If we believe in anything, we believe in Progress. And this belief has changed who are are. And our sense of what time is like – and what it means.
Progress, I hardly need tell you, means things keep getting better. Look at that definition carefully – it does not say people keep getting better – it says things keep getting better. Thing is a important world in English. I just looked it up in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged – and I was flooded with meanings – all of them important.
For my purposes I will define a thing as a product that that has been manufactured. The prime example being the automobile – the product that changed forever who we were.
Who we were was changing – we were merging with our things. And as thing-people we were much better than we were – we thought. When in fact we were much worse. Because our ability to be human was greatly diminished. I must spend some time belaboring that point – which has more implications than you may realize.
It means that the past is bad, the future is good – and the present does not exist. We are actually living in the future – successfully staying away from our selves in the present – the only place we can actually be.
And not only that. The future is not fixed in time – but a vague objective that is moving away from us faster and faster. Making us run faster and faster – trying to catch up. As the Red Queen (in Alice in Wonderland) remarked.
This was written in 1865 – when people knew intuitively what the Red Queen was talking about. Things continued to speed up until sometime in the 20th Century – probably sometime in the Fifties (and the advent of Television) - when they reached the breaking point. People can only stand so much speedup before they flip out.
We now live in a post-Modern – or post-Industrial – world. And we haven’t the foggiest notion where we are. We are in the grip of forces beyond our comprehension.
I don’t think they are beyond our comprehension – I work hard at comprehending them, and I flatter myself in thinking that I have somewhat succeeded. But vast majority are in the dark – and determined to stay that way. The analogy to Plato’s cave is irresistible.
They are in control – and I feel like the Stoics at the end of the Roman Empire. With the sky falling in around my ears.
Much to everybody’s satisfaction.