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

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Infant becomes a pawn in war of ideologies

Author: Jim Taylor

Charlie Gard did not live long enough to celebrate his first birthday. It would have come this Sunday, August 4th. The shortness of little Charlie’s life is a tragedy. But his life itself was equally a tragedy. Because Charlie stopped being a baby, and became a cause.

            Charlie was born with a rare, incurable, untreatable, and always fatal hereditary disease, infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MMDS). According to one news story, only 16 people in the world have ever had it.

            Charlie didn’t choose it; he didn’t do anything to cause it; it just happened.

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Reflections on a dream home

Author: Jim Taylor

Last Sunday marked an anniversary for Joan and me. On July 23, 1993, we moved into our dream home.

            It wasn’t actually finished yet. But the builder assured us we could move in on July 23. He likes to keep his promises. So he had the inside of the house ready for us. Dust and sawdust swept out. Appliances installed. Walls painted. Carpet laid.

           But there was still work to be done outside. 

           A dream therapist told me once that when I dream about a house, I’m dreaming about myself. Maybe so. Certainly houses and personalities have parallels.

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The possibility of losing everything

Author: Jim Taylor

It would be hard not to write about a traumatic event – even if it works out all right in the end.

            Last weekend, the forest fire that ravaged parts of Okanagan Centre forced Joan and me to abandon our home on 15 minutes’ notice. It was an oddly liberating experience.

            We were lucky to have 15 minutes. One couple I talked with had less than two minutes. “I looked out my window and saw the flames shooting up the trees at the end of our yard,” she said. “We just ran out the door and into our car.”

            She assumed that their home was gone. She seemed astonishingly calm about it.

            Eight homes burned; about 30 others suffered damage.

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Voting for a different Jesus

Author: Jim Taylor

Renowned humorist Garrison Keillor had eye surgery recently. In an article in the Washington Post, he wrote about recovering in his hotel room, unable even to watch television because his vision was so blurry: 

            “And it occurred to me, not once but several times, that I am a fortunate man and thank you, Lord. For Medicare and a good group health policy and savings to cover any shortfall.”

            Others, he realized, would not be as fortunate -- “The 22 million people who will lose their health insurance in the next few years if Congress does as the man wishes will face some high barriers between them and any sort of eye surgery… Eighty per cent of white evangelical Christians who cast ballots last fall voted for the man who seems as far from Christian virtues (humility, kindness, patience, etc.) as Hulk Hogan is from the Dalai Lama.”

            From their viewpoint, Keillor mused, “Apparently, Jesus got the story wrong.”

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Forest fires affect more than humans

Author: Jim Taylor

Fires are always good fodder for news stories.

            They’re vastly more visual than meetings where dark-suited dignitaries sit in stone circles. Stonehenge shows more animation.

            The nature worshippers who created Stonehenge might, in fact, have more understanding of the causes of this summer’s fires than we do. 

            Amid the smoke (and mirrors), a few still small voices have whispered the words, “climate change.” The gradual warming of the Pacific Ocean affects air flow patterns over the continent. As a result, summers get hotter, or wetter. Winters get colder, or milder. Which sounds confusing, even contradictory. Which is precisely what’s happening. As the air flow loops look more and more like a snake with constipation, weather becomes unpredictable. 

            The only sure thing is that whatever comes, it will be more extreme than expected. 

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Whap! One flat housefly!

Author: Jim Taylor

When summer comes, we throw open our doors and windows. Flies love us. Especially when I neglect to close a screen door behind me.

            The other day, I spotted a house fly feasting on crumbs of breakfast cereal left on a kitchen counter. He seemed pre-occupied with his meal. I found the flyswatter, sneaked up on him, and whap! One flat housefly!

            Then immediately I felt guilty. I remembered – or vaguely thought I remembered – that 50 years ago Mao Tse Tung had decreed that the Chinese people should kill flies. And they did. So effectively that they almost caused the extinction of tree swallows. 

            I wondered if I might be similarly harming some Canadian species when I swatted that housefly.

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A conundrum: too much and too little at once

Author: Jim Taylor

My lawn is going brown.

            Just a short while ago, I was having trouble keeping up with its growth. Abundant rain so nourished the grass that my 17 horsepower ride-on mower bogged down in places. I was glad I wasn’t depending on human muscle power. 

            Of course, that same rain had other consequences. Between rain and snow melt, Okanagan Lake rose to flood levels, and beyond. 

            At its highest, Okanagan Lake rose to 343.25 metres above sea level. The lake’s normal high level, called “full pool,” is considered to be 342.5 metres above sea level. The highest previous level was 343 metres, back in 1948, a year that saw most of the Fraser Valley underwater because of flooding.

           It would seem to me that I would be helping to alleviate the flooding crisis by irrigating my parched lawn 24 hours a day. I’d be taking water out of the lake, wouldn’t I? I’d be putting that water to good use, wouldn’t I?


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The question we have never asked

Author: Jim Taylor

Three days before Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, a group of indigenous protesters erected a large teepee on the lawn in front of Canada's parliament buildings, as a symbol of the mistreatment their ancestors had received from the colonizers of this country.

            They had tried to set the teepee up the previous evening, but had been forced off the parliamentary lawn by the police. Which also seems symbolic. It re-played the experience of Canada’s original inhabitants ever since Jacques Cartier landed on the Gaspe Peninsula in 1534 and claimed Canada for France.

           By some coincidence, during the week before Canada Day, a small group at my church had discussed ways of repairing the harm done by the colonial mindsets of past generations.

            Not until later did I realize they that our thoughts perpetuated that colonial mindset. With the best of intentions, we ask ourselves what we can do to improve their situation.

            But – and here’s the point -- we never ask them how they might like us to change.

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Did Peter Mansbridge embody Canadian values?

Author: Jim Taylor

Canada’s 150th birthday party is over. It didn’t feel to me like the 100th birthday. That’s a subjective reaction, I must admit.

            In 1967, we genuinely seemed to be in a celebrative mood. Gatherings spontaneously broke into Bobby Gimbey’s anthem Ca-na-da… Expo 67 in Montreal had made the world aware of us. Neighbours held beard-growing parties.

            Like the musical Dolly, we were crowin’, growin’, goin’ strong.

            By contrast, Canada’s 150th – handicapped, perhaps, by its polysyllabic “Sesquicentennnial” title – felt manufactured. No catchy song kept us dancing in the streets. McDonald’s commercials had staff and customers singing Happy Birthday to each other. (I wonder if they paid royalties to the copyright holders each time?) Furniture chains offered bright-red 150th Birthday Sales, with all prices ending in 99. Parties had to be organized by civic authorities. 

            It felt like drinking champagne at the bedside of a dying patient. 

            Or am I just growing old and jaded?

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