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Progress

  • There is a strong conservative instinct in the average man or woman, born of the hereditary fear of life, that prompts them to cling to old standards, or, if too intelligent to look inhospitably upon progress, to move very slowly. Both types are the brakes and wheelhorses necessary to a stable civilization, but history, even current history in the newspapers, would be dull reading if there were no adventurous spirits willing to do battle for new ideas.

  • Why do progress and beauty have to be so opposed?

  • ... there remains, in this space-age universe, the possibility that man's way is not always the best.

    • Rachel Carson,
    • 1963, in Linda Lear, ed., Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson ()
  • A blossom must break the sheath it has been sheltered by.

  • ... even the 'worst blizzard of the century' accumulates one flake at a time.

  • Progress. There's a good deal too much o' this progress about nowadays, an', what's more, it'll have to stop.

  • Progress — progress is the dirtiest word in the language — who ever told us — / And made us believe it — that to take a step forward was necessarily, was always / A good idea?

  • ... whoever said progress was a positive thing has never been to Florida or California.


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  • The progress of one person in a profession is usually illustrative to the progress of others.

  • Change is the watchword of progression. When / We tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. / This restless craving in the souls of men / Spurs them to climb, and seek the mountain view.

  • All change is not growth; all movement is not forward.

    • Ellen Glasgow,
    • in Barbara Jean Ringheim, Ellen Glasgow's Interpretation of Human Action and Ethics As Reflected in Her Novels and Essays ()
  • People tend to think that life really does progress for everyone eventually, that people progress, but actually only some people progress. The rest of the people don't.

    • Alice Walker,
    • in Claudia Tate, Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • 'Progress' affects few. Only revolution can affect many.

    • Alice Walker,
    • "One Child of One's Own," In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens ()
  • ... what seems like progress isn't always so. For instance, modern medicine spends a lot of time and energy trying to cure health problems that modern life creates. Modern gym equipment is necessary only because modern conveniences encourage unhealthy inactivity. ... One technology inevitably creates a problem that only another technology can fix, and the economy has grown dependent upon perptuating this pattern.

  • This seems to be the law of progress in everything we do; it moves along a spiral rather than a perpendicular; we seem to be actually going out of the way, and yet it turns out that we were really moving upward all the time.

  • ... social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.

  • It is not only by the questions we have answered that progress may be measured, but also by those we are still asking. The passionate controversies of one era are viewed as sterile preoccupations by another, for knowledge alters what we seek as well as what we find.

  • We women are doing pretty well. We're almost back to where we were in the twenties.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • 1976, in Jane Howard, Margaret Mead: A Life ()
  • ... scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1800, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • There is so much more information about the scientific world than there was a generation ago that we have all increased our opportunities for ignorance. There are more things not to know. ... The machinery that we deal with is so much more complex that it is possible to become dysfunctional at a much higher level of performance.

  • I have never had illusions about the value of my individual contribution! I realized early that what a man or a woman does is built on what those who have gone before have done, that its real value depends on making the matter in hand a little clearer, a little sounder for those who come after. Nobody begins or ends anything. Each person is a link, weak or strong, in an endless chain. One of our gravest mistakes is persuading ourselves that nobody has passed this way before.

  • Every inch of progress is won in struggle.

  • ... 'progress' ... can't possibly mean the same thing for each person on the face of the planet, and yet we insist on imposing a generic version of the concept in the most unsuitable circumstances — which suggest that our faith in 'progress' is at best misplaced, at worst blind.

  • It is inherent in human consciousness to improve. So there is nothing unique about a people searching for and creating ways to make their life better — all civilizations throughout history have done this. What is unique about us in America is the accelerated rate at which we continually search for novelty and progress.

  • It is hopeless trying to go forward when you are looking backward.

  • ... people had changed — or rather fridges had changed them. Mrs. Munde felt that being able to store food for longer periods had broken down the community spirit. There was no need to share now, no need to meet every day, gathering your veg or killing a few rabbits.

  • A great many of us have confused change with progress.

  • Back is, at times, the most forward step we can take.

  • Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.

  • They're grown up and moved to Minneapolis. Every generation goes someplace bigger.

  • They always said, 'Pull yourself up by your bootstrap.' So we did. And what happened? First they snatched the strap, and then they took the boot.

  • How can you communicate your thoughts or demonstrate your hypotheses by conventional means when all the values and standards that you want to challenge are built into those means? Science and new technology today like to declare that they encourage 'lateral thinking,' new ways of seeing and putting data together — but all systems have an inbuilt resistance to what has not been programmed into them through the premises on which their rules are based.

  • I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.

  • ... cutting edges are always a little rough ...

  • One step at a time.

  • Progress is often mere persistence.

  • Progress everywhere today does seem to come so very heavily disguised as Chaos.

  • Heresy makes for progress.

  • The road before us is shorter than the road behind.

    • Lucy Stone,
    • in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. IV ()
  • There is an unlucky tendency ... to allow every new invention to add to life's complications, and every new power to increase life's hustling; so that, unless we can dominate the mischief, we are really the worse off instead of the better.

    • Vernon Lee,
    • "My Bicycle and I," Hortus Vitae ()
  • It is so easy to ruin a town — it can be done in one day with a bulldozer and a redevelopment plan.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • I worry that humanity has been 'advanced' to its present level of incompetency because evolution works on the Peter Principle.

  • ... progress, whatever your definition of it, is not inevitable.

    • Barbra Streisand,
    • "The Artist As Citizen," speech, Harvard University Institute of Politics ()
  • The twentieth century contributed skyscrapers and typewriters and automobiles and telephones to the world. Solid, workable objects. Every innovation of the twenty-first century could be erased by a power failure.