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

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Published on Monday, January 30, 2023

My ‘bucket list’ has a hole in it

Sunday January 1, 2023


So here we are -- New Year’s Day, 2023. It’s tempting to make guesses about what will, or will not, happen during this coming yea. Will gene-splicing enable medical science to create killer T-cells that attack only individual cancers? Will nuclear fusion – using unimaginable power to create unimaginable power – finally put the fossil-fuel industry out of business? 

            Will meteorologists find a way to keep polar vortexes where they belong, hovering over the high Arctic like a frigid skullcap?

            It’s tempting to speculate, but useless. Because I don’t expect to be around long enough to say. “I told you so!”

            I’ll be 87 during 2023. I can’t count on much else. At my age, every New Year means one less year to live. 

            That’s reality. Even if most people don’t want to think about it. Like the lyrics of September Song, “the days dwindle down, to a precious few…”

            The challenge is to make those remaining days truly precious. 


Things I won’t do

            I’m in relatively good health – better health than many men 20 years younger. The last time I saw my doctor, he said, “I keep thinking they’ve got your birthdate wrong.”

            But there are things I know I will not do. 

            I will not climb Mt. Everest -- even if they install an escalator to the summit.

            I will not travel into apace. 

            I will not run for political office. 

            My “bucket list,” dear Liza, seems to have developed a hole in the bucket.

            What matters, increasingly, is my social and emotional relationships. And that bucket too seems to have a leak. One other thing I can count on is that, during this coming year, one of my friends will die. 

            I don’t know yet which one. Or if only one will die. But I expect at least one will. 

            That too is reality. 


Clearing the decks

            The Old Testament writer known as Qoheleth – often assumed to be an aging King Solomon – made it very clear. No matter what your rank or status, no matter how many friends and sycophants you have, no matter what your wealth and possessions, you will eventually die. 

            And you can’t take it with you. 

            Many of my friends, even those considerably younger than me, have already started clearing their decks of accumulated possessions. “So that my kids won’t have to deal with it all,” they say.

            They’ve seen what happens when a hoarder dies. Family and friends spend weeks going through boxes of books and papers and tools and teacups -- the archeological artifacts of a full life. 

            If they had belonged to an ancient Mesopotamian ruler, they would be considered a treasure trove.  For most survivors, they’re a nuisance.

            So we take some of what comedian George Carlin scornfully called “stuff” to a Thrift Shop, run by a church or a non-profit agency. Some we give away. A lot goes into the dumpster in the driveway. 

            And some of it is kept. Not for any particularly rational reason. Just because, “She loved that vase.” Or, “It was his favourite screwdriver.”

            Which merely defers the dumpster decision to some later year. 


If not now, when?

            My long-time friend and schoolmate Ruth Buzzard put bucket lists into perspective: “Is it going to be any easier two years from now?” 

            Obviously not. The ancient Romans had a phrase for it, as they did for many things: “Carpe diem.” Seize the day. 

            In other words, don’t wait. Although younger people tend to use carpe diem as an excuse for instant gratification, to me the message is similar to the Hindu and Buddhist emphasis on mindfulness. This is the present. This is all you’ve got. You can’t change the past, you can’t count on a future, so pay attention to the present. 

            The present is precious.

            Perhaps more precious because it is fleeting. You cannot capture it, cannot seal it in amber so that it can be displayed to future generations. 

            It is what it is. 

            Which, when I think of it, comes close to the definition God gave Moses: “I am what I am.”

            The passing of one earth year into another is irrelevant.in the vast workings of the universe. From Alpha Centauri, the transition from December 31 2022 into January 1 2023 has no more significance than a single hydrogen atom spinning in space.

            So although 2023 will mark one less year in my life, what matters is not how many more years I have left, but what I do with this one. 

            Happy New Year!


Copyright © 2023 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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Your turn


A couple of letters took issue with my characterization of Elon Musk, last week. I’ve deliberately deleted some portions of both letters, because they chose to argue with the author whose work I quoted, Eli Sopow, rather than dealing with what I myself said. 


Mark Roberts wrote about me to the Penticton newspaper; “Once again Mr. Taylor is showing his biased leftist wokeism. He's claiming Elon Musk is the Christmas Grinch, and he has brought sorrow and disappointment instead of love, peace and joy to his employees.

            “No, Mr. Taylor. Musk has brought me and other like-minded free-thinking common-sense people a great gift --- that of exposing Twitter and U.S security agencies (the FBI and DOJ) of their rampant collusion to suppress free speech. He has now published undeniable proof that these agencies willfully pressured Twitter from outside and within to censor conservative views and reinforce left-wing Democrat opinion.

            “There's a thing in the US called the first amendment. It guarantees free speech. Twitter violated the U.S constitution by willfully following orders from corrupt left-leaning security officials.

            “Oh, and by Musk firing some employees regardless of ‘diversity and inclusion’; does this mean he chose education, competence, and ability over colour and sex?”


Steve Roney took a similar view:  “In your latest column, you blame Elon Musk for the management theories of Frederick Taylor… You quote Taylor: “We do not ask for the initiative of our men. We do not want any initiative.” This is laughably opposite to Musk’s management style. Musk has had unprecedented success with highly innovative companies in a variety of high-tech fields. His companies have accomplished things others thought technically impossible.

            “Musk cannot possibly have the expertise in these diverse fields to do it himself. You cannot do it by making employees cogs in a machine. That only works with an established business and an established business model. To only way Musk could do this is by encouraging and incentivizing his engineers to create and innovate. Musk demonstrably does this better than anyone.”

Conversely, Mirza Yawar Baig confirmed the mentality Frederick Taylor wrote about:: “I recall a time in the ‘70s, even early ‘80s when it was routine to say, “I have twenty hands (men) working for me.” I always wondered, if he had 20 men, didn’t he actually have 40 hands working for him? 

            So, yes, we don’t want initiative. That is how it was. When I first started my leadership training practice, these ‘old-style’ bosses and business owners said to me, ‘No way! I don’t want leaders. Leaders are trouble. I just want workers to follow orders. Nothing more.’ 

            “To which I would respond, ‘But if they are leaders, they will think and innovate and solve problems!!’ 

            “’That is what I don’t want them to do – think and innovate. For problems, they can come to me. What is the good of me being there if they solve their own problems?’

            “Elon Musk in a backward-running time machine?

            “I am very glad that I am 67 and am not likely to see the return of those Bad Old Days. As for Elon Musk, there is a strong feeling here that we are perhaps looking at a future President of America. In that case, please allow me to pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the rest of my life mowing your lawn.”


On the notion of Jesus being distracted, Norma Wible wrote, “This part really spoke to me. I tend to get phone calls from lonely or needy people, as an elder at my church. I try not to cut them off to go and do other, ‘more important’ things on the to-do list; this bothers my husband. Now, in these couple of sentences, you’ve given me good words to relay. (My words seem to always come to me hours later!)”






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 I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

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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: New Year, Resolutions, Bucket list

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