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

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Finding the right ending

Author: Jim Taylor

No, I am NOT going to write about the recent U.S. election. Everyone else has done that already.

            Instead, I’m going back some 80 years, to a collection of academic papers I inherited, written by my father while doing his studies for a PhD in psychology. 

            He was, at the time, acting principal of an undergraduate arts college in India. His students belonged to four different religions and at least six language groups. And he was using those students to test psychological theories developed for western nations -- Europe and North America.

            The only thing he proved, he admitted later, was that western categories simply didn’t fit the eastern mind. 

            But some of his exercises have interesting implications.

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Decline of the American empire

Author: Jim Taylor

           Jeffery Sachs has access to far more facts and figures than I do. He is an economist, professor of Political Economics and International Development at Columbia University, and has been a special advisor to the last two UN Secretary-Generals. So I’ll let him make the case for America’s decline.

            Sachs told a conference on multilateralism held at the Vatican, “The U.S. was a dominant economic and technological power in the world for decades. This is no longer the case. It is still a powerful country economically and technologically, but it is no longer a dominant power. The European Union is a larger market, China is a comparable market, and the spread of technology is worldwide.

            “I’m sorry to say it -- it’s my country -- but this is an imperial power in decline.

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Underlying structures

Author: Jim Taylor

All the leaves fell off my catalpa tree in a single day. In full foliage, it’s a dense mass of huge flat leaves. 

            Something about an unexpectedly early snowfall, coupled with an overnight cold snap, triggered a reflex in every leaf, leading them to separate from their parent tree.

            The tree looks quite different now. Bare branches stand gaunt against a grey sky. I can see right through it. 

            Some years ago, I was given a book called Trees in a Winter Landscape, by Alice Upham Smith. 

            Most of the year, she suggested, we know trees by their leaves. The underlying structure doesn’t become visible until the leaves fall.  I think that might be true for more than just trees.

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“A beacon to the world”

Author: Jim Taylor

The day after the election in BC, the same day as the election in Saskatchewan, another vote took place at the other end of the Americas.

            The people of Chile voted overwhelmingly to abolish the constitution imposed by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973, after his military coup deposed elected president Salvador Allende.

            The two Canadian elections didn’t change even the flavour of government in the two provinces, let alone their ideologies. The Chilean vote changed the direction of a whole country.

            Chile’s current president called it “the beginning of a path that we must all walk together.”

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A saint for every purpose

Author: Jim Taylor

There’s a patron saint for almost everything. Even Protestants carry medals of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. St. Veronica has become the patron saint of photography.

            There’s even a patron saint for the coronavirus. St. Corona, the saint for epidemics, plagues, and pestilence.

            St. Corona was a 16-year-old girl in Syria, in the second century A.D. According to the legend, she saw a Roman soldier being tortured for converting to Christianity. She defended him. She claimed a vision of the two of them wearing crowns -- hence her name, St. Corona.

            For becoming Christian, the soldier had his fingers chopped off, his eyes put out, and was beheaded.

            For offering compassion, St. Corona had her ankles lashed to the tops of two palm trees that had been forcibly bent to the ground. When the trees were released,

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Apologies need teeth

Author: Jim Taylor

           So what’s with apologies, anyway?

            Over the last few years, we’ve heard lots of apologies. 

            In June 2008, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a formal apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, on behalf of the government and people of Canada.

            The United Church of Canada formally apologized – twice, in 1986 and in 1998 – for failing to respect traditional indigenous values and beliefs. All other major denominations have done something similar, confessing their complicity in an unjust system that they failed to question.

            Maple Leaf Foods apologized for producing meats tainted with listeriosis. 


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Counting my unexpected blessings

Author: Jim Taylor

I wanted to buy an airline ticket for my 16-year-old granddaughter, to come home for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, using the points on my credit card. 

           I found the flights online. I chose the dates. I couldn’t complete the booking.  The program denied access. It slapped my wrist, so to speak. 

            So I dialed the number on the back of my credit card. 

            I was expecting trouble. Sadly, I expect any negotiation with a giant corporation to be more a curse than a blessing. Especially if I have to converse with a synthetic voice that’s supposed to pick up key words and respond intelligently.

            Instead, I got an amazing agent. 

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You can’t reason yourself out of pain

Author: Jim Taylor

I started writing this column on Thursday morning, as I emerged from a haze of pain and pain medications. The day before, Wednesday, I had plastic surgery on my face to remove pre-cancerous basal-cell lesions brought on by too much sun in my youth.

            This was my third session. Originally I had seven spots removed. Then I had to have four of them done over, because the first session didn’t get all the suspicious cells.

            As surgery goes, these were minor -- certainly when compared to organ transplants and amputations. As pain goes, though, these surgeries were an eye-opener.

            Another writer once sent me this line: “There is no such thing as a pain thermometer.”

            That is, there’s no objective way to measure the pain someone is feeling. 

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: pain, morphine, surgery




An Alternative Alphabet

Author: Jim Taylor

A is for Apple. That’s how Alphabet books usually start -- not with A for Alphabet. Because Apples are red and round, and make a striking image on the page.

            And A is for Autumn. The time when apples ripen and when we set aside summer dreams, summer romances, summer indolence, and settle into the labour of daily living.

            A is for Adam, too –although I think “Adam-and-Eve” should be a single hyphenated unity. Whatever they did, they did it together. They had no choice – there was no one else to do anything with, or to. 

            Also because of that Apple, says the second story of creation, Adam-and-Eve were expelled from their summer garden and condemned to hard labour for the Autumn of their lives.

            Although I think they got a bum deal. After all, God put them there in the garden. Naked. Young people, naked? What did God expect? 


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Shift focus onto Covid transmitters

Author: Jim Taylor

           I pulled some figures from the BC Ministry of Health webpage. I correlated them with B.C. population figures from the last census..

            Surprise, surprise! The elderly are NOT the most at risk for infection.

            Certainly they’re most at risk for death. As of a month ago, three-quarters of all deaths were among those over 70.

            That shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re already on their last legs. I suspect the same would hold true if I took statistics for almost any disease, illness, or disability.

            But not for infection. The infection rate among those over 60 is significantly lower than for younger adults. Among those over 60, the infection rate is about 1.4 per 1000. Among the 20-29 age group, the infection rate is more than twice as high -- 3.5 per 1000.

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