If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road

Viet Nam Memorial

We must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put the clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is often a very sensible thing to do? But I would rather get away from that whole idea of clocks. We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit to this and go back and start again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

by C. S. Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963)
from Mere Christianity (1942)
chapter: We Have Cause to be Uneasy
image – Kevin Dooley


Change hurts.

Birth hurts. I don’t see us giving up on birth any time soon.

Death… is it peaceful? Traumatic? Both? Who can say.

Have you been close to death? I have been in a few situations where death was close. Once, a friend’s fiance reached out and fired off a nine millimeter handgun right in front of my face. If I had wanted to, I could have licked his knuckles. I thought I’d feel the earth move, but I didn’t. It was more like the air moved, but only in the logic of hindsight – it happened so fast. There was a brief awareness of heat and air movement, but the big force was a “pop” that divided my past from everything yet to come. It was unreal. Utter deafness was my anchor to reality – proof that it had really happened.

Hours later my hearing returned. By then the before and after of my “pop” was less clear.

Power Perceived

Most perception of change is not as quick. Agonizing debates and self recriminations and fantasies and bargains with the Almighty roll back and forth like the sea. Walls wear down. Differences tear left from right, love from hope, hope from disaster, hopefully reserving the good parts.

Avoiding change can be everything from fruitful to impossible. When my daughter was a babe in arms I slipped on the ice and fell like a stone. The first moment of our fall seemed like it happened in slow motion. I had enough time to cup one hand around her skull, hold fast to my opposite shoulder, arms crossed over her little body, throw my head back away from first impact and will my shoulder forward. There was no doubt in my mind that I would hold my arms around her like a protective cage, bruising my bones, maybe chipping a tooth. Survivable.

Saving the Day

At the last second the hand cupping her skull turned with an instantaneous will of its own to face the ground and more-or-less catch my fall. The back of my daughter’s little head bounced on the pavement. I sat there on the ice and held her, looking into her eyes, long after she quit crying. I felt guilty for over 20 years.

Now, in my 50’s, I know that salvation can be the result of a series of changes in the angle and degree of impact, like the difference between driving while oblivious, knowing I am having a head-on collision or turning enough to reduce head-on crashes into glancing blows or near misses. My daughter’s head hit the pavement from an unprotected fall of inches instead of feet. I did that. It wasn’t all or nothing. The “pop” that divides everything into past and future is happening every second. There are moments in time that demand our attention… and so we steer.

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