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

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27

Feb

2019

Beyond human perceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve never heard a snowflake fall. It must make a sound, even if, as an Asian parable says, a snowflake weighs “Nothing, or less than nothing.” And yet there must be a point of contact, and with it, a sound, however slight. 

            Even if human ears are not sensitive enough to hear it. 

            I can’t hear a worm, burrowing through moist soil towards a dew-dappled lawn. But a robin can. 

            A dog can hear a whistle way above my frequency range; at the other end of the frequency scale, elephants use a sub-audible rumble to communicate with other elephants out of sight over the horizon. 

           In her book, A God That Could Be Real,author Nancy Ellen Abrams explores some implications of our human limitations. We can only comprehend things that fall within a certain size range, she asserts, relative to our own size. 


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24

Feb

2019

Haiti’s woes as a parable

Author: Jim Taylor

Rioting in the streets of Haiti makes good video; the reasons for the riots don’t. 

            It’s been 40 years since I was last in Haiti. Recent news reports suggest that no much has changed. Haiti is, and was, a poster child for the effects of poverty and corruption. For at least a century, Haiti has been the poorest country in the western hemisphere. 

           Inspired by the revolutions in America and France, the Haitian slaves revolted -- the first successful slave rebellion anywhere in the world. Haiti became independent in 1804.

            But in one of the recurring ironies of history, Haiti’s black masters proved just as brutal as the French had been. Since independence, Haiti has had 32 coups.

            News reports blame the current riots on corruption in government. That’s too easy an answer. Every Haitian government has been corrupt. The only debate might be over which one was least corrupt.



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20

Feb

2019

Faith in something, not only someone

Author: Jim Taylor

“Ah yes, I remember it well,” Maurice Chevalier warbled in the musical Gigi. And then immediately proved that he didn’t remember it well at all.

            I remember a gathering of about 30 people at am Anglican retreat centre north of Toronto, to thrash out the policies that would guide a United Church committee for the next few years. Like Chevalier, I remember it, but not well.

            The one thing I remember for sure was the summation by Terry Anderson, then professor of ethics at the Vancouver School of Theology. Terry had been brought in as something called a “theological reflector.” His job, he explained, was not to influence us. It was to identify the theology he observed in our discussions and debates.

            And what he said has stuck with me ever since:

            “What the United Church really believes in is not any statement of faith or doctrine. What the United Church believes is that if it follows the right process, if it brings together the right mix of individuals, from the right mix of regions and interest groups, they can’t help coming up with the right answer.”


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17

Feb

2019

Loss of privacy marks societal change?

Author: Jim Taylor

I bought a Fitbit a couple of weeks ago. It tells me things I never thought I would want to know. How many steps I’ve taken each day. How many hours I’ve exercised. How many stairs I’ve climbed – 35 floors worth, apparently, the result of living on a steep hill some 300 feet above the lake. 

            And my heartbeat, of course. (At my age, I need constant re-assurance my heart is still beating.) My Fitbit tells how many times it’s beating per minute, right now. Also my average heart rate over the last week. And the highest it went.  

            Each week, Fitbit congratulates me on my progress. So far, I’ve received three award badges. Obviously, my little black wristband relays information to an anonymous computer somewhere.

            I can’t help wondering how many other people also know about my heart rate, my exercise hours, and my sleep habits. 



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13

Feb

2019

The yin and yang of social movements

Author: Jim Taylor

On Thursday, our mountain ash tree was burdened with bright red berries. Globular blobs of berries hung at the end of every branch, weighing the branches down, bending the twigs.

            By Saturday, the tree stood bare against a grey sky.

            The Bohemian waxwings had returned. Every year, about this time, they come back. Maybe the timing has something to do with the birds’ migration patterns; maybe it depends on fermentation within the berries themselves. Whatever the reason, the waxwings show up in their thousands.

            They start as a distant smudge on the sky. The smudge grows larger, becomes a coiling, roiling, boiling ball of dust motes, displaying the infinite possibilities of fractal math. And then whoosh, the birds arrive in a mighty flitter-flutter of wings, ravenous as a plague of locusts.


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