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

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12

Jun

2019

Attitudes that are NOT welcome

Author: Jim Taylor

A couple of Sundays ago, Bob Thompson, our minister-for-the-day, talked about what the United Church of Canada believes, or doesn’t  believe.

            He said, “I often hear that the United Church is tolerant. I don’t think it is. Like Coventry Cathedral, we do welcome ‘pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters – and you.’ But when you come in our doors, you need to know that we are not tolerant of attitudes that dismiss or demean others... 

            “If you are racist, misogynist, white supremacist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant, you are still welcome to come in. But don’t bring those ideas with you, and don’t expect them to be welcomed.”

            I like Bob’s distinction. Many religious communities have Statements of Faith – things you MUST believe if you want to belong. Anything else you want to believe, beyond that official statement, is up to you. 

            Sometimes it’s equally important to state what you may NOT believe. 


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9

Jun

2019

Mueller report: redacting is not editing

Author: Jim Taylor

Robert Mueller produced a 448-page report. U.S, Attorney General William Barr cut it down to four pages, of which only two actually dealt with the content of Mueller’s report.

            When Congress insisted on seeing more than Barr’s  brief summary, Barr produced a “redacted” report, with large portions of Mueller’s  text blacked out. Some pages had not one readable word remaining.

            A friend asked me, “What does ‘redact’ mean?”

            I gave her a dictionary definition -- to edit, to prepare a manuscript for publication.

            That definition illustrates how definitions themselves can and must change. Because what Barr did to Mueller’s report is an utter contradiction of editing. Any definition is -- by definition, if I dare use that term -- the way a word has been used up to that time. It is a snapshot, an understanding frozen and preserved. It cannot define how a word will be used in future.


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5

Jun

2019

Little things mean a lot

Author: Jim Taylor

A friend recommended a YouTube performance of “The Moldau,” the great symphonic poem by Bohemian composer Bedřich Smetana. Reviews called it “a stunning performance,” as indeed it was. Especially the interplay between flutes and clarinets in the opening phrases. 

            But as the symphony progressed, the camera kept cutting away, for a second or two, to a lone man playing the triangle.

            A triangle is perhaps the simplest of all musical instruments. It’s a bent piece of metal. It can play one note. That’s all. And yet the person playing that triangle had to believe that his one note was just as essential to the whole symphony as the first violinist’s cascade of melody. 

            That one note had to come at the right time. Exactly the right time. 

            His part mattered. Even if it was only one note. 


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2

Jun

2019

How to handle offensive opinions

Author: Jim Taylor

Here’s the problem. You have these friends, see, who keep sending you emails filled with racist slurs against Muslims, abortionists, “Indians” (they still use that term), Hindus, Asians, and immigrants in general. Oh, yes, and about climate-change hoaxes perpetrated by thousands of dishonest scientists who are being paid off by a small cabal of Jews trying to impose a tyrannical World Government on us…

            Should you cut them off? Block their emails? Terminate the friendship?

            Or do you try to reason with them? Prove their so-called facts incorrect? Point out the flaws in their logic?

            That might work if they reached their views as a reasoned conviction. But that’s unlikely. More likely, they’re regurgitating cultural memes they’ve accepted without any conscious analysis. 

            This is not just about offensive emails, of course. It’s also about SNC-Lavalin mess in Ottawa. And about the mass murders in Christchurch and Pittsburgh. And about the Yellow Jackets in France, and Donald Trump and his countless Trumplets all over the U.S., and various right-and/or-left-wing advocacy groups who shout down speakers they don’t approve of…

            As you might guess, I’m at one end of this spectrum. And the senders of what I consider offensive messages might well ask the same questions about me. 


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29

May

2019

The oneness of life and love

Author: Jim Taylor

God is love, I hear, over and over. God is love.

            I wonder what the speaker's definitions are.

            About God. Do they mean the traditional God, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who knows everything, created everything, and still controls everything? Including playoff games…?

            That's a comfortable notion, I suppose, if it lets you blame God from everything that goes wrong, from avalanches that wipe out holiday resorts to tsunamis that flood a nuclear power plant and poison the entire Pacific Ocean.

            To say nothing of demented people who run down holidaying crowds with a truck, or open fire in a movie theatre, or abuse small children.

            "God moves in mysterious ways," they will say. "I guess we'll never understand God's will...."

            Such a belief may offer comfort, but it's not a God of love.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, God, love

26

May

2019

U.S. legislators see women as slaves

Author: Jim Taylor

Women in eight U.S. states have now been told that they have value only as wombs and child-care workers. Eight states have now effectively banned abortion, in what appears to be a coordinated attack on the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.

            Arkansas and Utah moved the permissible date up to 18 weeks of pregnancy. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri moved it up to six weeks, when the embryo’s heartbeat can be first detected -- before many women even know they’re pregnant.

            Alabama enacted the most stringent restrictions, banning abortion entirely. At any stage.

            After the Alabama votes, gloating representatives declared their legislation a triumph for human rights. For protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

            But the smirk on the face of those representatives as they faced the media’s cameras told the real story. It said, “Ha! Gotcha, you bitches!”


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22

May

2019

Items for the recycling bin

Author: Jim Taylor

Joan went to put some dishes back onto the top shelf in her kitchen. And discovered that a smoked-glass bowl had broken in half.

            We have no idea how, or when, it happened. It could have been yesterday; it could have been years ago.

            The bowl belonged to my mother, who died in 1972. We’ve kept it, all these years, because it was hers. We kept several things of hers, because every time we used them, those things reminded us of her.

            More accurately, perhaps, we kept them because they reminded us that we loved her.

            Many of her things we inherited from her have gone, now. We still have her Indian trays and coffee tables. And her silverware -- that needs polishing regularly -- and her teacups. But the milk jug is long gone. So is a vase we particularly admired.

            Joan handed the broken pieces of the bowl to me. “I suppose I could glue it together,” I said.

            “It’s not worth fixing,” she replied. “Just recycle it.”


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19

May

2019

No guarantees of safety in bush flying

Author: Jim Taylor

The news that two float planes collided in the air and crashed, near Ketchikan, Alaska, took me back to my own exposure to bush flying on the north coast. (Funny how that happens more and more as I grow older.) For about four years in the 1950s and ‘60s, I got flown around northern B.C. by some of the best pilots in the world – which is why I’m still here to write about the experience.

Since the accident, flight companies in Ketchikan have been deluged by people calling to cancel bookings. Or seeking assurances about safety.

                   In bush flying, there is no assurance of safety. Never.

                   Safety depends on the quality of the plane and the skill of the pilot.


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15

May

2019

Shuffling towards an invisible door

Author: Jim Taylor

I woke during the night, a while ago, with my mind racing. It was very dark. Heavy clouds hid the moon and stars. Our rural area has no street lights. And at 3:00 a.m., no neighbouring houses had any lights on.

                   Rather than tossing and turning, and probably waking Joan, I got out of bed, and went to our living room where I could look out the front windows.

                   I could see a few lights across the lake. I could make out the vague reflective sheen of the lake, the darker bulk of the hills on the far side, some humps that might be bushes in our garden.

                   Nothing moved. It was very peaceful. Almost holy.

`                  After a while, calmed and quieted, I decided I could go back to bed.

 


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12

May

2019

A eulogy for Jean Vanier

Author: Jim Taylor

The news on Tuesday that Jean Vanier had died hit me like a punch in the gut. Tears welled up, unbidden. 

                   I can’t claim that I knew him personally. But that’s not quite accurate. Because everyone knew him personally. That’s the kind of person he was. He wasn’t paying attention to the person behind you. He didn’t care if you were a prime minister or a corporate CEO or Mother Teresa — you, as you, mattered. 

                  He was an unprepossessing speaker, by conventional standards. He ambled on stage, almost shambled on, 6-feet-4-inches looking as if he had slept in his clothes, with a great hooked nose that hung over the microphone. 

                   And a smile that stretched from here to eternity. 

                   He talked as if there was only one person out there — and it was you. 


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