The World Does Not Progress It Merely Changes:
1958 is not necessarily better than 1957; only it is different. The Sputnik or the hydrogen bomb does not mean progress; they only mean change. The world of humanity may die. That is not progress. A son is not necessarily superior to his father; he is just different. The wheels of time move on and on. The old order changeth yielding place to new. The world changes. Change is not always progress.
Years pass, centuries roll by, millennia (thousands of years) glide on; the globe becomes older; the seas roll by where once stood land and new land rises out of the seas: cities stand where once stood wilderness and prosperous kingdoms decay and become deserts. Millions of men come and go on the surface of the earth. The forces of history make sport of nations and of humanity. Change is writ large on the surface of rocks, oceans, and continents. Destiny makes and unmakes countries and nations. Nature cries out her message of change. History never repeats itself. Nothing in the world is ever the same. “No man”, said the philosopher Heraclitus, “can cross the same river twice.” “No, not once,” cried his disciple, “for it has become a different river by the time you cross it.”
Is this change another name of progress? We can’t be sure. Change is certain, progress is uncertain. Men in the good old days were simple, noble, and God-fearing. People today are clever, diplomatic, and selfish. The old-world virtues of love, sincerity, selflessness, and helpfulness are passing into history. Today each man is for himself and no man is for others. Plain living and high thinking are no more. We forget God and worship Mammon (money) in His place. Is it progress? It may be. Is it a change? It is.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution suggested to some people that progress is the law of Nature. Simpler forms of life evolve into complex shapes. Apes (monkeys) became men, and men will evolve into supermen in the course of a few lakh years. In Nature, there is the struggle for existence, the weaker goes to the wall, and there is the survival of the fittest; thus said, Darwin. The species evolve and move towards perfection. As Tennyson says:
|“Behold we know not anything|
I can but trust that good shall fall,
At last-far off-at last to all,
And every winter change to spring.”
You may call that progress, if you please. But the history of the world is not always the history of progress. What about our 20th Century? We think it is the age of progress that dazzles and improvement that inspires. It is the age of jet planes and atomic energy, it is the age of the radio and television, it is the century of the telegraph and telephone, trains and motor cars, and a thousand other miracles of science. We call it progress. But how will our century appear to the future historian of the 30th century? Looking back over a thousand years. he will probably call it the dark era of barbarism, in which the two World Wars butchered humanity and caused colossal loss of life and property. Is this progress? Perhaps. Is this change? Certainly.
We may note that the Middle Ages, which we call Dark Ages, did not seem ‘dark’ to the people who lived in them. They too were proud of their progress and careful about their culture. Every age, like every man, has a good opinion of itself. No period practices what it knows to be wrong. What we call their bloody wars seemed to them to be opportunities for bravery and heroism, martyrdom for their religion, and pride in their race. Each race considers itself to be God’s chosen people; each country and each century thinks itself to be at the height of progress. But every change is not progress; it may be a change for the worse.
In the days of yore, there was the village civilization. Towns were few and far between. There were vast jungles where sages and hermits went for the meditation of God. It was a scene of peace and plenty. Today jungles have been cut and cities stand in their place. Noisy factories stage feuds between capital and labor; their smoke spoils the atmosphere; there is cut-throat competition and exploitation of man by man. Are these signs of progress?
The ruins of ancient civilizations lie scattered over large tracts. They speak of the glory that once was. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria had their golden ages when they stood at the center of the world’s stage. Their past was glorious, their present is poor. That is change, not progress.
Today’s systems of government are Democracy and communism. Are they better than the bygone systems of monarchy or aristocracy? Who can tell? It is for the future to judge the present.
What about art and literature? Has the world made progress in these since days of Shakespeare and Homer, Rafael and Michael Angelo? We do not think so. Macaulay said, “As Civilization advances, poetry and literature necessarily decline.”
The world moves in a circle. The ancient ages also had their airplanes and wireless. Tradition tells us that every invention is a re-invention and every discovery a re-discovery.
The river of time flows forward. It is going forward but it is also going toward the lower level. And thus at the heart of progress, there is degeneration too. In some fields, the world is going higher, in other spheres it is going down. Today is not yesterday, even as tomorrow will not be today. Does the world progress? Perhaps not. Does the world change? Oh, sure. Is progress another name for change? Not always.