Progress, a word many of us have come to learn from society, means to grow and expand. To grow, learn, and to evolve both individually and socially is the goal of progress. This drive to improve is built into the very fabric of who we are as a people. We are all dreamers, explorers, and poets; buried deep inside all of us is the drive to surpass who we were yesterday. To evolve not only our understanding of ourselves, but of the collective whole we call society. We have come to see the modern world as more progressive than what has come before, and we measure the quality of our society by how far our reach extends. Yet, by forgetting the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat their failures.
In today’s world of industry and expansion, we now measure progress not by long lasting achievements like peace and prosperity, but by gold and short-term goals. These short-term goals will never build sustainable progress, and like a building with no support, it will collapse at the slightest tremor. The future cannot be built without knowing why we are reaching upwards. Without wisdom, knowledge is dangerous and we risk missing tomorrow. Our false idols built out of gold and glass shining so bright that they blind us to what true progress means.
A society is not measured by what it has built or how much gold it holds, but by the forward progression of all its people. Progress does not mean expansion or consumption deterred by reason or compassion. Progress—true progress—is about reaching further together as people towards a brighter tomorrow united and not secular.
Progress doesn’t come from a single person, but a collective will, tempered with reason and fueled by passion. It doesn’t mean demolishing a forest and in its place erecting a city. Progress would be merging the forest with the city to not only create a more beautiful city, but a sustainable future.
True progress is measured by the evolution of the collective whole. Sometimes true progress isn’t a new technology or great work, but a new understanding of oneself or another. It’s sometimes delving deep inside to discover the collective will of evolution. Progress isn’t always parades and fireworks, sometimes progress is quiet. A subtle echo as opposed to a deafening roar. While the roar drowns out the message, the echo can be heard farther and longer, the echo endures.
When we measure progress by the accumulation of wealth or power, we create an imbalanced climb towards our future. Like Icarus, we are so blinded by the climb, we fail to see that we are losing our wings. Reaching ever so higher and higher that we fail to see the danger. Instead, we climb on top of each other to reach higher, so obsessed with the climb we forget where we are going and why. We become so enamored by the climb that we knock down our brothers and sisters and inevitably sabotage our own ascent.
To reach higher to claim the summit, we need to build a proper foundation built together out of understanding and patience. While this climb may be a bit slower it ensures that none of us falls.
We need to build the future today by planning where we are going and this can never be done apart. Without everyone in your society willfully contributing to the bigger picture, your masterpiece will always lack colour.
This is where we will evolve both inwardly and outwardly, this is how we need to redefine progress, together. For united we stand and divided we will always fall.
“You either create a world for everyone or else you will end up in a world fit for no one.”
—John Ames Birch