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

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That breathless hush

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday November 25, 2021


Happy New Year!!! No, I haven’t been transported to some distant science-fiction planet – this Sunday is the beginning of the liturgical year for the Christian church in the western world. 

            To be more specific, it’s the first Sunday of Advent, the period preceding Christmas. Advent always starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  

           So why would the Christian year not simply match a calendar year?

            Because religions honour their tradition more than secular standards. So the Christian liturgical year doesn’t match the school year starting in September, the Gregorian year, or even the solar year, which would probably start on a solstice.

            A related question, then – why start the year with Advent?

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: New Year, Advent, baton




Take a chance; make a new friend!

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday November 18, 2021


As I grow older, I realize how much friends matter. 

            I didn’t always feel that way. Friends came into my life; friends passed out of my life. I moved on and left the old friends behind. 

            There always seemed to be enough friends around. 

            Not any more. Far too many friends have died. Others still live, but too little contact and too many years mean the only thing we have in common now is youthful memories. 

            Author Frederik Buechner understood the importance of friends better than I did. In his book Whistling the Dark, he wrote: “Your friends are not your friends for any particular reason. They are your friends for no particular reason. The job you do, the family you have, the way you vote, the major achievements and blunders of your life, your religious convictions or lack of them, are all somehow set off to one side when the two of you get together." 

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Violence sells, sex abuse doesn’t

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday November 14, 2021


I don’t get it. How, and why, in the world of professional sports, is a ten-year-old sexual encounter considered a more serious offence than constant physical violence? 

            My ruminations are, of course, founded on the lawsuit launched by former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach that former video-coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted him and another player during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

            As a result, at least three executives have lost or quit their jobs.

            But no executive has ever lost his job because his players gave superstar Sidney Crosby a concussion – four concussions, officially, probably more never diagnosed. 

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: sex, NHL, violence




What might peace taste like?

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday December 11, 2021


I don’t feel qualified to write about Remembrance Day. I’ve never served in any war. 

            Two uncles did serve. My uncle Andy was chief surgeon with the British Army’s retreat from Burma – a 1000-mile retreat that makes Dunkirk look like child’s play in a bathtub. But I won’t go into details. 

            Joan’s uncle Frank died in Italy during WWII. Joan was about five. What she remembers, most, was the smell of his rough wool serge uniform, when he picked her up for a goodbye hug.

            She never saw him again.

            And she could never stand the smell of serge or the colour khaki.

            In the context of today, Remembrance Day 2021, I wonder how our senses would recognize peace. 

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COP26 evades the real crisis

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday November 7, 2021


One week into COP26 – the UN’s annual Conference of the Parties on climate change – the event makes me think of a hairdresser’s appointment: lots of fuss at the top, and nothing happening farther down. 

            This year’s Conference, in Glasgow, Scotland, loudly proclaims a couple of significant agreements. 

            First, 165 countries signed an agreement to phase out coal as an energy source. But the world’s three biggest coal burners – China, the U.S., and India -- did not sign.

           The 39,000 national representatives thronging into Glasgow arecarefully avoiding the one crucial issue that underlies all other crises – population growth. 

            It’s no accident, I suggest, that the three biggest coal-burning nations, who refused to commit to eliminating coal fuels, are also the three most populous nations in the world. 

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A little bit extra goes a long way

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday December 4, 2021


The bus ahead of me stopped at the roadside. A stream of young children gushed out the door onto the grass. After the last child, the shepherding adults got off. 

            By then the kids were celebrating their freedom from confinement. They flung their backpacks on the ground. They romped around in wild disarray. 

            The driver no longer had any responsibility for them. 

            But the driver didn’t leave. The bus waited. Long enough to form a protective barrier between the kids and any passing cars. Just long enough to make sure the adults had their flock under control. 

            Then, and only then, with a squish of air, the doors closed, the brakes released, the bus resumed its route.


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You don’t have to fight growing older

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 31, 2021


When did I grow old? I knew aging had to happen, but I thought it would take longer. 

               When I was young, the inevitability of growing old never occurred to me. I was Peter Pan; aging was never-never.

               Even into my seventies, I didn’t think of myself as old. Sure, my hair developed what an internet wit called “wisdom highlights.” But I still had employable skills. My mind and my muscles still worked. I still had a future stretching ahead of me. 

               And then one day, I realized that things had changed. 

               I didn’t think of myself as old. But I couldn’t think of myself as young either. 

               And the future contained more of the same. Or, more likely, less of the same. 

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Every work of art has its “provenance”

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 28, 2021 


I am awash in provenance. 

            In the art world, provenance identifies the origins of artwork. The art could be a painting, a statue, a piece of music or literature. Often, provenance enhances the value of a work of art. Mozart’s Requiem takes on special status when you know that Salieri wrote it out for a dying Mozart – at least, according to the movie Amadeus. 

            That’s why art galleries provide information about the artist, and about the history of that piece. 

            In my case, I have too much provenance. My daughter and I are the only leaves left of four family trees. 

            Everything funnelled down to us has a story. 

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Autism study shakes preconceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 24, 2021


Jill Sanghvi wrote her thesis in India, for Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium.

            Sanghvi recognized that most studies treated autism as a “deficit.” That is, it rendered the person less than normal. Handicapped. Victim of a disability. 

            The words themselves have negative connotations. 

            So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you will find. 

            These studies were all by non-autistic adults. Writing ABOUT, or FOR, people with autism. 

            Sanghvi resolved to do something different. Young people themselves would tell their stories. And she would not ask them about the “deficits” they experienced as objects of ridicule, bullying, or pity. She would ask about their “wonderfulness.”

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: autism, India, Sanghvi




When brain synapses fire

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 21, 2021


I can tell how old you are, without asking. I merely have to cite three words: “Fibber McGee’s closet.”

            Did you smile? Even laugh out loud?

            Then you’re probably over 80. 

            Fibber McGee, for those of you with blank looks on your faces, was a radio program of the 1940s and parts of the 1950s. It featured the improbably named Fibber McGee. Who put everything he didn’t know what to do with into his closet. So, naturally, every time he opened his closet door, several hundred pots and pans and other clanging things came crashing out.

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