“It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.” “Learn to be, less do.” “The only constant is change.”
Popular proverbs like these have drenched our cultural landscape for as long as I can remember. Each time they’re rediscovered, preached and parroted as if an unprecedented level of enlightenment has been achieved.
Such truisms are not without merit, of course. They can serve as checks on our conceit of control. They offer a course correction on a meritocratic logic oriented toward achievement as the singular good.
But how do these wall hangings hold up when the world at large turns upside down, when it’s not just you—the individual—who needs to stop and smell the roses? What happens when a society that thought it was successful is shocked into realizing that it can no longer assume an infinitely upward path of progress or an ever more perfect union? What happens to human character when we lose confidence that a promised land for us and in our image exists, if only we believe the right things and work hard enough?