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

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27

Mar

2021

Everyone is living history

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 14, 2021

 

My newspaper runs a daily feature, Today in History. It lists significant events that have happened on this particular day, long ago. 

            It makes me feel very old. Because I was there for at least half of every day’s listings. No, I wasn’t there when Charlemagne declared himself Holy Roman Emperor. Or when Nero fiddled while Rome went up in flames. 

            But you’d be surprised how much has happened since 1936. 

            I had just had my third birthday when Hitler invaded Poland, in September 1939, starting World War II 

            I was in London when Chamberlain returned from his visit to Hitler, declaring “Peace in our time.”

            On our way back to India, in 1940, the rear deck of our ship was piled high with depth charges, in preparation for the Japanese attack that everyone knew was coming. Even if it didn’t happen until December 7, 1941. 


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27

Mar

2021

Following her final wishes

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 11, 2021 

 

Saturday March 13 marks one year since my wife’s death. Originally, we planned to have her memorial service a week after she died. 

            Joan had worked with our minister at the time to plan a service that reflected her preferences.

            In the 15 years she spent working at the United Church of Canada’s national offices in Toronto, the most inspiring were as administrative assistant in the worship portfolio. She developed a deep appreciation for the church’s sacraments. Even though it is not normally included in memorial services, she wanted to have communion at her service. 

            She couldn’t have anticipated that the day after her death, the province would go into Covid-19 lockdown. 

            Somehow, I thought that the new rules would not apply to anything as earth-shaking as Joan’s death. We would have a service at our church, regardless. 

            Nope.

            Grief tends to over-react that way. 


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27

Mar

2021

Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, & Dr. Seuss

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 7, 2021

  

In June this year, Aunt Jemima will die. So will Uncle Ben. 

            The companies that own those trademarks – Pepsi Cola and Quaker Oats for Aunt Jemima, Mars for Uncle Ben – have decided those brand images “do not fit our core values.”

            They reek of southern slavery. 

            So they have to come down. Like those statues of Robert E. Lee and Lord Cornwallis. And renaming of sports teams, schools, and streets to banish references to an unsavory past. 

            Who’s next for the chopping block? Dr. Seuss?

            Actually, yes. Six of his books will stop being published, AP reported this week, “because of racist and insensitive imagery, said the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy.”

            The name given to this practice is “revisionism.” 


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27

Mar

2021

Guidelines for better discussions

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 4, 2021

 I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. My aging body no longer permits some other activities, but I haven’t lost my ability to take part in a lively discussion. Yet. 

            Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion, which range from saying too much to not saying anything. 

            In my experience, the most pernicious fault is to drag in an external authority. Perhaps relying on the insights of a famous writer. A quotation from a scientist. A definition from a dictionary. A theory from a theologian. 

            Or, in some circles, citing selected verses from a scriptural text.


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2

Mar

2021

When life becomes intolerable

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday February 28, 2021

The federal government in Ottawa has proposed a new bill that would allow Canadians suffering from “grievous and irremediable mental illnesses” – the wording comes from a Canadian Press report – to opt for a medically assisted death.

            If they choose to do so. 

            The revised legislation will permit them that choice. The previous legislation didn’t.

            The original Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law, which came into effect in June 2016, required the person seeking assistance in dying to be capable of consenting. 

           Which excluded persons suffering from various forms of cognitive impairment –those in a coma, or unconscious from pain medication, or who had Alzheimer’s Disease, or who had suffered brain damage… 

            In other words. a lot of people. 


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2

Mar

2021

Walking billboards

Author: Jim Taylor

I wore a pink T-shirt yesterday, Anti-Bullying Day in Canada. But because this isn’t T-shirt weather, I wore it over the top of my other clothes, to make it more visible. 

            Anti-Bullying Day started in Canada. I’m proud of that fact, as proud as an apologetic Canadian can be about anything.

            Two teenagers in Nova Scotia, David Shepherd and Travis Price, objected to another student being ridiculed for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school. So they bought 50 pink shirts and handed them out to other students, to wear in solidarity with the bullying victim. 

            So when I took the dog out for her morning walk yesterday, I was wearing a pink T-shirt. Also, red-and-white socks, a thank-you gift from the Canadian Red Cross for a donation in my wife’s memory. A blue tuque from my church’s Thrift Shop. A Rotary pin. 

            And I thought, I’m a walking billboard!


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2

Mar

2021

The urban/rural split on gun control

Author: Jim Taylor

            I have hesitated for some time to write about gun control. In my experience, it’s the most explosive topic I ever tackle – even more so than abortion, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and federal deficits. 

            Gun owners believe in their right to own guns. They tend to react strongly against anything they perceive as a threat. Perhaps that explains why they own guns at all. 

            The legislation introduced in Ottawa last week recognizes that Canada is not a uniform nation.  According to the 2011 census, more than 80% of Canadians live in urban areas; slightly under 20% in rural areas. 

            In rural areas, people want keep their guns to protect themselves against wild animals; in urban areas, people want to get rid of guns to protect themselves from other people. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: guns, gun control

2

Mar

2021

Trying to see the road ahead

Author: Jim Taylor

Driving to town the other day, I ran into a patch of valley fog.

            Suddenly, clear air and bright sky vanished. I was swaddled in translucent cheesecloth. The centreline’s yellow tape scrolled out ahead of me, measuring time and distance to nowhere. The paved road, grey and gritty close up, merged into mist, dissolving into invisibility.

            I felt as if I was driving down a metaphor.

            Because, only moments before, I had been pondering the process of aging. Another colleague from former years had died. 

            The road ahead felt uncertain, unsure.


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14

Feb

2021

Partnership, yes; possession, no

Author: Jim Taylor

            Once upon a time, we all made little valentines. Our school teachers provided coloured paper and lace doilies that we could cut up and stick together.

            I distantly remember having crushes on various girls. I always hoped they’d feel the love oozing out of the card I made for them. And vice versa, I suppose. But it’s hard to sense true love when everyone gets a card.

           Valentine’s Day seems somewhat fruitless for one who now lives alone. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not whining. I’m much more comfortable with being on my own these days. When I think about it, I live a privileged life. I have a warm house. I have adequate income. I enjoy an active life. I have friends.

            But it does give me an outsider’s perspective on the urge to couple up.



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12

Feb

2021

Language doesn’t need words

Author: Jim Taylor

            At the start of winter, I filled my bird feeder with sunflower seeds. For several days, not one bird came to dinner. Then a single junco arrived, pecked, and flew away. The day after that, a handful of scrappy little finches showed up. 

            The third day, a single quail appeared.

            Now, quail are ground birds. They’d rather run than fly, little legs blurring beneath them like the cartoon Roadrunner’s. And they are not loners. They travel in flocks, so many that sometimes the earth itself seems to be moving. 

            But for some reason, this one flew up to check. Alone.

            And the next day, dozens of quail swarmed over the feeder, climbing over each other, double-deckering on each other’s backs, to get at the treasure trove of sunflower seeds.

            They had to have had a way of passing the good news around. 

            Their own social media? 


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