On the Absurdity of Progress


Déjà vu happens when information being processed by our brains gets sent off on the wrong neural pathways and ends up in the memory department instead of the novelty department.  In other words, all the mystical hoopla is wrong.  These miniature past life sequences are nothing more than our cranial wiring going bonkers.  History repeating itself, on the other hand, is far from being a myth.

History repeats itself because the human mind is far less inventive than it thinks.  What we refer to as originality is merely the absence of long term memory.  We make the same mistakes our ancestors made but with the benefits of vastly more superior education and medicine.  This makes us infinitely more effective and efficient in our human propensity to bungle things up.

All progress is therefore a splendid act of denial.  Like Sisyphus, we are condemned to push rocks up hills.  But unlike Sisyphus (and this is where science triumphs over philosophy) we get better and better at it.  First, we content ourselves with pushing our rocks.  Then we invent the wheel, and then the internal combustion engine, and we keep progressing in this vein, coming up with all sorts of physical contraptions to move the infernal rocks up the infernal hill.

And then we invent the atomic bomb and blast the bloody hill, and life becomes meaningless (this is where philosophy gets one over science).  Bored and despondent, we begin to throw our rocks at each other.  Nearing extinction, we pile the corpses to form another hill, and life suddenly has meaning again.

Then voilà—a flash of light: stumbling out of the cave that is our preoccupation with the physical, we decide that the rock is merely information.  So we invent the Internet, lay out fiber optic cable, capture digital images of the rock, and transmit them from the bottom to the top of the hill (which has been converted into a hotspot in the meanwhile, rendering the fiber optic cables obsolete).  Presently, we are attempting to perfect virtual technology, so we can simulate the refreshingly primordial crudity of pushing our rocks up the hill.  Ain’t technology wonderful?

So how do we rescue ourselves from this absurdity? When philosophy fails, let us fall back on clichés.  And the following is especially relevant:

Life is a journey, not a destination.

So let us persist in pushing monotonous rocks over unvarying hills.  And when the journey begins to seem all too familiar, let’s call it déjà vu.

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