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Progress and Change


In resenting progress and change, one sacrifices imaginings of comfort for the good of his progeny. Improvements are simply a waste of resources to make the next generation more finicky while making oneself less content. Anyone defending the nuclear bomb as an improvement over the bow and arrows is bound to argue that quick and massively destructive wars are much less painful for the participants than lengthy hand-to-hand battles. People who object to improvements are likely people who have seen the real benefits of well-meant developments. Reformers who insist on a faster pace of innovation are likely dreamers stimulated by the now illegal advances in the chemical sciences. Yet for all that, there is always a subtle danger in resisting improvements, a faint restlessness in solid conservatism. I have just successfully withstood the urge to clean up my room, yet I sometimes speculate whether the pleasure from the improvement might have vindicated the expenditure of effort: walking around the alpine peak on the floor wastes a step hourly, the jumble attracts more junk, one step an hour turns into two, and then before I know it, Iím in a hospital with a broken leg. Half a good conservativeís life is spent forcefully ignoring innovators, yet occasionally those innovators turn out to be right. Some hours ago I had flatly refused to write this essay for my English class: Why should I think and sweat, shudder and suffer if, in a few years, I would entirely change and find this writing revolting? Why should I take school seriously after it no longer matters? Why should I contribute to the ever-rising entropy of the universe, and its future heat death if I could instead let my distant descendants live a little longer? Thus, the status quo had suited me fine; free time had once again become my friend, and had begun to enjoy the prospect of frequently visiting him. Then, following the normal course of procrastination, doubts began to creep up: writing this essay could, perchance, positively redefine my identity; or perhaps I could win a Nobel Prize for this yet nonexistent creation; or, more likely, my teacher could, for the blatant disrespect, make me fail the quarter and have my acceptance rescinded from my college of choice. The list of doubts grew and grew, until a brilliant idea in the form of a few stray photons from the sun hit me on the head with negligible force, but nonetheless produced amazing effects. The idea was simple: the sun squanders so much energy anyway, that regardless of how I spend this afternoon, my distant relatives will not notice; also, if I keep worrying, I will probably think and sweat, shudder and suffer a lot longer than if I simply do the work. Looking back at my refusal to work, I felt as though I had been stating unconditionally: the Earth is flat.

With apologies to E.B. White.


This essay is Copyright (C) 2000 Alexey Spiridonov. All rights reserved.




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