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

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21

Jan

2019

When it’s time for me to go

Author: Jim Taylor

When it’s time for me to go,

I drift to the edges

of the bubbling broth 

of chatter

and then I slip 

silently 

into the night outside. 


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: death, departure

21

Jan

2019

Pointy hoods

Author: Jim Taylor

I added a picture to this poem, so that you would have a better sense of the scene that prompted this reflection. You'll have to go to the main page to see it, though. 

 

Fresh snow coats the spiky crowns of evergreens

into narrow cones of shining white

steepled against a brillig sky -- 

a vast convocation 

of pointy white hoods.

 

Do spruce trees also

have pointy little brains

beneath their whited hoods?

 

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20

Jan

2019

School buses risk our children’s lives

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve had seatbelts in my cars since 1966. They didn’t come with the car; I had to install them myself.

            My friends scoffed. “I’d rather be thrown clear in a crash,” they declared.

            I can only say that if it weren’t for seatbelts, I wouldn’t be writing this column today.

            While seatbelts were still controversial, magazines like Popular Scienceand Popular Mechanics invited readers to conduct their own experiments. Tape an egg securely inside a cardboard box and drop it on the floor; the egg will usually survive. Put a loose egg inside a cardboard box and drop it; the egg will usually break. Drop an unboxed egg, the equivalent of being thrown clear in a crash; the egg will always smash. Always.

            It took another ten years for the first Canadian province to make seatbelts mandatory in new cars.

            Today, we take seatbelts for granted. An estimated 91 per cent of Canadians use seatbelts whenever they enter a car. Only Japan and Sweden rank higher.

           Seatbelts have become the norm.

            Except in buses. Especially school buses.


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16

Jan

2019

Singing is breathing together

Author: Jim Taylor

The most radical thing that churches do these days is not their social justice programs, their housing for the homeless, or even their political lobbying. It’s their singing.

            Have you noticed that the younger generations don’t sing? Oh, they’re never without music. They have music -- or at least what they consider music -- pumped into their ears constantly by their Bluetooth earbuds. They have audio systems in their cars that can rattle windows a block away.

            But they don’t sing along. They kinda grunt and twitch along.

            Increasingly, I think that singing is a counter-cultural phenomenon. And it happens mostly in churches.


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13

Jan

2019

Don’t blame charities for drop box deaths

Author: Jim Taylor

Recently, a woman got trapped in a donation box in Toronto and died. A week earlier, a man died in a West Vancouver donation box. The media found that since 2015, eight people have died trying to get inside these clothing bins.

            Critics called the bins “death traps.” A witness to the Toronto woman’s death said, “She was just utterly pinned in there… It was like an animal trap designed not to release her.”

            In a collection of panicky responses, West Vancouver ordered all donation bins in the city locked. Vancouver considered banning them completely. Diabetes Canada decided to retrofit all of its 4000 clothing donation bins across the country. Burnaby called for the removal of all bins.

            All of which seems to imply that hundreds of charities – national, regional, or local – are at fault for risking the public’s health.

            No one seems to be asking why the public is getting into the bins anyway.


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9

Jan

2019

Dealing with life’s disabilities

Author: Jim Taylor

My dog is going deaf. At thirteen and half, she’s earned it -- that’s a ripe old age for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

            First we noticed that she no longer came running to greet us when the garage door opened.

            Then she didn’t hear the doorbell ring.

            And she didn’t come when I whistled.

            When a Chessie doesn’t respond to the word “Food!” we knew something was seriously wrong with her hearing.

            Her deafness has affected our relationship. She now ignores commands that she used to obey, if reluctantly. Then she looks puzzled about why we’re upset with her. She apparently never developed the skill of lip reading.

            Once, when we had conversations on our walks, she didn’t know what I was saying. Now, she doesn’t even know I’m saying anything.

 


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6

Jan

2019

No joking about bombs

Author: Jim Taylor

On New Year’s Eve, as 100,000 rain-soaked revellers gathered in Times Square to watch the giant ball descend at midnight, someone at the U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Nebraska posted a Twitter message.

            The tweet, accompanied by a video clip of a B-2 bomber dropping nuclear warheads, declared: “"#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball...if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger."

            Three hours later, a more senior person posted an apology: “Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize. We are dedicated to the security of America & allies.”

            Those tweets were inevitably followed by hundreds of replies --  roughly divided among

a)    thanking Strategic Command for keeping America safe,

b)   insisting that the whole thing was supposed to be humorous, and

c)    wondering why anyone who thinks nuclear weapons are a joking matter should be trusted with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

 


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2

Jan

2019

Don’t depend on definitions

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve made my New Year’s Resolution. I hereby resolve that I will not participate in arguments based upon definitions. 

            A definition, by definition, defines. More precisely, it de-fines. Note the prefix. If you look up “de-” in  a dictionary, you’ll find it means to remove, reduce, lower… In other words, definitions narrow any discussion. They shift the focus from lived experience to someone else’s wisdom, frozen into print. 

            Once, in an early essay, I used the phrase “by definition.” My instructor scribbled, “Whose definition?” 

            Because definitions change. 

           Many people, I suspect, don’t realize the un-examined definitions they’re working with. 

            A friend yearns for mystical experiences. It won’t happen. Because, under pressure, he admits that an encounter with God requires getting knocked senseless, blinded -- or at least blind-sided -- and ordered by a disembodied voice like Paul Robeson’s to change his life.



 

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