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

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24

Jan

2018

Humans, the theory makers

Author: Jim Taylor

I was born without a theory. About anything. I didn’t know up from down – literally, since I had just emerged from a watery and weightless womb.

            But from that instant on, I started creating theories to help me make sense of the world I found myself in. Everyone does. We figure out that moms are warm, soft, and soothing. Floors are hard. Smiles make big people smile back.

            As time passes, we develop theories about everything. As we amass more experience, those theories get more sophisticated, better at predicting outcomes. We figure out that compliments generate more support than criticism, for example. That men and women are different. That blue-chip stocks are a safer investment than snake oil or swampland.

            And, for the most part, we modify our theories to take account of new facts as they emerge.



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17

Jan

2018

Struggling with stereotypes

Author: Jim Taylor

 don’t expect much more snow. Not around here, anyway. Because I just bought a snowblower.

            In a sense, my snowblower symbolizes our social obsession with independence. 

            It starts young. We encourage our children to do things for themselves, instead of depending on their parents. We expect young adults to earn their own way, to plot their own course. We expect older adults to keep on looking after themselves, despite disabilities.

            A group of us guys get together, occasionally, to talk about growing older. We don’t have any choice about growing older, short of expiring. But we agree that we don’t want to grow “old.”

            “Old” implies weak. Helpless. Unable to cope with credit cards or iPhones. Forgetful. Needing someone to supply the word we knew perfectly well when we started that sentence. Needing help to carry bags of groceries out to the car. If we have a car at all. Tripping. Falling. 

            “Old” means losing our precious independence.


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10

Jan

2018

One of my relations

Author: Jim Taylor

I have no sentimental feelings about California quail. But in my experience, they make chickens look like candidates for Mensa.

            We joke about chickens crossing the road. Around here, quail move in flocks. Sometimes so many they give an impression of the earth itself rippling in waves. 

            There is no such thing as a single quail. So if I see a solitary quail at the side of the road when I’m driving, I slow down.  That quail will certainly try to cross the road in front of me. At the last possible second. And it will equally certainly be followed by the rest of the flock. They could fly, but they won’t. They’ll erupt from the grass and underbrush like nerf balls, and scuttle on Roadrunner legs across the blacktop. 

            Except that when they’re almost across, they will decide they didn’t want to go there after all; they will turn, en masse, and head back — sometimes actually underneath my car. 

            No, I do not have a high opinion of quail intelligence. 



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3

Jan

2018

Seeing the flow of time

Author: Jim Taylor

very day, the local TV channel fills a few seconds in its parade of commercials with a speeded-up panorama of downtown Kelowna. Clouds skid by, showers form, daylight darkens into night. On the highway through town, headlights blend into a fluid stream that ebbs and flows like waves on a shore.

            When we’re in that stream, we see only the immediate moment. Traffic either hurtles onward, or it goes nowhere. 

            That’s because we live in the “now”. We know there’s a past, through which we have come. We know there’s a future, which will probably arrive sooner than we want. But generally, we’re aware only of this moment in time. 

             The charm of historic sites -- like Barkerville or Vernon’s O’Keefe Ranch -- is that they let us see now, what was then. 

 


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27

Dec

2017

Post-Christmas work begins

Post-Christmas work begins

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas is over. Crumpled gift wrap has gone into recycle bins. Santa has settled down for a long winter’s nap, or at least into an easy chair by the hearth, sipping a well-deserved eggnog; Rudolph has been put out to pasture.

            And 2018 stands on our doorsteps, finger poised at the doorbell.

            What now?

            Hymnwriter Jim Strathdee answered that question:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,

The work of Christmas is begun!

            The work of Christmas? Work? Surely you jest! Christmas is about fun, and family, and feasting -- not about work.


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20

Dec

2017

Another Nativity story

Author: Jim Taylor

In those days a decree went out from the Emperors in Washington and Damascus that all the world should be embroiled in civil wars, so that their spheres of influence might be extended. And many were driven from their own towns by bombs and drones and tanks.

            A man named Joseph fled from his shattered ruins of his home and business in Syria across the harsh deserts to a refugee camp, where he knew no one. He went with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were in the camp, on their way to anywhere else, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son shortly before dawn, while others slept, in a tent provided by an international aid agency. She wrapped him in her own cloak to keep him warm through the bitter cold of a desert night, and she laid him on the sand, because they had nothing else to put him in.  


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13

Dec

2017

What’s behind the third door?

Author: Jim Taylor

I was asked to say grace before a dinner at our local community hall. Perhaps the organizers thought that because I write about religious topics, I have a library of prayers to trot out at any occasion. Prayer on demand.

            As I sat down, a man nearby grunted, “You didn’t mention God.”

            No, I didn’t. I try to avoid using the name altogether in public situations. Because the name “God” evokes too many different images in people’s minds. Even if I were to start by saying, “This is not about an old man in a white robe who sits on a cloud in heaven, playing a harp, and delivering dinners for our enjoyment,” they would still substitute their own preconceived notions of God.

            All of which defy any simple classification.


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6

Dec

2017

Seasons, painted ponies, and churches

Author: Jim Taylor

Look out! Here comes another Christmas! What started as a purely religious celebration, of an unrecorded birth of an illegitimate infant in an obscure Jewish village, has gradually evolved into a social juggernaut based on family togetherness and over-indulgence.

            Besides being an annual bonanza for retail sales. 

            Christmas comes around very year, as predictably as winter. Which is followed by spring, and then summer, autumn, and another winter. 

            Fifty years ago, Joni Mitchell captured that cyclical pattern in a song: “And the seasons they go round and round…”


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29

Nov

2017

The persuasive power of stories

Author: Jim Taylor

She looks happy. A smile wreathes her face, which is smudged with charcoal. So is her frilly pink dress. She’s on her hands and knees inside the fireplace, one small hand raised in greeting. 

            Our daughter Sharon was eight months old when we moved into our dream home in North Vancouver. The rest of us were busy carrying boxes. Sharon was too young to carry anything, so we parked her inside and carried on carrying. How much trouble can a still-crawling child get into in an empty house?

            Then my wife asked, “Where’s Sharon?”

            No one had seen her. We scattered through the rooms, searching frantically. Panic rising in our throats, we gathered in the living room. 

            That’s when we heard the happy gurgle coming from the fireplace.

 

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29

Nov

2017

What you say, and how you say it

Author: Jim Taylor

Last year, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided that he could not stand proudly for the U.S. national anthem played before every game. During a post-game interview, he explained: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

            Kaepernick himself has experienced profiling. Although he is wealthier than any of the officers who have pulled him over on suspicion. 

            For black people, America is not the “land of the free.” Never has been.

            This year, he chose to kneel during the anthem – kneeling being a symbol of respect – instead of sitting. Many other athletes joined him. “Taking the knee” during the national anthem spread throughout the league.

            The President called the athletes “sons of bitches” and wanted them all fired. 

            Which would probably reduce NFL telecasts to referees blowing whistles at each other.


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