The World Has Moved On

the-world-has-moved-onProgress. It’s a subjective term for sure, but I think the underlying agreement we have with it is that more equals better. 

Today…

  • We have more conveniences. We’re making progress.
  • We have more opportunities. We’re making progress.
  • We have more TV channels and electronic gadgets and fast-food restaurants and clothing labels. We’re making progress.

My grandmother spent her childhood years in the Great Depression.

“Everyone was so poor, you didn’t even notice. You were valued for who you were, not what you had.”

I don’t know exactly what happened between then and now, but I’m pretty sure progress had something to do with it.

The stories my grandmother tells me are those of production. Growing her own food. Raising livestock. Reading. Using imagination to make up games to play. Exploring the woods. Picking bouquets of wild flowers. Riding horses to deliver gifts. Dropping in unannounced on friends and neighbors.

She laughs softly when recounting these memories, perhaps thinking I can’t possibly relate to the experiences, appreciate their simplicity. At 85, she is well aware that far more than years separate us. The world has moved on, and the life she knew was left behind. I get the sense that she feels somewhat lost in today. I understand that. Having witnessed the changes - the progress - that have occurred in her lifetime, it makes sense.

What do the next 75 years hold for us? Momentum, such as it is, will surely bring about change at an even faster pace than we’ve seen. That thought terrifies me. My  boys’ memories are already worlds apart from those my Grandmother shares.  How much more-so when they’re her age?

Will there come a time, do you think, when progress is no longer associated with linear and sequential movement along a generally accepted track? When it’s not defined within the context of the ‘more equals better’ mindset? Is there at least the chance for a return to simplicity? To a place and time where you might value me not because of my increased efficiencies or my refined tastes or my purchasing power, but instead because of my connection to the earth and the strength of my human relationships?

It’s not that I want what’s in the rear view mirror. I know that’s a sucker’s game. But learning from our time here…that seems important. Because progress should be more about improving than advancing. There is a difference.

{ 11 comments… add one }

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  • jebdickerson April 5, 2009, 11:36 am

    there is more to progress than meets the eye… http://budurl.com/mb5p

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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  • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended April 5, 2009, 11:49 am

    The quoted paragraph at the bottom of this comment sounds marvelous.

    I think our technological advances are breathtaking. I love the fact that I can hop in a plane and be anywhere in the world in less than a full day (Amazing people complain about long flights).

    I love the medical advancements too. I love that I can get a cavity filled and have a good shot at my teeth not all falling out for as long as I live.

    Great and marvelous things are happening all around us.

    I don’t want to throw those advancements away - no way. I don’t think you do either from your post.

    But I do think that materialism can get out of hand. That it can get excessive and even dangerous.

    Certainly something to think about.

    I also think that developing gratitude (awareness) is something we could all work on. In many ways times are SO much better now than they ever were.

    But it does appear that pitfalls have been created in our age of plenty.

    “The stories my grandmother tells me are those of production. Growing her own food. Raising livestock. Reading. Using imagination to make up games to play. Exploring the woods. Picking bouquets of wild flowers. Riding horses to deliver gifts. Dropping in unannounced on friends and neighbors.”

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    • Jeb April 5, 2009, 12:05 pm

      BFPI…
      You’re right, of course. There are certain aspects of our progress that should not be forsaken. But certainly there are things we’ve lost along the way that had tremendous value. Things we thought we wouldn’t miss…the absence of which affects us whether we acknowledge it or not. Perhaps it’s just my idealism torturing me yet again, but I see a better way, if only in brief glimpses.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  • philbaumann April 5, 2009, 3:24 pm

    The World Has Moved On, from @jebdickerson - http://bit.ly/qYRIw

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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  • Juanita April 5, 2009, 6:47 pm

    I try to stay ahead of my son. Whatever there is out there, as far as progress, I try it first. I had a cellphone first,PDA, I have a website, I write code, I twitter, I MySpace I am fully digital. I keep up at my age (36) so that I can help to lead him down the right path. I was lead down the right path by many people in my life all of whom knew things that I did not yet find out about. I think that this was the key to me learning from their mistakes and successes. That they were always ahead of me and I felt secure that they knew where they had been and therefore where I was going.

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    • Jeb April 5, 2009, 7:15 pm

      Hey Juanita…
      Yeah, I think that’s a good call. Things move so quickly, it’s easy to fall behind when it comes to technology. I think it’s inevitable that our kids will pass us by, but we can push it off to some extent. And if we can then influence our young people to make good choices along that path of progress, all the better. Thanks Juanita…

      Reply
  • Chris Chadwick April 5, 2009, 8:04 pm

    When you look at the speed at which information and technology progress what strikes me as scary is that in previous times we had time to think and process before responding. Now we must act quicker and often with less thought to our actions. Technology is a double edged sword. It is good to be weary of its blade.

    Reply
    • Jeb April 5, 2009, 8:18 pm

      Yes, very true Chris. The danger inherent to today’s technology is evident. Some of it quite perilous, some not so much. But this danger isn’t what I fear most. Rather, I worry for what we’ve left behind. For what this technology has allowed us to neglect. The value fundamental to the production and community that was more than just a part of life a hundred years ago…but was life a hundred years ago…has been lost. I guess I’m starting to see the Emperor’s New Clothes for what they are, and it worries me that perhaps too many of us are content to adopt the benefits of progress without acknowledging its costs.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth Songster April 6, 2009, 3:14 pm

    All you have said I can relate to. As a parent and now a grandparent, I realize I am pretty behind on the latest and greatest technology, but I don’t feel compelled to “keep up” with everything (is it My Face or Spacebook?) at this point. As for trying to stay ahead of your children in order to ‘lead’ them down the right path, that has always been the hope/goal of most parents. I remember, and you probably do, too, one of my parents saying ‘no’ to something I wanted to do and when I asked why(?) my mom said, “…because I’ve done that myself and found it didn’t workout and I want to ‘save’you from having to go through it for nothing.” Well, I understood what she meant, but I really believed I would not have that same experience doing it my way and went ahead and did it …with the same result. It is inate, I believe, to think that our experience will be different, so children do not necessarily walk that path you have “tested” for them. I had the very same experience raising my sons (and you know who you are) when I often tried to “save” them from going through an experience I had already had with a less-than-great result. Today it is even harder with all that kids are exposed to. The best you can do is continue to lovingly guide them, teaching them to make good choices, showing them the consequences of both, so that when they are confronted with something on their own it will be easier for them to make the right/good choice. It is hard, for sure, to watch our children make mistakes, but that’s part of learning. With your love and support, however, those mistakes will not be negatively life-changing as much as they will be positively character building. Never give up!

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    • Jeb April 6, 2009, 4:32 pm

      Yes Mum…you speak the truth. But what happens when the experiences that helped build generations upon generations, no longer exist. We cant guide our young people down a path that is no longer available. I’m not saying we should all abandon the cities and tend a 5 acre parcel that it might provide all we need. But in our haste to advance, we’re throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. I like babies. They’re cute. And soft. Sure, life may be easier without them, but down the road, when we’re old and gray and reflecting upon our lives, we’ll want for them.

      I feel like we’re coming up on that ‘old and gray’ period as a society, and I fear we’re going to regret some of the experiences we left behind in the name of progress.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth Songster April 6, 2009, 11:30 pm

    My Dear Jeb,
    The experiences that helped build generations upon generations were not the same throughout those generations. They continued to change, some more subtley than others., but change, they did. So there isn’t just one path that has withstood the winds of time up to now… each generation takes what serves them well from the last and alters it to “fit” the moment so even then the experience is not the same. It takes a very long time for that to happen and only when you are looking back is it clear to the one looking. I think there will always be some regret for some people who long for simpler times in the midst of this ever-changing world, but that’s what progress is…mostly change with the hope that it is always for the better for the majority. You will always be able to look back, sometimes with longing, for what once was, but that won’t necessarily be the same for everybody who looks back so it isn’t likely that time/progress/life will stop and go “back”. Of course, you can pick some of what you long for and weave it into your present life for your children to get a taste, but they will ultimately be choosing for themselves and their lives what serves them well and makes them happy. Be careful, my dear, not to get lost in the longing…stay in the moment or you may miss the momentous!

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