Old and New: Letter from the Editor

Photo by Wasim Hossain

Photo by Wasim Hossain

We complain endlessly about the traffic in my midtown Toronto neighbourhood. It’s been years of the Crosstown LRT project—and years until the new subway is completed. As drivers avoid Eglinton, they zip carelessly through our formerly quiet streets, raising civic uproar about our endangered children. (Despite the recent proposal to enforce traffic calming measures, the vote narrowly failed.)

Congestion is just one sign of my changing neighbourhood, construction another. Brick bungalows, built in the 1940s, are torn down in favour of larger two-storey family homes. Advertisements for condominiums are sprouting at major intersections; the city is growing tall around us.

Old is giving way to new in all parts of Toronto, and for as much as we stand to gain, there is also much we might lose. The CBC reported last year on the logjam of Toronto’s heritage designation process. Buildings like the 110-year-old Beaux-Arts Bank of Montreal building in Midtown, a Victorian mansion on Wellesley, and the Stollerys building at Yonge and Bloor have been taken to the ground by developers despite public outcry. (As our architectural commentary throughout this issue illustrates, other buildings of significance have been preserved, though whether they’ve been improved by their modern facelifts is up for debate.)

There are, of course, those who celebrate the virtue of all things old. The past, whether real or imagined, represents a time of moral clarity, of social cohesion, of prosperity, of happiness. (Martyn Jones’s piece begs us to reflect more seriously on the way we conceive of history and our role in the present.) We may not want to live without our smartphones, but we pine for the perceived simpler era of our grandparents.

Others, however, count innovation and change among our greatest achievements. The new is the only reliable repository of hope—even if, according to recent reports, Tesla fails.

In this issue of Imprint, we look at old and new from a variety of angles: through our built environment (see Katrina Togeretz’s delightful history of Allan Gardens) as well as through stories of immigration and assimilation. (Should we be surprised that food is the tie that binds us to the countries and cultures we leave behind?) Additionally, we launch a new series called, “Life Together” to help us re-imagine new practices of human connection. We even broach the mortal subjects of death and dying.

“Old and new” is the theme of this issue, and it’s also a theme of the Christian life. As Christians, we are people of the old. We cherish old stories and observe a meal that proclaims an old hope. But this isn’t to say we’re stuck in the past. Different from other world religions, Christianity affirms that God has acted purposefully in history to heal the disrepair of this world. In other words, “in the beginning” was only a beginning. When Jesus Christ emerged alive from the grave two thousand years ago, his resurrection witnessed by hundreds of people, his followers began to confidently declare: death will have no final word.

And this is why we pray in faith: “Lord, make all things new.”

— Jen Michel