Your Father Is Your Metric of Progress

James Walpole/ August 3, 2020

“A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin.”

The Lord of the Rings

For all of the problems with what some call “the gospel of progress,” it’s undeniable that we all have a hope that our lives can contribute to a better world.

I would submit that we should look first to better individuals. And in becoming better individuals, we should judge ourselves not against the masses, but against our fathers (and forefathers).

As Jordan Peterson would say, our fathers build the structures and the civilization we inhabit when we are defenseless and resourceless. It’s because of them we have the opportunity to grow up in the first place – never mind all of the other gifts which competent modern fathers provide: education, practical skills, encouragement, example, moral teaching, leadership.

When I think of all the many ways my own father cared for me (still cares) and cares for his family and business and community, I see a very tall slope to climb. I don’t know half of what he knows about how to care for our farmland, how to maintain machines, how to stave off natural disasters, and how to deal with people. But because he knew these things and practiced these things, I have a good life.

If I’m going to become any kind of good or great man, and if I’m going to contribute to the progress of the world, my very first hurdle should naturally be to become *at least* as strong, capable, and virtuous as my father. Even if I become better than everyone else around me, if I am not at least as good as the man I spring from, I’m shortchanging the slice of the future I can influence in my own children.

Becoming my father’s equal would be no easy task. But what if I tried (with no disrespect but only love to my father) to be even better than him?

I would need to be his equal in many areas – already hard enough. But I would also need to be even more steadfast, more capable, more disciplined, more generative.

Daunting, yes. But all good fathers want their sons to be better men. And I have one of those good fathers. Now that I understand what progress takes, I am listening and learning with all my might so I can be even half as good as him.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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