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

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17

Jan

2021

Some coincidences defy credibility

Author: Jim Taylor

It was Friday January 1, 2021. New Year’s Day. I thought I should start the new year by tackling some old business.

            For the last 20 years, Joan stored her growing collection of murder mysteries in our spare bedroom. One set of books caught my eye – by P.D. James, the undisputed queen of British murder mystery writers. A publisher’s promo calls her the author of 11 books, but I counted 20.

            Including her one foray into science fiction, The Children of Men, published in 1992.

            I had never read it before. I opened the book. On Friday the first of January, 2021, the opening words were, “Friday 1 January 2021.”

            What were the odds, I wondered, that Ms James would have chosen to start a book published 28 years ago with the very date on which I would open that book?


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17

Jan

2021

Misguided mentality of a mob

Author: Jim Taylor

The world watched last week as a mindless mob took over the U.S. Capitol. 

            It was not an attempted coup, as many pundits alleged. If it were a coup, they would have been much better organized. 

            This gang had no plans beyond disrupting Congress. Desecrating the temple of government. Looting a few souvenirs. Putting their feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. 

            For a second or two, those TV cameras caught a woman brandishing a placard: “Jesus Saves.”

            There, I think, is the overlooked key to this demonstration. 

            At last count, 82 people had been arrested and 13 charged, as a result of the riot. When – and if – they come to trial, I expect that some will invoke religious freedom as their defence. 

            They were only doing what Jesus did, they’ll argue, when he cleared the crooks and shysters from a courtyard of his temple in Jerusalem. He didn’t attempt to take over the temple either. He shut it down for a while, then cleared out. He had made his point.


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9

Jan

2021

Putting good and bad in perspective

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday January 10, 2021

 

Years ago, I started writing a summary of the good things and bad things that had happened that year.

            At first, I had little difficulty separating good from bad. My two lists – good and bad – bore little connection to each other.

            But as time passed, I discovered that different aspects of the same situations were showing up in both lists.

            This year, the overlap is almost total. Bad things occurred, certainly, but part of each parcel included good things. And vice versa. Like Frank Sinatra singing about love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other.

            Take Donald Trump. Please. (A line borrowed from stand-up comedy.)

            How can his behaviour be a ”good thing”?

            Easy -- he proved I was right about him, all along. (I never said that the good and bad had to be equal, only that they were intertwined!)


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9

Jan

2021

All by myself on a ski trail

Author: Jim Taylor

Between my wife’s death and Covid-19 isolation, I’ve spent a lot of time alone this last year. 

            There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. Lonely is a state of mind; alone is a fact. 

            In the silence broken only by my skis swooshing along the tracks, I amused myself thinking of the benefits of being alone. 

·      No negotiating about where to go, or when and where to meet. 

·      No competition about who’s going to drive.

·      No disagreements over what to pack for lunch. No juggling menus to suit someone else’s dietary needs. 

·      No hurrying to keep up with someone younger and fitter. 

·      No reason not to stop, to catch a breath, to take in the view.. Or, in other settings, to pull off the road to read a historical marker, or to visit some natural wonder you’ve always rushed past before. 

·      No need to phone anyone just because you’re running a little late.

·      And in a broader sense, no interruptions in the middle of a thought, a moment of meditation, or of prayer.


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9

Jan

2021

Crashing through an imaginary wall

Author: Jim Taylor

When he was still a young man, a friend of a friend had a job for a while as a movie stunt man. He learned how to fall off a cliff. How to survive an explosion. And how to roll a car, crash a car, flip a car, and still emerge alive.

            He learned how to work out all the calculations of speed and weight and lift so that he could safely launch a car off the end of a ramp and land without killing himself.

            And then one day he was asked to send a car crashing through a giant billboard.

            My young friend knew exactly how fast he had to be going, how steep the ramp must be, how far the car would fly, how it would land on the other side.

            But it felt different when he couldn’t see ahead through the giant billboard. Even if it was just made of paper.

 


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9

Jan

2021

Taking a break in long traditions

Author: Jim Taylor

           Our Christmas tree traced the 60 years of our marriage.

            In the beginning, all we could afford was tinsel, draped like icicles. Over time, we added a variety of glass balls, gradually getting bigger, brighter. We bought souvenirs, brass or crystal, sometimes ceramic, to remind us of our travels.

            And Joan embroidered -- her passion -- dozens and dozens of, I don’t know what to call them, cloth ornaments to hang on the tree.

            Sometimes the tree itself was almost invisible beneath its decorations. 

            But one thing remained constant, for all those years. The ornament at the very top of the tree, was a blown glass spire, pointing upwards. 

            Joan brought that spire into our marriage. 

            But when I went to slip Joan’s fragile spire onto the top of the tree, it imploded in my hands. 


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9

Jan

2021

Where all are welcome

Author: Jim Taylor

Christmas will be different this year, for most of us. No travel, no family gatherings. I don’t expect to have anybody at all in my house over the holiday period. 

            But I’ve put up some Christmas decorations anyway. Then I got to the creche, the traditional manger scene. Ours is eclectic, to say the least.

            The core of the creche, of course, is the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. We bought those three figures long ago from the wood carvers in Oberammergau, the village in the Bavarian alps that puts on a world-famed Passion Play every ten years. 

            The three camels came from a shop in Jerusalem. We were assured they were carved of olive wood from the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane under which Jesus prayed the night of his arrest and trial. 

            But we didn’t have any Magi to ride in from the East on those camels. So I carved a set of three visitors myself. As a solid mass, blending into each other – as they do in the biblical text, too.

            There are some carved wooden sheep – they’re traditional. Also a donkey made by one of our grandchildren out of a toilet paper roll wrapped with string. 

            Plus a variety of less conventional animals. A hippo, from Africa. A cow, or maybe a water buffalo, from India. An elephant from Thailand. A giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. A ceramic penguin from Chile (I think). And an Irish Setter, in loving memory of our first dog.


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9

Jan

2021

The salmon are coming back!

Author: Jim Taylor

The salmon are coming back! The salmon are coming back! 

            Where’s Paul Revere when we need him? 

            Last year, a fish ladder, left inoperable after the Penticton dam at the foot of Okanagan Lake was built in the 1950s, was restored by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. For the first time in 60 years, sockeye salmon ascended from the Columbia River into Okanagan Lake. 

            At the same time, kokanee socks are rebounding. 

            Kokanee are land-locked salmon. Unlike their sockeye cousins, they don’t go down to the sea. They spend their lives in lakes. Some spawn along the shorelines; some return to the lakes’ tributary streams, just like the ocean-going salmon. 

            A small item in the regional newspaper reported that an estimated 388,000 kokanee had spawned this year, either in streams or along the shoreline. That’s more than double last year’s 185,000. Better yet, it’s more than double the ten-year average.


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9

Jan

2021

Mary and my hitchhiker

Author: Jim Taylor

Every year, as the Christmas season rolls around again, I feel impelled to dig into my archives, to see what might deserve saying a second time. 

            This column goes back to 2005. 

            I was driving from Kamloops back to Kelowna, normally less than a two-hour drive. A storm had coated the highway with ice. It took me over an hour just to get to the turnoff that led south towards Kelowna. 

            Just before the turnoff, the road tilted left. I could feel my car slipping sideways on the ice as I crept around yet another accident. Even the cop directing traffic couldn’t keep his feet under him. 

            Then, as I was about to accelerate gently ahead, I heard a tap at my passenger window. A pale, waiflike face peered in at me, bundled in a woolen scarf. 

            “Could you give me a ride?” she asked. “It’s real cold out here.”

            I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, but these seemed to be exceptional circumstances. “Hop in,” I said. 


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9

Jan

2021

Conversion therapy is criminal coercion

Author: Jim Taylor

This coming Thursday, December 10, 2020, the world honours the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

           The UN Declaration states, “Everyone is entitled to [these] rights and freedoms … without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

            And, in another article, that no one shall be subjected to coercion: “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

            It offers no exemptions for religious beliefs.

            Yet it is precisely certain religious beliefs, which violate the principles of the UN Declaration, that generated federal Bill C-6 about conversion therapy.


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