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

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30

Dec

2017

De-clutter everything but memories

Author: Jim Taylor

Last New Year’s Eve, we welcomed the new year on Mountain Time. At 10:45 here in the Pacific Time zone, someone yawned. Yawns are contagious. (Even just reading this, you’re tempted to yawn, aren’t you?) By some miraculous consensus, we all agreed that if it was midnight in Alberta, that was good enough for us.

             The New Year is traditionally a time for Resolutions. I’ve never had much success keeping my New Year’s Resolutions. Most are hopelessly idealistic, like promising to avoid puns. Or to think kindly of Donald Trump.

            The only Resolution I’ve ever managed to keep was my resolution, a few years ago, to stop making New Year’s Resolutions.

           Now, instead of making rash promises, I look for words of wisdom that might influence my behaviour.


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27

Dec

2017

Post-Christmas work begins

Post-Christmas work begins

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas is over. Crumpled gift wrap has gone into recycle bins. Santa has settled down for a long winter’s nap, or at least into an easy chair by the hearth, sipping a well-deserved eggnog; Rudolph has been put out to pasture.

            And 2018 stands on our doorsteps, finger poised at the doorbell.

            What now?

            Hymnwriter Jim Strathdee answered that question:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,

The work of Christmas is begun!

            The work of Christmas? Work? Surely you jest! Christmas is about fun, and family, and feasting -- not about work.


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23

Dec

2017

Nativity narratives contain powerful truth

Author: Jim Taylor

 I don’t recall which shift I had. I do remember that it was pitch black outside. A nightlight in one corner of the room cast a pale yellow glow onto the ceiling. The city slept.

            The darkness outside was so thick, it felt solid. The stars were pin-holes in the sky. No birds sang.

            I cradled little Rediet in my arms. I tried to synchronize my breathing with hers. I crooned nursery rhymes dimly recalled from my own childhood: the Farmer in the Dell, Three Blind Mice, Frere Jacques... The language was nonsense to her; she had never heard anything but Amharic. But the rumble of my voice resonating in my chest seemed to quiet her.

            She looked up at me.

            I looked into those coal-black Ethiopian irises, and I knew, deep in my heart, that I could never do anything that would hurt this child. Never.


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20

Dec

2017

Another Nativity story

Author: Jim Taylor

In those days a decree went out from the Emperors in Washington and Damascus that all the world should be embroiled in civil wars, so that their spheres of influence might be extended. And many were driven from their own towns by bombs and drones and tanks.

            A man named Joseph fled from his shattered ruins of his home and business in Syria across the harsh deserts to a refugee camp, where he knew no one. He went with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were in the camp, on their way to anywhere else, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son shortly before dawn, while others slept, in a tent provided by an international aid agency. She wrapped him in her own cloak to keep him warm through the bitter cold of a desert night, and she laid him on the sand, because they had nothing else to put him in.  


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17

Dec

2017

When your child is hurting…

Author: Jim Taylor

I have a lot of sympathy for Kimberley Jones. You haven’t heard of her? Almost certainly, you have heard of her son, 11-year-old Keaton Jones.

            The Facebook post of Keaton, crying in the seat of his mother’s car as she brought him home from school has now had 20 million views, and been featured on newscasts around the world.

            A tearful Keaton asked why kids wanted to bully, why they picked on innocent kids, why they poured milk on him. “It’s not okay,” he told his mother’s cell phone. “It’s not their fault they’re different.”

            I sympathize with her, because I too had a son who suffered from teasing. And perhaps some bullying. He was born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable, hereditary, and at the time terminal illness.



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13

Dec

2017

What’s behind the third door?

Author: Jim Taylor

I was asked to say grace before a dinner at our local community hall. Perhaps the organizers thought that because I write about religious topics, I have a library of prayers to trot out at any occasion. Prayer on demand.

            As I sat down, a man nearby grunted, “You didn’t mention God.”

            No, I didn’t. I try to avoid using the name altogether in public situations. Because the name “God” evokes too many different images in people’s minds. Even if I were to start by saying, “This is not about an old man in a white robe who sits on a cloud in heaven, playing a harp, and delivering dinners for our enjoyment,” they would still substitute their own preconceived notions of God.

            All of which defy any simple classification.


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10

Dec

2017

Free speech conflicts with public health

Author: Jim Taylor

Conflict has flared in some universities about hearing – or excluding – unpopular viewpoints. Some controversial speakers have been boycotted, some invitations rescinded, some presentations shouted down. 

            Recently, universities in Canada have found themselves embroiled in controversy over – of all things – personal pronouns.

            I suggest that the commentators on this issue are  all missing the point. They’re assuming this is a philosophical issue, the kind of abstract debate that Aristotle might have enjoyed on the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens. 

            It’s not. It’s about health. About our society’s health.

 


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6

Dec

2017

Seasons, painted ponies, and churches

Author: Jim Taylor

Look out! Here comes another Christmas! What started as a purely religious celebration, of an unrecorded birth of an illegitimate infant in an obscure Jewish village, has gradually evolved into a social juggernaut based on family togetherness and over-indulgence.

            Besides being an annual bonanza for retail sales. 

            Christmas comes around very year, as predictably as winter. Which is followed by spring, and then summer, autumn, and another winter. 

            Fifty years ago, Joni Mitchell captured that cyclical pattern in a song: “And the seasons they go round and round…”


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3

Dec

2017

#MeToo hashtag should terrify every man

Author: Jim Taylor

The #MeToo hashtag should give all men a sense of dread. Suddenly, they’re vulnerable to charges of harassment, groping, or even rape -- from a time when they didn’t know any better.

            No one, it would seem, is immune. Film producers, network executives, politicians, news anchors – the list keeps growing.

            Perhaps we should be grateful to Harvey Weinstein. However repugnant his treatment of women, it has made it possible for women all over the world to talk about their experiences at the hands of men (that’s both a pun and an indictment) that they have, until now, suppressed. Or repressed.

            “I am a rape survivor,” a woman named Brenda wrote in an online petition. “I used to be ashamed to say those words. Not anymore. For almost 20 years, after I was gang-raped by four men, I lived in fear. In the recent past, I’ve shared my story and committed my life to fighting back.”

            A professional counsellor and psychology professor told me, “I could tell within the first five minutes whether a woman had been sexually abused. A woman could function just fine, but it was always there and would be for the rest of her life.”


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