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

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10

Sep

2020

Blessings from the past

Author: Jim Taylor

 What good are memories when there’s no one who shares them? Or cares about them? And yet roses do bloom in December, because memories are sometimes just as real as reality, and so my mother’s knitting needles still click as they knit my sweaters and socks. My dark road unfurls ahead, leading who knows where, over the hills and far away, because the granddaughter who once rode my ankle to the bounce of a cock horse going to Banbury Cross has gone away too, and my empty arms can still feel rocking her through the black pit of an Ethiopian night.

            My baggage brims over with memories, transcending time. Some hurt. Still, I’m grateful each time the wisps of fog pull aside and let me re-live the past.

 

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: memories, fog

6

Sep

2020

The shoe on the other foot

Author: Jim Taylor

Black people in the U.S. Indigenous people in Canada. Jews in Germany, during Nazi rule. Japanese on the west coast during WII. Doukhobors in the 1950s. 

            If you’re not one of them, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it’s like to be one of them. 

            But suppose people who share your faith and your beliefs were being persecuted? Could you identify with them?

            Such as Christians in India. 

            In Canada, we treat Christianity as the norm. 

           But what would it feel like if the Christian culture you take for granted turned you into a persecuted minority


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4

Sep

2020

Out of disorder, a new order

Author: Jim Taylor

I had my 84th birthday earlier this week. It’s a privilege to have lived this long.

            Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has written several books about the process of aging. Basically, he suggests, the first half of life is about acquiring -- possessions, wealth, friends, family. The second half is about letting go -- of our acquisitions, our ideas, eventually our lives.

            Recently, he’s been writing about a pattern of spirituality. He calls it Order, Disorder, and Re-Order.

            In his terms, we inherit from our parents, our friends, and our social culture an understanding of the world we live in. That’s the Order. We don’t question it; we just accept it.

            Then as we mature, we discover that the old Order doesn’t work as well as it should. So we reject bits and pieces of what we used to take for granted. 

            And then eventually, we re-organize our lives and our understandings into a new Order. 


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29

Aug

2020

A tale of two conventions

Author: Jim Taylor

Over the last ten days I have watched -- reluctantly, I admit -- parts of the Democratic and Republican national conventions in the U.S.

            Long ago, I had to write essays to “compare and contrast” Shakespeare’s sonnets with, say, Wordsworth’s. Or John Milton’s metaphors versus T.S. Eliot’s.

            It can be an illuminating exercise. But it’s easier when you can lay out two manuscripts side by side.

            I wish technology enabled me to compare the two political conventions side by side. Perhaps with 30 seconds of this audio, then 30 seconds of that one. So that I could flip back and forth, instead of relying on memory of two separate events.

            Still, the most obvious difference was visual. The Republican convention paid lip service to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its body language didn’t. During the speeches by both Melania and Donald Trump, Republican dignitaries sat cheek-to-cheek, buttwise. No physical separation. No masks that I could see. Lots of handshaking and back-patting.

            The Democratic convention didn’t have masks either. But they didn’t need them. No one else in the room – they actually practiced isolation.

 

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28

Aug

2020

Cartoonists tell us about ourselves

Author: Jim Taylor

“Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra said. Or maybe he didn’t. Berra is like Mark Twain -- the more outrageous the quote, the more likely it will be attributed to one of them.

            Or to Pogo.

            Pogo was the loveable possum invented by cartoonist Walt Kelly, in 1948. Pogo’s most famous quote is “We has seen the enemy, and he is us.” People quote it who have never read Kelly’s comic strip. 

            Forty-five years after Pogo last appeared in newspapers, some of his other quotations seem oddly prescient:

·      “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”

·      “If you can’t win, don’t join ‘em.”

·      “Don’t take life so serious. It ain’t nohow permanent.”

·      “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”


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16

Aug

2020

Food left rotting in fields

Author: Jim Taylor

On Thursday, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a $50-million program to get surplus perishable food products to vulnerable people during the pandemic.

            According to a CBC news report, “Bibeau said 12 million kilograms of food that otherwise would have been wasted, including one million fresh eggs, would go to families.

            “Surplus fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood was generated because the COVID-19 crisis shut down much of the restaurant and hospitality industry, leaving producers with unprecedented surpluses.”

            Sounds good. Except that a lot of that surplus isn’t in a warehouse somewhere, easy to access. It’s still on the ground. 

            Another report, from Global News, says. “The Okanagan agriculture industry, especially orchards and farms, is struggling to find enough workers to harvest their crops.”

            Fruit left on the trees will not even enter Bibeau’s program of getting food to families and food banks.


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13

Aug

2020

What’s Covid doing to friendships?

Author: Jim Taylor

In the Bible, I find only two instances of come-hell-or-high-water friendships. 

            David and Jonathan were more than buddies. Jonathan risked the royal wrath of his father King Saul by befriending David. 

            Ruth and Naomi seem also to have been more than mother and daughter-in-law. Ruth could have abandoned Naomi and returned to her own people. But the two stuck together, and eventually Ruth became David’s great-grandmother. 

            The other instances commonly cited aren’t as clearly “friendships of the good.” Elijah and Elisha were mentor and pupil. Moses and Aaron, Mary and Elizabeth, Abraham and Lot, all had family ties. 

            Paul built friendships with his missionary companions Barnabas, Timothy, and Mark. But he also quarrelled and split angrily with them. 

            King Herod valued his conversations with John the Baptist. But it’s hard to call it friendship when one of you is chained to the wall.



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9

Aug

2020

Horror over mass atrocities

Author: Jim Taylor

Carlton Street in Toronto starts at Yonge Street’s frenzy of retailing. Carlton then moves west, crossing Church Street’s gay bars and the former upper-crust mansions along Jarvis Street. Past the tropical greenhouses of Allan Gardens, the stone fortress of St. Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne Street, and Bleeker Street where, in the early 1990s, prostitutes flashed breasts and crotches at passing drivers.

            It is, like Canada, a mosaic of cultures. 

           But one building stood out.

           The original brick had been painted white. It had massive iron bars on all its windows. A heavy wrought-iron fence. High powered lights. A security camera over the front door.


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9

Aug

2020

Things you never knew you knew

Author: Jim Taylor

Harvest times tend to come along all at once. I went out last week to offer volunteer services to my vegetable garden, and realized that the peas, raspberries, onions, and potatoes all needed attention at the same time. 

            I know how to pick and shell peas. I know how to pick raspberries. But I realized I didn’t have a clue about the right time to pull onions or dig potatoes. 

            So I called a friend. Who is, fortunately, kind enough not to laugh at my ignorance.

            “You need to bend the tops of the onions over,” she said. 

            The tops of my onions had fallen over already, on their own. 

            “Then you can pull them,” she said. “But they’ll need to be dried.”


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2

Aug

2020

Making statistics more real

Author: Jim Taylor

Dying is never fun. I think I can safely say that, although I suppose there may be people who gather together for some kind of final bacchanalia as they expire. 

            As Peggy Lee sang, long ago, “If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…”

            But such a party would, I imagine, be only a way of suppressing their fear of dying.

            Those who have been close to a dying person know what it’s like. Pain, even with constant medication. Helplessness. Loss of independence. Loss of control. Loss of memory. Bewilderment. Confusion. Sometimes calm resignation, sometimes anger and bitterness. 


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