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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2

Sep

2018

Abuse of power applies to all institutions

Author: Jim Taylor

The Roman Catholic church is taking flak from the mass media. The most recent attacks follow revelations from a grand jury in Philadelphia, described by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General as the "largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States."

            According to the report, more than 300 "predator priests" in six Pennsylvania dioceses have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over 70 years -- prior to 2002, when scandals involving Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston forced the U.S. Catholicbishops to adopt new rules for reporting abuse. 

            The reaction has even led to demands that the Pope himself resign, for failing to act sooner.


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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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26

Aug

2018

Fires and floods mark the new normal

Author: Jim Taylor

This has been a summer of natural disasters. Some rain has finally come to B.C., but by the end of this summer, the province will have fought some 2000 forest fires. Smoke from those fires has spread across the prairies, into northern Ontario, even crossing the Atlantic to Europe. Just as smoke from fires north of the Arctic Circle, in Sweden and Siberia, drifted into Canada. 

            Meanwhile, California had its worst wildfire season. In Greece, some residents chose to drown in the Aegean Sea, rather than to burn on land. 

            Fires rampaged in Australia. And an estimated half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died, from rising ocean temperatures. 

            At the other extreme, southern India had its heaviest monsoon in 100 years, displacing close to a million people. Floods ripped through almost any country you can name. Highways washed out. Cars vanished into sinkholes. Mudslides swept houses off their foundations.

            But still some people deny that all this has anything to do with climate change. And certainly deny that humans had anything to do with it. 


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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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19

Aug

2018

Inside a body dying of ALS

Author: Jim Taylor

I want you to read this book. I hope you find it as depressing and painful as I did.

            The book is Every Note Played, by Lisa Genova. You may have read some of Genova’s previous books, particularly Still Alice,which leads you through the life of a woman as she  chronicles her decline into dementia.

            This book chronicles a similar decline, but into ALS -- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or “what Stephen Hawking had.”

            But where Still Alice led readers through the gradual loss of a university professor’s memory and reasoning, it stopped before Alzheimer’s Disease ended her life. It was sad, but not shattering.

            Every Note Played pulls no such punches. It takes you through to the end, and beyond.


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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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12

Aug

2018

Saudi dust-up defines our core values

Author: Jim Taylor

We Canadians live in such a comfortable cocoon. Because we have a government and social culture that is, for the most part, rational and compassionate, we look askance at the political infighting and partisan loyalties that afflict our neighbour to the south. 

            We find it hard to believe that 300-million presumably right-minded people – those who qualify to sit on a jury – allow themselves to be governed by a man who doesn’t seem to know the truth from one hour to the next, and who takes umbrage at the least of slights. 

            “Umbrage” –to take offence, to react strongly. It implies flying off the handle at minor slights. 

            But recent events suggest we Canadians have tunnel vision. Obsessed with President Tweet, we have ignored an even more explosive personality on the international stage: Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.


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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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5

Aug

2018

Changing names doesn’t change attitudes

Author: Jim Taylor

Stanley Park in Vancouver may soon disappear. No, not because developers want to replace its towering Douglas firs with condo towers – though I’m sure the notion has them salivating like Pavlov’s dogs – but because the park’s name may be changed.

            Not that Lord Stanley himself did anything wrong, other than donating a silver cup to the National Hockey League. He’s simply a representative of his time that saw the original inhabitants of North America as “sauvages,” savages with no rights.

            So the Vancouver Parks Board has started a “colonial audit” to identity the ways in which earlier generations of later arrivals wronged the Indigenous peoples who once occupied the shores of Burrard Inlet.

            All this is part of a movement to rewrite history the way it should have been. And in case there’s any doubt, I’m against it.

            That probably puts me into a group that the Prince George Citizen’seditor Neil Godbout derided as “historically-illiterate, culturally-entitled white people.” So be it.

            What we have is what we have. To deny it is to deny what makes us, us.


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