Archive for the ‘Various Memories and Opinions’ Category

Blogging Update   2 comments

Above:  The Author, June 15, 2019

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SUNDRY THOUGHTS is my original weblog, not my only one.

I have been active on some of my other weblogs recently.  To be precise, I have been doing the following:

  1. Updating ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS;
  2. Updating BLOGA THEOLOGICA;
  3. Modifying the structure of categories at LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS as I prepare to begin updating that weblog for 2020; and
  4. Modifying the structure of categories at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

Of my three date-specific devotional weblogs, ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS is the current one, given that Pentecost was last Sunday.  We are now in the Season after Pentecost, an informal name for which is the “Long Green Season,” after the color of vestments and paraments.

I have also decided to begin taking notes for saints with feast days in December, starting with December 1.  My break from my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days has nearly ended.

I anticipate that, within a few days, I will resume posting saints here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS while I will continue to post my new devotional material elsewhere at a deliberate pace (one Sunday or other holy day per day).

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Posted June 15, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Ockham’s Razor and the Cause of the Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France   Leave a comment

Above:  Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1901

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Ockham’s Razor, named after William of Ockham (1285-1347), theologian, academic, and Franciscan friar, is a principle sometimes spelled “Occam’s Razor.”  However one spells it, the principle is that one, lacking evidence for a complicated explanation, should assume that the simplest explanation is true.  The simplest explanation is often true.

French authorities are investigating the cause of the unfortunate fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  News reports tell me that they have ruled out arson and terrorism.  Nevertheless, certain figures of alleged news media (I mean you, Fox News Channel and spin-offs.) are stoking the fires of conspiracy theories and Islamophobia.  Bigotry is always wrong.

My training as a historian teaches me not only to use Ockham’s Razor but to allow for the passage of time when evaluating claims.  Temporal perspective does help to define the discipline of history, after all.  My historical training tells me to wait until the French authorities complete their work and reveal their conclusions.  Ockham’s Razor tells me that the cause of the fire could have been very simple, even accidental.  Ockham’s Razor tells me that the cause of the fire may be related to renovation work.  Fire investigators know their business; we should trust them.

I am content to wait and withhold judgment, for I do not wish to indulge my ignorance and fall into prejudices.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Spiritual Paths   3 comments

Above:  My Desk, December 19, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Christian spiritual directors have, for some time, understood the variety of spiritual types, related, quite often, to preferences in prayer styles.  The last time I read deeply in the field, I learned that the middle two characters of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type often correlate to a preference of a certain style of prayer.

Another way of classifying spiritual types comes from Roman Catholicism:

  1. The Path of Intellect (Thomistic Prayer), in the style of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Teresa of Avila;
  2. The Path of Devotion (Augustinian Prayer), in the style of St. Augustine of Hippo;
  3. The Path of Service (Franciscan Prayer), in the style of St. Francis of Assisi; and
  4. The Path of Asceticism (Ignatian Prayer), in the style of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The test for determining one’s spiritual type takes only a few minutes.  A one-page document with fourteen rows and four columns requires one to look at a row of four words and rank them (“1” to “4,” “1” meaning least descriptive and “4” meaning most descriptive of oneself at the time).  Then one tallies each column.

My spiritual type has changed.  In the middle 1990s, when I was in my twenties, I was, first and foremost, a Thomist.  I have forgotten what the second, third, and fourth rankings were, but I was definitely on the Path of Intellect.  This morning I took the test again.  My scores were as follows:

  1. The Path of Asceticism–48;
  2. The Path of Intellect–43;
  3. The Path of Devotion–30; and
  4. The Path of Service–19.

Asceticism, according to this definition,

involves imagining oneself as part of a scene in order to draw some practical fruit from it for today.

It also entails a certain rigor in spiritual discipline.

The Thomistic preference for spiritual order applies to me.

Spiritual growth over a lifetime entails both change and constancy.  I, as a Christian, embrace that principle as I affirm another one:  one’s spiritual path must flow through Jesus.  Furthermore, to assume that one’s spiritual path in Christ is the only proper path for all people is in error.  In fact, one’s spiritual path in Christ in the present may not be one’s spiritual path in Christ five years from now.  In my case, the new preference for asceticism is consistent with my embrace of minimalism.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

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Regarding Clutter   2 comments

Above:  My Desk, December 9, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I live in a small space.  In that space I keep my desk, my dining table, and my kitchen counters mostly empty the majority of the time.  At the moment the surface of my dining table is unusually full of candles, but this is a holiday season.  As of the first full week of January, it will be mostly empty again.  Furthermore, I enjoy being able to see walls and floors.  I abhor clutter.

I have possessions; they do not possess me.  I have fewer possessions than I did a few years ago; this fact delights me.  My library is down to about 800 volumes, from more than 2400.  I prefer donating to thrift stores to shopping at them.  When I do shop there, I almost always do so with a goal in mind; I seek a particular item or items.  My bedroom has two closets; my wardrobe fits easily into the smaller of the two.  This is a change from the time that my wardrobe filled both closets.  The recent rearranging of some furniture means that I no longer have a place for one lamp.  That object occupies space in a closet, for now.  That closet is mostly empty anyway, and I may decide to part company with that lamp, in time.

I recall a statement from a Buddhist monk regarding hair and vanity:  “It is just hair.”  Regarding possessions I say, “They are just objects.”  Many of them are useful objects.  I am fond of many of them.  I even have sentimental attachments to many of them.  But I possess them; they do not possess me.  And they are not in the way.  Neither is my home junky.

Life is good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Posted December 18, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with

Holiday Busyness   2 comments

Above:  A Domestic Scene, December 8, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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On my bed when I think of you,

I muse on you in the watches of the night,

for you have always been my help;

in the shadow of your wings I rejoice;

my heart clings to you,

your right hand supports me.

–Psalm 63:6-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In my U.S. culture, the time from Thanksgiving (late November) to New Year’s Day is quite busy.  Holidays populate the calendar.  Some of these holidays are, for lack of a better word, ecumenical.  Others are religiously and/or culturally specific, though.  Christmas, originally the Christ Mass, has become an occasion, for many, to worship the Almighty Dollar at the high altar of commercialism.  This is how many Evangelicals of the Victorian Era wanted matters to be.

On the relatively innocuous side, this is the time of the year to populate one’s calendar with holiday social events, such as parties, school plays, and seasonal concerts.  Parents often like to attend their children’s events, appropriately.  Holiday concerts by choral and/or instrumental ensembles can also be quite pleasant.

Yet, amid all this busyness (sometimes distinct from business), are we neglecting the innate human need for peace and quiet?  I like classical Advent and Christmas music, especially at this time of the year (all the way through January 5, the twelfth day of Christmas), but I have to turn it off eventually.  Silence also appeals to me.  Furthermore, being busy accomplishing a worthy goal is rewarding, but so is simply being.

The real question is one of balance.  Given the absence of an actual distinction between the spiritual and the physical, everything is spiritual.  If we are too busy for God, silence, and proper inactivity, we are too busy.  If we are too busy to listen to God, we are too busy.  If we are too busy or too idle, we are not our best selves.

May we, by grace, strike and maintain the proper balance.  May we, especially at peak periods of activity, such as the end of the year, not overextend ourselves, especially in time commitments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Published originally at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Bloggers Support Bloggers Award   Leave a comment

Image Used with Permission

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I thank Valerie Cullers for nominating me for this award.  Now I pay it forward.

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Rules:

  1. Thank the one who has tagged you for this challenge and link that person’s blogsite.
  2. Add the official photo in your page.
  3. List at least 5 bloggers you like. (Suggestion: You can list up 3 bloggers that you’ve known for a long time and you can also list up 2 newbies or more. It’s up to you though!)
  4. In 5 sentences or above, give a short description about why you love the blogger.
  5. Tag atleast 3 bloggers to do the challenge.
  6. Put #bloggerssupportbloggers in the Tags section so whenever a blogger is looking for new blogs to read, it will be easier to find.

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My Nominees:

Vanishing South Georgia

Brian Brown maintains several photographic weblogs about Georgia.  Given that I grew up mostly in South Georgia, this is one I visit most often, for I recognize more places in it than in Vanishing Coastal Georgia and Vanishing North Georgia.  His photographic posts have enriched my life for years.

Valerie Cullers

Valerie Cullers’s posts invite readers to consider issues from a Christian and thoughtful, positive angle.  She definitely contributes to the volume of positive content on the Internet.

Roses in the Rubble

Virginia offers a variety of wonderful content, from photographs of turtles to lists of excellent movies.  She seeks to inspire beauty and creativity in people, so they will leave the world better than they found it.

Book ‘Em, Jan O

Jan Olandese is a retired Episcopal priest.  The content of her weblog ranges from ghost stories to witty haiku.  She also puns well.

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I tag Brian Brown, Virginia, and Jan Olandese to carry on the Bloggers Support Bloggers Challenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted July 29, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with

Proper Levels of Sensitivity   3 comments

Above:  A Scene from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

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Or, Neither Be a Snowflake Nor Excuse and Facilitate Snowflakism in Others

Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.

Certain statements are always beyond the pale.  These statements are those intended to degrade other human beings.  Reasons for degrading others include race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.  Anyone who crosses that line deserves strong condemnation.  Nobody should ever tolerate such statements.  One might, on occasion, quote them (as in academic work; try writing a biography of a segregationist politician without quoting racial slurs, for example) or mock them (as in Blazing Saddles).

Above:  Men Reluctant to Give Land to the Irish; from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

Some works of art age better than others based on this standard.  For example, Blazing Saddles (1974) depicts unapologetic racists as fools and idiots.  The movie stands the test of time as a masterpiece that argues against bigotry.  We who watch the movie laugh at those ensnared by their own learned racism.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) is also a classic, but Mickey Rooney’s performance as an Asian man makes me cringe.  On the other hand, the movie does boast Audrey Hepburn and a cat.  How can I dislike a movie with Audrey Hepburn and a cat in it?

Above:  Holly Golightly and Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

A Screen Capture

I am sensitive, but not hypersensitive.  Life is too short (however long it might feel in real time) for me to spend it being hypersensitive, either about what others do and say or what I do or say.  No, I aim for a proper level of sensitivity on both sides of the equation.  I find Birth of a Nation (1915) offensive, for the seminal movie does glorify the first Ku Klux Klan.  The work is inherently racist, but it is also a landmark of cinema and a document of sorts of racial attitudes in much of the United States half a century after the end of the Civil War.  I have no regrets about having watched it from beginning to end once, for historical interest, or in having shown clips in classes, for educational purposes, with context.

The guiding principle for me in these matters is respecting the dignity of every human being, a value built into the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  This principle explains why, for example, I oppose abortion except in extenuating cases (while I argue that changing minds and making alternatives to abortion easier is a more effective, and therefore, better strategy than outlawing the procedure) as well as homophobia and discrimination against homosexuals.  Whether one places the label “left” or the label “right” on a position regarding respecting the dignity of all people does not matter to me.  Respecting the dignity of every human being is a principle that leads me to refrain from dehumanizing those who are different from me in one or more ways.

That does not mean, however, that I can ever get through day without doing something to offend someone, given that some people take offense more easily than others, and often at matters certain others consider inoffensive.

I am, for example, sufficiently pedantic to insist on always using the words “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” in the plural.  One can be inclusive in the present tense, often by writing or speaking in language that makes one sound educated.  “One” and “one’s” are gender-neutral pronouns, after all.  One might also remain in the singular and substitute the definite article (“the”) for a gendered pronoun.  One can, when one sets one’s mind to the task, identify several strategies for being inclusive in the singular without wrecking the English language.  Alternatively, one might use “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” correctly by switching to the plural forms of words.  Or one might accept the tradition of using masculine pronouns as the inclusive default position and go about enjoying one’s day.  All of the above are feasible options.  I refuse to distort the English language, of which I am quite fond, because of the hypersensitivity of others.

Some people take offense at even the most respectful and polite disagreements.  I have experience with this, usually in the context of teaching.

In late 1991, in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I was at a transitional point in my life.  I was a freshman in college.  I was also turning into an Episcopalian.  I was, for the time being, still a United Methodist, though.  My father was the newly-appointed pastor of the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  One Sunday morning I was teaching the adult class.  There were two visitors, a married couple, Independent Baptists from Savannah, Georgia.  One half of that couple was a child of a member at Sumner.  During the course of that Sunday School lesson the visitors decided that my position on a particular theological point was lax.  Courteously I said,

I disagree.

I learned later in the week that I had offended–upset, really–them.  If these individuals were not prepared to take a polite, respectful “I disagree” well, how did they cope with daily life?  Did they associate most days only with people who agreed with them completely?

I have also offended students with the Joe Friday strategy–

Just the facts.

(Watch Dragnet, if you dare.  The acting was consistently and purposefully bad, but the two series were popular culture touchstones.)  In World Civilization I courses, for example, I have recited facts of ancient comparative religion.  This information has disturbed some students, who have mistaken me for one hostile to Judaism and Christianity, and who have taken grave offense at me.  To quote an old saying many of a younger generation might not understand,

Their tapes were running.

Those who took offense at me were not listening to what I was saying.  No, they were listening to what they thought I was saying.  They were reacting not to me, but to others who had criticized Christianity on false grounds.  In contrast, years ago, when I wrote an article I submitted for publication at an online theological journal with a conservative Presbyterian orientation, I recited many of the same facts about ancient comparative religion, but with no negative response or reaction.  The editors checked my facts and published my article.  They read what I wrote.  They also understood I was not hostile to the faith.

At one of the universities I attended there was a professor who specialized in Latin American history.  One day years ago he taught about human rights violations centuries ago that were matters of policy in the Roman Catholic Church.  An offended parent of an offended student called the department chair to complain.  The professor’s material was factually accurate; he cited examples Holy Mother Church has acknowledged frankly and for which it has formally apologized.  The two offended Roman Catholics (student and parent) took offense more easily and quickly than the institution they defended.

No ideological, political, or religious camp has a monopoly on snowflakism.  If one is to criticize snowflakism while remaining intellectually honest, one must criticize it consistently, without regard for left-right distinctions.

I have a strategy for dealing with that which would ruin my day needlessly:  I ignore it.  If I do not want to hear a speaker on the campus where I work, I do not attend the event.  If I do not want to watch a program or a movie, I avoid it.  Life is too short not to enjoy it properly.

I affirm all I have written in this post thus far as I add to it the following statement:  I understand why many people are hypersensitive.  I understand that many people’s formative experiences have included unapologetic, intentional insults, degradation, and contempt from others.  I understand that many people have felt oppressed because they have experienced a degree of oppression.  I understand that experiences have conditioned them.  I accept that one should acknowledge the unjust realities of many people’s lives and make no excuses for the inexcusable.

I also return to my original thought in this post:  Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.  Something I do (or have done) today is offensive to somebody, somewhere.  The same statement applies to you, O reader.  Our duty is to do our best to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  That kind of love seeks to build people up, not to tear them down.  It respects in words and deeds the dignity inherent in them.  So may we act accordingly.  May we neither cause legitimate offense not take offense wrongly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

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