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

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28

Dec

2016

Those life-changing experiences

Author: Jim Taylor

“Car Crash Changed His Life Forever,” declared a pre-Christmas headline. The story below the headline described the effects of the accident on a young father. Brain damage affected his employability, family income, etc.

            The story was, of course, intended to elicit support for regional Food Banks. Christmas brings out heart-tugging stories as surely as silver bells, Santa hats, and plum pudding.

            I don’t mean to disparage efforts to help the unfortunate. Nor do I want to make light of this particular father’s predicament. But I did find myself wondering, as I read the headline, why only the major crises, the tragedies, are considered to “change life forever.”

            It’s worth considering, as we move into a new calendar year.


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25

Dec

2016

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!

Author: Jim Taylor

          Last autumn, I bought a copy of John Cobb’s book, “Jesus’ Abba.” Cobb argues (as do I, sometimes) that over the centuries the institutional church has smothered the close relationship Jesus obviously had with his Abba by turning a loving Daddy into a distant and autocratic God-The-Father-Almighty. 

            But it was Cobb’s subtitle that caught me: “The God who has not failed.” 

            I heard myself asking, why can’t God fail? Or, perhaps more precisely, why are we not willing to let God fail?


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21

Dec

2016

Our compulsion to get together

Author: Jim Taylor

During the next week, families will gather. Most likely for a festive dinner – often turkey and trimmings. Perhaps just for gift giving. But they’ll want to get together.

            The ritual is reflected in the songs of the season. “I’ll be home for Christmas.” “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Other songs evoke nostalgic images: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sleigh bells ringing, stockings hung by the chimney with care….

            Satirists love to skewer the sentimentality of Christmas rituals. Families sit “in old stone circles,” wrote the Irish poet W.R. Rodgers, cracking open “the tinned milk of human kindness.”

            Because, to be honest about it, not all Christmas gatherings are harmonious. Some families are, and will always be, dysfunctional. Members dread getting together. They know old wounds will be torn open, old scars exposed, old grievances rekindled.


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18

Dec

2016

Entering a post-fact world

Author: Jim Taylor

Apparently, we have entered a “post-fact world”. A couple of news stories used that term this past week.

            Post fact. Not just post truth. Post truth simply implies that there is no absolute truth anymore. All truths are relative. Your truth was shaped by your society, your education, your life experience – it was, therefore, just as true for you as my truth was for me. 

            But those relative truths were always tempered by reality.

That’s not how it works in a post-fact world. The new criteria become – Who says it? How often? How loudly?



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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: reality, Trump

14

Dec

2016

The White Helmets of hope

Author: Jim Taylor

Around Christmas in North America, children (and many adults) hang their hopes on a man with a white beard.

            In the war-torn Middle East, they’re more likely to hang their hopes on men in white helmets. 

            The White Helmets are standard construction-worker hard hats. The men need those helmets, because they go into places where no North American construction worker would venture. Into shattered buildings, where concrete block walls teeter. Where floors have collapsed, trapping victims beneath tons of rubble. Where snipers’ bullets fly, and unexploded bombs await the unwary. 

            In Syria, the White Helmets – officially the Syrian Defence Force -- have saved at least 70,000 lives, and probably many more.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: hope, mercy, rescue

11

Dec

2016

Lament for the loss of not-so-common courtesy

Author: Jim Taylor

A week ago, outside the Alberta legislature in Edmonton, we had a rather un-Canadian event, eh?

            A crowd had rallied to protest Premier Rachel Notley’s proposed carbon tax. As former federal minister Chris Alexander spoke from the steps of the legislature building, the crowd – many of them bused in from Red Deer and Calgary for the occasion – began chanting, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

            Clearly, they were mimicking the “Lock her up” chants against Hillary Clinton in the Trump presidential campaign.

            That’s just not what Canadians do. Eh?

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: politics, courtesy

7

Dec

2016

Honouring the tree of life

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas is just three weeks away. Silver bells ring on city sidewalks, sleighbells jingle in lanes. Coloured lights brighten the long dark nights.

            And indoors, Christmas trees light up.

            Our family used to go out and cut a tree. About 11 years ago, for various reasons, we switched to an artificial tree.

            I figure 11 trees are still alive today, that wouldn't be otherwise.

            “So what?” you scoff. Pines and firs on a Christmas tree farm were never intended to grow to maturity. They were grown to be cut down, weren't they?

            Maybe. But like us, they're living things. The ancient Druids had sacred groves. I suggest that every tree should be considered sacred.

 

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: trees, Christmas

4

Dec

2016

Spilling your guts as a writing model

Author: Jim Taylor

Newspaper journalists are supposed to be dispassionate observers of the subjects they write about. They’re not supposed to have feelings themselves.

            Stan Chung flips that dictum upside down. In the columns he writes for the Kelowna Courier, he’s more than just personal. He spills his guts. And then he lays his guts out on the operating table and dissects them. Stan bares his soul to grab us by the heart.

            He describes his writing technique as “creative non-fiction.” It’s real. It’s fact. But it’s dramatized for impact.

            Most of us – and I include myself in this generalization – tend to sandpaper smooth the raw edges of our psyches. We find rationalizations for our actions. We shift some of the blame to someone else.

            Stan refuses to buy into that pattern. He’s ruthlessly honest with the feelings most of us try to forget. Or to bury. He writes a biography of pain that is also a celebration of survival.



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