Humanity’s progress report

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

The viewpoint that human beings and civilization are ever improving and advancing toward a higher and better goal is a very old one. The search itself tells the story — whether it was what brought the Puritans to the American colonies or what sent the covered wagons across the prairies or what propelled man to land on the moon.

The U.S. Constitution speaks of the “pursuit” of happiness. It is this pursuit — this search or quest for something better, higher, more meaningful, more substantial — that illustrates the life practice of progress.

Many people argue and debate about what constitutes progress, and consequently, many times the authenticity or validity of progress is doubted and questioned. This has never made much sense to me, since I believe that existence must always be advancing, proceeding and unfolding because progress is the law of God, the law of infinity.

Steps forward can certainly be of different sizes, whether baby steps or giant leaps. Advancement is actually possible, even when you’re not on your feet. Crawling is progress. Any improvement is a good thing and should be recognized, valued and appreciated. Perhaps we can best define progress in the words of Walt Whitman: “always becoming.” Progress, then, would never be a single fixed point and would never reach an end.

So we are always becoming the people we are capable of being — the people we are divinely created to be, whom God knows, loves and cares for right now and forever.

Recently I came across the slogan of the General Electric Co. in the 1950s and 1960s. And it seems that it was Ronald Reagan who announced this slogan each week on television in the name of General Electric: “Progress is our most important product.”

If this is so, we don’t need to measure progress by what we’ve accomplished, achieved or built and invented. We ascertain our progress by the direction in which we are walking, the practice of our ideals, and our understanding of who we are.

Jesus taught his disciples a lesson in social progress when apparently James and John were angry at how some people were acting. The disciples asked Jesus if he wanted them to “tell fire to come down from heaven and consume” these people. Jesus said, “Of course not!!!” Then he further cautioned them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (Luke 9:51-55).

We must always be about the business of becoming who we are, as God created us to be. We’re not responsible for the actions of others. But we are always accountable for our own actions, our own thoughts and viewpoints.

Perhaps we can better understand who we are by better understanding our Creator. God is Love. If Love created us, then we must be loving, forgiving, compassionate. If we are not living who we are, then maybe that is because we’re not understanding who we are. The good news is we will continue to progress in that understanding and become better at acting like the child of God that we are. Thank goodness, progress is the law of God!

Indeed, there are many would-be foes of progress: idleness, conceit, envy, revenge, and the many self-isms such as self-will, self-righteousness and self-ignorance, to name a few. Misguided opinions of what brings happiness and satisfaction are also detrimental to progress.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn and learn again throughout my life. Whether I was making a rash judgment, jumping to a wrong conclusion, worrying about what-ifs or stressing out about lack of time, I’ve had to be willing to reassess and alter my perceptions.

As we continue on our journey of self-awakening, we’ll become more alert to these enemies and will allow nothing to impede or hinder our progress.

We are a world of seekers. While our pathways traveled are unique and many, progress is the law that is impelling each of our steps. Human history has been one of progress, sometimes accelerating and sometimes slow moving. But the wheels of progress will keep moving us all forward, as they must, ever so steadily.

May we always celebrate any and all progress in our lives and in the lives of others. After all, progress is what matters most.