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

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21

Jul

2020

White privilege is not about guilt

Author: Jim Taylor

A new term has crept into the lexicon of race relations – “white privilege.”

            Don’t confuse white privilege with white supremacy. White supremacy means that you actively assert the superiority of people with white skins over anyone who has skin of a different colour --  using politics, religion, legislation, or violence.

            White privilege, on the other hand, refers to aspects of life that we -- I speak for myself, but I assume others are like me -- have never previously considered, but have simply taken for granted.


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17

Jul

2020

The stories behind everything

Author: Jim Taylor

The yucca plants along my driveway are in bloom. This year, 51 spikes, creamy white columns of glory, rise above their clusters of sword-like leaves,

            I don’t know what kind of yucca plants I have. There are, Wikipedia tells me, 49 species of yucca, and another 24 sub-species. Some grow over 30 feet (10 m) tall. Some are used for food. Some grow only in deserts. Some have fleshy leaves that store water like aloes; some have leaves as hard and dry as old shoe leather.

            All I know is that my yucca border began with just two plants. The man who built our house was doing some work in his mother’s yard. He dug up some yuccas, and said to himself, “Jim Taylor needs something to grow along his driveway.”

            His mother is long gone, but her yuccas live on, and delight people walking by when they burst into their annual celebration of summer.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: yucca, provenance

12

Jul

2020

Be careful not to burst bubbles

Author: Jim Taylor

Children love blowing bubbles. They blow bubbles in the bath. They run around the yard leaving trails of bubbles behind them. They try to catch those shimmering, shining bubbles without bursting them.

            Bubbles are fascinating. Real, but not real. Some bubbles pop when they touch other bubbles; some merge into bigger bubbles.

            I remember community picnics where some bubbles looked like oversized bologna, bigger than the kids who blew them. They drifted overhead. Until they popped and showered droplets of glycerine and detergent on the adults below. 

            In today’s COVID-19 world, though, “bubble” takes on new meaning. We’re not thinking of bubbles from the outside anymore; we’re thinking of the bubbles we’re inside. 

 

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10

Jul

2020

Playing with numbers in Numbers

Author: Jim Taylor

IThe Bible asserts -- not just once but three times -- that Moses led 600,000 men of fighting age out of Egypt. Forty years later, when they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites still had 600,000 men able to go to war. 

            So a whole new generation was born while roaming through the deserts and mountains of the Sinai peninsula.

            Which means -- I think I’m correct here -- that there must have been women among them, although the Bible didn’t bother counting women. Or children. Or seniors, such as Moses himself.

            Assuming that birthrates haven’t changed much, 600,000 men probably meant an equal number of women. 

            Add children and seniors, the total nears two million.

            If you’ve ever seen the Sinai desert, it is inconceivable that two million people could wander for 40 years through that arid wilderness. 


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5

Jul

2020

Plague of locusts makes bad into worse

Author: Jim Taylor

News reports have called it “a plague of biblical proportions.” But they’re not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

            The Bible actually has very little to say about pandemics. About death from starvation or drought, yes. About death in war, oh my goodness yes. But very little about mass deaths from diseases – if I exclude the book of Revelation, which smacks its lips at the prospect of wiping out one-third of the world’s population in a single trumpet blast. 

            Rather, the “biblical plague” refers to locusts. Billions upon billions of flying grasshoppers that descend from the sky in clouds and eat the leaves off everything. 

            Rght now great plagues of locusts are demolishing agricultural crops across east Africa, Somalia, Yemen, parts of Iran, Pakistan, and India. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Moses, Locusts, plagues

28

Jun

2020

Don’t waste my wife’s last sacrifice

Author: Jim Taylor

Starting next week, there will be more cars out on our roads. That means more accidents. And if Canadian Blood Services were to run out of gas, figuratively, people would die. Because you can’t get a refill of blood if the main tank is empty.

            Earlier this year, there was a risk their tank could run empty. Because of Covid-19, fearful donors were staying away. Fortunately, after an appeal, giving went up 20%.

            In fact, a friend who volunteers at donor clinics assured me, the agency takes so many precautions that you’re more likely to catch Covid-19 at home!

            Canadian Blood Services maintains an online National Inventory of Blood Supply Products (https://www.blood.ca/en/blood). Earlier this week, the supply of some blood types was down to just three days. Only two common blood types had more than five days’ supply, across the whole country.


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27

Jun

2020

Mind over matter, maybe…

Author: Jim Taylor

t’s a four-hour drive from Edmonton to Jasper. Visually, the highway is slightly more exciting than any road out of Regina. 

            Joan was driving. I was bored. 

            I had read stories about people who believed that by concentrating, they could burn holes in clouds. I thought that was nonsense. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to prove them wrong. I focussed all my attention on a small wispy-looking cloud up ahead. 

            It dissolved into blue sky as I watched.

            Pure coincidence, I thought. I chose some bigger, puffier clouds. I found I could bore a hole through them, too.

            So I picked one of the least likely clouds, one with a heavy dark base. I chose what seemed to be the thickest part of the cloud. I focussed myself totally on that cloud.


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22

Jun

2020

Empty pedestals await new icons

Author: Jim Taylor

The name “Winston Smith” probably doesn’t immediately bring someone to mind. Good -- that’s what author George Orwell wanted.  He deliberately made Smith, the central character in Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984, an unassuming, ordinary, fade-into-the-wallpaper civil servant.

            Winston Smith did a very ordinary, unassuming, kind of job.

            He rewrote history.

            Every day, the Ministry of Truth had him amend news reports that had appeared in the pages of London’s most prestigious newspaper, The Times, to make them match to the government’s latest policies. If Winston Smith were alive today, he wouldn’t be working in a musty back room. He’d be out on the streets toppling statues.


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18

Jun

2020

Relationships make us human

Author: Jim Taylor

As a song says, what a difference a day makes!

            On the last Sunday in May, my daughter called after church, to say that she might have found me a dog. She worries about me living alone since my wife died. Especially when Covid-19 isolation restricts me from visiting others, or having them visit me.

            By 3:00 that afternoon, I had a dog named Pippin.

            After three months of isolation, I feel like a February groundhog emerging into the brightness of a new day.

            I am no longer alone.

            I have someone who needs me.

            What a difference a dog makes.


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18

Jun

2020

Implications of “I’d rather…”

Author: Jim Taylor

The follies of my youth have caught up with me. For a dozen years, I spent almost every sunny weekend out on the water, just bumming around in small boats. Sometimes up Howe Sound, sometimes up the North Arm, sometimes just in Coal Harbour.

            But wherever it was, I got blasted two ways by ultra-violet rays -- from the sun overhead, and from the sun reflecting off the water.

            It was a glorious time, I remember.

            But now I’m paying the price. A dermatologist told me that I will need to have seven pre-cancerous patches on my face removed surgically. 

            “Ideally,” he said, “I’d like to see you living in the bottom of a coal mine.”

            My instant reaction was, “I’d rather die!”


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