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

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Another parable of talents

Author: Jim Taylor

"I've been diagnosed with terminal cancer," the CEO told his vice-presidents. "The doctors say that I have five years to live. You three have run this business for years, but I want to hand it over to just one of you as sole owner. 

            "So, for the next two years, I'm giving you an extra task." 

            He reached into his desk, and pulled out three small burlap bags. "Seeds," he said. "I’m not going to tell you what to do with them."

            Two years later, he called the three vice-presidents to his hospice bedside. 

            "Tell me what you did with my seeds," he ordered. 

            The first vice-president stepped forward....

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Parable, talents, seeds




ISIS and white supremacists share links

Author: Jim Taylor

Let’s give Donald Trump some credit for consistency – he has never, at any time, said that there are “some fine people” among Islamic terrorists.

            He’s probably right that there are “some fine people” among the white-supremacist neo-Nazi racist alt-right Confederacy-clinging thugs who rioted and murdered in Charlottesville. If you use the right criteria to evaluate them, that is. They drink beer with their buddies. They love cars and pickup trucks. They go to church and to ball games. They may even tithe. They loan their lawn mowers to neighbours.

            What’s not to like?

            Trump probably considers himself to be a good father, a good neighbour, a nice guy -- when he’s not playing president.

            Little wonder he found it hard to condemn people like himself.

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An act of pure altruism

Author: Jim Taylor

While I worked in Toronto, a group from our office made regular trips downtown to give blood.

            On one of those trips, I saw a man I knew walking aimlessly along the street. “Don!” I called. “Come and join us. We’re going to give blood.”

            I knew Don McCallum from his time as a minister in Newfoundland. I had visited him twice in Baie Verte; he had written articles for the magazine I edited, the United Church Observer. As we lay in adjoining tiltback chairs, filling our bags of blood, he told me that he had felt that he was in Toronto because he felt that God was calling him to move on.

            He didn’t mention that he had been in Toronto for several weeks already. He hadn’t found a church that needed him. He was broke, despondent, and homeless. He had just 23 cents left in his pocket.

             “I was about to give up,” he told me years later. “I thought I had nothing left to give. And then you showed me that I did still have something. I could give some of my blood to someone who needed it.”

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The unforgettable experience of a solar eclipse

Author: Jim Taylor

Once a catchphrase starts being circulated, it takes on a life of its own. And so the news media have been declaring, with unusual unanimity, that the solar eclipse scheduled for 10:23 this morning, Pacific Daylight Time, is “the only total eclipse of the sun in Canada in the last century.”

            That is simply wrong. 

            I know, because I experienced a total eclipse of the sun on July 10, 1972, in Nova Scotia. 

            Perhaps there’s some excuse for the claim about this being the “only total eclipse in Canada in the last century.” Nova Scotia was the only populated part of Canada to witness the 1972 eclipse. Otherwise, the arc of totality swept across the high Ar

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The games people play

Author: Jim Taylor

Does anyone remember playing Kick-the-can?

            I watched a group of kids playing together, the other day. Well, at least, they were sitting together. And they were playing. On their smart phones, that is. Heads down, thumbs flying, ignoring each other.

            Kick-the-can, as I recall it, required only one piece of technology – an empty tin can. We put it on the ground in an open space, and drew a large circle around it.

            Everyone who wasn’t “It” scattered and hid. “It” had to find them, by calling the hider’s name and hiding place: “I see Jenny, behind the rain barrel!” 

           Kick-the-can differed from ordinary hide-and-seek, because Jenny – or whoever -- had a chance to escape being captured. If she could kick the can out of the circle before “It” got back, all the captives went free.

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Turning antidotes into addictions

Author: Jim Taylor

B.C. is heading for another record year for fentanyl overdose deaths. Despite making Naloxone antidote kits widely available, the death rate is up 88 per cent over last year, which was also a record year.

            Last year, according to figures available online, B.C. had 935 deaths from drug overdoses. This year, the province had 780 deaths by the end of June. If the rate continues, the province will hit 1400 deaths by the end of the year.

            But in the welter of data, I find two facts interesting.

            Excluding fentanyl-related deaths, the overdose rate has held more or less constant, below 300 a year.

            And there has been not one overdose death at a supervised injection site. Not one.

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A different kind of God

Author: Jim Taylor

           I cannot deal with a world in which there is no God at all. As I wrote last week, I need something that I can call God. 

            That’s why I write about God. Writing about God is how I sort out my thoughts. Often, I don’t know what I think until I try to put my vague intuitions into words. 

            But those words convince me that I am not just an atheist, an unbeliever. Yes, there is a God. I am obsessed by God. I don’t know how to understand that presence. But I keep trying.

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A tale of two tinpot dictators

Author: Jim Taylor

The question came at the end of a security conference in Australia. An academic in the audience for Admiral Scott Swift’s public address in Canberra asked a hypothetical question: “If… you were to receive an order from the commander in chief, the president of the United States, to make a nuclear attack on China, would you do it?"

            Swift’s answer was an unequivocal yes. 

            Then he amplified: “Every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath…to obey the officers and the president of the United States as the commander in chief appointed over us."

            “Admiral Swift answered the question the only way a serving military officer could,” explained Rory Medcalf, the program’s host. “It would have been a lot more controversial if he had said no, he would not obey the commander in chief.”

            Okay, now let’s switch locales. Imagine a similar question directed at one of Kim Jong Un’s generals in Pyongyang, North Korea: “If you were to receive an order from your Supreme Commander to launch a nuclear attack on the United States of America, would you do it?"

            Can you imagine that general saying no?

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Why I keep writing about God

Author: Jim Taylor

“Why do you keep writing about God?” a reader asked.

            Good question. The only answer I can think of is that I have to write about God.  I need something that I can call God.

            I use the term “something” loosely. It doesn’t have to be a thing. Or a person. Or a being, supernatural or otherwise. It doesn’t even have to be an idea. It just has to be more than me.

            And it has to have some kind of volition. It has to be something more than blind chance, more than a probability field in quantum physics. Whatever it is, I want it to have an ethical sense – to want, even to desire, a better outcome for all.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: God

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