Have We Progressed and Is Progress Worth It?

Novel themes are fun because they’re subtle. It’s possible to read a book without realizing what the theme is even though it’s usually there, lurking in the background.

Ironically, the theme of the novel it’s taken me more than a year to revise is progress. I think about progress a lot.

Have we, as humans, progressed? There’s no doubt we have. But sometimes it seems as if for every step forward, we take at least another step back. We have time saving devices like computers and washing machines, but they cause pollution and disposal problems. Cars and highways were once seen as signs of progress over horses and dirt roads. Now traffic jams slow any progress down.

Electricity was another sign of progress. Yet we still create most of our electricity by burning fossil fuels. Now we’re looking toward using alternative energy sources. Any meaningful progress seems too slow.

Throughout history, most of our progress has come at the expense of nature. Nature does have a way of fighting back though. Sometimes I can’t help but think this would be progress of a different kind:

nature, progress

Maybe progress shouldn’t be measured by technology and inventions, but by how we treat each other. When looked at that way, there have been huge strides since the 1950s when segregation ruled the South and a woman’s place was in the home (and only the home). So while we keep taking steps forward and back, hopefully we’ll continue to take a few leaps ahead every once in a while. Sometimes we don’t even realize progress is happening until we look back and say, “Wow, everything is different. How did that happen?”

What are your thoughts on progress? Is progress worth it?