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

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27

Mar

2021

Conspiracies rely on self-delusion

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 28, 2021

 Widespread belief in conspiracies is self-contradictory. A conspiracy requires vast numbers of people. Whose activities must be closely coordinated. Without anyone knowing about it.

            Although conspiracy theories have been around forever, QAnon is relatively recent. It started with a single post, in October 2017, by someone anonymously claiming “Q-level” security clearance to top secret data. 

            Disclosure: I have not personally received QAnon mailings. Not yet, anyway. 

            But Robert Guffey has. An author who spent 24 years writing about conspiracy theories in the U.S., Guffey followed up sources that a correspondent assured him would provide unchallengeable truths about – well, let’s see:


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27

Mar

2021

Three alternative prayers

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 25, 2021 

 

In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

            Many, I’m sure, repeat the traditional Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, Which Art in Heaven…” 

            Some might remember the Latin words: “Pater noster, qui es in caelis…”

            I suspect many just fall silent, because they don’t know what to say, or to whom. 

            Why don’t we all just say the traditional Lord’s Prayer? Because a few people – I’m one of them -- have genuine difficulties with the all-knowing all-seeing old-man-in-the-sky image I used to accept unthinkingly. 

            Rather, over the years, I’ve become convinced, beyond any doubt, that God is not out there, somewhere, but right here. Right now. 

            So for that 30 seconds, I turn to some of my favourite prayers, which are about the right length to fit the silence. 


In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Prayers

27

Mar

2021

Power and sex make uneasy bedfellows

Author: Jim Taylor

Saturday March 21, 2021

Canada’s two top military officers, General Jonathan Vance and Admiral Art McDonald, are under investigation for charges of sexual misconduct. 

            One of the highest-ranking female officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor (no relation) sent a scathing letter of resignation, saying she was “sickened” but “not surprised” by the culture of sexual harassment in the military.

            “Harassment” and “misconduct” are marshmallow words. Squishy. Distortable. They could cover everything from light flirtation – is there anybody who never flirted with a colleague or co-worker? – to groping, intimidation, assault, and rape. 

           I hasten to add that none of those named above have been proven guilty. The charges are, as yet, only allegations. 

            Even unproven, though, they form a depressing pattern. 


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27

Mar

2021

Geese don’t get no respect

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 18, 2021 

 

 I remember one of life’s sensory pleasures, walking barefoot on the mudflats at Hopewell Rocks Park at the top of the Bay of Fundy, feeling the sun-warmed red mud squishing up between my toes. 

            It was almost sacramental -- like having my feet gently massaged by Jesus’ hands in the Upper Room. 

            It’s much less pleasant when the stuff squishing between one’s toes is goose poop.

            Unfortunately, poop is what Canada Geese are best known for.

           As a result, Canada Geese have become undesirable. 

           And yet Canada Geese have a number of admirable characteristics that we humans might emulate.


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27

Mar

2021

Everyone is living history

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 14, 2021

 

My newspaper runs a daily feature, Today in History. It lists significant events that have happened on this particular day, long ago. 

            It makes me feel very old. Because I was there for at least half of every day’s listings. No, I wasn’t there when Charlemagne declared himself Holy Roman Emperor. Or when Nero fiddled while Rome went up in flames. 

            But you’d be surprised how much has happened since 1936. 

            I had just had my third birthday when Hitler invaded Poland, in September 1939, starting World War II 

            I was in London when Chamberlain returned from his visit to Hitler, declaring “Peace in our time.”

            On our way back to India, in 1940, the rear deck of our ship was piled high with depth charges, in preparation for the Japanese attack that everyone knew was coming. Even if it didn’t happen until December 7, 1941. 


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27

Mar

2021

Following her final wishes

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 11, 2021 

 

Saturday March 13 marks one year since my wife’s death. Originally, we planned to have her memorial service a week after she died. 

            Joan had worked with our minister at the time to plan a service that reflected her preferences.

            In the 15 years she spent working at the United Church of Canada’s national offices in Toronto, the most inspiring were as administrative assistant in the worship portfolio. She developed a deep appreciation for the church’s sacraments. Even though it is not normally included in memorial services, she wanted to have communion at her service. 

            She couldn’t have anticipated that the day after her death, the province would go into Covid-19 lockdown. 

            Somehow, I thought that the new rules would not apply to anything as earth-shaking as Joan’s death. We would have a service at our church, regardless. 

            Nope.

            Grief tends to over-react that way. 


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27

Mar

2021

Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, & Dr. Seuss

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 7, 2021

  

In June this year, Aunt Jemima will die. So will Uncle Ben. 

            The companies that own those trademarks – Pepsi Cola and Quaker Oats for Aunt Jemima, Mars for Uncle Ben – have decided those brand images “do not fit our core values.”

            They reek of southern slavery. 

            So they have to come down. Like those statues of Robert E. Lee and Lord Cornwallis. And renaming of sports teams, schools, and streets to banish references to an unsavory past. 

            Who’s next for the chopping block? Dr. Seuss?

            Actually, yes. Six of his books will stop being published, AP reported this week, “because of racist and insensitive imagery, said the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy.”

            The name given to this practice is “revisionism.” 


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27

Mar

2021

Guidelines for better discussions

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 4, 2021

 I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. My aging body no longer permits some other activities, but I haven’t lost my ability to take part in a lively discussion. Yet. 

            Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion, which range from saying too much to not saying anything. 

            In my experience, the most pernicious fault is to drag in an external authority. Perhaps relying on the insights of a famous writer. A quotation from a scientist. A definition from a dictionary. A theory from a theologian. 

            Or, in some circles, citing selected verses from a scriptural text.


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2

Mar

2021

When life becomes intolerable

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday February 28, 2021

The federal government in Ottawa has proposed a new bill that would allow Canadians suffering from “grievous and irremediable mental illnesses” – the wording comes from a Canadian Press report – to opt for a medically assisted death.

            If they choose to do so. 

            The revised legislation will permit them that choice. The previous legislation didn’t.

            The original Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law, which came into effect in June 2016, required the person seeking assistance in dying to be capable of consenting. 

           Which excluded persons suffering from various forms of cognitive impairment –those in a coma, or unconscious from pain medication, or who had Alzheimer’s Disease, or who had suffered brain damage… 

            In other words. a lot of people. 


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2

Mar

2021

Walking billboards

Author: Jim Taylor

I wore a pink T-shirt yesterday, Anti-Bullying Day in Canada. But because this isn’t T-shirt weather, I wore it over the top of my other clothes, to make it more visible. 

            Anti-Bullying Day started in Canada. I’m proud of that fact, as proud as an apologetic Canadian can be about anything.

            Two teenagers in Nova Scotia, David Shepherd and Travis Price, objected to another student being ridiculed for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. So they bought 50 pink shirts and handed them out to other students, to wear in solidarity with the bullying victim. 

            So when I took the dog out for her morning walk yesterday, I was wearing a pink T-shirt. Also, red-and-white socks, a thank-you gift from the Canadian Red Cross for a donation in my wife’s memory. A blue tuque from my church’s Thrift Shop. A Rotary pin. 

            And I thought, I’m a walking billboard!


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