some of the topics Taylor speaks on most frequently:
The Role of Stories in Our Lives
We don’t just tell stories, we live in and are formed by them. We are born into converging steams of stories and these stories tell us who we are, what we are to do, and what happens to us when we die. Understanding the role of stories in our lives helps us make our own story rich and full of meaning.
The most important thing you have to give to anyone you care about is a spiritual legacy. A spiritual legacy is the sharing of wisdom and blessing from one life to another, and it is important at any stage of life. Our spiritual legacies are created and shared primarily through stories.
The Place of Doubt and Risk in the Life of Faith
Doubt is both a foundation for faith and a perceived threat to it. Most reflective believers wrestle with doubt at some point. It is better to accept doubt as part of the risk of faith than to try to crush it. Everything valuable in the human experience involves risk – and so should an active life of faith.
Faith in God is better thought of as a story to be lived than as a set of propositions to be believed. We are story-shaped creatures and God has chosen story as the primary method for relating to us. Finding our place as characters in the story of faith tells us who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do. It is the key to a meaningful life.
Shalom: The Purpose of All Things
Shalom is the state of all things in their created place doing what they were created to do. It is the defining characteristic of the gospel and of the Kingdom of God. The principle of shalom tells you why you are here and what you are called to do.
The Shape of a Good Life
Everyone wants to live a good life, but most people have very little idea of what a good life is. If you don’t develop your own understanding of the qualities of a good life, you will adopt the illusory goals (possessions, pleasure, power, prestige) of the surrounding culture. Thinkers throughout time have helped us think about what it means to live well. The Bible has a few things to say as well.
Life As Pilgrimage: What We Can Learn from Celtic Christianity
Thousands of people a year trek to tiny islands off the coast of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. What are they looking for? They are seeking traces of transcendence, left behind by the ancient Celtic Christians. These pilgrims of old have much to teach us as we make our own pilgrimages towards those “thin places” where there is easy commerce between the physical and spiritual worlds.
Spirited Travel: Writing About Pilgrimage to Sacred Places
Pilgrimage can be described as physical travel for spiritual purposes. Writing about such experiences, a specialized form of travel writing, offers rich possibilities for simultaneously exploring the inner and outer world—in search of a connection between the two. This talk reflects on the speaker’s experience in traveling to and writing about Celtic Christian sites in Ireland and Britain.
The Reflective Christian in a Pluralistic World
The place of the reflective Christian in the contemporary, pluralistic world is both like and unlike the place in which believers have always found themselves. We are called to speak and do, and we are also called to listen and learn (and sometimes repent). There is much to embrace even in a fallen world, and yet, of course, much also to stand against and repair. To do this with wisdom, we must both learn from the past and value the future.
Is Tolerance a Virtue? History, Definitions, and Ruminations
Tolerance is often seen as the foundation for public good in a pluralistic society. What is the history of this idea and what are its benefits and limitations? When should we be tolerant and when should we not? And what does tolerance mean, anyway?
Master Stories and the Culture Wars
Each of us is shaped by many stories – personal and public. But each of us is also the product of a handful of master stories – historical, ideological, religious, and deeply private – that tell us who we are and what is important in the world. The culture wars of our time – and other great conflicts going on around the world – are, essentially, story collisions. When two master stories collide – in a family, in a nation or between cultures – we must seek a third story in which all parties can live.
Work, Vocation, and Calling: Is Work Good?
We spend much of our life working – for pay or otherwise. How should we think about our work? What makes a job good or bad? How does work related to calling or vocation? How does is relate to shalom? Is work a blessing or a curse? What are some of the different conceptions of work in human history and culture?
The Christian Learning Community: A Story of Shalom
Why education? Why this major? Why read this book? The purpose of education is to prepare each individual to contribute toward both building and repairing the world. One way of expressing this is to see education as equipping students to repair and extend shalom wherever they find themselves. This is a vision both for the education enterprise and for building an individual life as either a student or a teacher.
Confessions of a Bible Translator
Translating the Bible has always been difficult and sometimes been dangerous. What do Bible translators think about? How do they work? What does accuracy mean in translation? Why do we keep getting new translations? What about gender language? Which Bible translation is the best (a trick question)?
Dealing with Pain and Painful People: The Ethics of Writing a Memoir
If you write about your life, you will eventually write about pain and painful people. That raises a host of questions for the writer – ethical and aesthetic. How does one write honestly when honesty will often been taken as offensive, especially by those you care about? Here are guidelines for writing well, writing honestly, and writing ethically.
Character Formation and the Virtues
We use the word character to refer both to people in a story and to living by a certain set of values. Both of these are crucial to the kind of life we lead and the kind of person we are. Thinking of yourself as a character in a story – making the choices a character must make – helps one live the kind of life one wants and ought to live.
Workshop & Course Topics
Daniel Taylor conducts workshops (usually 1-3 days) and teaches courses on memoir and writing from one’s life. The following are typical:
Creating a Spiritual Legacy: Telling the Stories of Your Life
This course (lasting from a half day to many meetings) explores the concept of a creating and sharing a spiritual legacy. It starts by defining terms, then moves to writing a spiritual will. After that, participants are instructed in how to pass on wisdom and values to others through telling the stories of their lives.
Daniel teaches an online version of this course through The Glen Online, a program hosted by Image journal that offers one-on-one online writing workshops and manuscript critiques.
A Family’s Stories: A Weekend of Sharing Stories and Values
This 1-2 day workshop focuses on a specific family or extended family (or organization). It uses exercises to draw out shared stories and encourages participants to articulate the values they have developed out of their shared lives together.
Life Writing: A Course in Legacy and Memoir
This course, meeting once a week for five to ten weeks, focuses on the writing and sharing of life stories. It encourages participants to begin a written legacy of stories and values for those they care about most.