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Safety in Progress

The other day while on a coffee break at work I was gazing out the second-story window when I noticed 2 pedestrians. The window immediately overlooks a few parking lots dissected by your usual flower beds, trees, and ornamental shrubbery. For whatever reason, whoever planned the parking lots neglected to leave any sort of walkway through the landscaping. 

The 2 pedestrians looked hesitantly at the landscaping and decided to make a go for it. They nervously took their first steps, the whole time looking over their shoulders for I don’t know what. I could sense their unease through the glass window over a hundred feet away. They gingerly made their way through and onto the next parking lot on their way to the bank next door. 

I can’t help but wonder why these people felt so uncomfortable walking through the shrubbery, and at the same time felt so comfortable on the pavement. Was it security? Familiarity? What has happened to make us fear that what is natural? There was a time in our history when the sight of a highway dissecting the prairie would have been scary, foreign to us. So we’ve now come to the point that it is Nature that is a foreign concept to us. We’ve now adopted such an unnatural way of life that we have to take a vacation just to touch nature. We fight just to set aside a few acres of trees amongst our concrete jungles. 

At what point was it that we abandoned that which is natural for us in favor of progress? Was it the invention of electricity? The Moon landing? The rise of Christianity in the Western World? It was said once “Progress: man’s distinctive mark alone. Not God’s, not the beasts. They are, He is, man party is and wholly hopes to be.” So if this is what sets us apart from the beasts, and propels us forward, where does that leave nature? The beasts? Why do we feel the need to completely leave behind that which is wild and natural? 

It seems as though that through progress, we have left behind a part of ourselves. That which defined us for so long as the Earth’s most noble creatures. Our balance of progress with that of the world that remains constant is what kept this world in equilibrium. Now our progress and technology has taken us beyond that point. The constant, primal world is not needed anymore it seems. As consumers we’ve created a chasm between ourselves and the source of our consumption. 

We have become such a vicarious society that we can’t even fathom the similarities between ourselves and the other creatures that inhabit this planet. Our meat comes in a package with a label on it. Our grains come in a box with 9 different colors of marshmallow candies. We forget that the same life force that once ran through that package of ground chuck is the same life force that sustains us. We have removed all sense of organic being from our way of life, and now even a short trip through the bushes has become awkward, foreign, and unnatural. 

So what is the solution? More camping? Should we all live on family farms again? Rid ourselves of technology? None of that will work. The only solution is to change our definition of progress. Currently we see progress in the technology we forge to better our society. Medicine, nano technology, smart weapons. This is what we view as progress. But if this is what we deem progress, why is there perpetual suffering in the world? Why have we done nothing to truly progress ourselves as a species? 

We’ve been conditioned to believe that nothing we have will ever be good enough. Your ipod will be crap in 2 years, so you better grab the latest and greatest model. You need a new house. A better car. What if we woke up to the fact that we already have it pretty good? We have plenty of water, air, food, shelter, medicine. Your DVD player works just fine. We have enough natural resources to power this planet forever. But what we are steadily loosing is our connection to our past. Our connection to our primal self. We’ve lost that balance of controlled progress. We’ve gotten so caught up in the beauty we see through the vicarious media that we’ve forgotten to look outside our windows. And more importantly, we’ve forgotten to look inside ourselves. For real beauty does not lie in the world of progress, it is an intrinsic part of nature and the self. When we forget this, we end up like those 2 lost people in the parking lot. We assume that beauty is found in progress, because feels safe for us. When in reality, it was in the trees the whole time. Cheers.

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