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

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29

Mar

2017

Look into my eyes…

Author: Jim Taylor

In our social culture, we tend to use our eyes differently, depending on whether we’re speaking or listening. (Other cultures have different, and therefore often disquieting, customs.)

            I tend to watch someone else most closely while they’re speaking. That’s how I show I’m paying attention. I watch your eyes, your mouth, the crinkles on your forehead, to confirm visually what I think my ears are hearing. If I start looking somewhere else – at the TV set, for instance, at the dog, or, umm, at your cleavage – you can reasonably assume that I’m no longer paying as much attention as I should.

            But when I’m speaking, I’m more likely to glance away occasionally. 


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26

Mar

2017

Don’t tar everyone with the same brush

Author: Jim Taylor

As far as I know, no one ever accused Jessie Oliver of racism. Of beating helpless children. Of screaming abuse at them. Or of sexually abusing any of the children under her care. To the end of her life, her former students visited her. They were her family; she was their friend.

            But Jessie Oliver worked in Indian Residential Schools along the B.C. coast. Did that make her a bad woman?

            She felt as if Canada were attacking her personally.

           Whenever one group of people are given absolute power over helpless victims, a few will take advantage of their power. But not everyone will. There were Arthur Plints. And there were Jessie Olivers who did their best within an unjust and iniquitous system.


      


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22

Mar

2017

Building on what came before

Author: Jim Taylor

Composer Johannes Brahms had an inferiority complex, Tom Allan explained on CBC Radio one afternoon. Apparently Brahms idolized Beethoven. Beethoven set music on a new course; Brahms felt that his best efforts could never measure up to Beethoven’s standard. 

            Of course, Beethoven may have felt the same about Mozart, the genius who preceded him. And perhaps Mozart drew inspiration from Bach. And Bach -- who knows? Perhaps Vivaldi or Telemann. And they in turn looked back to Corelli or Buxtehude…

            But none of them gave up composing music because they feared they couldn’t compare with their predecessors. 

            The same holds true in every human endeavour I can think of -- with one exception: religion.


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19

Mar

2017

Texas could restrict male sexual activity

Author: Jim Taylor

Well, it’s about time – Texas legislator Jessica Farrar has finally introduced a bill supporting gender equality.

            If the bill passes – remember of the legendary snowball in hell? – the new law would require any man seeking a vasectomy to have a rectal examination, attend an anti-vasectomy course, and submit to a 24-hour cooling-off period. 

            In other words, men wishing to affect their reproductive capabilities would have to undergo the same kinds of restrictions as women do in Texas. And in another 42 states.

            It seems only fair, doesn’t it?

            The bill was introduced to the Texas House of Representatives by a woman. No doubt a few men will protest that a woman has no right to dictate male sexuality. But gee whiz, wasn’t it males who legislated female sexuality?


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15

Mar

2017

If it can die, it lives

Author: Jim Taylor

Towards the end of the cross-country ski season, a friend mused, “Does snow feel pain when I jab it with my ski pole?”

            We all laughed.

            “Why not?” she persisted. “Aren’t we all made of the same stardust? Everything in the universe came from the Big Bang. Whether it’s snow or trees or me, we all consist of the matter that was created 14 billion years ago. So why should I assume that I’m the only one who feels pain when I get jabbed with something sharp?”

            A physicist will tell you that all matter is made up of particles. For convenience, we call them electrons and protons. But there are no exclusively human electrons and protons; no uniquely human quarks or gluons. At the sub-atomic level, water is made of exactly the same stuff as humans.

            So why can’t water feel pain?


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, Snow, water, pain

12

Mar

2017

Robots won’t pay taxes for you

Author: Jim Taylor

You-know-who said he would bring jobs back to America. He can’t. Blaming free trade agreements misses the point. American jobs may have gone to lower-paid workers in Mexico, or China, or Bangladesh. But they won’t come back.

            The missing jobs will be done by automated equipment. These robots don’t beep and squawk like R2D2 and C3P0. And no one would consider them loveable. 

            But they don’t get paid anything. They never go on strike, never take sick leave, never demand pension plans. They can work three shifts around the clock, if necessary, day after day. 

            And they make fewer mistakes than human workers do.


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9

Mar

2017

The urge to embellish

Author: Jim Taylor

The Christian churches in this part of the world are now one week into the season of Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, March 1.

            Few people pay attention to Lent anymore, it seems. Except that candy-makers start selling Easter eggs in supermarkets.

            It wasn’t always so. When I was younger, churches taught us to give up something for the seven weeks leading to Easter. Like smoking, for example. Easy for me, because I didn’t smoke. Giving up chocolate would have been harder.

            In my first fulltime job, the boss hired a stunning secretary. One March morning a rather ordinary looking woman replaced her.

            “Who’s the new secretary?” I asked another staffer, cluelessly.

            “Same one,” he said. “She’s just given up makeup for Lent.”


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5

Mar

2017

How we treat new immigrants defines us

Author: Jim Taylor

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

            Illegally, of course.

            Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

            They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

            This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.


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1

Mar

2017

Doing our dirty work for us

Author: Jim Taylor

No doubt you’ve heard that Douglas Garland was convicted of kidnapping, torturing, dismembering, and burning the bodies of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes.

            Garland, 57 years old, was sentenced to three consecutive 25-year terms of life imprisonment. Seventy-five years might seem sufficient punishment, but Nathan’s father wanted more – eternal punishment.

            At the sentencing hearing, Rod O’Brien addressed Garland directly: “For those who choose evil, they will get an eternity of evil. A life sentence on earth is nothing compared to what waits for you.”

            Having lost a son myself, many years ago, I can sympathize with the intensity of O’Brien’s grief. I hope his belief in hell – and in heaven for Nathan -- gives him comfort. It wouldn’t, for me.

            Because I don’t believe in hell.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Hell, heaven, judgement

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