A Carousel of Progress World

carousel-of-progressThere’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…
Shining at the end of every day…
There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…
And it’s just a dream away…
Man has a dream, and that’s the start…

Can you guess where I’ve been for the last several days?

It just so happens that I’ve been reading a book for college this week as well, a book about the Old Testament. What’s odd is the parallels between the ride and the book are so strong it’s almost impossible to pass by without remarking on them.

We see time as a long line stretching out before us. We can see technology improving right before our eyes on an almost daily basis –improving medicine, computers, and yes, even theme park rides. We’re apt to find anything more than a year or two old as “boring.” So before we see a long vista of constant change, or constant “progress.”

We’re trapped in the Carousel of Progress.

What’s wrong with that?

For one thing, Uncle Orville’s complaint has never been addressed, other than being laughed at (just like in the show). “There’s no privacy around here!”

For another, it’s simply a false view of reality. For when we see our progress in technology, we immediately jump over and apply it to our mental state as well as our physical. If we’ve invented all this cool stuff, and we’ve discovered so much about the world around us (and ourselves!), then surely we must be so much smarter than those who lived in the dim recesses of time, right?


As a book I’m reading on the Old Testament says:

The ancients personalized the forces of nature as divine beings. Natural phenomena were conceived in terms of human experience. Today we regard the phenomenal world as an “it,” but the ancients responded to it as a “thou.” For them the variety of forces were personified as gods. -Old Testament Survey (La Sor), page 22

This entire idea that we are so much smarter than those who went before us is completely wrong. Human knowledge might build generation to generation, but humans don’t change as much as we like to think. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, is there really any difference between someone saying a ball moves down a slope because it desires to, or because some mysterious force we really can’t understand drives it? The ancients no more believed material things had souls than we do –they still carried their gods on poles through the marketplace, just as we do today when we carry money on little plastic cards. We’ve replaced the language, but we’ve not put a dent in the general concept.

Are we truly smarter than those who built pyramids all over the face of this Earth, using stones we can’t even figure out how to move? Are we truly smarter than the first person who struck a gold coin, or put an axle through the first wheel? that figured out how to bring water from a distant mountain to a city in the plains below?

Just because their materials were rougher doesn’t mean their minds were dimmer, or that they were less (or more) moral, or understood the spiritual world any less. In fact, a clear case can be made that we understand the spiritual world less than those who went before us, those who live in the distant mist we call “history.”

Because we’re trapped in the Carousel of Progress, unable to see them for who they truly were, and ourselves for who we truly are.

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