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

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1

Sep

2019

The column I didn’t want to write

Author: Jim Taylor

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” So said the inscription at the entry to hell, in Dante’s Inferno.

            Dante was an optimist. He saw hell as some other place, from which he could return safely to his everyday world. 

            I’m afraid that our world — this world, the one we live in, the one our grandchildren will live in — is becoming its own hell. 

            I am optimistic about individual relationships. I have yet to meet anyone who would refuse to help another individual in need. Race, education, and wealth don’t seem to matter IF – and it’s a big “if” -- there’s genuine contact, person to person, soul to soul.  

            At the same time, I am profoundly pessimistic about humanity as a whole. Collectively, we humans persist in seeking short-term solutions. Our corporate mindset is incorrigibly greedy, seeking our own benefit even if it harms others. Yes, even if it will harm us, farther down the line. 


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28

Aug

2019

Imprisoned by meanings of words

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve spent my life working with words. I love words. Reluctantly I’m recognizing that words can also form prisons for our minds.

            I’m not convinced that we need words to think. Dogs don’t need words to figure out how to get around an obstacle. 

            Certainly we use words to reason things out. But I don’t think many of us realize how much the words we use may also restrict our ability to reason.

            You can’t use “nigger,” for example, without imagining that person as a lesser human. I have never heard “nigger” used as praise.

            You can’t address someone as “Captain” or “Doctor” without a sense of deferring to authority.

             In the same way, “King” and “Lord” have acquired a patina of sacredness in the religious world. But the words are largely meaningless in today’s world. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: religion, words, Trinity

25

Aug

2019

Nuclear nations squabble over Shangri La

Author: Jim Taylor

            Hong Kong is a thriving hub of international business. Kashmir is a backwater, even by Indian standards.

            Hong Kong has world-class communications. Kashmir has frequent power failures. Internet communication, iffy at any time, has been shut down completely by Indian forces. So have telephones. And the post office -- you can’t even send out a scenic postcard!

            In Hong Kong, almost everyone speaks English, the result of 156 years of British rule. In Kashmir, only the educated class speaks English.

            And Hong Kong is home to about 300,000 Canadians -- many sent as children to Canadian high schools in the 1980s to provide an escape plan for their parents in case the handover to China went badly. According to Global Affairs Canada, Kashmir has just 12 Canadian residents.

            Therefore it’s natural, even inevitable, that our media would concentrate on Hong Kong and ignore Kashmir.

 


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22

Aug

2019

The invitation

Author: Jim Taylor

Hear the sad story of Johnathan Fewless

who knew that at sex he was hopelessly clewless.

He admits that without a specific instruction

he won’t recognize an attempt at seduction.

Coy hints are too easily misconstrued;

they don’t always mean someone wants to get scrued....

 

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: sex, seduction, humour

21

Aug

2019

Community picnics, past and present

Author: Jim Taylor

Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but as summer scrolls towards a closing, I miss community picnics. 

            I seem to recall when every organization had a company picnic, a Sunday School picnic, a team picnic. 

            At times, I’ve been put in charge of these events. I have fond memories of planning games and activities that would build a feeling of family. Softball games, where it was okay to strike the boss out. A tug-of-war. Foot races. Egg and spoon races. Three-legged races. Sack races. Water balloon tosses… 

            At one church picnic, I set up a potato-peeling challenge: the winner had the longest unbroken potato peel. 

            And at a company picnic, I remember teaching people how to make s’mores around a campfire. The most common s’more consists of chocolate and partly melted marshmallow sandwiched between two graham wafers. But even better is chocolate and marshmallow, sealed into a cavity sliced out of a partially peeled banana, wrapped in aluminum foil and roasted in the embers of a bonfire until the whole thing is a drippy gooey mess. 


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20

Aug

2019

The slippery slope of mind-meddling

Author: Jim Taylor

            The case against conversion therapy is based, mostly, on it being aimed at the LGBTQ2 community. Mainly by the most conservative Christian churches, who consider homosexuality a sin, prohibited by the Bible and against God’s divine intention.

            It’s directed mostly at gay men. The Bible has one verse denouncing sex between women, but I haven’t heard of conversion therapy being applied to them.

            Conversion therapy attempts to show these “sinners” the error of their ways, and restore them to the heterosexuals God meant them to be.

I remember when mainstream society openly endorsed conversion therapy. In the 1970s, it was called “de-programming.”

            It was advocated for returning prisoners of war, “brainwashed” in Vietnamese or Russian prisons.

            Also, with good reason, for  cult members mesmerized by charismatic leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. Manson convinced his Family to murder nine Hollywood celebrities and their hangers-on. Jones took his colony to Guyana, where 900 followers committed mass suicide. Koresh and 80 followers perished in the infamous Waco standoff.

 


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14

Aug

2019

Listening to my inner voice

Author: Jim Taylor

I didn’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat Pray Lovewhen it was a bestseller. I waited ten years.

            When I finally read the book this summer, I was interested in the conversations Gilbert had with God -- or something -- by writing out her pain, anger, depression. And something told her hand what to write in reply.

            Psychics might call it “automatic writing”; charismatic Christians might call it “writing in the Spirit.” Whatever it is, it gave Gilbert the assurance that she was okay, she was loved, she mattered.

            One day, I didn’t want to do anything. I had a “to-do” list about a page long. But I felt utterly unmotivated.

            I wondered what would happen if I applied Gilbert’s process myself. I started by typing, “I’ve wasted the whole day.”

            Almost immediately my alter ego, or something, interrupted: “ What do you mean, wasted?”


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11

Aug

2019

“Turn him off! Turn him off!”

Author: Jim Taylor

Three million years ago, a distant ancestor of mine lived in Ethiopia. Since then, we humans have grown taller, stronger, more intelligent and, I would hope, more compassionate.

            After three million years of evolution, is Donald Trump the best we can achieve?

            Trump is the world’s number-one human, the colossus who sits bestride the world (to borrow a line from historian Robert Payne). President of the world’s most powerful nation. Chief executive officer of the world’s richest economy, who can make stock markets around the world crash with a single Tweet. Commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military force, with the biggest nuclear arsenal.

            A while ago, I resolved that I would not waste any more columns on Trump. It’s difficult to keep that resolution, when he declares himself “the least racist person in the world.” Or condemns the entire city of Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess.”

           But I cannot continue to avoid writing about him.


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7

Aug

2019

A time to live and a time to die

Author: Jim Taylor

My pea vines have died. Despite getting the same water and sunshine as the rest of the garden, they seemed to know, somehow, that they had accomplished their mission. Now it was time to go to The Great Compost Bin in the Corner.

            Like salmon, they produce their next generation, and then give up living.

            All living things seem to recognize when their time is running out. Pea vines live less than one full summer; some trees will live thousands of years. But they all die, eventually.

            And so, interestingly, do their individual cells. Cells have their own life spans. Human skin cells die every few days. So do the cells in the toxic environment of your digestive system. Sperm cells survive only a few hours.

            Indeed, without cell death, we wouldn’t be human. A human fetus has webs between its fingers and toes -- a throwback, perhaps, to our  amphibian ancestors -- and those web cells must die so that an infant can be born with recognizably human hands and feet.

 


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4

Aug

2019

Rocky Mountain glaciers “endangered species”

Author: Jim Taylor

According to legend, Paul Revere rode through Massachusetts at midnight shouting his warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

            I would like to ride out of the Rocky Mountains, shouting my own warning: “The glaciers are dying! The glaciers are dying!”

            You can see this for yourself, if you drive the Icefields Parkway that runs from Banff to Jasper up the spine of Canada’s national parks. I’ve just returned from doing it.

            The Crowfoot glacier no longer looks like a crow’s foot. The Angel Glacier does not look like an angel. And the Snowbird Glacier looks as if a coyote got to the bird first and ripped it apart.

            Only by looking at old photos can you appreciate the names given to these glaciers.


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