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

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11

Apr

2021

The trauma of living in bubbles

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday April 11, 2021

  

Many years ago, when our son was still alive but not yet a teenager, our family watched a made-for-TV movie called “The Boy in a Plastic Bubble.” 

            It had little to commend it. Even the story line was a bit hokey – a boy born with no immunity to anything. To have any kind of normal life, he lived inside a large plastic bubble that isolated him from everyone.

            It seemed to me, at the time, that it also reflected the life that our son had to lead. Because he had CF, cystic fibrosis, he had to be protected from anything that might lead to a potentially fatal lung infection.

            When the movie ended, our son yawned, stretched, and said, “Okay. I’m going to bed.”

            On a sudden impulse, I asked, “Do you ever feel like that boy in the bubble?”

            He was frozen for an instant. Then he burst into tears. 

 

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8

Apr

2021

Singing to the Easter sunrise

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday April 8, 2021

 

The church congregation I belong to has held an Easter Sunrise service for at least 40 years. The last two years, however, Covid-19 has thrown a virus into the works. Health restrictions prohibit any gathering of people. And any singing. 

            This year, for some reason that I cannot fully define, I felt that I needed a sunrise service. 

            If we couldn’t have one collectively, I decided, I would have one individually. 

            Which is why I found myself, half an hour before dawn on Easter Sunday, climbing a steep trail up Spion Kop, a local peak. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Easter, sunrise

8

Apr

2021

Who gets protection last?

Author: Jim Taylor

I got my Covid-19 vaccination a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad that my age puts me near the head of the line. 

            But then Jack Knox, a Victoria columnist, asked who should be at the end of the line?

            Because somebody has to be last. Don’t they? 

            Most of us would agree about those who should get preference. 

  • The residents of long-term care facilities, whose health is fragile already.
  • The front-line medical workers, who spend all day, every day, in close contact with the infected people the rest of us want to avoid. 
  • The essential workers, the ones who keep supplying groceries, hardware, and emergency services. Even if only one in every hundred people they encounter is a Covid carrier, that’s still way more than the rest of us.
  • Teachers and child-care workers, who deal daily with little germ factories. 

           But who’s not on the list?

            The question implies a deserving factor. Which is rooted, I would argue, in a belief that the universe is supposed to be fair. Those who are good get rewarded; those who aren’t, get punished. 


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4

Apr

2021

To those who live in fear

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday April 4, 2021

 

What does it feel like, to live in fear? Not the short-term fear, that an oncoming car won’t stop in time. The long-term, constant fear that you, through no fault of your own, are a target for violence. Just because of who you are.

            It happened to a 65-year-old woman in New York last week. An unknown man knocked her down, kicked her in the stomach, stomped on her face, then casually strolled away.

            The woman was Asian.

            Most of us who are white males, like me, have no idea what it is like to spend your life knowing that you’re at risk. To feel unsafe walking to the bus at night, after work. To feel people staring at you on the street or in the classroom. To hear jokes that imply you’re genetically stupid (or, conversely, genetically smarter), or a sexual object, or inherently untrustworthy. 


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27

Mar

2021

Conspiracies rely on self-delusion

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday March 28, 2021

 Widespread belief in conspiracies is self-contradictory. A conspiracy requires vast numbers of people. Whose activities must be closely coordinated. Without anyone knowing about it.

            Although conspiracy theories have been around forever, QAnon is relatively recent. It started with a single post, in October 2017, by someone anonymously claiming “Q-level” security clearance to top secret data. 

            Disclosure: I have not personally received QAnon mailings. Not yet, anyway. 

            But Robert Guffey has. An author who spent 24 years writing about conspiracy theories in the U.S., Guffey followed up sources that a correspondent assured him would provide unchallengeable truths about – well, let’s see:


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27

Mar

2021

Three alternative prayers

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 25, 2021 

 

In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

            Many, I’m sure, repeat the traditional Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, Which Art in Heaven…” 

            Some might remember the Latin words: “Pater noster, qui es in caelis…”

            I suspect many just fall silent, because they don’t know what to say, or to whom. 

            Why don’t we all just say the traditional Lord’s Prayer? Because a few people – I’m one of them -- have genuine difficulties with the all-knowing all-seeing old-man-in-the-sky image I used to accept unthinkingly. 

            Rather, over the years, I’ve become convinced, beyond any doubt, that God is not out there, somewhere, but right here. Right now. 

            So for that 30 seconds, I turn to some of my favourite prayers, which are about the right length to fit the silence. 


In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Prayers

27

Mar

2021

Power and sex make uneasy bedfellows

Author: Jim Taylor

Saturday March 21, 2021

Canada’s two top military officers, General Jonathan Vance and Admiral Art McDonald, are under investigation for charges of sexual misconduct. 

            One of the highest-ranking female officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor (no relation) sent a scathing letter of resignation, saying she was “sickened” but “not surprised” by the culture of sexual harassment in the military.

            “Harassment” and “misconduct” are marshmallow words. Squishy. Distortable. They could cover everything from light flirtation – is there anybody who never flirted with a colleague or co-worker? – to groping, intimidation, assault, and rape. 

           I hasten to add that none of those named above have been proven guilty. The charges are, as yet, only allegations. 

            Even unproven, though, they form a depressing pattern. 


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27

Mar

2021

Geese don’t get no respect

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday March 18, 2021 

 

 I remember one of life’s sensory pleasures, walking barefoot on the mudflats at Hopewell Rocks Park at the top of the Bay of Fundy, feeling the sun-warmed red mud squishing up between my toes. 

            It was almost sacramental -- like having my feet gently massaged by Jesus’ hands in the Upper Room. 

            It’s much less pleasant when the stuff squishing between one’s toes is goose poop.

            Unfortunately, poop is what Canada Geese are best known for.

           As a result, Canada Geese have become undesirable. 

           And yet Canada Geese have a number of admirable characteristics that we humans might emulate.


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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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