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

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16

Apr

2021

Volcanoes and other coincidences

Author: Jim Taylor

Thurs. Spr. 15, 2021


In January 1993, Joan and I took our winter holiday in Montserrat, one of the less-visited islands of the Caribbean. It was so less-visited, it only had three hotels.

            Four years later, the island’s volcano blew up. It buried the capital city in ash. To the rooftops.

            Then in January 2008, we went to St. Vincent, at the other end of the Caribbean chain of islands. Five of us hiked up to the rim of St. Vincent’s volcano, past ferns growing 30-feet tall. 

            We peered down into swirling mists in the crater. I’d love to have gone down, but the rock walls were too sheer for anything but trained climbers with ropes and pitons. 

            Last week, the volcano on St. Vincent blew up. 

 

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8

Apr

2021

Singing to the Easter sunrise

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday April 8, 2021

 

The church congregation I belong to has held an Easter Sunrise service for at least 40 years. The last two years, however, Covid-19 has thrown a virus into the works. Health restrictions prohibit any gathering of people. And any singing. 

            This year, for some reason that I cannot fully define, I felt that I needed a sunrise service. 

            If we couldn’t have one collectively, I decided, I would have one individually. 

            Which is why I found myself, half an hour before dawn on Easter Sunday, climbing a steep trail up Spion Kop, a local peak. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Easter, sunrise

8

Apr

2021

Who gets protection last?

Author: Jim Taylor

I got my Covid-19 vaccination a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad that my age puts me near the head of the line. 

            But then Jack Knox, a Victoria columnist, asked who should be at the end of the line?

            Because somebody has to be last. Don’t they? 

            Most of us would agree about those who should get preference. 

  • The residents of long-term care facilities, whose health is fragile already.
  • The front-line medical workers, who spend all day, every day, in close contact with the infected people the rest of us want to avoid. 
  • The essential workers, the ones who keep supplying groceries, hardware, and emergency services. Even if only one in every hundred people they encounter is a Covid carrier, that’s still way more than the rest of us.
  • Teachers and child-care workers, who deal daily with little germ factories. 

           But who’s not on the list?

            The question implies a deserving factor. Which is rooted, I would argue, in a belief that the universe is supposed to be fair. Those who are good get rewarded; those who aren’t, get punished. 


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27

Mar

2021

Three alternative prayers

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 25, 2021 

 

In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

            Many, I’m sure, repeat the traditional Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, Which Art in Heaven…” 

            Some might remember the Latin words: “Pater noster, qui es in caelis…”

            I suspect many just fall silent, because they don’t know what to say, or to whom. 

            Why don’t we all just say the traditional Lord’s Prayer? Because a few people – I’m one of them -- have genuine difficulties with the all-knowing all-seeing old-man-in-the-sky image I used to accept unthinkingly. 

            Rather, over the years, I’ve become convinced, beyond any doubt, that God is not out there, somewhere, but right here. Right now. 

            So for that 30 seconds, I turn to some of my favourite prayers, which are about the right length to fit the silence. 


In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Prayers

27

Mar

2021

Geese don’t get no respect

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 18, 2021 

 

 I remember one of life’s sensory pleasures, walking barefoot on the mudflats at Hopewell Rocks Park at the top of the Bay of Fundy, feeling the sun-warmed red mud squishing up between my toes. 

            It was almost sacramental -- like having my feet gently massaged by Jesus’ hands in the Upper Room. 

            It’s much less pleasant when the stuff squishing between one’s toes is goose poop.

            Unfortunately, poop is what Canada Geese are best known for.

           As a result, Canada Geese have become undesirable. 

           And yet Canada Geese have a number of admirable characteristics that we humans might emulate.


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27

Mar

2021

Following her final wishes

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 11, 2021 

 

Saturday March 13 marks one year since my wife’s death. Originally, we planned to have her memorial service a week after she died. 

            Joan had worked with our minister at the time to plan a service that reflected her preferences.

            In the 15 years she spent working at the United Church of Canada’s national offices in Toronto, the most inspiring were as administrative assistant in the worship portfolio. She developed a deep appreciation for the church’s sacraments. Even though it is not normally included in memorial services, she wanted to have communion at her service. 

            She couldn’t have anticipated that the day after her death, the province would go into Covid-19 lockdown. 

            Somehow, I thought that the new rules would not apply to anything as earth-shaking as Joan’s death. We would have a service at our church, regardless. 

            Nope.

            Grief tends to over-react that way. 


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27

Mar

2021

Guidelines for better discussions

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 4, 2021

 I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. My aging body no longer permits some other activities, but I haven’t lost my ability to take part in a lively discussion. Yet. 

            Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion, which range from saying too much to not saying anything. 

            In my experience, the most pernicious fault is to drag in an external authority. Perhaps relying on the insights of a famous writer. A quotation from a scientist. A definition from a dictionary. A theory from a theologian. 

            Or, in some circles, citing selected verses from a scriptural text.


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2

Mar

2021

Walking billboards

Author: Jim Taylor

I wore a pink T-shirt yesterday, Anti-Bullying Day in Canada. But because this isn’t T-shirt weather, I wore it over the top of my other clothes, to make it more visible. 

            Anti-Bullying Day started in Canada. I’m proud of that fact, as proud as an apologetic Canadian can be about anything.

            Two teenagers in Nova Scotia, David Shepherd and Travis Price, objected to another student being ridiculed for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. So they bought 50 pink shirts and handed them out to other students, to wear in solidarity with the bullying victim. 

            So when I took the dog out for her morning walk yesterday, I was wearing a pink T-shirt. Also, red-and-white socks, a thank-you gift from the Canadian Red Cross for a donation in my wife’s memory. A blue tuque from my church’s Thrift Shop. A Rotary pin. 

            And I thought, I’m a walking billboard!


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2

Mar

2021

Trying to see the road ahead

Author: Jim Taylor

Driving to town the other day, I ran into a patch of valley fog.

            Suddenly, clear air and bright sky vanished. I was swaddled in translucent cheesecloth. The centreline’s yellow tape scrolled out ahead of me, measuring time and distance to nowhere. The paved road, grey and gritty close up, merged into mist, dissolving into invisibility.

            I felt as if I was driving down a metaphor.

            Because, only moments before, I had been pondering the process of aging. Another colleague from former years had died. 

            The road ahead felt uncertain, unsure.


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12

Feb

2021

Language doesn’t need words

Author: Jim Taylor

            At the start of winter, I filled my bird feeder with sunflower seeds. For several days, not one bird came to dinner. Then a single junco arrived, pecked, and flew away. The day after that, a handful of scrappy little finches showed up. 

            The third day, a single quail appeared.

            Now, quail are ground birds. They’d rather run than fly, little legs blurring beneath them like the cartoon Roadrunner’s. And they are not loners. They travel in flocks, so many that sometimes the earth itself seems to be moving. 

            But for some reason, this one flew up to check. Alone.

            And the next day, dozens of quail swarmed over the feeder, climbing over each other, double-deckering on each other’s backs, to get at the treasure trove of sunflower seeds.

            They had to have had a way of passing the good news around. 

            Their own social media? 


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