Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Progress

There are some important words that are hard to define: friendship, life, love. Progress is also hard to define, especially once you strip its (common) ideological context. Each person has a different view – and definition – of these concepts. Once, I thought defining life was pretty easy, until I found out that viruses are viewed as “dead”. Also see this recent Quanta article on definitions of life.

Yesterday’s blog mentioned the word progress in its final paragraphs. I enjoyed reading Terry Pratchett’s view: “Progress just means bad things happen faster”.

Merriam-Webster’s definitions of progress have a micro background: you know (i) where you are, (ii) where you’re heading to, and (iii) you can measure the distance that has elapsed and is remaining. Hence, quite pragmatic. Progress on a macro level often has an ideological context. 

The perceived lack of progress at a macro level will often lead to ideological doomsday messages in order to stir up public attention and support. Hence, you will (often) notice articles with headings like climate emergencies (before) and climate catastrophes (now).

To some extent, this makes sense given the lack of (i) history, (ii) current position, and (iii) future goal. As Dutch writer C. Buddingh’ once stated: “Inspraak zonder inzicht leidt tot uitspraak zonder uitzicht”, which roughly translates like “input without insight leads to output without perspective”.

I’m not sure if I’m making progress in life: my past is irrelevant and my future is opaque. I’m not sure if I still have goals – apart from writing. I do have a pretty good picture of my here and now. However, I do monitor progress in the quality and quantity of my writing. This is all micro though.

Perhaps, life is easier when you’re still on a treadmill or in a hamster wheel. As someone is just saying to me: “when there is no blueprint then things start to get sticky (and scary)”. No one knows the blueprint of Life (my blogs). Yet everyone is measuring individual progress. How about collective progress? That’s unlikely to equal the sum of individual progress.

Perhaps, the advantage of an ideological context is that collective progress can be measured. Without an ideological context, you need to resort to indices and/or numbers like the Gini coefficientGross Domestic Product, and the World Happiness Index. Some may – indeed – indicate (a lack of) progress.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” A quote from Man and Superman (1903) by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), “an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist.”

Work in Progress (2002) by Alan Jackson

artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Just be patient I’m a work in progress

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.

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