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

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1

Aug

2018

The parables of Dr. Seuss

Author: Jim Taylor

Every Christian church I know reads a text from the Bible, every Sunday. Yes, even the radically and sometimes profanely feminist/LGBT Church of the Apostles in Seattle -- and then rips the Bible’s patriarchy apart.

            But maybe we should be looking at other sources of wisdom. Like Dr. Seuss, for example.

            Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, never claimed any divine inspiration for his writing. But The Grinch offers more inspiration about Christmas than many sermons. Horton Hears a Who takes the side of overlooked people. Green Eggs and Ham illustrates conversion, a change of heart.

            Most of Seuss’s books, in fact, are parables. They tell a story, but inside that story is a greater story, and inside that -- if you’re willing to dig for it -- a profound message.


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29

Jul

2018

‘There is no magic bullet’

Author: Jim Taylor

At the end of a press conference, right after the shootings on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, a reporter tossed a final question at Police Chief Mark Saunders. Saunders was already heading off-camera. I didn’t catch the question, but I’m fairly sure I heard Saunders say, “There is no magic bullet.” 

            And if he didn’t say it, he should have.

            Because although it was a singularly inappropriate cliché – after all, 15 people had just been shot with bullets – it was also exactly the right answer. 

            Because a magic bullet is what everyone wants. 


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26

Jul

2018

Forest fire

Author: Jim Taylor

Water bombers roar low above the treetops.

Smoke billows black against the sky.

Flames flicker up trees.

Sirens wail.

Pack up --

Right now.

Fifteen minutes.

Don’t talk,

just do it.

Find suitcases.

How many days’ underwear will I need?

 

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25

Jul

2018

How colonizers gain control

Author: Jim Taylor

Some arrived by sea, some by land. Wherever they arrived, they established footholds among the local population. They settled in. They built networks.

            As time passed, they began to impose the values and standards of their culture on the existing population. Eventually, they became the dominant group. Their values, their standards, became the law of the land.

            Like a giant vacuum cleaner, they sucked up other religions, other faiths, and other cultures, and homogenized them in their own image.

            You thought I was describing the European settlement of the Americas, didn’t you?

            Nope. I was talking about the colonization of the Mediterranean basin by the followers of Jesus.


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22

Jul

2018

Mobs don’t distinguish fact from falsehood

Author: Jim Taylor

Fake news didn’t start with Donald Trump. He merely raised it to an unprecedented level. Dare I say to an un-presidented level? And that’s the last time I shall refer to him in today’s column.

               Because on July 19, 1692, 326 years ago this last week, the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts had their first mass execution. They hanged seven women and one man.

               One woman, Bridget Bishop, had been hanged a month earlier.

               Wikipedia lists 110 people executed as witches, mostly in Europe. By the 1600s, the hysteria had started to fade in Europe. But not in the Puritan colonies on this side of the Atlantic.

               Salem had a reputation as a fractious town, divided by local feuds. Town meetings tended to turn into physical fights. Most histories now portray the witchcraft trials as an extension of those feuds.


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21

Jul

2018

The intensity of good intentions

Author: Jim Taylor

At a guess, the little girl would be about eight years old, her first year as a piano student. When she squirmed up onto the piano bench, her red patent leather shoes hung high above the floor. There was no way she could reach the pedals. 

            She poised one finger to hit the first note. 

            She followed that note with a second, and a third. And she stopped. Something wasn’t right. 

            She tried again. One note, another, a third. And stopped again. She didn’t know how to go on. 

            She froze. Afraid to make another mistake. Afraid to risk another try. 

            Utter silence filled the room. No one breathed. The audience – parents, grandparents, siblings, fellow students – leaned forward as one. Wishing her on, willing her unwilling fingers to continue. 

            The intensity was physical. The old cliché says “You could cut it with a knife.” Well, perhaps not that palpable. But there was certainly something there in that room, a presence that filled the space, a spirit that moved in waves to support the little pianist. 


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17

Jul

2018

Heat

Author: Jim Taylor

In this summer of 2018, as a heat wave covered North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, my thoughts turned to those who do not have air-conditioning. 

 

Heat is not an adjective.

It is a thing, a physical being, an octopus

that wraps its tentacles around my neck, my shoulders.....


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Categories: Poetry

Tags: heat, stifling

15

Jul

2018

Thai cave rescue a study in ethics

Author: Jim Taylor

Like the rest of the world, I rejoiced when that boys’ soccer team and their coach were rescued from the cave in Thailand after being entombed for 16 days.

            I have a phobia about caves in general. I can feel panic rising even thinking about having to strap on an unfamiliar scuba mask, wade into murky water, dive way down into a hole in the rock in total darkness and then turn and feel my way towards a narrow cranny I have to wriggle through, rock walls scraping my skin…

            So I am in absolute awe of the courage and compassion of the divers who risked their own lives to get those boys and their coach out of the cave alive. 

            I suspect the Thai cave rescue will become a text-book case study for students of ethics in the not-too-distant future. 


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11

Jul

2018

Email from beyond the grave

Author: Jim Taylor

I got an email from my friend Doug Hodgkinson the other day. Which was odd. Because Doug died seven years ago.

            I wondered where he was writing from. And if they have wi-fi connections there, wherever “there” is. They don’t have gmail addresses, anyway. Doug had a gmail address before his death, but this message came from Hestbript@ibh1mnhk6k.rereprsente.us, which reads like the proverbial roomful of monkeys whacking typewriter keys at random.

            Just in case there’s any doubt, I don’t think the message came from either heaven or hell – unless it’s the kind of hell that exploiters of human weakness and gullibility create.  I gave up believing in hell long ago; I gave up on heaven a little later. 

            The two go together, because they both assume a God who hands out rewards and punishments.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, Hell, heaven, death, email

9

Jul

2018

Out of silence

Author: Jim Taylor

Dedicated to the notion that all life-changing experiences emerge from The Great Silence. 

 

A tentative note sings in a silence.

It evokes a second note, in harmony with the first.

Their chord invites more notes -- 

a rush, a torrent, that dances like raindrops,

a bouquet, a cascade,

 


 

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: music, silence, harmony, word, thought

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