At this dark hour, but a fortnight away from the winter solstice, swaddled in a hellish cocoon of stress, self doubt and misbegotten plans for productivity, we learn to be better. Dickens, baby, you wuz dead wrong. This is the worst of times; this is the winter of despair. Any consolation for the fact is delusion; any attempt to spin it brightly is a sham. This is a time for “America By Heart,” a time when the King of Arabia whispers secret apocalypse to our emissaries and a Korea divided divides again. The sunshine patriot has headed for the hills long ago, and the scarce allies that remain are mired in the viscid gunk of their own torturous slog toward salvation. “Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death”? That sounds about right.

And yet, what can be done? What MUST be done? Are we doomed to endure, locked up like tonsured cloaks in their scriptoria, scribbling madly away at final papers whose only audience will be a hapless graduate student or professor as bleary-eyed as we? No. Can you hear it? There it was again! A voice, floating as light as the first snow on the strengthening winter zephyr, carried along by the Harkness bells and the gentle pop of the Kettlecorner’s wares. Halt, it speaks! And it sings,

“Run away from me, baby.

Run away.

Run away from me, baby.

Run away.

Doesn’t have to get crazy.

Why can’t she just run away?”

Now is not the time to stop or look back, friends, lest we all turn to pillars of salt to be ground down to season some tyrant’s steak tartare. Now is not the time to stagnate, to slowly root ourselves in our armchairs like some psychotropic fungus. Now, comrades and countrymen, is a time to flee, not a time to be a Han Solo. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and, if it plays its cards right, even gets to play Royal Albert Hall. So pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get the hell out of here.

And, of course, now is not the time for allegory. In the words of that fallen hero Samson, son of Manoa, “Be less abstruse; my riddling days are past.” WEEKEND does not avocate spiritual release or engaging in dissociative trance. This is not some thinly veiled call for destressing or “seeing the larger picture.” These notions are meaningless historical abstractions. The new decade will be an era of tough-as-nails reality. Peace of mind is a piece of the past, a relic of our parents’ age which we, knowing better, cannot accept.

Seriously, just Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and get the fuck out. Be in the here and now; just make the here somewhere else. Go to Qatar or something. We hear it’s poppin’ this time of year, or at least it will be when they’re hosting the World Cup (we know; what’s up with that, international community?).

Our contributors have offered their own take on what defined 2010, but for WEEKEND, this was the year of the cut and run. Stop your posturing, take your vitamins and lace up your neon Doc Marten high tops. Fill a rucksack with beef jerky and rubbing alcohol, and join us in leaving this wasteland behind for more nihilistic pastures.

And don’t worry: these Ivory Tower nudniks will never be able to hit a moving target, especially if you’re on a vespa.