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

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20

Apr

2019

Waiting for a resurrection

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is, officially, Holy Saturday – the empty space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It might better be called Holey Saturday. It is a hole, a hiatus, an abyss between the two strongest days of the Christian calendar. 

           Unlike Christmas – which has very little biblical evidence to support a date of December 25 – the date of Jesus’ crucifixion can be quite precisely identified. It happened at the Jewish Passover, which came about according to a 1000-year-old formula based on the spring equinox and the full moon.

            The crucifixion is also one of the few facts in the Bible that cannot be challenged. Every gospel, every letter, agrees that Jesus was crucified. No other world religion claims a leader who was executed as a criminal. 

            And the traditions agree that on the “third day” – counting Friday as Day One, because the counters didn’t have zero, yet – on Sunday morning, he was no longer in his tomb. 

           But Saturday is the day between. When nothing happens. 

            Because nothing could happen. Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath. The laws of Moses made it a day of rest. Jews were commanded to emulate God, who – according to Genesis – created the universe in six days, then rested on the seventh day. That’s why the women had to wait until Sunday morning to come to the tomb, 


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17

Apr

2019

Choose sides for the future

Author: Jim Taylor

Two great forces shape the world today. No, they are not economic systems, like capitalism and communism. Or political systems, like democracy and tyranny. 

            They are Evolution and Entropy (for this essay, deliberately capitalized). Perhaps we’ve always known they existed, but we gave them attributes, like good and evil, light and dark. Or names, like God and Satan.

            Evolution and Entropy are inseparable twins, like yin and yang. Both are irresistible and irreversible. Both are subject to time. But they are mutually contradictory. 

 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Evolution, Entropy

14

Apr

2019

Breaking an ancient taboo

Author: Jim Taylor

By the end of this year, all B.C. schools will have to provide free menstrual tampons and pads for students.

            The announcement begins to end a prejudice that seems to have been around as long as civilization. The Bible, an authority for three world religions, considers menstruating women unclean. They must be segregated. Anita Diamant built that exclusion into her best-selling book, The Red Tent.

            Half of human population have, or have had, menstrual periods. Yet it remains a taboo subject.

            Although most schools do make pads and tampons available for emergencies, “many young women feel awkward asking for menstrual products at a school office,” said Rebecca Ballard, a Grade 11 student in the New Westminster school district. 

            And if that’s the situation in Canada, imagine what it must be like in more traditional countries like Uganda.

            Erika van Oyen went to Uganda in 2008 as a volunteer. She quickly realized that many girls got short-changed on their education. Unable to afford disposable sanitary supplies – indeed, often unable even to afford underpants – they missed a week of schooling every month.

            “Before we started this program,” van Oyen says, “schools taught about women’s biology, about menstrual cycles. But a girl in her period is ridiculed. Teased if she soils her clothes. Humiliated. So they stay away. They fall behind in their classes, and eventually they drop out.”


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10

Apr

2019

Three short stories without morals

Author: Jim Taylor

Too many stories tack on moral messages. If these three stories need one, write your own. 

Sorry, but I really can't excerpt all three stories for this "invitation" space. Nor do I want to choose just one to highlight here. Go to the full column to read them -- it won't take you long. 

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7

Apr

2019

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

Author: Jim Taylor

The first thing budding writers learn is to “avoid clichés like the plague.” Unfortunately clichés sometimes describe the current political situation better than a host of well honed words.

            In Ottawa, Justin Trudeau has spent weeks stuck on the horns of dilemma.

            On the one horn, he represents a Montreal riding. He has a right -- even a duty -- to lobby for his constituents, many of whom work for SNC-Lavalin. He also needs SNC-Lavalin’s services for his $187 billion infrastructure renewal program.

            On the other horn, he should not pressure Justice Minister and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to interfere in a criminal case.


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3

Apr

2019

Suffering from joy deprivation

Author: Jim Taylor

The news has not been good recently – unless you’re a Trump supporter. The media have been filled with incidents of hate, violence, death, and disaster. 

            The world is still reeling from the mass murders at the mosques in New Zealand. Followed by the copycat defacing of five mosques in the U.K. Where Brexit seems headed for disaster, taking Theresa May with it. And disaster aptly describes typhoon Idai’s effect on Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

            And that’s not counting an endless parade of house fires, vehicle accidents, thefts, and political conflicts.

            I admit to contributing to this flood of bad news. Ironically, journalists focus on bad news precisely because it’s an exception to the norm. It is news because it is out of the ordinary. 

            So we hear all about the accident where the bus full of young hockey players collides with a semi-trailer whose driver failed to stop at a stop sign. We never hear about the thousands of trucks, every day, that do stop. 


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31

Mar

2019

“We are one. They are us.”

Author: Jim Taylor

 I feel that someone from New Zealand needs to respond and let you and your readers know that what you propose as a new way of thinking is exactly what is happening here.

            On 15 March, the day of the shootings in two Christchurch mosques, but before anyone knew how many had been killed and injured, our Prime Minister, 38-year-old Jacinda Ardern, told the nation "We are one. They are us." That theme has been echoed in the ten days that have followed, by all who have the opportunity to speak publicly -- other politicians, journalists, church and civic leaders. Thousands of people throughout New Zealand have attended prayer vigils and special services, alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters. Human chains have been formed around mosques to symbolize standing together to protect each other. Non-Muslim women, including the Prime Minister, have worn the hijab in solidarity.


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27

Mar

2019

How not to create a masterpiece

Author: Jim Taylor

At an art show, I chatted with an artist. In her studio, she explained, artists painted collectively.

            I found that hard to comprehend. “Don’t you get upset when someone meddles with your vision?” I asked.

            “Sometimes,” she agreed. “If I’ve done a canvas built of blues, say, and someone plops a blob of orange into it. But then my blues take on a different mood.”

            She clearly believed her creed – many minds can work together for common benefit.

            I like the idea of working together in a community. For one thing, it’s much more enjoyable than working alone. But I can’t imagine a dozen different painters producing a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt. (A Picasso, possibly.)

            Perhaps my skepticism results from working with words. After 60 years, I’m convinced that editing by committee never produces a better text. Never. Friend and fellow-writer Isabel Gibson called “group editing” the “most pernicious form of compromise known to humans.”


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24

Mar

2019

Hate crimes don’t yield to reason

Author: Jim Taylor

Hate strikes again! In New Zealand/Aotearoa of all places. The whole country has less than ten gun-related murders a year; only 35 murders in the whole of 2018. 

            Then in a single afternoon, 50 people dead. Another 40 or so injured, some requiring amputations to save their lives. And hundreds who will suffer post-traumatic stress for months. 

            Just because they were Muslims, worshipping at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. 

            As I write these sentences, one suspect has been arrested – 26-year-old Brenton Tarrant. 

            In a 74-page manifesto, Tarrant declared himself to be a right-wing white supremacist. I’m almost grateful to him for being honest. I’ve long argued that the primary threat to peace does not come from left-wing radicals, but from the far right. Even the FBI, long obsessed with Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist paranoia, now admits that fact. 


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20

Mar

2019

The mattress that fell from the sky

Author: Jim Taylor

We were driving home, one dark night, down Highway 97. My headlights, on low beam, lit the pavement ahead for a short distance, but little else. 

            Then suddenly, something large and white came flying over the top of the car ahead. It landed on the road. I didn’t have time to swerve. Or brake. I ran over it. 

            Ka-whoomp! The car bounced high, as if going over a giant speedbump. Then it settled back onto the road. 

            “What was that?” Joan exclaimed. 

            Over the next few moments, we compared our impressions. We concluded – from the flying object’s size and shape  -- that it must have been a mattress. Probably a double-bed mattress. Possibly even a queen-size.


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