Her question resonated within me, star lover that I am. Every time I look up at the night sky where I live, I see less and less of the stars and more and more of the lights of the city, which drown out the beauty and presence of the stars; those stars which never fail to do their job of humbling me and reminding me who I am, and who God is. Progress is dimming their light.
Ah the double edged sword that progress is. Progress makes our lives easier, doesn't it? All our modern conveniences take the hardship out of everyday life. Our life gets easier and therefore more enjoyable, right? One would think so, but what I have observed is that easier = more, and more = faster, and faster = busier. And we call this progress. Progress it seems, has created a merry go round of our life, an easier, yet faster and busier life. Faster and faster we go. Round and round we go as more and more progress is made. But, are we really any happier with all this progress? Are we any more at peace with it, than we were without it?
In a recent survey conducted by Telefonica Global Milennial Survey and reported November 15, 2013 in the USA today; 1, 151 North Americans between the ages of 18 - 30 were asked about their dreams for their future and what was most important for them to be. 76% said happy, 19% said successful, 4% said rich and 1% said famous. Maybe I am reading it wrong, or reading too much into it, but if 76% said happy, then it seems to me, that happy is something that they don't see themselves as being, or perhaps they don't see society in general as being 'happy'. And yet, I bet most of them have smart phones, and all manner of modern conveniences and are regularly enjoying the fruits that progress has yielded. And yet, what they want most is to be happy.
I have been to a third world environment, where people don't have what we here in America have. I was a bit taken back by what I saw. I expected poverty, but what I didn't expect were the smiles. I saw smiles, I saw a happiness of spirit, in spite of no running water, or electricity or what we deem as the necessities of life. I saw what we would call hardship. Having to walk for miles to work, if there is work to be had, or to walk long distances daily to get food or water, living in tin huts called shanty towns. One day as we were driving past a particularly large shanty town, I noticed many walking along the road, and I heard them singing. It was not a 'woe is me' blues song, it sounded like a song of praise, an upbeat happy song. Their extreme poverty, as compared to the standards of the industrialized world, had not robbed them of joy. I imagine if asked what their dreams for the future were, 76% would not have said to be happy. Just guessing, but they might say to have a job, or to be safe, or have plentiful food and water.
Interesting how in a land of excess, a land of progress, what we want for most is happiness. Perhaps progress is dimming our light, robbing us of joy, as well as robbing the night sky of it's star light.
Compared to other nations and peoples, we are so very rich- monetarily. Trust me, if you have more than one pair of shoes, you are rich. Many will eat to excess on Thanksgiving Day while plotting out their Black Friday shopping strategies. Something about that saddens me. I think perhaps our luxuries and our modern conveniences - all this progress- has become a trap of sorts. Those without the trappings of what we call progress possess a lightness of spirit, because they aren't weighed down with the heavy burdens which excess can bring. Excess can be a burden. And yet that sounds like an oxymoron - the burden of excess doesn't sound right, it seems as if it should be the joy of excess. The latter phrase is what our society and retailers would have us believe. But it is a lie we believe, a lie we fall for, hook, line and sinker. What really happens is that we become imprisoned or enslaved to our luxuries, all of which cost more money, so we must work more, be busier and busier to have more and more. And then we are stressed, exhausted, and not so happy.
Vanity of vanities is what King Solomon described it as. Solomon had it right. The richest, wisest man, a king, who had it all and did it all trying to pursue the meaning of life, trying to figure out what makes one happy. It is what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about. Read Chapter 2. In it Solomon's tries everything. Riches, beauty, fame, possessions wisdom, all pleasures, laughter; all with the same result. He said in Chapter 2 verse 17; 'So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futilty and striving after the wind.'
Finally in Chapter 12, Solomon gives the conclusion of his pursuit of the meaning of life. It is hard to sum it up in a single verse from that chapter, but verse 1 starts out with "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, and the final two verses add his final conclusion
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep all His commandments, because this applies to every person. Ecc 12: 13
Is it progress if we can't see the stars at night? Great question to discuss. Personally, I am not so sure it is progress, at least not for one's soul. However, I do know with certainty, that it is not progress when we replace God with the trappings of our society. Our need for things, the drive to have more and more which makes us go faster and be busier and busier is not progress, it is entrapment. God doesn't entrap us, He frees us. Yet we fall for Satan's lies, and follow the mores of our society. And increasingly happiness fades from our sight, just like the stars.
So, try to follow Solomon's advice, and remember your Creator, today and everyday, because in the end, it is the only thing that matters. It really does not matter how big your house is, or the car your drive, or the things you purchase, or if you snag the greatest deal or buy the perfect gift, nope, that stuff is all pretty fleeting, and gets pretty heavy on our shoulders. The only real progress in your life is knowing and serving God.