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

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30

Apr

2020

How not to make friends and influence people

Author: Jim Taylor

After a month of trying to trace my late wife’s account numbers, policies, investments, and benefits, I can say one thing with certainty – I hate automated voice menus!

            There are times when I think I would rather forfeit any moneys owing than deal with another supposedly helpful telephone menu.

            At some point, the synthetic voice will list a series of options, usually preceded by a caution: “Please listen carefully, as these options have been changed recently.”

            None of the options deals with my needs. I press the number for the most likely option.

            I wait. I get an endless loop of music, periodically interrupted by assurances that the company considers my call very important. 

            Half an hour later, the next available representative is still not available. 

            Corporate voice mail systems are about as inscrutable as the Sphinx.


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26

Apr

2020

Oil’s worth goes worthless

Author: Jim Taylor

The world changed this last week – did you notice? The world’s most valuable commodity was momentarily worthless.

            No, I don’t mean gold. Gold has been valued for a very long time, mostly because it doesn’t tarnish. But the world could get along reasonably well without gold. Or platinum. Or even diamonds.

            I’m referring to oil.

            On one crucial day, for the first time ever, West Texas crude, the gold standard for oil, dropped to minus-$37 U.S. a barrel.


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24

Apr

2020

Entering a strange new land

Author: Jim Taylor

I would not want to be a refugee. Pictures of them suggest they’re in shock, traumatized by the life they have chosen to leave behind. Civil wars. Poverty. Famine. Religious repression. Militias with licence to kill. 

            Refugees have hope, of course – they hope for freedom from poverty, from oppression, from persecution. 

            But they have left so much behind. So much that was dear to them. Businesses that they sank their heart and soul into, with a clientele built over years, maybe even generations. Extended families -- aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, nieces and nephews, sometimes their own children. Languages and customs familiar since infancy. 

            All given up for a new life they don’t know yet, they can’t know yet. 


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19

Apr

2020

Three myths Covid-19 has killed

Author: Jim Taylor

I am soooooooo sick of Covid-19. Let me correct any misimpression – I am not sick WITH Covid-19. I don’t have chills, fever, or cough. I don’t have difficulty breathing. And I’m not in intensive care.

            I am sick OF Covid-19 the same way I’m sick of Donald Trump. And Brexit. And the way I used to be sick of the Democratic primaries in the U.S. Now, Bernie Sanders can throw in the towel and earn only a two-inch space on an inside page. 

            Surely something else is going on in the world other than Covid-19?

            Has Norway slid into the North Sea? Has Luxembourg declared war on Botswana? Has the Taliban professed Franklin Graham as their Lord and Saviour?  

            In the current pandemic of pandemic news coverage, how would anyone know? 

            The media’s obsession with Covid-19 makes me wonder what we might be overlooking. I suggest that three pervasive myths have had a stake driven through their hearts, 

 

           


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17

Apr

2020

Poetry: the bare essentials

Author: Jim Taylor

This is National Poetry Month. Officially recognized since 1998.

            Does anyone care? A friend says he does doesn’t get poetry. Never has, not since his high school teacher tried to explain it to him. 

            I blame the teacher. You can’t explain poetry. Either you get it or you don’t. Either those images leap off the page and dance a polka in your head, or they don’t. 

            Explaining poetry is like explaining a joke -- if you have to do it, don’t bother. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Poetry, metaphor

12

Apr

2020

Don’t expect to go back to normal

Author: Jim Taylor

People say to me, “When all this is over,” as if everything will return to normal -- whatever they think normal is -- as soon as the Covid-19 furore ends. 

            I doubt if things will ever go back to normal. At least, not to what we used to consider normal. 

            This may seem like a bleak subject for an Easter weekend, but it’s relevant – please read on. 

            A disease does not go away simply by restricting its transmission. 

            Suppose that Dr. Bonnie Henry’s isolation measures eliminate the Covid-19 virus within B.C. No new cases show up for, say, a whole month. All current cases recover. Our province becomes Covid-free.

            The only way to stay Covid-free would be to deny entry to anyone who comes from anywhere that is not equally Covid-free. Other provinces, and neighbouring U.S. states, to say nothing of the rest of the world. Otherwise the transmission ripples start all over again. 


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9

Apr

2020

Handwashing for beginners

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is Maundy Thursday.

            Maundy? Probably not a word you run across often. “Maundy” apparently derives from Latin mandatum, meaning commandment.

            Traditionally, today celebrates the last evening Jesus spent with his disciples. Where he took pita bread, or some equivalent, and tore it up, and told his disciples, “This bread is (like) my body (which will be) broken for your sakes.”

            And he poured wine into their cups (today it would probably be Tim Hortons coffee), and said, more or less, “This is like blood. You need it to keep your strength up. Drink it, and remember me in tough times.”

            Treat those as commands, and you have “Maundy”.


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4

Apr

2020

Palm Sunday was not a victory parade

Author: Jim Taylor

Tomorrow, Christian churches all over the western world will celebrate Palm Sunday. (Eastern-rite churches will celebrate a week later. )

               Most of our churches will celebrate the day as triumphant. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. All four gospels tell us that the crowds go wild. They hail him as the long-promised Messiah. They tear palm branches off the trees and wave them in the air. They rip off their clothes and throw them on the ground for the donkey to trample on. They shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”

               The streets of Jerusalem must have looked like downtown Toronto after the Raptors won the NBA championship, with Jesus playing the part of Kawhi Leonard.

               But the crowds just didn’t get it. 


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2

Apr

2020

The wilderness experience revisited

Author: Jim Taylor

With humour in relatively short supply these days, my own mental energy even shorter, and  April Fool’s Day just over, I thought some biblical exegesis might be in order. So here is a reading from Exodus, chapter 16, (Disclosure: adapted from a version published in 2014).

            The entire assembly complained about the leadership of Moses and his brother Aaron. They said, “Why did you lead us out of Egypt where McDonald’s was open 24/7, to bring us out to this wilderness where we will surely die of fast food deprivation?”

            “Give us this day our daily burgers,” they chanted.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Moses, manna, Exodus, satire

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