Archive for the ‘Various Memories and Opinions’ Category

Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without resorting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Mere Decency   2 comments

Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, it is a documented and proven reality.  Faith comes into play in the absence of confirmation or contradiction by standard means of human knowledge.  For evidence of human depravity one need to look no further than the comments sections of many websites.  Between those who post incendiary and insulting material for the purpose of stirring the pot, so to speak, and those who mean it I find many reasons for grave concern about human nature.

In contrast I praise mere decency.  One should do x because it is the morally correct course of action, not because one seeks a reward for it.  I praise the simple act of striving to live according to the Golden Rule, regardless of one’s situation and station in life.  The operative status is that of a human being with a pulse.  I extol the virtues of mere decency, regardless of whether one is a neighbor, a teacher, a student, an employee, a coworker, a boss, a private citizen, or a potentate.  I praise decency wherever it is present.  I condemn the absence of decency wherever that is a reality.  This is a matter of principle for me, as I seek, by grace, to be more decent than I am.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/in-praise-of-mere-decency/

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My Eighth Anniversary As a Blogger   Leave a comment

Above:  Theta, the Eighth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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Today is the eighth anniversary of SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I have spun off seven others.

I had little idea what I was doing on July 27, 2009.  My original post was the text (as an editor at the Athens Banner-Herald modified it) of a letter to the editor decrying the homophobia of U.S. Representative Paul Broun, Jr., and people like him.  That was a fine post, but I have deleted most of my earliest posts.  I hit upon the idea of blogging about saints, although I have deleted many of those early posts also.  Many were mostly cut-and-paste jobs; they were substandard.  Early original posts about saints also tended to be bad.  The slow and methodical renovation and expansion of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days has progressed from posts for feast days beginning with January 1 to the end of April–about one-third of the way toward one goal–to get through December 31.

The project of renovating and expanding the Ecumenical Calendar will require much time.  That will not be a problem for me.  After I get to December 31 in that project, I will start again, reviewing what I have done and adding more saints as I deem proper.

Blogging has proven to be a useful hobby for me.  It has stabilized my Bible Study projects (keyed to lectionaries) and provided an outlet for self-expression.  I have frequently been at a loss for someone to whom to express certain thoughts I have considered worthy of sharing.  Either stating certain opinions to a particular person would be foolish or at least not helpful or that person would not be able, for a variety of reasons, to comprehend or relate to the content.  Yet, via blogging, I have been able to find an audience, albeit a relatively small one, as WordPress records statistics.  I have pursued what I like, not what is popular.  As Martin Luther probably did not say at the Diet of Worms,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

Maintaining a network of eight weblogs necessarily entails leaving some of them fallow at any given time.  I am preparing to leave SUNDRY THOUGHTS fallow for a little while, except for an occasional post, and return to BLOGA THEOLOGICA, the intended host of a series of 60 posts of the Book of Psalms.  The Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) divides the 150 Psalms according to a reading plan for 30 days, with distinct readings for the morning and the evening of each day.  That sounds like an invitation to write 60 weblog posts to me.  The next major project here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS is due to be the renovation and expansion of the May portion of the Ecumenical Calendar.

For now, however, the project of updating the April section of the Ecumenical Calendar is temporarily on hold while I add texts by the prolific hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854) to GATHERED PRAYERS ahead of creating the new Montgomery post, the last one of April this round.  I have a draft (dated July 23) of that profile sitting in a composition book.  Frequently, when I write about a hymn writer here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, the updating of GATHERED PRAYERS becomes a related project, so that I link the two weblogs to each other.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Growing Into Myself   Leave a comment

Learning from My Past

Recently I have spent much time plumbing the depths of my memory regarding some of my childhood years, especially the two years spanning June 1980-June 1982, when my family and I lived in Vidette, Georgia.  I have covered much of that ground on this weblog, as in a post about memories and another one regarding the now-demolished parsonage at Vidette.  As I have examined old photographs, studied images from Google Earth, and poured over artifacts from that time, I have pondered who I was then–at the ages of seven, eight, and nine years–and why I was that way.  I have done this out of a desire to, as much as possible, stand on the ground of objective reality, not to assign blame.

Besides, what good would assigning blame in these matters accomplish?  Stating objective reality, however, proves helpful.

To borrow a line from Sigmund Freud, the child is the father of the man.  For once I agree with the figure my Psychology 101 professor referred to as “Sigmund Fraud.”  The child is the father of the man; this is self-obvious.  Our early experiences shape us, for better and worse.  I can trace intergenerational influences upon my development back as far as two great-grandfathers.  Many more intergenerational influences upon me exist, I am sure, but I cannot document them.  Many of the positive and negative influences upon me reach back at least to George Washington Barrett (1873-1956) and John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (1860-1936).   Understanding that many of the positive and negative aspects of my past are partially due to previous generations proves helpful in determining an objectively accurate understanding of my past.

Another factor, of course, is me.  How I respond to various stimuli is my responsibility.  Yet I know I should refrain from being too harsh toward my younger selves, for, as much as I ought to forgive others, I need to forgive myself also.  Without making undue excuses, I focus on acknowledging and learning from my past.

Just as my parents did the best they could much of the time, so did I.  Just they made mistakes, so did I.

I harbor no ill will toward them or myself.  No, I embrace the exploration of my past for the purpose of learning more about who I was and who I am.  I seek lessons regarding how I should proceed from the present.  To dismiss the past as irrelevant (“That’s history.”) is wrong-headed.  To live in it is also erroneous.  I embrace my younger selves and thereby understand myself better than I did.  I focus not on sins and errors, but on growth.

We human beings learn by doing.  If we do not attempt anything, we will fail by default.  If we do attempt something, we risk failure.  We might also succeed.  Hopefully we will learn the proper lessons, regardless of whether we succeed or fail in our ventures.

One lesson I have learned from analyzing my past is that moving as often as I did during my childhood (every two or three years, usually) was more of a negative factor than a negative one.

This was beyond my control; I was just a child in a parsonage family.  My way of coping was to become more inwardly focused.  This was easy for me, an introvert.  I chose not to get too close to anyone, for I knew I would not be staying long.  This made saying goodbye easier than it would have been otherwise.  Yet the protective bubble I entered became self-destructive.  Opening myself up to others has been my great project for the last few years.  My father, with his entrenched inferiority complex, contributed greatly to these moves.  He perceived the world through a filter that led him to react to other people in ways that were not helpful.  I recall hearing him complain about many patronizing people, for example.  Some of them were patronizing, I am sure, but not all of them were.  Yet he acted as if they were.  That caused needless problems for him, my mother, my sister, and myself.  The blame for moves was not only his, however; each of those congregations included people notorious for engineering the departures of ministers.  I have come to sympathize with my father (now deceased).  He struggled with that inferiority complex and with the frustration of constantly being a fish out of water.  He did the best he could.  I was not kind and understanding toward him when he was alive.  I did not do the best I could.  I have forgiven myself for that sin.

As I strive to move along the proper course into the future, I seek to do so unencumbered by guilt and resentment yet aware of my previous path.  The future-not the past–awaits.  Many of what I perceive as my missteps may have actually prepared me for a better future.  My record lacks certain large mistakes because I have learned from smaller errors, for example.  Also, grace can transform a negative into an opportunity for the positive.  I look to the future, therefore, and hope and work for the best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

Happy July Second!   Leave a comment

Above:  Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

Image in the Public Domain

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The Second Continental Congress approved the independence of thirteen colonies on July 2, 1776.  That assembly approved the text of the Declaration of Independence two days later.

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail, his wife.  Part of his letter read:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epoch, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Why not have a July 2 party?

Happy July 2!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Site of the Former Parsonage, Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia   3 comments

Related to my previous post is this one.

I visited Google Earth again and saved some pictures of the Vidette United Methodist Church, the former parsonage (in street view, dated January 2008 and August 2008) and of the site where the parsonage was (from above, dated October 30, 2016).  Then I cropped one of those images, inserted it into a Word document, and dredged up memories from 1980-1982.

I have examined this fuzzy image, for which I have no street view counterpart yet.  I have noticed the shadow in it–presumably from a chimney.  In my bedroom I did have a closed-up fireplace with a heater in front of it.  That chimney had therefore marked one corner of the site of my former bedroom.

My memories regarding the dining room are vague.  I recall about where it was (between the kitchen and my sister’s bedroom), but I do not recall the relative size of the room.  I am likewise vague about the size of the kitchen.  It was a small house, however, so none of the rooms was cavernous.

I will not post any of the saved images, except for scan of a printed, black-and-white version of a cropped satellite photograph.  I do, however, encourage any of you who might to curious to look up Vidette in Google Earth, find the church and the site of the parsonage next to it.  Finding the church should not be difficult, for the town is really small.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2017 COMMON ERA