Update 2020: In light of recent events, Mark's post seems way ahead of its time. Who could have predicted in 2013 that we were, all of us, in for the biggest pause the modern world has ever seen? And to survive it, we would either need to get ourselves totally and completely lost in distraction, or we would need to get back to the basics and focus on the essence of the journey? (Or a bit of both.) —Nate

What does it mean for a pilgrim to progress?

Or, like C. S. Lewis wrote, Pilgrim’s Regress.

Are we moving forward with purpose or slipping away, clawing to maintain stasis? Physical, mental, spiritual stasis. A point of equilibrium.

Are we going someplace as individuals? As humans?

I often feel as a civilization we are constantly searching for distractions. We desperately cannot handle a pause of any sort. I get this feeling when I have days off from work, the feeling that I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel as if I should be doing something, anything, that if I don’t I am just wasting time. Sunday night brings that sinking feeling of dread for the days ahead and remorse for missed opportunity, a feeling of being trapped in an obligation that I want to escape.

This feeling extends to life as a whole if I stop long enough. If I stop filling up time with entertainment, cell phones, hobbies, dish washing and laundry. Is it a bad thing to feel this way? Maybe it’s a warning, like pain when we are physically injured, a warning to us as a race that we have gotten lost along our journey.

Maybe we don’t even recognize it as a journey any more.

I believe this is the key difference between a pilgrim who invests time, and one who simply spends time. A pilgrim is on their way to a better place.

First of all, they believe there is a better place.

Second, they believe it is worth setting out to go there.

Third, they believe there is a way to get there.

Fourth, they eliminate anything that will hinder them from getting there.

And finally, they embrace anything that will help them reach that place.

I believe we have replaced this focus with frivolous distractions, like careers, money, prestige, power, and entertainment. We have forgotten. This has caused us pain and emptiness. It has made us feel all at sea about life.

Photo: National Media Museum