December 3, 2009

Turning Back the Clock

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

We’ve all heard it said that “you can’t turn back the clock.” Obviously, that’s true. Even if you regret what you did in the past, you can’t go back in time and do things over differently. But that’s not what people mean when they trot out this tired old line. What they mean is that we’re all doing things a new way now and we have to keep up with the times . You can’t go back and do things the way they used to be done. Don’t you believe in progress?

Here’s C. S. Lewis’s response:

First, as to putting the clock back. Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put a 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 the 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 turning, 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 this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on — Mere Christianity, 36-37.

Yogi Berra, the master of funny (and unintentional) aphorisms, captures the spirit of these “progressives” perfectly: “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

Posted by John Barach @ 4:22 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Turning Back the Clock”

  1. Corinne Says:

    John, this reminds me precisely of the motto of my mother’s graduating high-school class in the mid-seventies: “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re on our way.”

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