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

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26

Jun

2019

There’s more to life than weeds

Author: Jim Taylor

Last Friday was the longest day of the year. The sun came up at 4:49 a.m., and didn’t set again until 9:10 p.m.

            I was out in my garden pulling weeds, on my hands and knees, head down, nose near the earth, when I realized that half a year’s worth of daylight had passed me by.

           When I look back, I can remember the cherries in our neighbouring orchard coming out in blossom. Then the peaches, then the apples. I didn’t pay attention. 

            A little later in the year, dark red rhododendrons marched down our north fence. Near-fluorescent azaleas adorned our driveway -- orange, white, yellow, even purple. Our flowering dogwood stood as tall and white as a wedding dress. The catalpa exploded in creamy white petals like popcorn. Peonies were burdened with bloom.

            I saw them all. But I didn’t really pay attention to the beauty around me. Because I was too obsessed with weeds.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: weeds, beauty

23

Jun

2019

Killing at a safe distance

Author: Jim Taylor

It had to happen, I suppose. Around two million fans of the Toronto Raptors basketball team packed the city’s downtown streets for a victory celebration.

            Then someone took a gun into the crowd. And started shooting. 

            Four people sustained wounds. Three people were arrested; two firearms seized. 

            As I write this column, three suspects have been identified; a fourth is being hunted. So far, no one has offered a motive for the shooting. 

            You’re expecting another rant about guns and gun control. Not this time – because I think there’s a bigger issue involved.

            In case there’s any doubt, I do oppose guns. I did have a BB gun as a teenager. I haven’t owned a gun since; we didn’t let our children play with guns.

            But the real problem is not guns. It’s our ever-growing desire to distance ourselves from the effects of our actions. 


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21

Jun

2019

Everything

Author: Jim Taylor

Diana Butler-Bass’s book Groundedcontinues to set my creative juices surging. Here’s another poem, this time based on a lyrical description on pages 28-29 of the paperback edition. 

 

Sky

sea

sand

hills ripple along the horizon

sunrise softly suffuses pearl

the glow of awe

paint palettes merge and blend

watercolour on wet paper


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19

Jun

2019

Confused about winning and losing

Author: Jim Taylor

Last Thursday night, the Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA Championship, defeating the Golden State Warriors. Canada went wild. Even parts of Alberta cheered.

            This whole business of winning and losing leaves me a little confused.

            Because the only thing for the Raptors can look forward to now is losing. They can’t stay on top forever. Sooner or later, some other team will de-throne them.

            Like reaching the summit of Everest, the only place left to go is down.

            Years ago, when I was still a wannabe writer, I took a night-school class from Raymond Hull, co-author with Lawrence J. Peter of The Peter Principle.

            Hull taught that literature really had only three plots. 


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16

Jun

2019

Canada’s hands are not clean

Author: Jim Taylor

For years, I have railed against the policies of white supremacists – principally in the U.S., because of the daily deluge of news that spills north across the border, but also in New Zealand/Aotearoa, France, Germany, wherever….

            But I am now forced to recognize that Canada has been, and to some extent still is, a white supremacist nation. More specifically, a male white supremacist nation.

            The catalyst is the 1200-page report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – sanitized by abbreviating it to MMIWG – released Monday May 27.

            I have long known that my province imposed discriminatory taxes and restrictions on Chinese immigrants in past years. And that Canada turned away a ship full of Jewish refugees, and forcibly relocated Japanese residents during World War II.

            But the most consistent victims of Canada’s white supremacist policies have been our Indigenous peoples.


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12

Jun

2019

Attitudes that are NOT welcome

Author: Jim Taylor

A couple of Sundays ago, Bob Thompson, our minister-for-the-day, talked about what the United Church of Canada believes, or doesn’t  believe.

            He said, “I often hear that the United Church is tolerant. I don’t think it is. Like Coventry Cathedral, we do welcome ‘pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters – and you.’ But when you come in our doors, you need to know that we are not tolerant of attitudes that dismiss or demean others... 

            “If you are racist, misogynist, white supremacist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant, you are still welcome to come in. But don’t bring those ideas with you, and don’t expect them to be welcomed.”

            I like Bob’s distinction. Many religious communities have Statements of Faith – things you MUST believe if you want to belong. Anything else you want to believe, beyond that official statement, is up to you. 

            Sometimes it’s equally important to state what you may NOT believe. 


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9

Jun

2019

Mueller report: redacting is not editing

Author: Jim Taylor

Robert Mueller produced a 448-page report. U.S, Attorney General William Barr cut it down to four pages, of which only two actually dealt with the content of Mueller’s report.

            When Congress insisted on seeing more than Barr’s  brief summary, Barr produced a “redacted” report, with large portions of Mueller’s  text blacked out. Some pages had not one readable word remaining.

            A friend asked me, “What does ‘redact’ mean?”

            I gave her a dictionary definition -- to edit, to prepare a manuscript for publication.

            That definition illustrates how definitions themselves can and must change. Because what Barr did to Mueller’s report is an utter contradiction of editing. Any definition is -- by definition, if I dare use that term -- the way a word has been used up to that time. It is a snapshot, an understanding frozen and preserved. It cannot define how a word will be used in future.


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5

Jun

2019

Little things mean a lot

Author: Jim Taylor

A friend recommended a YouTube performance of “The Moldau,” the great symphonic poem by Bohemian composer Bedřich Smetana. Reviews called it “a stunning performance,” as indeed it was. Especially the interplay between flutes and clarinets in the opening phrases. 

            But as the symphony progressed, the camera kept cutting away, for a second or two, to a lone man playing the triangle.

            A triangle is perhaps the simplest of all musical instruments. It’s a bent piece of metal. It can play one note. That’s all. And yet the person playing that triangle had to believe that his one note was just as essential to the whole symphony as the first violinist’s cascade of melody. 

            That one note had to come at the right time. Exactly the right time. 

            His part mattered. Even if it was only one note. 


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2

Jun

2019

How to handle offensive opinions

Author: Jim Taylor

Here’s the problem. You have these friends, see, who keep sending you emails filled with racist slurs against Muslims, abortionists, “Indians” (they still use that term), Hindus, Asians, and immigrants in general. Oh, yes, and about climate-change hoaxes perpetrated by thousands of dishonest scientists who are being paid off by a small cabal of Jews trying to impose a tyrannical World Government on us…

            Should you cut them off? Block their emails? Terminate the friendship?

            Or do you try to reason with them? Prove their so-called facts incorrect? Point out the flaws in their logic?

            That might work if they reached their views as a reasoned conviction. But that’s unlikely. More likely, they’re regurgitating cultural memes they’ve accepted without any conscious analysis. 

            This is not just about offensive emails, of course. It’s also about SNC-Lavalin mess in Ottawa. And about the mass murders in Christchurch and Pittsburgh. And about the Yellow Jackets in France, and Donald Trump and his countless Trumplets all over the U.S., and various right-and/or-left-wing advocacy groups who shout down speakers they don’t approve of…

            As you might guess, I’m at one end of this spectrum. And the senders of what I consider offensive messages might well ask the same questions about me. 


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1

Jun

2019

Earth and water

Author: Jim Taylor

This poem was deeply influenced by Chapters 1 and 2 in Diana Butler-Bass’s latest book, Grounded (HarperOne, HarperCollilns, New York 2015). I recommend it. 

 

Dig your hands into the dirt.

Crumble its fibres in your fingers. 

Let the grains of humble humus 

sift down to holy earth. 

The soil is all your relations,

decomposed and recomposed,

the dust and ashes, the legacy

 of everything that ever lived.....


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: water, Communion, Mass, earth

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