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

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Published on Sunday, July 12, 2020

Be careful not to burst bubbles

Canada’s deficit could hit $343 billion this year. Even so, some two million Canadians may remain unemployed, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

            And in case that’s not enough bad news, things could get worse. If, for example, a second wave of the coronavirus inundates us this fall. If the economy doesn’t pick up as expected. Or if – as seems more likely based on the model set by the U.S. – people abuse their new-found freedoms. 

            My mind wanders – whether from age or four months’ isolation – to the concept of bubbles. 

            Children love blowing bubbles. They blow bubbles in the bath. They run around the yard leaving trails of bubbles behind them. They try to catch those shimmering, shining bubbles without bursting them.

            Bubbles are fascinating. Real, but not real. Some bubbles pop when they touch other bubbles; some merge into bigger bubbles.

            I remember community picnics where some bubbles looked like oversized bologna, bigger than the kids who blew them. They drifted overhead. Until they popped and showered droplets of glycerine and detergent on the adults below. 

            In today’s COVID-19 world, though, “bubble” takes on new meaning. We’re not thinking of bubbles from the outside anymore; we’re thinking of the bubbles we’re inside. 


Bubbles of safety

            A “bubble” now refers to a small and exclusive group within which the coronavirus is no longer a threat. 

            Inside a bubble, we haven’t been in contact with anyone exposed to the coronavirus. We can relax a little more. We’re safe. 

            Unless someone bursts that fragile bubble. 

            Which brings to mind another silly game from childhood. Perhaps only small boys enjoyed this kind of humour. When introduced to a stiff and staid elderly acquaintance, we shook hands properly, while saying “This is how we make love on Mars.”

            It was amazing how quickly that hand was withdrawn. 

            It made shaking hands feel promiscuous.

            We don’t shake hands these days. Today’s emphasis is on washing hands, not shaking them.


Chains of consequences

            But the sexual reference still has relevance. Because, as we’ve often been warned, when you have unprotected sex with someone, you’re also having sex with every person that someone has ever had sex with. 

            The same holds for the chain of contacts from COVID-19. A casual conversation in a hotel bar infects a whole conference, who carry it to dozens of cities, to….

            You don’t have to have sex with all those contacts. Just shaking hands is enough. Or even breathing the same air. 

            The World Health Organization has finally admitted that COVID-19 can get transmitted through the air. 

            As a parallel to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), then, simply breathing the air that someone else has breathed connects you to the air breathed by everyone that person has been close to in the last two weeks. 

            The difference is that although STDs remain potentially dangerous forever; coronaviruses die if they can’t find a new carrier within a couple of weeks. 

            Still, two weeks is a lot of time -- unless we’ve taken up the lifestyle of a Tibetan Buddhist hermit. Everyone encounters significant numbers of people over two weeks. Especially anyone who works in retail stores or serves customers. 


From fear to trust

            “Fear has become the most pervasive element in the lives of the modern citizen,” Fr. Harry Clarke wrote in a letter to the Kelowna newspaper. 

            He was probably right in the early days of COVID-19. No one knew who had been exposed, who might be transmitting the virus, even unknowingly. My friends belong to the age bracket considered at highest risk. And most of us were unwilling to take risks. 

            So, to borrow a term from rigid religious groups, we shunned each other. 

            But as we have become more accustomed to the concept of bubbles, I think I’m seeing fear replaced by trust. We trust each not to burst our fragile bubbles of security. 

            That trust has to extend beyond immediate family, because bubbles bump into each other. 

            If I trust you, I must also trust the members within your bubble.

            And so the bubbles grow. 

            The four Atlantic provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland/Labrador – have declared themselves a bubble, within which residents may move relatively freely without fear of contamination. British Columbia is almost its own bubble, although Dr. Bonnie Henry has not yet officially declared bubble-dom. By comparison with the U.S., the whole of Canada might qualify as a bubble.

            Dr. Henry says, “Be kind, be calm, and be safe.”

            I say, “Be free. But be careful. And don’t burst any bubbles.”


Copyright © 2020 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Frank Martens read about the “plague of locusts” I wrote about last week, and didn’t believe that locusts and grasshoppers were the same creature, “at first.  So, I looked up a number of articles and found the reason for the change that occurred in grasshoppers that made them into the more predatory locust.”


Locusts are not just a distant phenomenon. Fran Ota remembered “my parents‘ stories about locust swarms in Saskatchewan......they could eat the clothes off people.  And if I recall the locusts were followed by a horrendous plague of tent caterpillars.....and my parents saying they went out with poles to get the caterpillars down and burn them. Farmers were devastated.”


“A number of things, these days, are making bad things worse,” Tom Watson agreed, “but the mind boggles at ‘a swarm of locusts consuming as much food in one day as a city of 35,000 people.’ We're at the mercy of so many forces of Nature that we can't control, can only react to. We have learned how to mitigate, to some degree at least, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it takes acts of will to follow the guidelines...but some refuse to do that. It will take even greater acts of will to assist those caught in the horrors of the plague of locusts.”


Brian Sutch noted that we don’t just have invasions of insects. Plants can also invade: “Although they are not very 'sexy' in terms of being newsworthy, we already have several plagues of noxious weeds sweeping through the Okanagan. To name one as an example, field bind weed that is the morning glory look alike, cost $377 million dollars in lost production in the USA alone back in 1998. This weed can already be found on a lot of Okanagan residential properties. Since then, we have had successive waves of weeds: sulphur cinque foil, knap weed, Dalmation toad flax, Yellow Salsify, and Scotch Thistle taking over the few remaining areas of grasslands. Once many of these weeds go to seed, the seeds are valid in the ground for up to 20 years or more, so it is not just a matter of spraying or pulling them out as they will simply sprout again for many years to follow.

            “The average person thinks many of these weeds are pretty 'mountain flowers'. 

            “The problem is that the responsibility for control of noxious weeds has been 'puck-handled' down to regional districts and municipalities who simply do not have the resources or expertise to stop a new invasive weed when it breaks out in their area. It is too late to eradicate many of the weeds listed in the 'Field Guide to Noxious Weeds of British Columbia' because of the length of time the seeds last once in the ground. There should be a provincial branch set up to vigorously attack new weeds when they show up and control existing ones.”


One last letter about my wife Joan’s decision that someone else could get more benefit from a blood transfusion that she would. James West wrote, “When I was a Clinical Pastoral Education student in 2013, I was assigned to a dialysis unit. I learned that there are modalities of treatment. One of them is to no longer receive dialysis. Your wife chose the right modality when she was at the point that the transfusions were prolonging the dying rather than prolonging life. Joan stepped aside so that someone else could live.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.


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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: trust, bubbles, COVID-19



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