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

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31

Mar

2019

“We are one. They are us.”

Author: Jim Taylor

 I feel that someone from New Zealand needs to respond and let you and your readers know that what you propose as a new way of thinking is exactly what is happening here.

            On 15 March, the day of the shootings in two Christchurch mosques, but before anyone knew how many had been killed and injured, our Prime Minister, 38-year-old Jacinda Ardern, told the nation "We are one. They are us." That theme has been echoed in the ten days that have followed, by all who have the opportunity to speak publicly -- other politicians, journalists, church and civic leaders. Thousands of people throughout New Zealand have attended prayer vigils and special services, alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters. Human chains have been formed around mosques to symbolize standing together to protect each other. Non-Muslim women, including the Prime Minister, have worn the hijab in solidarity.


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27

Mar

2019

How not to create a masterpiece

Author: Jim Taylor

At an art show, I chatted with an artist. In her studio, she explained, artists painted collectively.

            I found that hard to comprehend. “Don’t you get upset when someone meddles with your vision?” I asked.

            “Sometimes,” she agreed. “If I’ve done a canvas built of blues, say, and someone plops a blob of orange into it. But then my blues take on a different mood.”

            She clearly believed her creed – many minds can work together for common benefit.

            I like the idea of working together in a community. For one thing, it’s much more enjoyable than working alone. But I can’t imagine a dozen different painters producing a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt. (A Picasso, possibly.)

            Perhaps my skepticism results from working with words. After 60 years, I’m convinced that editing by committee never produces a better text. Never. Friend and fellow-writer Isabel Gibson called “group editing” the “most pernicious form of compromise known to humans.”


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24

Mar

2019

Hate crimes don’t yield to reason

Author: Jim Taylor

Hate strikes again! In New Zealand/Aotearoa of all places. The whole country has less than ten gun-related murders a year; only 35 murders in the whole of 2018. 

            Then in a single afternoon, 50 people dead. Another 40 or so injured, some requiring amputations to save their lives. And hundreds who will suffer post-traumatic stress for months. 

            Just because they were Muslims, worshipping at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. 

            As I write these sentences, one suspect has been arrested – 26-year-old Brenton Tarrant. 

            In a 74-page manifesto, Tarrant declared himself to be a right-wing white supremacist. I’m almost grateful to him for being honest. I’ve long argued that the primary threat to peace does not come from left-wing radicals, but from the far right. Even the FBI, long obsessed with Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist paranoia, now admits that fact. 


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20

Mar

2019

The mattress that fell from the sky

Author: Jim Taylor

We were driving home, one dark night, down Highway 97. My headlights, on low beam, lit the pavement ahead for a short distance, but little else. 

            Then suddenly, something large and white came flying over the top of the car ahead. It landed on the road. I didn’t have time to swerve. Or brake. I ran over it. 

            Ka-whoomp! The car bounced high, as if going over a giant speedbump. Then it settled back onto the road. 

            “What was that?” Joan exclaimed. 

            Over the next few moments, we compared our impressions. We concluded – from the flying object’s size and shape  -- that it must have been a mattress. Probably a double-bed mattress. Possibly even a queen-size.


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17

Mar

2019

Regime changes don’t work

Author: Jim Taylor

I hesitate to write anything at all about Venezuela. I don’t speak Spanish  (beyond dos cervesas por favor).I haven’t lived there. I have no inside informants. 

            In trying to sort out the confusion, I turn to an unlikely source – Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr. Rohr’s speciality is religion, not international politics. But I have found his process for understanding Bible stories helpful in deciphering complex secular issues. 

            A story needs four levels of analysis, Rohr argues. 

            There is, first, the literal level. No interpretation, “just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday used to say. 

            In Venezuela’s case, the literal level is complex enough. President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded former President Hugo Chavez, got re-elected in what many consider a fraudulent election. He consolidated his power by creating a constituent assembly, made up of his supporters, to replace the existing National Assembly, which is controlled by his opposition. In the absence of what it considers a legitimately elected president, the National Assembly declared its Speaker, Juan Guaido to be Maduro’s constitutional successor. 

            By analogy, imagine Donald Trump creating an alternative Congress composed of his fans, while the existing House of Representatives declares Nancy Pelosi to be the rightful president. 


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13

Mar

2019

The holiness in our relationships

Author: Jim Taylor

           Some relationships are long lasting; some are fleeting. The wonder of relationships is that they can happen anywhere, with anyone. 

            Relationships don’t have to be lasting to be worthwhile. Certainly, long term friendships are worth working at. Letters, phone calls, emails – all help to sustain those relationships. But even when you haven’t seen someone for ten years, a good relationship can be picked up again almost instantly. There may be a lot of catching up to do, but the relationship itself doesn’t have to be re-built from the ground up. 

            But even short-term relationships, the kind where you never expect to see this person again, have value. In the line waiting for a grocery cashier. On a sidewalk. In an elevator. In a family. In a club or church. 

            They can brighten a day, bring a smile to two or more faces, provide unexpected insights. 


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10

Mar

2019

Imaginary games with imaginary money

Author: Jim Taylor

It just vanished -- $190 million. But was it ever there?

            The $190 million was in crypto-currency, controlled by a Canadian firm called QuadrigaCX. The best known crypto-currency is probably Bitcoin -- an imaginary currency invented, appropriately, by an imaginary person who used the name Satoshi Nakamoto,just ten years ago.

            QuadrigaCX, once Canada’s largest crypto-currency exchange, was founded by Gerald Cotten, a resident of Nova Scotia. Only Cotten knew the encrypted passwords required to access the company’s digit assets.

            As I understand crypto-currencies -- and I don’t -- they’re supposed to be an unhackable way to store wealth. It can’t be touched by governments, banks, or internet thieves, because its security depends on a “block chain” of computers, all of which have to be convinced that a transaction is legitimate before it can go ahead.

            When Cotten died, his crypto-keys died with him. Hmmm…Maybe you can take it with you?

 

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8

Mar

2019

Dew drops

Author: Jim Taylor

On the coldest day of the coldest month ever recorded here in the Okanagan Valley, I caught myself thinking wistfully about spring. Into my mind popped a vision of dew drops clinging to fresh green grass in the morning sun. If felt so attractive I began writing a poem. 


dew drop clings to a spiring stem

spherical lens magnifies

nano-scenes within the grass

shivers in a morning breeze

sun yawns over the eastern rim of the bowl of life 

overflows

spilling holiness across

a waking world


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: dew dawn grass

8

Mar

2019

Unauthorized, unofficial, but real

Author: Jim Taylor

When you put a hundred or so teenagers together for a week, anything can happen. When you put them together 24 hours a day, in study sessions, discussion groups, singing, doing sensitivity exercises, attending meetings, and sleeping on the floor of a (separate) gyms, emotions can get overloaded. 

            So it was, back in 1982, at what was called a Youth Forum in Montreal. 

             Because it was a church-run event, we had worship services. Not everyone attended. 

            Towards the end, we put on a replica of John Wesley’s Re-covenanting Service. In the style of Wesley’s time, it provided an opportunity for personal confession of our sins and shortcomings, followed by the laying on of hands for healing and absolution. 

            I thought it would simply expose the young people to the customs of an earlier tradition.

            I was wrong. As the 30 or so young people attending came forward, knelt, and confessed, tears flowed abundantly. 


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3

Mar

2019

Symbolic gestures can make a difference

Author: Jim Taylor

I wore a pink shirt last Wednesday. Pink is not my colour. It makes me look like cotton candy with a beard.

            But Wednesday was anti-bullying day, so I wore pink.

            It feels like a futile gesture. After all, what difference will it make if one old man wears a pink shirt for one day? School yard bullies won’t see it at all. Neither will patriarchal males in India and Africa who think of women as something inferior, to do with as they please. Nor will my pink shirt influence the behaviour of egocentric rulers in Riyadh or Moscow, Washington or Damascus.

            Short answer -- no difference at all.

            So why bother?

            I hear that response often, when I get into discussions about the state of the world. 


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