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Merry Christmas + the Weekly Roundup

· 6 min read
Merry Christmas + the Weekly Roundup
Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

As another pandemic year draws to a close, it's time for my annual Christmas message. It has been difficult to write this year as many of us are impacted by Covid in one way or another, or are suffering with the exhaustion of prolonged uncertainty.

In testing times like this, I find that it helps to reflect on the experience of our ancestors. My ancestors came from Northern Europe, where the winter was bitterly long, cold, and dark. With winter came death. For many generations, they had no central heating, no running hot water, and no antibiotics if they came down with a bronchial infection, or tooth abscess. When I read novels from the nineteenth century I am always struck by how in the time before antibiotics, going outside in the rain could come with a death warrant.

This is the harsh reality our ancestors battled through. They had to fight off the reality of death each year, and every winter. They had to plan ahead and stockpile food to make sure they had enough to eat if crops failed. Presumably after the Winter Solstice, they would feast because they knew that spring was around the corner.

The event of Christmas occurs at this time. The event marks the birth of a child during the middle of winter. Out of the abyss emerges an unyielding light, and that light is human life. The baby represents hope and renewal.

I am lucky enough this year to be able to celebrate Christmas with my family. But I know that many of you are not. Christmas without family is always difficult, but Christmas without family during a pandemic year must be especially so.

Christmas represents the hope brought by the birth of a baby, there is also hope that we can find inside ourselves. While crops die during the winter and can be replanted in spring, the depression brought by winter, or a plague, can be fought off with the knowledge that it will soon end.

And although Christmas is a time to celebrate with family, we can also use it as a time to reflect on the deep resilience of the human spirit. As Camus has written, “in the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Quillette wishes you all a Merry Christmas, and an invincible summer in the coming year.


Weekly Roundup

Taiwan, Ukraine, and Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations Revisited
An attack on Ukraine by the Russian forces massed on its eastern border would nakedly demonstrate the nature of President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism and, by extension, the nature of authoritarianism itself. The Russian state seeks control of Ukraine for reasons of power, and to assuage a Russ…
Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back
Earlier this year, I (Anna) did something that my friends feared I would come to regret: I publicly spoke out against the intrusion of illiberal thought into science and education, with a letter entitled The Peril of Politicizing Science, published on June 10th in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.…
Fund Science on the Basis of Scientists‘ Work, Not Their Identity
The Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, that country’s major scientific funding organization, is developing a comprehensive research plan, called NSERC 2030, to guide its priorities over the next decade. In the current phase, NSERC is engaging with external stakeholders throu…
The Peculiar Economics of 3D Printing
Klaus Schwab, the executive director and founder of the World Economic Forum, forecasts that, as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, smart manufacturing will converge with synthetic biology and AI to have a transformational impact on the economy and our daily lives. Smart manufacturing is a fo…
The Land Where Angela Davis Is Queen
In the immediate aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the Chancellor and the Executive Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at my alma mater, the University of California, Santa Cruz, issued a joint proclamation condemning the verdict. It began with this: We are disheartene…
B.S. Moss and the Dawn of the Movie-Palace Era
Visit a fabric shop, and you may stumble upon a product called sponged wool. The term has become obscure in modern times, but in the late 19th-century, sponged wool was in great demand, and the sponging process had a big role in the clothing business. New York City’s garment
The Schenker Controversy
In the realization of my plan, I will not permit myself to be distracted by anything in the world, and it is my conviction that the truth, however anybody may try to assault, ignore, or otherwise abuse it, will nevertheless prevail. ~Heinrich Schenker Located in the Neue Israelitische Friedhof…
Podcast #175: Paul Lockhart on How Guns Transformed Western Civilization
Quillette podcast host Jonathan Kay speaks with Wright State University professor Paul Lockhart about the enormous military and political upheavals set in motion by the adoption of gunpowder-based weapons from the 13th Century onward—including the demise of the medieval castle, the empowerment of la…
Podcast #176: Jonathan Kay on Middle Age, Watch Collecting, Sports Cars, Board Games, and Disc Golf
Quillette’s Jonathan Kay ends 2021 by speaking to Bob Tarantino about the things he does when he isn’t hosting the Quillette podcast. For the original (and longer) version of this interview, please visit Bob Got a Microphone.

Claire Lehmann

Claire Lehmann is the founder of Quillette and a regular contributor to The Australian. Follow her on Instagram @clairelehmann

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