The year of small ambitions
Maybe 2022 is the year we let our illusions fall apart.
On weekends, The Sprawl sends out an email newsletter called Saturday Morning Sprawl. You can subscribe here. Here is this week's dispatch—the first of 2022.
With my kids home from school, I spent a bunch of my week working on an essay about the moment we're living through. In my imagination, this piece would go viral online—well beyond Calgary. I figured I was getting at some profound truths that would resonate the world over. My wife, an English teacher, asked what my thesis was. I couldn't say. She read it. "This is all over the place," she said.
All over the place. Aren't we all!
So I did what I've done to a number of my hopes and expectations of late: I tossed it. Bin that shit!
This feels like an appropriate, and weirdly cathartic, start to 2022. You start something—and it doesn't work out. You hope—but come up empty.
The temptation is always to try and prop up what isn't working. To maintain the illusion. I thought of this when I was out walking my dog in the bitter cold this week (he was far happier about this than I was!). Human cultures since time immemorial have adapted to the seasons around us, letting them shape the rhythms of human life, slowing us down and speeding us up as necessary.
But us? We seem to think we should be able to plow through anything, undeterred.
"Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer," writes Katherine May in her book Wintering. "They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through."
"Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible."
We seem to think we should be able to plow through anything, undeterred.
It makes me wonder: What metamorphosis might we be undergoing right now, as this interminable pandemic drags on and we have largely vanished from each other's sight—out of necessity, and not by choice?
Maybe 2022 is the year we let our illusions fall apart, instead of trying to hold them together for just a little longer.
The foundational myths of our age are cracking or breaking apart entirely. Unrestrained consumption. Limitless growth. The idea that if we can prop up the existing order, and tweak it here and there, it'll be good for everyone. That with enough technology, we can control the planet itself.
No. We are up against limits. We can't patch over the cracks any longer.
What's that line from Leonard Cohen? "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."
This isn't false hope. I take it as an invitation for seeing our situation a little more clearly, and for living as openheartedly as possible in the year ahead. For working with what we have. For recognizing that most everyone around us is as cracked as we ourselves are.
I take it as an invitation for seeing our situation a little more clearly, and for living as openheartedly as possible in the year ahead.
I take this to be a year of small ambitions, rather than big plans.
What will The Sprawl look like in 2022? I've got some fine stories in the queue from freelancers and a few projects in mind. I've got small ambitions. I want to give less attention to whatever is engulfing social media on any given day, for example, and be more curious about what undergirds the many intractable conflicts we find ourselves in—and explore that.
I have an irrepressible desire to do a Sprawlcast series about local malls (yes, malls).
I want a springtime Nose Hill edition.
But at this point, it's all improv—learning to hold whatever's ahead as loosely as possible.
Jeremy Klaszus is editor-in-chief of The Sprawl.