I remember back in my early school days bringing home a progress report. At some point in the semester my teachers felt it was essential for my parents to know how, or if, I was progressing.
I remember thinking progress must be important, even required. I grew up thinking progress was what we lived for.
Today, as a society, we are still driven to earn a good progress report. Firmly threaded through our societal DNA is the common presupposition things must get bigger, better, and more beneficial.
But when we look at our adult children we see a bedrock sense of entitlement. They just assume their lives, opportunities, and gadgets will be vastly better than those of their parents. After all, progress is a given here in America.
However, upon looking more closely we find an increasing incidence of paradox that brings out the problematic side of progress. Here are a few examples.
More information, less knowledge: Social media, along with an explosion in ways we can get the news, has opened the floodgates of information, allowing the deluge to flood our souls and minds. We are awash in updates, stories, declarations, reports, opinions, and the ever-popular crass criticisms.
There are more papers, shows, websites, blog sites, eMags, tweets, texts, emails, and vlogs than we can possibly read, but together they form a new tsunami of information ready to greet us anew every day.
But do we really know more? Do we actually have more clarity, more certainty, more assurance about the world we live in? We know more and more stuff every day. But the sheer volume of data, as well as the fact most of it is trivial, and much of it is fabricated, leaves us more inundated than informed.
We have mountains of information, but less certainty about what we think is real or right.
More friends, less relationship: This trend has been studied, analyzed, and confirmed many times. Our computers, phones, and tablets are filled with contacts. Our days are punctuated with short bursts of one-way communication, and we can boast of having thousands of friends and followers. But the truth remains that we feel more alone than ever.
The fact is electronic texts, emails, tweets, posts and pics can never equate to mutually beneficial life-on-life investments in other people that add up, over time, to that intangible known as companionship.
Real friends see relationship as more than an exchange of data. It is sharing life, with all the joys and sorrows it can bring. But as long as we believe reaching out electronically from our isolated, busy lives constitutes real progress, we’ll continue to be a society of lonely people.
More science, less health: Have you noticed how pharmaceuticals have invaded the advertising arena? It seems every television program now brings with it three or four spots detailing the advantages of the latest drugs. We have more Ph.Ds doing more research than ever before, but look around.
We Americans are among the least healthy people in the world. We lead the world in medical research and care, but also in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other preventable problems. Apparently, some part of our progress is killing us.
More success, less satisfaction: If we take a good, hard look at our lives we may find we are making great progress, but enjoying less and less satisfaction. We’re making more money but having less joy. We’re achieving great success, but feeling more and more empty. We’re pursuing more excitement but finding it doesn’t excite our souls, the core of our being.
The great problem with progress is it can easily become our god. And the problem is this god, like every idol, really doesn’t exist, doesn’t care about us, and never gives back all we entrust to it.
It is often remarked our greatest strengths can also be areas of our greatest weakness. This is often the case with technology. Sometimes things are supposed to be hard, require diligence, and offer benefit over time.
Real friendship, health, insight, and overall satisfaction in life are a few things that will never mature unless they are nourished by personal investment that goes beyond the convenient.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.