Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Backward is the New Forward

Progress, noun: 1) a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage: the progress of a student toward a degree. 2) advancement in general. 3) growth or development; continuous improvement. 4) forward or onward movement

While the dictionary includes "forward" as the direction of progress, onward can be lateral or even backward.

“We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”--C.S. Lewis

When I was a child, my mother would hang clothing on the line to dry when the weather permitted. I would always beg to just put them in the dryer but my mother insisted it was a waste of energy.

I abandoned my mother's ways when I left home too busy and progressive to bother with a clothes line, that is until I got married. I bought a clothesline and hung the clothes to dry outside on nice days because as it turns out mother was right.

Progress is not defined by the speediest course of action but the most prudent. Albert Einstein said “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." Einstein may have been on to something.

Many are opting for simplicity, abandoning cars for bicycles and McMansions for independent living. We are going organic and green and railing against the forces that remain staunchly rooted in the status quo. Progressive thinking has led us to the realization that moving forward means stripping some things away.

Writers seem to have an inherent grasp of this concept. We have embraced technology but we also hold on to the tried and true. We use our computers but still carry our moleskins, notebooks or like Melissa Donovan our Watson Guptill Fickle Writer. We may buy the executive desk but often abandon it for a spot in the garden or the small table in the corner where the light hits just right.

The Kindle and audiobook are mere supporting players in our reading repertoire for we still love the weight of a book in our hands and the sound of a turning page. We see the complex but appreciate the mundane. Our stories are often not about the technological prowess of mankind but simply mankind. The writers eye sees through the maze of detail and is able to ferret out the steps that will get us to the goal, in whatever direction they lead.

What are your thoughts on progress? Have you ever moved backward to advance? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments.

13 comments:

ellen wilson said...

We have this idea of progress that has been defined for us. I don't think it always works. In fact, it often gets in the way of things...

I was researching some info for an article and came across this 1950's poster that said "DDT is Good for Me!

We aren't going to say that anymore, now are we?

What is progress today, may be a hindrance tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I think we're getting to the point that there is too much technology. We're getting to the point of diminishing returns.

For example, I once went jogging with my sister and brother in law...and he refused to start his run until his wrist-watch GPS caught the satelite signal. So he could track his exact distance and calories and heart rate, etc...

My God..how did we survive 5 years ago? (When people just went for a JOG?)

Crack-Berries, cellphones, email, Ipods..etc, PowerPoint, Game Boys.

Not too long ago, we had fax machines, DOS computers, overhead slides, and Atari game consoles. And life wasn't so bad, was it?

We have too much crap, and it's not necessarily making our lives better. Possibly, quite the opposite.

The one good thing about the Internet is how we can communicate, like I'm doing right now.

But what would most of us prefer? Email and internet, or a refrigerator and washer/dryer?


- Friar

Words For Hire said...

@Ellen, you are right about today's progress being tomorrow's hindrance. It will be interesting to see what we think in 20 years of all of our wonder gadgets and genetically engineered food (which I am already totally against).

@Friar, I agree we have so much stuff that it does hinder. We're fatter, lazier and less imaginative. Our kids don't play, unless it is in a structured team environment where their goal is stardom and a college scholarship. I love using technology but I refuse to be owned by it. I could give up refrigerator,it's empty all the time anyway but I kind of like the internet. :-)

nbabyak said...

To change my career from hospitality to e-commerce I took a %50 cut in pay... and in and in 2 years I was making double my original salary... there were 2 rounds of unemployment in that time somewhere... but that first leap led me to starting a national PMO on my own, a seat at the CIO cirlce, and a wonderful team of directs and extended directs.

In many ways I have taken another step back with my current job... no longer a manager (let alone a manager of managers)... 40% pay cut... cross country move to a place with no connections.

What will that forward be? Where will I land?

One of the reasons that I have started to network online (again) is a longing for those early days of the (gasp) arpanet and Perl 1.0 when everyone really did know everyone and the UseNet was a close and small community!

Words For Hire said...

@Nancy, I like to define progress in light of the season of my life and the goals for that season. Years ago progress was the executive office and its perks but I left that when the season called for a change in my life and goals. My progress today looks different than before but it is not lesser than. You have made decisions that fit where you are at that moment in time. Good on you for not being boxed in to moving in only one direction and refusing to remain open to possibility. I moved across country too with no network. I totally relate to your situation! And..OMG I so remember Usenet! See you on Twitter my friend. ;-)

stefani said...

I think just being a mom has allowed me to move backward, in order to progress with my children in the right way. It can be about learning how to treat people, how to take care of yourself, or, in modern terms, how to balance a technical world with appreciating nature and simple pleasures.

It is NOT easy by any means, but it makes the positive results so much sweeter...

Melissa Donovan said...

Wow, I am flattered to be mentioned in such a beautifully written post. Thank you for the link, Karen.

Even though I'm a huge fan of technology and avid computer/internet user, I do strive for simplicity and often daydream about a minimalist home and lifestyle. Too much chaos is not good for peace of mind!

- Melissa Donovan

Words For Hire said...

@Melissa, I was happy to mention you and plan on doing it more often. I love your work! I started to simplify when I moved from CA to MI. Nothing like a cross country move on your own to simplify fast! I am amazed at how little you really do need. I too dream of an even simpler lifestyle, a little cabin by a lake or a treetop house in the rainforest...with wifi of course. ;)

Melissa Donovan said...

@Karen, The treetop house sounds pretty good to me. We can start a community of tree-dwellers and yes, the wi-fi is an absolute necessity ;)

Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward

Words For Hire said...

@Melissa, I love it! I can picture us like mad scientists / hippies laughing it up and cranking out best sellers. :-)

Oh, your red scarf matches your eyes said...

What a brilliant post.

Words For Hire said...

@oh your red scarf, please forgive my tardy response! My email was so cluttered with junk that the gems got lost. Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I truly appreciate it! Love the title of your blog by the way!

Cheers, Karen

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