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

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30

May

2018

The awesome power of a volcano

Author: Jim Taylor

For weeks, I’ve watched the pyrotechnics on television of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Fountains of lava squirting up to 300 feet into the air – the length of a football field set on end.

               Generally, I gather, reddish-coloured lava is about 900 degrees Celsius (about 1,600 Fahrenheit). Orange is hotter, about 1100 C. Yellow goes up to 1250 C.

               And it’s even hotter underground. The magma – the name for lava before it erupts to the surface -- is under pressure, which raises its melting point. When the lava is released from that pressure as it surfaces, it bubbles like champagne. It is actually boiling.

               This is rock we’re talking about, folks. Rock. The stuff mountains are made of. 

               If you tried to heat rock to those temperatures on your kitchen range, most of your range would melt before the rock did!


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27

May

2018

You can’t do that anymore!

Author: Jim Taylor

The video went viral – as so many videos do nowadays, especially when we wish they wouldn’t. Over a million people watched Kelly Pocha of Cranbrook, B.C.lean over the back of a booth in a Denny’s Restaurant in Lethbridge, AB, and yell at the inhabitants of the next booth, who appeared to be of Arab origin. 

            Her comments were clearly racist. She told them to go back to their own country. She said they didn’t belong here. She threatened physical violence. 

            To her credit, she later went back to the restaurant, and apologized to the manager for causing a scene. And on the media, she apologized to the subjects of her harangue. “If I could rewind and take it back I would, but I can’t,” she said. That's just not who I am."

            Pocha learned a hard lesson – you can’t do that anymore. Along with a lot of other things.


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23

May

2018

The prophets of our times?

Author: Jim Taylor

I love poetry. I don’t read it often enough. 

            Most of my reading is factual stuff. I want to know more about the origins of a movement. The mysteries of the universe. How plants communicate. 

            So I skim. Some call it speed-reading, but in fact, it’s mostly training my eyes to look for relevant keywords. 

            I can’t do that with poetry. Poetry, really, needs to be read aloud. Because reading aloud forces me to slow down, to savour the sounds of each word, to measure the musical rhythm of vowels and consonants, of rests and highlights…. 

            I read aloud, so that I can feel the poet’s message resonating from my vocal cords into both head and belly.

            Because poetry is not about facts, or arguments, or even about story. It’s about feelings. Poets try to evoke feelings with the fewest possible words. Which means that mental images get compressed, juxtaposed, overlapped. As they mesh, they create new connections, new images, new insights.


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20

May

2018

U.S. embassy move misreads the Bible

Author: Jim Taylor

This week, the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. The move fulfilled one of President Donald Tweet’s campaign promises. The president sent his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to represent the American Empire. 

            Jerusalem epitomizes all that’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

            Kushner had no foreign policy experience at all, prior to being appointed the White House’s “Senior Advisor” with particular emphasis on Middle Eastern issue. But he is Jewish. 

           U.S. foreign policy treats the Bible as the final word on anything related to Jews. And, by extension, to anything related to the Middle East. 

           Let’s be clear – the Bible does state that the legendary King David chose Jerusalem as the capital of the new nation he had formed from the warring tribes descended from Jacob’s sons. That’s a selective reading, though. It ignores the Bible’s own testimony that David chose that site specifically because it did NOT form part of traditional Jewish territories. 


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16

May

2018

An invention that challenged unexamined ideas

Author: Jim Taylor

This is a busy weekend. In addition to Mother’s Day on Sunday, we’re celebrating Limerick Day, Train Day, and Odometer Day on Saturday; Frog Jumping Day and International Belly Dance Day on Sunday; and Chicken Dance Day on Monday. 

            On top of all that, May is Photo Month, officially recognized by the U.S. Congress in 1987. For no apparent reason, other than industry lobbying, it seems. 

            Too bad, because photography marks an important shift in human thinking. It enabled us to “fix” – yes, that’s a darkroom pun – a moment in time. 

            In effect, photography freezes time. Even the much-maligned selfie asserts, “This is what I looked like,” at a particular time and place that’s now in the past. 

            Most families have boxes of old photos handed down through several generations. Some of the people in those pictures we can still recognize. Others are unidentified, unidentifiable. 


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16

May

2018

An unintentional parable

Author: Jim Taylor

I was driving north, up the main highway. As I came down the hill into town, traffic slowed to a standstill. The truck ahead of me turned on its four-way flashers. 

            Something was happening, but I couldn’t see what. 

            I peered through the gap between the vehicles ahead of me. 

            And I saw a woman, walking backwards across the four lanes of traffic, beckoning to something or someone with her hands, encouraging them to come on. 

            Then I saw what she was encouraging. A pair of geese. Canada geese. Big birds. When they spread their wings and hiss, they can be terrifying. 

            But these two waddled along following the woman. And right behind them came a pair of goslings, balls of fluff on toothpick legs.

            And finally, behind them all, came a man pushing a bicycle, making sure no one got left behind. Or run over.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: trust, Geese, parables

9

May

2018

Save someone’s life today

Author: Jim Taylor

My wife would probably be dead by now, if it weren’t for blood donors. 

            I can’t prove that assertion, of course. It’s almost impossible to prove that something didn’t happen, that could have happened. Safety regulations can argue that traffic controls reduce the total number of accidents; they can never claim that they prevented a specific driver from having an accident.

            But consider the facts. 

            Ten years ago, my wife was diagnosed with leukemia. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, to be precise. In those ten years, she’s had seven different chemotherapies. Six have failed; her white cell counts came down, for a while, but they wouldn’t stay down. 

            Here’s a vastly oversimplified explanation of a very complicated process....


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6

May

2018

The ways we make flooding worse

Author: Jim Taylor

Flooding has hit British Columbia again. News reports overflow with stories of property owners sandbagging their homes, their farms, their businesses. Oliver, Kaleden, Tulameen, Cawston, Cache Creek -- the chorus of afflicted communities swells day by day.

Mudslides close highways. Culverts wash out. Hundreds of homes are ordered evacuated. 

            And I haven’t even heard about what might be happening farther east, in the Kootenays. Or farther north, along Highway 16. 

            I heard a politician pontificate, “It’s a one-in-70-year event.”

            Really? Weren’t we saying the same thing during last year’s floods?

            Connect the dots, people! Connect the dots!


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2

May

2018

How to respond to tragedy

Author: Jim Taylor

Sixteen members of a hockey team dead in a bus crash in northern Saskatchewan. Ten strangers killed on a sidewalk in Toronto. My mind reels. How do the survivors, the families, the friends and lovers, get their minds, their emotions, around these and countless other tragedies?

            A caveat -- I write this column as a personal expression.

            What do you say to someone who has just experienced a massive loss? What do you do?

            Some responses are less than helpful.

            The students at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas high school in Florida rightly told President Trump to keep his meaningless “thoughts and prayers” – instead, to do something about gun violence.

            That doesn’t mean you can’t offer prayers, or that you can’t feel sympathy. Given a choice between someone offering prayers, and someone NOT offering prayers, I would certainly choose the former. But platitudes are too often a way of avoiding getting involved. And you have to get involved. Even at some personal pain. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Losses, helping

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