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

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28

Feb

2020

Wisdom from the mountains

Author: Jim Taylor

How could I resist a book sub-titled, A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures?

            I’ve been a fan of mountain climbing ever since my early years in the foothills of India’s Himalayas. Until you’ve done it, it’s hard to imagine the sheer awe of cresting a ridge and seeing a range of 25,000-foot mountains rising across the sky. 

            But “Non-Euclidian” mountaineering?

            It’s  because author Rene Daumal’s mountain, Mount Analogue, is imaginary. It gives him the opportunity to use mountaineering wisdom to illuminate ordinary life. 


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23

Feb

2020

Hereditary chiefs launch a landslide

Author: Jim Taylor

For a writer, it’s almost freeing to know that anything I say about the Wet’suwet’en affair will be denounced by someone as wrong, misguided, misleading, and/or prejudiced. 

            After all, this single issue combines aboriginal rights, colonial injustice, social stereotyping, racial discrimination, capitalism, fossil fuels, the law, the economy, global warming, global trade, and the rights of nature. How could it help being divisive?

            And yet at the heart of it stand just nine men -- the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people in northern B.C.

            A natural gas pipeline running from Dawson Creek to Kitimat on the B.C. coast would have to pass through Wet’suwet’en territory. 


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22

Feb

2020

Black history is more than words

Author: Jim Taylor

My granddaughter is black – adopted, from Ethiopia. She lives in a mostly white community and school system. 

            Her school, I gather, has largely ignored February as Black History Month. 

            Granted, Black History would not teach her much about Ethiopia. Or even about Africa. Black History, from what I’ve seen, deals mainly with American slavery. 

            Slavery is not limited to American experience, of course. For centuries, all over the world,  slaves were property. The mighty could measure their wealth by the number of slaves. 

            Until recently, the stories of American slavery were not transcribed  into words. They were handed down orally. Just as Indigenous stories were. Just as biblical stories were.


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18

Feb

2020

Fragile composure

Author: Jim Taylor

My wife Joan has been handling the gradual decline of her life with astonishing composure. But occasionally, the veneer cracks, and I realize how fragile she is, physically and emotionally. I try to imagine myself into her experience, and can’t – inevitably, I drift off into my story, not hers.

            So as once before, I’ve chosen the ruthless structure of classical haiku – three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables – to enforce some discipline on my monkey mind. 

 

 

Walking on water

ice fractures under my feet

fall into nothing


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: dying, death, unknown

16

Feb

2020

Billionaires battle for the presidency

Author: Jim Taylor

My wife and I watch Jeopardy, most evenings, for three reasons. Its host is Alex Trebek, a Canadian. It involves knowledge and intelligence. And it has no guns.

            But Jeopardy is not on any Canadian channel in our area. We have to watch it on Seattle’s KOMO. Which means that we’re suddenly seeing several advertisements every hour for Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to become U.S. president.

            Apparently Bloomberg has already spent $350 million U.S. on advertising. That’s about ten times more than Bernie Sanders has spent, so far.

            And there’s still most of a year to go.

 


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15

Feb

2020

My best New Year’s Resolution ever

Author: Jim Taylor

Back in January, I made a New Year’s Resolution, but I haven’t written about it, just in case it turned out to be like so many other resolutions that last only until someone puts chocolates on the table.

            Fortunately, my resolution wasn’t about chocolates. It was about superlatives.

            To put all of this in a grammatical context, we have, generally speaking, three levels of comparison -- good, better, and best.

            One: this is good. No comparison involved. 

            Two: the comparative -- this is better. 

            Three, the superlative: this is best. Or worst, in some cases. Ideally, again, of a number of known choices. The highest score among a specific group of competitors. The fastest time in a particular high school’s track meet. The lowest temperature this winter.

            But that’s not Donald Trump’s style. He chronically uses what I think of as absolute superlatives. Asserting, for example, that he was “the greatest president ever.” Or that something was the “worst trade deal ever made.” Or that Islamic terrorism is “the greatest threat the U.S. has ever faced.”


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9

Feb

2020

For China, even compassion is politics

Author: Jim Taylor

The first airlift of Canadians trapped in the quarantined Chinese city of Wuhan took place on Thursday. A second flight is currently scheduled for next Tuesday, February 10. 

            In the meantime, at least 12 other countries have been able to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. News reports identify the U.S., Australia, Japan, South Korea, France, Morocco, Germany, Kazakhstan, the U.K., Russia, Netherlands, and Myanmar.

            How come they could do it, and Canada took so long?

            Health Minister Patty Hajdu conceded that the federal government was initially caught off guard and had "a slow start in terms of organizing" the evacuation plane.

            Kazakhstan was better prepared for a health crisis than Canada was? Give me a break!

            Although nobody is saying it out loud, there seems to me a connection between the delays encountered in getting Canadian citizens out of China and the highly publicized court case in Vancouver, B.C. deliberating the fate of Meng Wanzhou.


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6

Feb

2020

The rise of the un-religious

Author: Jim Taylor

Bad news for religious institutions – churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and gurdwaras – the agnostics are winning. 

            The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a conservative Christian organization, recently completed a poll of Canadians over the age of 18. In summary, they found that “half of Canadians are either agnostic, atheist or unreligious. And only a tenth attend religious services weekly.”

            Like all polls, it’s a sampling of opinions and experiences. It put its questions to 5,000 Canadians, regardless of their brand of religion. So it’s not just about evangelicals. 

             The single biggest finding is that 50% of Canadians no longer claim any religious affiliation. They consider themselves agnostics, atheists, or “spiritual but not religious” (abbreviated to AASN).

            Those who still consider themselves Christian – Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, whatever – make up only 43% of the Canadian population.


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2

Feb

2020

The “laws” we invent

Author: Jim Taylor

In high school, we were taught that there were two immutable laws in nature -- the Law of Conservation of Matter, and the Law of Conservation of Energy.

            Then the atomic bomb blew both laws into anywhere. They had to be combined: the total of matter and energy remains constant -- even if bits of each could be swapped. (Although I don’t think anyone has yet attempted to turn energy back into matter. )

            That got me thinking about a variety of other so-called Laws.

            For example, the Peter Principle, devised by author Lawrence J. Peter with Raymond Hull. It said, in essence, that institutions promote people to their level of incompetence.


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