On the edge of a new verse

Welcome to this week’s issue of The Jumpstack: the final one of 2019! This week, we look at the gaping chasm of a new year and a new decade. Let’s jump in!

Faster, faster

As far as stressful weeks go, this week must be a contender for worst of the year for the most amount of people.

Retail and service workers are bombarded with frazzled, frantic customers; the offices both wind down, and ramp up, as workers scurry in hope of a vacation without worry; and everyone is wearing exactly one layer of clothing too much, or not enough, and it feels unbearable.

Tempers are short, receipts long, and there’s an unspoken acknowledgement that everyone is three sentences away from going into fight-or-flight mode. It’s dangerous out there.

It’s too dangerous for Andrew Scheer, who ignored my advice to grow a beard and resign from the federal Conservative party leadership last week. He’s leaving as the Harper protege that failed to form a government against a floundering Trudeau, even when the skies seemingly opened and rained down pictures of Justin in blackface like manna from right-wing heaven.

Andrew Scheer leaves with the public perception of a man who couldn’t be honest to anyone, even to himself—dragged offstage by his own party with a very large and obvious shepherd’s crook.

And now we face a winter of Conservative chaos, as figures for the leadership come out of the woodwork, knives drawn, and the real fight for the future of the Conservative party begins. Centrists and the left need not be gleeful, however: Ontarians are only too well aware how a leadership race in the months with the least amount of sunlight can go.

No one at this point knows who and what will remain and lead the conservative party when the frost finally leaves, but my tweet about a Premier Sam Oosterhoff is a prophecy and a warning: I’ve yet to meet anyone of any political leaning that does not shudder at the concept.

Be careful in your civil war, Conservatives: the Liberals and NDP should not take this time to rest on their laurels, either. In every crisis there is opportunity, particularly when the crisis is not your own.

Embrace the inescapable

We’ve already completed a number of the rituals of winter already: the first real snowfall, the first deep freeze, the first post-storm TTC chaotic morning commute. We try to figure out just how bad this winter will be, consulting meteorology forecasts and staring at fat squirrels that cross our path. For the next three months, we’re in survival mode.

I prefer mild, snowy winters to cold dry ones: I hate the word “windchill” and I shudder at the concept of a “polar vortex.” The most miserable sensation is stepping outside and feel the hairs inside your nose freeze, and the wind hitting you like you weren’t wearing three layers and your warmest coat.

Retreat is the sensible, natural thing to do, and this essay by Bernd Brunner is a fascinating look at the historical means we took to get through the darkest season:

If it got too cold, the solution for millennia was simply to seek refuge in bed: an entire family, along with their servants and guests, might find mutual warmth under the covers. Hanging curtains to create canopy beds or even building alcove beds into the wall provided another layer of heat-trapping protection.

Do not be ashamed of your throw blanket collection and binge-watching practices: you are merely partaking of a contemporary version of an ancient defence against the coldest months.

Unresolved issues

I completely admit that my resolution for 2019 (that I remember) was to wash my makeup off every night, and was abandoned before Lunar New Year. I know this is terrible and gross, but I’m also very lazy when I am sleepy.

For about a half-hour, earlier this week, I convinced myself that I could commit to going to bed by 10 p.m. each night so that I could get a full eight hours sleep, but the fever passed. The desire to make resolutions, and the dream of keeping them and becoming this imagined superior future self remains. But what if the problem is how I’m approaching resolutions in the first place?

This quick article from Stephanie Vozza suggests that by taking a comprehensive look at your past year, you can identify and set resolutions not just based on your failures, but your successes:

Often people don’t realize how much they learn in a given year,” he says. “They just keep moving from project to project and rarely take the time to reflect. So by doing this it helps a person to be thoughtful about all of the experiences they had and where they became stronger.

By reflecting on where I’m at both good and bad, I can narrow my focus to actually achievable resolutions and anticipate barriers to success. So maybe I shouldn’t wait until bedtime to take off my makeup, and maybe setting a time to take it off will help me go to bed earlier, because I become obstinate as I get tired.

Resolutions, after all, are targeted strategic missions against yourself.

The constant

I really enjoyed this lecture from Karl Ove Knausgaard, which weaves bookselling, poetry, atoms and the Devil together into a dreamy meditation on what we see and what we can’t, in both the past and future.

That uneasy tension is part of the human condition, and I think this time of year it can bear down upon us with a weight not felt in summer. As we begin a new year and a new decade, let us do so with patience and courage, for ourselves and for others, and consider this as we go forward:

Nothing makes with greater certainty the earth into a hell, than man’s wanting to make it his heaven.” Yet the mutual proximity of insight and destruction tells us nothing of the sequence of these things, and the same Hölderlin wrote something else, which is equally true, in one of his unworldly and exquisite poems: “But where the danger is, also grows the saving power.

And that’s the last Jumpstack for 2019! If you liked it, how about hitting that little heart (I really do appreciate it) and sharing with your friends?

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I’ll be back in January 2020, and I hope to see you there. Happy holidays, and may your New Year bring you good omens to see you through these dark nights ahead.

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