Monday, March 18, 2013

Progress and Change

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
 . . . .
Robert Frost

Change and progress are both considered inherently good things today.  But what if they were not equally good?  Which would we choose?  What if we could have progress without change or change without progress?  Is it possible to have either good or bad change?

To answer the last question first, YES.  It is equally possible for change to be either good or bad.  Different individuals or cultures might extend a multitude of definitions for good change, but that does not mean that all change is equally good.  It does not even mean that all change is progress.

The two words are not synonyms.

In fact, change and progress can sometimes by antonyms.  Say, for example, that you are on a road trip from your college campus to your home for the summer.  You are progressing quite speedily toward home.  Then you come to a sign that says "DETOUR" and you must head another direction in order to reach home.  This might still be considered progress, although at a somewhat slower rate.  If, however, you instead got lost while on the detour and somehow were heading back toward college, the change would not have resulted in your progress toward home.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  You see, in order to have progress, you must have direction and an ultimate destination.  Without these two necessary conditions, there can be no progress.

So, which do we choose, change or progress?

This is somewhat of a false dilemma, since change and progress are not always opposed to each other.  Yet it is important to know the correct answer when they are in opposition.  Progress is the correct answer.  Progress is the only way to reach our end goals.  Sometimes this progress requires change; at other times, it requires us to continue on the same road at the same velocity for a very long time.  Progress is good when the end goal is good.  Change is good when it facilitates progress to a worthy goal.

The good of change in each situation must be carefully discerned by looking at a higher standard of good than mere consensus of individual opinions or acceptance by society.  God, with His moral and natural laws, is the only true standard of progress.