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

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30

Dec

2018

The death of optimism offers hope

Author: Jim Taylor

Here we are -- like deer on a road, transfixed by the headlights of 2019 bearing down on us. I don’t know anyone who’s looking forward to the new year.

            Is it just me? Or is this a pervasive view in North America?

            Climate change, hurricanes, floods, droughts, volcanoes, tidal waves, crashing stock markets, meaningless mass murders, price-gouging pharmaceutical companies, trade wars, toxic chemicals, crumbling infrastructures, refugees, terrorists, nuclear re-armament, computer hackers -- the news is as bleak as a winter day. And I haven’t even mentioned the White House yet…

            The world, it would seem, is going to hell in a handcart.

            What I am feeling, I think, is the death of optimism.


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26

Dec

2018

Crescent moon

Author: Jim Taylor

This poem grew out of seeing the sliver of a new moon, suspended in the night sky shortly after sunset. Net time you see such a moon, try reciting this poem out loud to it. 



Hail to thee, silver crescent in the sky.

Tell me what you think you are.

 

Are you the universal sickle --

whetstoned symbol of seasonal harvest,

a harbinger of hope 

that reaps the plainest grains,

to feed the famined millions?

 

Or are you the scimitar of Saladin, 

white-hot steel tempered in the algebra of zero....


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26

Dec

2018

Standing at the gate of the year

Author: Jim Taylor

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown…”

            King George VI used those words in his Christmas address to the British Empire, in 1939--three months after World War II had begun. They seemed prophetic, given the “unknown” massing across the English Channel.

            It seems appropriate again, as we head into a new year in which the unpredictable Donald Trump is likely to be even more explosively unpredictable, a new year  in which China and Russia flex their muscles, in which financial markets display suicidal impulses, and in which global warming draws closer to irreversibility.

            The night looks dark.

            “Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown…”


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23

Dec

2018

A nativity story updated

Author: Jim Taylor

           In those days a decree went out, from the emperors living in their glass houses with closed circuit surveillance cameras and 24-hour security patrols, that all the world should be embroiled in civil wars, so that their spheres of influence might be extended over unwilling populations. 

            And so the imperial forces used remote-control drones to bomb innocent victims in Yemen, and brought 20 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. 

            And they burned to the ground 400 Rohingya villages in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and forced a seemingly endless line of 900,000 people to seek refuge in Bangladesh, where they lived in bamboo shelters on low-lying land prone to flooding.

            And they bombed prosperous cities in Syria and Iraq into rubble, and turned religious factions against each other, and drove the Yazidi minority to retreat into rocky mountains.

            And they maintained armies of occupation in Afghanistan and Crimea, and confined the residents of Gaza into their own private concentration camp, and built walls to restrict the movement of Mexicans and Hondurans and Palestinians. 

            And behold, the number of displaced people around the world, many of them refugees within their own countries, rose to 70 million. 


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19

Dec

2018

Christmas trees and memories

Author: Jim Taylor

I woke in the middle of the night, sensing something was wrong. Beyond the bedroom door, I could see light, where there shouldn’t have been any.

            It came from our living room. We had forgotten to turn off the lights on the Christmas tree.

            I could have turned them off, and fumbled through deeper darkness back to bed. But I didn’t. I settled into an easy chair, and sank into a reverie.

            Joan and I had decorated that tree, earlier that day. Every ornament had its story. The spire on top, that she remembers from her childhood. Glass balls accumulated, year after year. Delicate brass symbols bought on trips to Europe. Fabric decorations she painstakingly embroidered…

            We didn’t have any of those when we started life together. Just tinsel, that we hung strand by strand. And walnuts, sprayed gold, for balls. And paper snowflakes stuck to our windows with Saran wrap


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16

Dec

2018

Two books for every religious liberal

Author: Jim Taylor

At year end, many columnists share their reading recommendations. My recommendations are quite short. Just two books.

            I’ve read more than that, of course. But these two left a lasting impression on me: A God That Could Be Real, by Nancy Ellen Abrams, and The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt.

            I like the Abrams book because it takes a totally different approach to discussing the reality — or not — of a divine being. I don’t recall her ever quoting the Bible. Or the doctrines of any church. Or the theories of any theologian.

            Instead of starting with whatever people already know and assume about the nature of God, she starts with science. With what we already know, and we can know, about the universe we live in.


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12

Dec

2018

Nativity scenes

Author: Jim Taylor

Every year, my old friend Kenn Ward sets up a Nativity scene in his front yard in Winnipeg.

            Many of us have indoor Nativity scenes, often called a creche. And we never set the figures up exactly the same way each year. Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus take centre stage, of course. But the shepherds, the visitors from the east, the animals – they get shuffled around, depending on what we feel is the essential theme of the story, this year.

            Kenn has that problem too, with the bigger figures for his outdoor creche. “I never know quite what to expect,” he wrote on Facebook. “Usually one of the figures, or a group of them, insist that they have been neglected and deserve more prominence in the scene. There is often a clash of egos… 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Bible, Nativity, creche

5

Dec

2018

Depression

Author: Jim Taylor

            A friend is going through a deep depression.  I tried to imagine myself inside his skin, and out came another poem. It begins

Dimness descends like a curtain.

Murk buries me, plugs my nostrils,

seals my ears; I hear nothing,

not even my own thoughts.

I wallow in my private pig-sty.

I want to move, but my muscles

have turned to water; every step feels like

wading in molasses....


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: Depression, misery, despair

5

Dec

2018

Permission to let go

Author: Jim Taylor

“All the leaves have gone,” sang The Mamas and the Papas in their short but brilliant musical career. 

            Their words come to mind as I look out my office window. Joan and I planted a Japanese red maple out there, 20 years ago. All its leaves have gone. 

            Except for two lonely twigs that still have bright red leaves clinging to their tips. The twigs lash about in winter winds. But those last leaves won’t let go.

        Perhaps I should go outside and say a prayer for the last leaves on my maple tree. So that they can let go too.


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2

Dec

2018

While the planet burns, we bulldoze

Author: Jim Taylor

 The space probe InSight landed safely on Mars last Tuesday. NASA is working on plans to send humans to Mars. When it happens, I hope NASA will include some real estate developers. 

            They would love Mars. It looks exactly like what they do to the earth when they’re building new projects. 

            Mars has no vegetation. No tree-hugging residents to protest about the destruction of their natural habitat. No cuddly animals to arouse the sympathies of sentimental do-gooders.

            For over 20 years, I have taken my dog for walks on the ridge that rises to the east of my home. Although it doesn’t have palm trees and sandy beaches, it’s about as close to paradise as I can imagine. Knee-high grass grows wild among the pines. Sunlight filters through the branches, illuminating the local sunflowers. From a rock bluff, I have a view along the 160-km lake that fills the Okanagan valley. 

            But a developer – I could name the company, but any other developer would do the same – bought that ridge. 

 


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