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

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27

Sep

2017

What does God worry about?

Author: Jim Taylor

Does God lie awake at night, worrying about things?

            Yes, I know -- that image immediately pictures God as a person. A person who sleeps, in a rumpled bed, tossing and turning. In other words, someone just like one of us, only more so. Psychologists call it “anthropomorphization”-- seeing others in our own image.

            It’s the kind of misplaced identity that led Marc Gellman to title one of his books, “Does God Have a Big Toe?”

            But basic question is not whether God lies awake at night, but whether God -- whatever God may or may not be -- worries.


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25

Sep

2017

Triage applies to more than medical conditions

Author: Jim Taylor

A friend required surgery recently for a lump in her breast. She got into the operating room within a week. Someone else got bumped. The surgeon shrugged: “In these circumstances, a facelift doesn’t take priority.”

            My friend benefitted from a process called “triage.” Basically, it’s a system for making difficult choices. And it applies to many situations beyond medical. Even to the future of the United Nations. 

            In its original battlefield context, triage meant dividing injured victims into three groups: 

·      Those likely to recover, regardless of medical attention

·      Those for whom immediate care will make a positive difference

·      Those unlikely to live, regardless of what doctors can do; devoting energy to them might mean denying care to someone else who could benefit more.


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20

Sep

2017

Antidote to seasonal depression

Author: Jim Taylor

           Almost ten years ago, in 2008, theologian and bestselling author Karen Armstrong proposed something she called a Charter for Compassion. Over 150,000 people visited a tentative Charter website. A multi-faith, multi-national group of religious thinkers and leaders met in Switzerland, to craft the Charter from suggestions that came in from more than 100 countries.

            Armstrong and the Council of Conscience unveiled the Charter for Compassion on November 12, 2009, in Washington, DC. 

            Although I would personally like to see the Charter extended to include all forms of life -- including those we may not yet have recognized --  the Charter of Compassion as a whole feels like a worthwhile antidote to today’s heating-up climate of incessant bickering.


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18

Sep

2017

Electoral reform matters; let’s get it right

Author: Jim Taylor

In its Throne Speech Friday September 8, the new NDP government of B.C. promised a referendum on electoral reform, in the autumn of 2018.

            Good! Maybe….

            Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a similar commitment.  The 2015 election, he declared, would “the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post system.”

            It proved harder to replace than he had expected.

            Until I see the exact wording of the planned NDP referendum, I can’t tell you how I would vote.

            If the question asks, “Do you want to replace the present first-past-the-post voting system?” I would unhesitatingly vote “Yes.” But if the question asks, “Do you want to replace the present voting system with a proportional voting system?” I would have to vote “No.”


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13

Sep

2017

Time for a reality check

Author: Jim Taylor

When Joan and I get tired of sex and violence on TV -- something that happens increasingly often as TV channels vie for showing more and more blood and gore -- we turn to the cable music channels.

            The system runs on autopilot. The labels often fail to match the music. The album cover purports to be playing Michel LeGrand's Windmills of your Mind. But the actual tune playing is Peewee Hunt’s Twelfth Street Rag. And the little blue line that indicates progress, second by second, seems to have no connection to either the audio or the video.

            Setting up a music program can’t be terribly complex. How difficult can it be, to cross reference a visual image along with filename of the music itself?

            Surely an algorithm -- technically, the lines of code that run a program -- should contain some auto-correction capabilities. If the song and the visuals don't match, it should recognize that discrepancy. And fix it.


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11

Sep

2017

Of fireballs and pure chance in our lives

Author: Jim Taylor

Joan and I were sitting in our hot tub last Monday night, staring up at the stars and wondering when -- if ever -- the rains would return to the B.C. interior, that day being our 66th without perceptible rainfall, when a brilliant flash lit up the eastern sky.

            “Lightning?” Joan wondered. “The weather isn’t supposed to change until the weekend.”

            I started counting for the boom of thunder. Years ago, I learned that sound travels at roughly a thousand feet per second. If the boom follows the flash by five seconds, the centre of action is safely about a mile distant. (For  a kilometre, about three seconds – a little closer.)

            I quit counting after ten. Joan claims she heard a rumble, about ten minutes later.

            Which would be about right. Because the flash, we learned the next morning, had occurred more than 200 km away, directly over Kootenay Lake. A hunk of rock left over from the formation of our solar system had smashed into the earth’s atmosphere over the little town of Boswell at the south end of Kootenay Lake; it blew up over Meadow Creek, slightly beyond the lake’s north end.



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6

Sep

2017

The problem with great expectations

Author: Jim Taylor

 Last spring, I planted some beans in my garden. I don't know how many, but around 100 beans. Exactly according to the instructions, three inches apart. Four of the beans came up. Just four.

            So, about two weeks later, I tried again. I planted another package of beans. About 90, this time. Two more beans came up. Just two.

            Total bean plants, six.

            But oh my, how those six beans grew.

            I estimate, in hindsight, that I harvested around 15 gallons of beans before I pulled those six plants up by the roots.

          Looking back, I'm grateful now that only six seeds germinated. We'd have been overrun if they had all grown. Perhaps those seeds knew better than I did how much growth to anticipate.

            Disturbing thought – are beans smarter than I am?


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4

Sep

2017

Getting rid of mental monuments

Author: Jim Taylor

There are no statues of Benedict Arnold in the U.S. Because Arnold was a traitor. After a brilliant career in the American forces during the War of Independence, he defected to the British and fought against his former government.

            On the other hand, General Robert E. Lee also fought against own government. He led the Confederate forces in the Civil War. Doesn’t that also make him a traitor? But statues honouring him litter the southern states.

            Now there’s public pressure to remove statues that honour and promote the Confederacy. Mostly because they fought in support of slavery, which we – well, those of us blessed with a social conscience – now condemn.


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