Melting Mosaic

When I first moved to Toronto my impression of the city was that it seemed to be the living embodiment of Canada’s cultural mosaic.

Unlike the American melting pot—where cultures are assimilated into a single nationalistic vision—as a country we pride ourselves on creating a rich, ever-changing tapestry made up of thousands of distinct colours and textures. And on the surface this is how the city appeared.

But the more I looked at it, the more it seemed like the mosaic wasn’t a rich tableau of people from all over the world working, playing, loving and living together, it was more like the rigidly geometric divisions of a Mondrian.

Red here. Yellow here. Blue here. White here. And thick black lines to separate them all.

And, for a while, for a few years, this seemed to me to be a pretty accurate description of Hog Town’s stratified neighborhoods and communities isolated form one another by our sprawling urban geography.

But then I began to see that the city isn’t a mosaic at all. It’s not a work in progress, not a work that’s been abandoned, it’s not incomplete—it’s a mosaic that hasn’t even been started.

Toronto is just piles of coloured tiles on the floor of an artist’s studio waiting to be glued into place. Stagnant heaps of culture jumbled together. And slowly, as the piles shifted and settled over time, they’ve sort of bled together at the edges. Occasionally, as the artist walked around the studio procrastinating, waiting for inspiration, making tea, a few tiles have been kicked across the room into other piles.

A yellow square lost in a heap of blue triangles.

A sprinkling of green rhomboids in among the red hexagons.

And it seems like the artist is paralyzed, unsure of what what kind of mosaic they even want to create. There’s no vision so they just continue to make tea and browse the Internet and read books and wait for inspiration to hit them while the piles continue to settle and spread and bleed as a layer of grey dust  settles on everything.

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