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

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You don’t have to fight growing older

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 31, 2021


When did I grow old? I knew aging had to happen, but I thought it would take longer. 

               When I was young, the inevitability of growing old never occurred to me. I was Peter Pan; aging was never-never.

               Even into my seventies, I didn’t think of myself as old. Sure, my hair developed what an internet wit called “wisdom highlights.” But I still had employable skills. My mind and my muscles still worked. I still had a future stretching ahead of me. 

               And then one day, I realized that things had changed. 

               I didn’t think of myself as old. But I couldn’t think of myself as young either. 

               And the future contained more of the same. Or, more likely, less of the same. 

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Every work of art has its “provenance”

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 28, 2021 


I am awash in provenance. 

            In the art world, provenance identifies the origins of artwork. The art could be a painting, a statue, a piece of music or literature. Often, provenance enhances the value of a work of art. Mozart’s Requiem takes on special status when you know that Salieri wrote it out for a dying Mozart – at least, according to the movie Amadeus. 

            That’s why art galleries provide information about the artist, and about the history of that piece. 

            In my case, I have too much provenance. My daughter and I are the only leaves left of four family trees. 

            Everything funnelled down to us has a story. 

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Autism study shakes preconceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 24, 2021


Jill Sanghvi wrote her thesis in India, for Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium.

            Sanghvi recognized that most studies treated autism as a “deficit.” That is, it rendered the person less than normal. Handicapped. Victim of a disability. 

            The words themselves have negative connotations. 

            So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you will find. 

            These studies were all by non-autistic adults. Writing ABOUT, or FOR, people with autism. 

            Sanghvi resolved to do something different. Young people themselves would tell their stories. And she would not ask them about the “deficits” they experienced as objects of ridicule, bullying, or pity. She would ask about their “wonderfulness.”

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: autism, India, Sanghvi




When brain synapses fire

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 21, 2021


I can tell how old you are, without asking. I merely have to cite three words: “Fibber McGee’s closet.”

            Did you smile? Even laugh out loud?

            Then you’re probably over 80. 

            Fibber McGee, for those of you with blank looks on your faces, was a radio program of the 1940s and parts of the 1950s. It featured the improbably named Fibber McGee. Who put everything he didn’t know what to do with into his closet. So, naturally, every time he opened his closet door, several hundred pots and pans and other clanging things came crashing out.

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Isolating those who are different

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 17, 2021


We who live in the enlightened western nations tend to heap scorn on the Hindu caste system. We don’t recognize that we have our own caste systems. 

            Indigenous communities scattered across the boreal north are our Dalits, the outcastes, the untouchables. “At any given time,” writes the Council of Canadians, “there are drinking water advisories in dozens of First Nations communities across Canada.”

           Most recently, Iqaluit residents were assured their water was safe, even though it smelled of diesel. Then this week that assurance was reversed – it was now unsafe even when boiled. 

            Can you imagine an entire city, like, say, Regina, being told its tap water was unsafe for drinking, for cooking, for washing, even for washing your hands in? There’d be hell to pay.

            But this is Iqaluit, not Regina.

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Seeking God on a glacier

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 14, 2021


On Friday the 13th of October, 49 years ago yesterday, a plane crashed in the highest peaks of the Andes. 

            Thirteen people died instantly; five more died soon after of injuries and cold. Another eleven died when an avalanche buried the remains of the fuselage.

            In the black and freezing night, Mando Parrado sometimes talked with his friend Arturo, slung in a makeshift hammock to ease the agony of two broken legs. 

            “What good is God to us?” Parrado said. “If he loves us so much, why would have leave us here to suffer?

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Facebook exploits angry protesters

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday October 10, 2021


A rising tide of people in this country apparently believe – body, mind, and spirit – that they are called overthrow the established powers-that-be. By any means. Including physical insurrection. 

             They seem to buy into some kind of conspiracy which they – and they alone – know about.

            I have a deep suspicion of all conspiracy theories. I find it far simpler to blame basic human emotions –greed, anger, ignorance, even stupidity – than to imagine vast numbers of people somehow collaborating in a mass movement to take over the world.

            But that works the other way, too.  I do not believe that the mainstream media – television, radio, newspapers, and magazines – conspire to censor negative information about masks and vaccines.

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The fine arts of persuasion

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday October 7, 2021


I grew up in the United Church of Canada. It’s a rational church.

            So it was a new experience for me to attend an all-black evangelical congregation in Barbados, back in my working journalist days.

            My host, the Rev. Kortright Davis, a senior staffer at the Caribbean Conference of Churches, was sent to encourage The United Holiness Church to support the CCC’s social justice program – which was, I would guess, anathema to a denomination deep into personal-salvation theology. 

            As we drove up, I could hear what sounded like a riot down the street. 

            As we got closer, I could see that the riot was at the church. 

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A childhood hard to imagine today

Author: Jim Taylor

Saturday October 2, 2021


Today happens to be my old schoolmate David Bryson’s birthday. It prompts me to venture deep into nostalgia.

            Our childhoods were so different from anything anyone might experience today, that occasionally I have to write my memories down. Otherwise, I fear, the day may come when I won’t believe them myself.

            For one thing, we went to school in India. In one of the hill stations where the British Civil Service and other expatriates fled to escape the heat and humidity of an Indian summer.

            The school was – and still is – Woodstock, 7,000 feet up in the foothills of the Himalayas.  It was also a boarding school. In Canada, think of the infamous residential schools for indigenous children. Unless our parents came up to the hills for a holiday, we children lived the entire school year in dormitories.

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Things that used to be

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday September 30, 2021


On the last day of this summer’s hiking camp, we hiked out to where Ripple Rock used to be, in the channel between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.

           At one time, Ripple Rock was a major maritime hazard. Two great spikes of rock jutted up from the sea floor, right in the middle of Seymour Narrows, barely three metres below the surface at low tide. 

            So in the 1950s, the federal government resolved to remove Ripple Rock forever. They drilled tunnels under the sea, then up into the rock’s twin peaks. They packed the tunnels with 1,400 tons of high explosive. 

            On April 5, 1958, they blew up Ripple Rock in the world’s largest non-nuclear peacetime explosion. . 

            So we hiked to a viewpoint, to see a rock that used to be there, but wasn’t there anymore, and hadn’t been there for 63 years, and that we couldn’t have seen even if it had been there, because it was all under the surface anyway. 


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