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

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30

Oct

2019

Halloween, beyond the masks

Author: Jim Taylor

Halloween has a very short shelf life. Apparently, it ranks right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving for retail sales. But as someone’s blog noted, there’s not much market for Darth Vader costumes the day after Halloween. Nor for packages of 100 bite-sized chocolate bars. 

            With Halloween coming up tomorrow night, I can’t help wondering about our fascination with this pseudo-religious festival. 

            Yes, pseudo-religious. Because Halloween -- or Hallowe’en, a shortened form for All Hallows’ Even(ing), the night before All Hallows’ Day – certainly had its origins in religion. “Hallow” refers to the holy, the sacred, as in “Hallowed be Thy name.” The hallowed ones in this case are the dead, especially those we think of as saints. 

            Formally, we recognize them on All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween. 

            Hallows’ Eve, therefore, became the night when the dead, both saintly and un-, returned to roam the dark.

            But I doubt if any of the costumed kids going door to door with their loot bags will be thinking saintly thoughts. Indeed, I doubt if one in a hundred parents will bother explaining the religious roots of their annual ritual. 


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1

May

2019

Never take water for granted

Author: Jim Taylor

Every newscast recently seems to make floods its lead story. Floods in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Less recently, floods in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe. Largely unpublicized, floods in Iran and South Africa.

            Understandably, some residents resent having their floods described as “once in a century.” 

            “That’s what they told us last year,” grumbled a resident of New Brunswick’s St. John River valley. “Now we’re having another hundred-year flood this year.”

            I have some sympathy for those people piling sandbags to protect their property. I did it myself, once – but never, I hasten to admit, year after year. 

            I was still at university. A group of us sat around the common room of our student residence. Someone stuck his head in the door and said, “Hey! The Seymour River’s flooding. They’re calling for volunteers.”

            In the pelting rain — which was not easing the flood threat — we worked through the night. We waded through water above our ankles. The rain plastered our hair to our heads, dripped off our noses, fogged our glasses, soaked through our light jackets. 

            But we kept working until the army relieved us about 3:00 a.m. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: extremes, floods

11

Jan

2017

The hidden wisdom of folk saying

Author: Jim Taylor

My mother had a maxim for every occasion. If I paced impatiently waiting for something to happen, she’d tell me, “A watched pot never boils.” If she had reservations about my friends, I’d get “Birds of a feather flock together.” If I got a Christmas present I didn’t particularly want, I might hear, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Or perhaps, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

            It took me some time to realize that many of those maxims come in contradictory pairs. 

            “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” encourages me to squeak up. But “Speech is silver, silence is golden” advises me not to. 

            One maxim advocates caution: “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” Another expects me to take risks: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

 


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