An Obsession with Progress

Lately progress has been on my mind. It dug in there via a crazy-haired, impassioned professor speaking about Benjamin in an obviously loving tone. According to Benjamin, social progression is a myth. Human nature is… well, natural. History is, like nature, cyclical. It is a constant repetition of the same tragedies that are justified as necessary by the myth of progression. Things like technology progresses, but the ways in which we use it stay in the same pattern. But, Benjamin believes that history will start. He believes that there will come a time when things are called by their true names, and we can grieve properly, and afterwards something “new” will actually begin, thus beginning history.

I swallowed Benjamin hook, line, and sinker. Everything that my teacher said seemed to make perfect sense. Except for one thing that I am beginning to realize now- even Benjamin was wrapped up in this obsession with progression. Although he didn’t believe that it had started yet he did believe that it would happen, and that it is something we need to work towards. He had, what may have been an absurd, hope that humans would progress.

Progress, it seems, goes hand in hand with another favorite topic of mine lately, stolen from Foucault: measurement. Measurement, expertise, and science guide the average person’s life. We measure our weight, our height, our body fat, our temperature. (Which is a common topic for me to discuss: body image and the scale). I was looking up some new yoga poses and I can across a blog which had before and after pictures, so that a girl could measure her progress in yoga. It made me think about my dread updates and how I am constantly measuring their progress, and how it really just makes me much more impatient.

I don’t think I am ready to give up measurement, but I do think that I can work on my relationship with the concept of progress, and instead to start noticing changes. It will be difficult, as I grew up in a society obsessed with progress and SMART goals and always being on your way towards something. I think that it is time, though, for me to start being in the moment, and experiencing what is here now, and not focusing so deeply on this concept of an ultimate destination and progress towards it. 

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