee River and a back entrance to that park.

The arrangement of stones is prompts me to wonder what purpose this structure served.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XXIX: Bricks   1 comment

Above:  Old Bricks Beside the Middle Oconee River, February 11, 2018

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

All Images Dated February 11, 2018

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

Immediately north of Ben Burton Park and beside the Middle Oconee River, in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, exists evidence that brick structures were part of the old Tallassee Shoals Hydroelectric Facility.  On the approach to the tower, where the 1895 dam used to be, is a trail.  Beside that trail, in the woods, are stone walls.  Between two stone walls are broken-up parts of a brick structure, now partially overgrown.

I wonder what this area looked like prior to 1960, when the hydroelectric facility closed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

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