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

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26

Jun

2016

Good idea, but too little, for too few

Author: Jim Taylor
Every week, another deadline looms. Every week, I scan the news looking for something worthwhile to write about. There’s no lack of source material. Fires, accidents, murders, floods, crashes, sports winners, sports losers - the list is endless. And repetitive. How often can I condemn mass murders without plagiarizing myself? But now and then, something new comes along. This last week, it was the announcement that the federal and provincial finance ministers had agreed on improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). I’m delighted that two levels of government managed to agree on anything. But I’m disappointed that the mountain labored and brought forth a mouse.
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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: CPP, OAS

22

Jun

2016

Delay the Pearly Gates; join a church

Author: Jim Taylor
Postpone eternal life as long as possible -- join a church!
That slogan sounds like a contradiction -- don’t churches extol the glories of eternal life? 
In fact, dozens of demographic studies have found that people who attend church regularly tend to live longer than non-attenders. Now psychologist Jonathan Haidt has provided some rationale for this extended longevity. 
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19

Jun

2016

Preaching hate in Jesus’ name

Author: Jim Taylor
We made an odd couple, strolling down Toronto’s Yonge Street that hot summer evening. We chatted animatedly about Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, Hemingway and Atwood. We paused occasionally to observe the scantily clad bodies strolling along Yonge Street’s sidewalks. I admired the women; he, the men. He was gay. He posed no threat to me, nor I to him. Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S.-born citizen of Afghan descent, didn’t share our tolerance. A week ago, he invaded a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, and started shooting.
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15

Jun

2016

Singing synchronizes body and breath

Author: Jim Taylor
Our congregation did a profoundly counter-cultural act last Sunday. We sang.
People don’t sing anymore. They plug loudspeakers into their ears. While they’re at work. Or out for a walk. While they lie on the beach, or commune with nature.
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: singing, body, breath

12

Jun

2016

A uniquely Canadian church has a birthday

Author: Jim Taylor
The United Church of Canada had its 91st birthday this last week. On June 10, 1925, the United Church of Canada came into being when 10,000 representatives of the Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches of Canada met in the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto for the inaugural meeting of a new denomination. As far as I can tell, it is the only Canadian church formed by an act of parliament -- the United Church of Canada Act, passed July 19, 1924, to come into effect June 10, 1925. Other churches have been incorporated, usually for the purpose of owning property without vesting it in individuals, but they already existed as churches connected to international denominations.
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5

Jun

2016

A highway is not just a bigger city street

Author: Jim Taylor
What’s a highway for, anyway? Let’s set aside all those arguments about whether or not we should be driving cars, which emit pollutants, which increase greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, which lead to fires in northern Alberta, which reduces the supply of bitumen, which hinders our obsession with paving still more of the landscape for more highways. Let’s also set aside arguments about whether it’s better to ship goods by rail, which usually has a monopoly in a regional market, or by roads, which are available to all. No, let’s get back to the basic question -- what’s a highway for?
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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: highway, street

1

Jun

2016

The internalized ethics of Selfies

Author: Jim Taylor
Welcome to the “Selfie” society!
You know what Selfies are, of course. Pictures people take of themselves. Usually using cellphones, although apparently you can buy accessories that let you hold a regular camera way out front to click your own picture.
My granddaughter borrowed my iPad for about ten minutes. She took twelve pictures of herself. All the same.
Click. “This is me.”
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: ethics, selfies

29

May

2016

The jerks deserve contempt

Author: Jim Taylor
Okay, I admit it -- I’m a sentimental softie. I get upset when I hear about instances of injustice; I’m skeptical about widely promoted solutions; but I’m reduced to blubbering by unexpected acts of kindness and compassion. Maclean’s magazine devoted its entire May 30 issue to “The Great Fort McMurray Wildfire.” I turned the pages with something like shock and horror. Devastated homes. Exploding trees. Walls of fire beside the highway. Glowing embers falling like hail. Evacuees huddled in fetal positions on cots in emergency shelters. It’s not as if it’s the first time I’ve seen the results of a wildfire. I lived through the 2003 Great Fire of Kelowna. I watched as towering flames crested the ridge south of the city, roaring northward. I was out on the lake when one of the famous Myra Canyon trestles blew up -- a black mushroom cloud erupted into the sky.
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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: injustice

25

May

2016

Top down or bottom up?

Author: Jim Taylor
Why don’t CEOs have offices on the ground floor?
In my experience, the senior officers of any large corporation have their offices on the top floor of the building.
Boardrooms are on the top floor.
Penthouse suites are the most expensive.
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: top down, bottom up

22

May

2016

Beware of leaping to conclusions

Author: Jim Taylor
The incidence of autism has risen spectacularly in recent years. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that 1 in 68 children has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Twenty years ago, it was about 1 in 10,000. California’s autism rate increased by five times over a single decade. I recognize that the ASD umbrella covers a huge range of capabilities and disabilities. For simplicity, I’ll use “autism” as a general term. But this column is not really about autism. Because autism is not the only affliction whose incidence has soared. So have allergies. Asthma. Diabetes. Obesity. High blood pressure. Dementia. The list goes on and on. And so we look for causes. And when we find one, we sink our teeth into it and refuse to let it go.
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