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

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5

Sep

2018

Change is the only constant

Author: Jim Taylor

I had my 82ndbirthday last weekend. I’m headed for 100! Wooo-hooo!

            Anticipation makes me think back to how things have changed over the last century, or two. My wife Joan’s grandfather arrived from Sweden a century ago with an axe-head, a plane blade, and a handsaw. With those, he made all the rest of his carpenter’s tools.

            I wonder what he would think of modern chainsaws. 

            A century before that, my ancestors arrived from Scotland, to farm 40 acres in southern Ontario. I wonder what they would think of tractors with air-conditioned cabs. Of hay-balers and combines and automatic milking machines.

            Nothing stands still. Ever. And it shouldn’t.

            Not even religion.


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29

Aug

2018

Hello. Hello? Anyone there?

Author: Jim Taylor

I tried to pray about a controversy over sex education in our schools -- what should be taught, and how. 

            A heavenly voice answered: “Thank you for your prayer. All our angels are presently busy dealing with other customers. Please stay on line and an angel will be with you shortly.”

            Some harps played mood music. 

            “Your continued devotion is very important to us. Please note that your prayer may be recorded for training and/or monitoring purposes.”

            I prepared my church membership papers, my baptismal certificate, my password (“Jesus,” of course) and my Personal Identification Number (666, of course) just in case they asked for authentication. 

            “For service in English, press 1. For service in Latin, press 2. For service in any other language, press 3 and wait for a Google translator to assist you.”

            I chose English.

            “King James thanks thee for thine loyalty. To speak to a confessor about sins thou mayest have committed by thought, word, and deed against thy Father Almighty’s divine majesty, press 1. To confess sins committed against another human, press 2. To confess sins of omission, press 3." 


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22

Aug

2018

Both beautiful and fragile

Author: Jim Taylor

From my mother, I inherited a Belleek china tea set. Belleek is both beautiful and fragile -- porcelain china so thin you can see shadows through it, so light it feels like paper. And so delicate that just dropping a teaspoon can break a teacup. 

            What we call community is also incredibly beautiful, and incredibly fragile. It can be shattered by a casual comment taken personally, by differences of opinion over minor matters, by trust betrayed…

            It’s easier to describe what community is not, than to define what it is. 

            Community is not just a group of people. Merely gathering people together in one place – whether for a rock concert, a sports event, or a church service – does not create a community. 

            Nor does having a million followers on Facebook or Twitter.

            For the same reason, simply being a member of an organization does not create a community. You can be a member of a Rotary club or a Baptist church for 40 years, and have never visited another member in their home, heard their passions, held them while they cry… 

            Passive presence is not enough. 


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15

Aug

2018

Conversations that don't need to end

Author: Jim Taylor

In long-term relationships, the past always remains relevant. 

            A group of men were talking about death. (At our age, every conversation gets around to death, sooner or later.) Ralph Milton glanced at me, and said, “Bob Hatfield.” And I knew what he meant. 

            More than ten years ago, Ralph and I drove to Cochrane, Alberta, for a last visit to our friend Bob Hatfield, dying of leukemia. Bob was emaciated, skin and bones. But he was not afraid. We spoke. We held hands. We shared a prayer, for him and for each other. 

            Bob quoted Vera Lynn: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when...” His voice trailed off.

            I don’t know what Bob believed about life after death. As a medical doctor, he had seen death often enough to have no romantic delusions about winged cherubs hovering above an abandoned  body. 

            But he believed that conversations did not have to end. He believed that our conversation would carry on, even without him,. 

Bob died the next day. 

            And Bob but he was right. Our conversation with him still continues. 


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8

Aug

2018

Long before the Bible

Author: Jim Taylor

            You’ve probably seen pictures of cuneiform writing – little wedge-shaped marks pressed into clay tablets. They go back to the Mesopotamian cultures of the Tigris-Euphrates valley, many millennia ago. 

            In school, I was told, cuneiform was a primitive form of accounting. Lacking pen and paper – let alone computers and spreadsheets – the ancient tribes of what is now called Iraq used soft clay tablets to record the number of sheep or bags of wheat someone had bought or sold. It was just a numbering system, I understood.

            Of course, I didn’t bother thinking that those ancient traders also needed symbols for sheep and wheat they were trading. 

            Most of those clay tablets eventually returned to the mud from whence they came. But a few were baked, to preserve them longer. And some got baked, unintentionally, when marauding tribes burned houses and granaries. 


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1

Aug

2018

The parables of Dr. Seuss

Author: Jim Taylor

Every Christian church I know reads a text from the Bible, every Sunday. Yes, even the radically and sometimes profanely feminist/LGBT Church of the Apostles in Seattle -- and then rips the Bible’s patriarchy apart.

            But maybe we should be looking at other sources of wisdom. Like Dr. Seuss, for example.

            Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, never claimed any divine inspiration for his writing. But The Grinch offers more inspiration about Christmas than many sermons. Horton Hears a Who takes the side of overlooked people. Green Eggs and Ham illustrates conversion, a change of heart.

            Most of Seuss’s books, in fact, are parables. They tell a story, but inside that story is a greater story, and inside that -- if you’re willing to dig for it -- a profound message.


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25

Jul

2018

How colonizers gain control

Author: Jim Taylor

Some arrived by sea, some by land. Wherever they arrived, they established footholds among the local population. They settled in. They built networks.

            As time passed, they began to impose the values and standards of their culture on the existing population. Eventually, they became the dominant group. Their values, their standards, became the law of the land.

            Like a giant vacuum cleaner, they sucked up other religions, other faiths, and other cultures, and homogenized them in their own image.

            You thought I was describing the European settlement of the Americas, didn’t you?

            Nope. I was talking about the colonization of the Mediterranean basin by the followers of Jesus.


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21

Jul

2018

The intensity of good intentions

Author: Jim Taylor

At a guess, the little girl would be about eight years old, her first year as a piano student. When she squirmed up onto the piano bench, her red patent leather shoes hung high above the floor. There was no way she could reach the pedals. 

            She poised one finger to hit the first note. 

            She followed that note with a second, and a third. And she stopped. Something wasn’t right. 

            She tried again. One note, another, a third. And stopped again. She didn’t know how to go on. 

            She froze. Afraid to make another mistake. Afraid to risk another try. 

            Utter silence filled the room. No one breathed. The audience – parents, grandparents, siblings, fellow students – leaned forward as one. Wishing her on, willing her unwilling fingers to continue. 

            The intensity was physical. The old cliché says “You could cut it with a knife.” Well, perhaps not that palpable. But there was certainly something there in that room, a presence that filled the space, a spirit that moved in waves to support the little pianist. 


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11

Jul

2018

Email from beyond the grave

Author: Jim Taylor

I got an email from my friend Doug Hodgkinson the other day. Which was odd. Because Doug died seven years ago.

            I wondered where he was writing from. And if they have wi-fi connections there, wherever “there” is. They don’t have gmail addresses, anyway. Doug had a gmail address before his death, but this message came from Hestbript@ibh1mnhk6k.rereprsente.us, which reads like the proverbial roomful of monkeys whacking typewriter keys at random.

            Just in case there’s any doubt, I don’t think the message came from either heaven or hell – unless it’s the kind of hell that exploiters of human weakness and gullibility create.  I gave up believing in hell long ago; I gave up on heaven a little later. 

            The two go together, because they both assume a God who hands out rewards and punishments.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, Hell, heaven, death, email

4

Jul

2018

Fare thee well, Jack McCarthy

Author: Jim Taylor

This is the 1172th column I have written for the Lake Country Calendar newspaper. In the autumn of 1995, Jack McCarthy called me. “How’d you like to write a column for us?” he asked. 

            That’s how it began.

            Jack was the owner and publisher of The Calendar, a weekly newspaper serving the four small unincorporated communities of Winfield, Okanagan Centre, Oyama, and Carr’s Landing. 

            The Calendar hadn’t always been a newspaper. It has started as, quite literally, a calendar of local events, started by the Women’s Institute in 1951 and published monthly -- several sheets of letter-size paper, mimeographed and stapled. 

            Jack McCarthy and a partner bought the old Calendar, and turned it into a weekly newspaper. He risked investing in typesetting equipment. For a former plumber, a Nashville musician (who for a while had the great Chet Atkins as backup guitarist!), and a man who planned to be a psychiatric nurse, it was a whole new career.

            But he turned the Calendar into much more than just a newspaper. 


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