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

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16

Sep

2018

Learning to distrust everyone

Author: Jim Taylor

The scammers are getting smarter. 

            We’ve all received those emails that tell us there is $27 million waiting for us in an unclaimed Nigerian bank account, haven’t we?

            One arrived the other day, from “Miss Vivian Ibrahim Coulibaly, only child of my late father, Late Chief Sgt. Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly…” Miss Vivian needs my help, because her wicked stepmother – of course! – is trying to swindle her out of her father’s illegitimately acquired fortune. 

           The same day, I received a second email that assumed I had fallen for scams like Miss Vivian’s, headed FRAUD ALERT: “This letter is to notify you about your compensation as one of the scammed victims…”


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12

Sep

2018

Maligning my lifelong friend

Author: Jim Taylor

On my last visit to Vancouver, I took a walk along False Creek.

            Vancouver's waterfront is open to everyone, regardless of age, ethnic origins, or income.

            And the Parks Board has thoughtfully placed benches along the way, where passers-by can sit, catch their breath, enjoy the view, or just meditate.

            Most of the benches have small bronze plaques attached -- memorials to a family member or friend. I read them, casually, as I strolled along. Until I got to one that offended me.

            It eulogized a child who had died. It described how wonderful she was. And the last line said, “Jesus always picks the finest flowers first.”

            And I found myself instantly angry.


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9

Sep

2018

Brazil’s national lobotomy

Author: Jim Taylor

The video images of flames shooting skyward out of the National Museum of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, stabbed me in the heart.

            I spent close to 20 years alternating between president, secretary, and grunt volunteer with the infinitely smaller Lake Country Museum. I know from personal experience how hard it is to document the past, especially from societies that maintained no written texts. 

            Every artifact, every letter, every story, is like a clue in a mystery novel. Clue by laborious clue, a museum puts together a coherent picture of what life was like, back then -- whenever “then” was. 

            The Rio fire, in effect, ripped out almost all the pages from the novel about South America. 

            How can you read a novel that isn’t there any longer?

 

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5

Sep

2018

Change is the only constant

Author: Jim Taylor

I had my 82ndbirthday last weekend. I’m headed for 100! Wooo-hooo!

            Anticipation makes me think back to how things have changed over the last century, or two. My wife Joan’s grandfather arrived from Sweden a century ago with an axe-head, a plane blade, and a handsaw. With those, he made all the rest of his carpenter’s tools.

            I wonder what he would think of modern chainsaws. 

            A century before that, my ancestors arrived from Scotland, to farm 40 acres in southern Ontario. I wonder what they would think of tractors with air-conditioned cabs. Of hay-balers and combines and automatic milking machines.

            Nothing stands still. Ever. And it shouldn’t.

            Not even religion.


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2

Sep

2018

Abuse of power applies to all institutions

Author: Jim Taylor

The Roman Catholic church is taking flak from the mass media. The most recent attacks follow revelations from a grand jury in Philadelphia, described by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General as the "largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States."

            According to the report, more than 300 "predator priests" in six Pennsylvania dioceses have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over 70 years -- prior to 2002, when scandals involving Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston forced the U.S. Catholicbishops to adopt new rules for reporting abuse. 

            The reaction has even led to demands that the Pope himself resign, for failing to act sooner.


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29

Aug

2018

Hello. Hello? Anyone there?

Author: Jim Taylor

I tried to pray about a controversy over sex education in our schools -- what should be taught, and how. 

            A heavenly voice answered: “Thank you for your prayer. All our angels are presently busy dealing with other customers. Please stay on line and an angel will be with you shortly.”

            Some harps played mood music. 

            “Your continued devotion is very important to us. Please note that your prayer may be recorded for training and/or monitoring purposes.”

            I prepared my church membership papers, my baptismal certificate, my password (“Jesus,” of course) and my Personal Identification Number (666, of course) just in case they asked for authentication. 

            “For service in English, press 1. For service in Latin, press 2. For service in any other language, press 3 and wait for a Google translator to assist you.”

            I chose English.

            “King James thanks thee for thine loyalty. To speak to a confessor about sins thou mayest have committed by thought, word, and deed against thy Father Almighty’s divine majesty, press 1. To confess sins committed against another human, press 2. To confess sins of omission, press 3." 


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26

Aug

2018

Fires and floods mark the new normal

Author: Jim Taylor

This has been a summer of natural disasters. Some rain has finally come to B.C., but by the end of this summer, the province will have fought some 2000 forest fires. Smoke from those fires has spread across the prairies, into northern Ontario, even crossing the Atlantic to Europe. Just as smoke from fires north of the Arctic Circle, in Sweden and Siberia, drifted into Canada. 

            Meanwhile, California had its worst wildfire season. In Greece, some residents chose to drown in the Aegean Sea, rather than to burn on land. 

            Fires rampaged in Australia. And an estimated half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died, from rising ocean temperatures. 

            At the other extreme, southern India had its heaviest monsoon in 100 years, displacing close to a million people. Floods ripped through almost any country you can name. Highways washed out. Cars vanished into sinkholes. Mudslides swept houses off their foundations.

            But still some people deny that all this has anything to do with climate change. And certainly deny that humans had anything to do with it. 


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22

Aug

2018

Both beautiful and fragile

Author: Jim Taylor

From my mother, I inherited a Belleek china tea set. Belleek is both beautiful and fragile -- porcelain china so thin you can see shadows through it, so light it feels like paper. And so delicate that just dropping a teaspoon can break a teacup. 

            What we call community is also incredibly beautiful, and incredibly fragile. It can be shattered by a casual comment taken personally, by differences of opinion over minor matters, by trust betrayed…

            It’s easier to describe what community is not, than to define what it is. 

            Community is not just a group of people. Merely gathering people together in one place – whether for a rock concert, a sports event, or a church service – does not create a community. 

            Nor does having a million followers on Facebook or Twitter.

            For the same reason, simply being a member of an organization does not create a community. You can be a member of a Rotary club or a Baptist church for 40 years, and have never visited another member in their home, heard their passions, held them while they cry… 

            Passive presence is not enough. 


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19

Aug

2018

Inside a body dying of ALS

Author: Jim Taylor

I want you to read this book. I hope you find it as depressing and painful as I did.

            The book is Every Note Played, by Lisa Genova. You may have read some of Genova’s previous books, particularly Still Alice,which leads you through the life of a woman as she  chronicles her decline into dementia.

            This book chronicles a similar decline, but into ALS -- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or “what Stephen Hawking had.”

            But where Still Alice led readers through the gradual loss of a university professor’s memory and reasoning, it stopped before Alzheimer’s Disease ended her life. It was sad, but not shattering.

            Every Note Played pulls no such punches. It takes you through to the end, and beyond.


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15

Aug

2018

Conversations that don't need to end

Author: Jim Taylor

In long-term relationships, the past always remains relevant. 

            A group of men were talking about death. (At our age, every conversation gets around to death, sooner or later.) Ralph Milton glanced at me, and said, “Bob Hatfield.” And I knew what he meant. 

            More than ten years ago, Ralph and I drove to Cochrane, Alberta, for a last visit to our friend Bob Hatfield, dying of leukemia. Bob was emaciated, skin and bones. But he was not afraid. We spoke. We held hands. We shared a prayer, for him and for each other. 

            Bob quoted Vera Lynn: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when...” His voice trailed off.

            I don’t know what Bob believed about life after death. As a medical doctor, he had seen death often enough to have no romantic delusions about winged cherubs hovering above an abandoned  body. 

            But he believed that conversations did not have to end. He believed that our conversation would carry on, even without him,. 

Bob died the next day. 

            And Bob but he was right. Our conversation with him still continues. 


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