30 November 2010

A Rant (Yes, I'm part of the wider problem)

Oh yes, make no mistake, my friends: We Yanks are in a pretty pickle whichever way we turn. And yet what a rare people of far-sighted vision we are, to be so courageously polarized just as things are starting to heat up round the globe. (But then who could have imagined our stalwart ally, the People's Republic, failing to keep a tighter rein on the North Koreans? Surely it wasn't for want of trying?)

And frankly I couldn't tell you which of our two most popular ways is the more pixillated: Our economically "libertarian" Right or our culturally "liberal" Left. Either way libertinism tends to take liberties, whether it's your neighbor's pocket or her brain you're picking, her soul or her "sexual" life (now there's a modern mockery of a good word). Either way, if history be any indicator - or at least history as far back as one can go (and remember, only Genesis can take us anywhere near that far) - then the upshot of our Future is fairly clear, and the Path well-marked. Moral license, unless arrested, tends to dissolve into moral anarchy, which sooner or later rigidifies into amoral tyranny: it being the nature of Supermen everywhere to (think they can) live beyond good and evil. Although, come to think of it, our Supermen-prototypes of the past 15 years - in banks and elsewhere - had already been doing a pretty fair job of behaving as though they lived in their own moral stratosphere, far, far above ordinary earthly notions of right and wrong.

Oh darn, here I am forgetting again what our New Economists have been prophesying the whole time, and what our pundits have all but proven. Namely that, right under our noses, our recent Present (the World since c. 1995) has been busy mutating into something unrecognizably different from all previous Pasts. Which can only mean that our latest Future will be yet more unrecognizably different from both! Evidently the world is changing at so unintelligibly fast a rate that there's nothing to prevent black from evolving into white! And so what was evil for us on the eve of the Flood may yet become a positive good - or at least a necessity for long-term survival, once, that is, we've devised the physical means of abolishing flooding, and keeping Hell from boiling over. In sum, history - Biblical or otherwise - no longer has much of anything to teach us. And soon enough, my children, it will have nothing to teach us at all.

Or nothing we mortals are able to learn, at any rate. The modern assumption being, as I understand it, that we humans can only make things meaningful and useful in the measure that we reduce them to schemes and patterns of regularity. And since you can never schematize human history to anyone's scientific satisfaction, much less reduce it to some pretty mathematically-governed pattern, why pretend there's anything whatsoever to be learned from it?

To which, frankly, I am tempted to reply: Why you presumptuous buffoon, you can't even reduce your friend - or even your boyfriend - to a pattern known accurately to anyone but God. Is that any reason to ignore him, or pretend he doesn't exist? Or that she has nothing to teach you? No, of course you can't schematize history. But you can sit and steep yourself in its presence, in the quiet shade of the Academic Grove. Or whatever parts of it have not yet been turned to concrete and glass, and plastic, and "profitable" education.

As to whether and how far Time can "heel" unredeemed human nature - why, you might as well pretend evil becomes less wicked the "better" we get at controlling physical reality. Oh, I'll admit wickedness may actually get more rational and efficient as we proceed down that road, in addition to seeming more abundantly profitable and "results-oriented." "See, we've even found a productive use for sin." But will that make it any less cruel, less heartless, less soul-destroying than it was, say, in the days of the Giants and "mighty men"? or of Nimrod? or of Tubal-cain?

I'll tell you what image comes most readily to mind when I think of this present generation of global leaders. It is that of a gang of precocious, irreverent, smart-assed, ingeniously destructive "kids," whose specialty is the vandalizing of cemeteries and monuments (with the "exception" of a select few from the 18th century: Thomas Paine's burial plaque in particular - "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" - assuming the reverently garlanded-and-graffiti'd look of a Jim Morrison-of-the-Doors shrine). A right promising pack of bright young thugs, who, having trashed the better part of the Father's Estate, and finding nowhere else to play, are now to be seen drifting - inadvertently but quite steadily - ever closer to the mouth of a certain Beast's cave.

24 November 2010

Getting the Most for Your Man: A "Holiday" Meditation

All of us use people, at some time or other. Even the best of us have been known to love others not just for who they are, but for what we can get out of them. Neither is the reason always a bad one by any means. We all have various times in our lives when we have need for people to extend themselves. When we suddenly or gradually need even the people closest to us - even those we most deeply love and care for - to show another side of themselves: a more energetic and strenuous side than the mere enjoyment of their natural and spontaneous personalities would readily supply. Moments when performance as well as presence counts. The key to making the most of these moments, I believe, is to coax that "something extra" gently into coming out of its hiding place, without getting hung up on it; without letting it become an obsession or a fixation; without making it a quota, or a target, or a performance level.

When the day comes that women love men less as one might "love" an employee, and more nearly in the way that women love each other - when they love men mainly for who they are, and not primarily for what they give, or do, or symbolize, or represent, or personify; when women love men principally as persons and human beings, and not as icons or idealizations or archetypes - when that Day comes, well, all I can say is there's no telling what extraordinary work they will be able to get out of us. And I suspect a fair majority of us will be actually happier to give it, too.

18 November 2010

Faithless of Our Fathers

This post-Cold War United States leaves me nothing if not confused. All this breast-beating about the Founding Fathers and their last wills and testaments! As if we've only just recently recovered the real substance of what it means to be American, following a mysterious disappearance of our identity - along with, of course, the Constitution - somewhere between William McKinley (our last "genuinely American" president?) and Ron Paul. Or at very earliest, Newt Gingrich.

Yet surely we're no less skilled today at trashing our Fathers' legacies than we were on the eve of the infamous Progressive Era (c. 1900). Why, even as we mutter piously about defending the Pharisaic letter of our Founders' laws, it may be we've grown much better at killing their human spirit. And killing it, I fear, not nearly so much through our vices as through our virtues, and less by our addictions than by our ideals. Was there ever a time, for example, when we as a society came shorter of either the character, the wisdom or the hopes of George Washington, than in these past two decades? Or when we more expressly and accurately justified his fears? I don't say we have deliberately set about betraying his legacy, or that we've consciously rejected Washingtonian ideals of statesmanship as false or obsolete. It may be that we've simply outgrown - or become much too sophisticated for - rather a lot of what he and other Founding Fathers had to teach us.

In any case there is a way, it seems to me, that may help us to determine how far we either have or haven't outgrown our Founders. We can compare their most earnest reflections with those of other, less congenial but perhaps more relevant writers. Writers who might not initially hold up all that well under the scrutiny of our less informed prejudice. But whom we may find nonetheless far more pleasant - or even helpful - to read, were we free to consider their views more completely and objectively.

Take and explore, for instance, any of the post-"scientific romance" writings of H G Wells, starting with Anticipations (1901) - Chapter 8, "The Larger Synthesis," is especially rewarding - or A Modern Utopia (1905). Wash it down with a famous German contemporary of his, good old Oswald Spengler (but by all means avoid his best-known Decline of the West; no, for a really concentrated dose of Spenglerian savagery, venom and bombast, start with Man and Technics [tr. Atkinson, 1932], and then move on to The Hour of Decision [same tr., 1933] - Part 3 is a rare masterpiece of anti-labor vitriol).

As you get to know these two, in many ways quite different, modern sages, I ask you to pay the closest attention to certain recurrent themes and concerns nonetheless common to both. Concerns which may have a special relevance to our own visionary, early 21st-century quest for human perfection: - a kind of perfectibility that, while it may hardly aim at those particular human improvements most of us would call moral or material, assuredly has no qualms about seeking a human perfection that is mechanical.

Note, for starters, these writers' fiercely meritocratic elitism - and please observe that, as regards elites of the future, both Wells and Spengler had a much warmer regard for entrepreneurs and engineers than for politicians and bureaucrats, whom as often as not they warmly despised. Note especially in the later, more polemical writings of both, something that often sounds like an unabashed worship of human power and ambition, tempered by only the coldest, most "technical" - some might even say most inhuman - rationality. Notice their considerable impatience, if not outright contempt, of ordinary political processes and machinery, particularly when the methods are those of representative democracy. Note their dismissiveness of trade unions and of other lingering, "holdover" loyalties deemed unsuitable to the stresses and challenges of the Coming Age: sentiments attaching to nation, region, locality, or (at least in the case of Wells) even family. Note their faith, not only in the inevitable necessity of technological advance, but in its unique, almost saving power to harness and embody all that is best in human nature (or, in the case of Spengler, all that is most Western or "Faustian"). Above all, note their profound respect for LARGE aggregates of power - whether political or economic - and their insistence on the need, as "Man" or "the West" unfolds, for ever-larger scales both of political and economic organization and of economic activity.

My hunch is that as you probe these gentlemen's writings, you'll find, in not a few places, values and ideals far more consonant with the spirit of New Economy America (however remote from its Constitutional letter) than almost anything contained in, say, either of Washington's two best-known farewell addresses - his circular letter of farewell to the army of 1783, or his address to Congress of 1796.

Now I realize I've opened rather a large discussion, which to some tastes can only be advanced by the closest analysis of both speeches. But for the moment, let's settle for a closer look at the earlier of the two addresses, and at its final paragraph in particular:

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation [emphasis mine].

I can hear the amused chortles of Wells/Spengler: "Really now - never hope to be a happy nation? No, I suppose not. But we have every chance of success at building a dynamic, prosperous, world-beating civilization! Meanwhile, General Washington, it remains to be seen just what parts - other than purely regressive ones - either nations or happiness will continue to play in the great onward thrust of Life; or what conceivable use 'humility' and a 'pacific temper of mind' can have, either for the final unification of the West [Spengler], or for the great upward March of Mankind [Wells]."

Now I ask you to judge for yourselves how far - if at all - this closing prayer of Washington's diverges in spirit from the main thrust of his address as a whole. As I see it, either the General is speaking the truth from his heart, or he's doing a royal - and highly insulting - job of talking down to his audience. But assuming his sincerity and good faith in all of these petitions, is our soon-to-be first president saying anything here that either Wells or Spengler would have had the patience to sit through without sneering? or even laughing out loud? Oh, I'm sure both would have welcomed a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government as necessary enough for most people - i.e., for the great bulk of us "inferior masses" who hail from, and drag down, every nation, tribe, people and tongue. But this demeaning, canine sort of loyalty - what conceivable place could it have in the ambitions and objectives of the world's better class of people: those go-ahead, impatient-of-restraint-and-authority souls whom both markets and organizational in-fighting will soon determine to be the natural (not hereditary) rulers of any rational, forward-looking global society? By all means let Government be big, harsh and implacable for us lesser folk. It's only what we deserve for being such failures - and may be all that keeps us in line. But for the truly and deservedly Big, can government ever become small - or at least pliant and manipulable - enough?

For that matter, would either Wells or Spengler have found anything remotely commendable, or even rationally intelligible, in Lincoln's speech marking the institution of the national holiday of Thanksgiving? Or even, for that matter, would we - assuming, I mean, we could for a moment put aside these famous authors' identities, and examine both addresses coldly and rationally in the light of our real values, and not just our professed ones? Indeed I suspect we post-Cold Warriors - could we permit ourselves a moment's self-honesty - would have far less trouble understanding and even identifying with Wells and Spengler than with either of our two most celebrated Presidents. Maybe not with the former's very earliest writings, but certainly with their mature and final works. And in particular those works which put forth their most ambitious, dynamic and heroic visions of the human future - or their most misanthropically cynical views of ordinary human beings.

What a shame, really, that we can't create the conditions for a truly blind taste test of the merits of these four: Wells, Spengler, Washington and Lincoln. Frankly I'd be amazed if the bulk of our US leaders, from every walk of life, did not find some mix of Wellsian/Spenglerian values a good deal more bracing - rather like a strong iced latte, to say nothing of more relevant to our times and problems - than the tired old admonitions of George and Abe. Neither, I think, should we be too condemning of ourselves, simply because a majority of our movers and shakers find it much easier to honor certain "Founders' values" more in the breach than in the observance. It's hard to remind yourself of the value of, say, humility or prudence, or thankfulness, or even honesty, when you know you've done practically everything on your own, and by practically any means you can muster, foul or fair. And certainly with no help whatever from the likes of history, or tradition, or the cumulative moral wisdom of mankind.

Or none, at any rate, prior to 1776.

13 November 2010

Words of Life

Words, I keep reminding myself, are rather like musical notes and chords: you can never tell what musty old emotions they're liable to arouse, or what secrets, and secret treasuries, what lost memories and yearnings it lies within their ancient power to unlock. We all know of music so rich, and so unhurried, we can hardly be sure if its most abundant life lies in the notes themselves or in the pauses between them. Listen to almost anything by Ravel from his middle period - Le Tombeau de Couperin just now comes to mind. Try listening not just inside the notes, but between them, as it were. It's as if the music had enabled you to hear not just itself, but to hear, and see, so many other things besides - a withered leaf, a stairwell down an empty street, a gazebo in rain - things you'd normally never take the time to notice even sideways. But suddenly there they are, not only amplified front and center, but made purer and more alive, by the weaving stillness between the sounds.

In the same way, there are sounds of words, and word-arrangements, and whole word-compositions that can take you very deep into the heart of things: into the deepest, quietest part of the house, or the cave, or the garden - so deep, it is as if the space occupied by the words had suddenly become alive with things you'd have sworn only a moment ago were dead, or inert, so accustomed are they to being drowned out, or stomped on, or bullied into the obscurer corners of the Room of Life. But now hear them stir, roused and welcomed by the hospice of silence our words have created. Now see them, one and all, come edging slowly, gingerly, tentatively into someplace rather closer to the heart of that Room, and of its Maker - and alive, every one of them, with such frail or forceful spark of life as either dwells in them already, or as only God can enliven them with. (And may we never put limits on God's power to enliven anything - much less on His tenderness for even the shoddiest piece of wood's dream of becoming Pinocchio.)

The best words are always like that. The best words are always those which awaken silence, or bring us into those places in which silence can be heard with the most liquid clearness. And remember, without silence there is no sympathy, no understanding, and ultimately no mercy. Perhaps you think it's a hard, daunting thing to empty yourself of mercy towards another creature. Not in the least. All you have to do is talk over somebody loudly enough, arrogantly enough, and I promise you, in a very short time everything she needs - everything her soul pines for - will be drowned out by the roar of your agenda. (Maybe that's why, nowadays, we have such a devilishly hard time imagining each other's Selfhood: grasping what it's like to be you, or to be me. Or finding words that actually let that Self breathe, instead of making it choke on its own importance.)

Of course our loud talk has other practical and edifying uses, too, like deafening our hearts to the various muffled sounds going on inside them, or the various things desperately trying to get their attention. Loud bluster in particular can be most efficient at cowing not just other people, but other parts of ourselves - and especially those parts of us in which Imagination is not (quite) dead, but, like Jairus' daughter, only sleeping. Though I'm told that, even when asleep, it can on occasion hunger simply for the sound, the wind, the cry, of someone or something - perhaps, again, the sound of anything to which God can give a voice, and words. Indeed I'm sure there are not a few rooms, even in our busiest, most callused hearts - rooms seldom visited, perhaps never cleaned, but nonetheless of an exquisite quiet - in which, you'd almost swear, you can not only hear the pin drop, but half-hear its desire to climb back up again.

A New Prosperity - or Not

It occurs to me that certain kinds of success contain within themselves the seeds of their own failure. In fact, I often wonder if some of our most extraordinary human successes aren't also some of our shortest-lived.

I say this because it appears to me that, in the 15 or so years building up to Mega-recession, we Americans and lovers of America managed to achieve an altogether unique kind of success - one perhaps quite as extraordinary as anything we've ever done. For we succeeded in creating an economic culture not only historically unprecedented, but unprecedentedly sick and confused. And sick not just in those moments when we felt tired and broken-down - assuming there were any - but even more in those ways in which we were (or thought we were) robust and vigorous.

Note that, in every other period of human history, extravagant and recurrent indebtedness was most often a measure of what a wastrel you were, of how poorly and fecklessly, and reluctantly, you worked. So far as I know, however, only in the Nasty Nineties did it begin to become a solid mark, not only of how titanically successful you were, but of how zealously and innovatively you were working, and how well.

But now wait a minute. Can I accurately describe our most recent Gilded Age as unprecedented? Weren't the Roaring Twenties - at least in the place where they roared the loudest, America - a period of similarly unbridled, bare-knuckled optimism? Weren't they also a time in which Americans ever-so-trustingly embraced a gospel of visionary debt as the key to wealth and growth?

But I need to tread carefully here. Because if I in any way denigrate the business culture of the American Twenties, I also risk impugning - however indirectly - the reputations of those two very different presidents who presided over far the better part of that decade. Never mind, of course, about Herbert Hoover, the vile crypto-socialist who all but singlehandedly created the Great Depression (with a little help at the front and back ends from Wilson and FDR, if not also Teddy). But dare I question the judgment, competence or compassion of Hoover's two Republican predecessors - those bright stars on the national horizon who, at least until the sun of Reagan appeared, were all that managed to illuminate a century of otherwise unrelieved Presidential darkness . . .

11 November 2010

Looking Back to See Forward

There are so many pressures in the world today - economic, cultural, perhaps even spiritual pressures - that invite Americans to forget they ever came from somewhere, that they were ever European, and Europeans to forget they've ever gone anywhere, that they were ever colonizers. And these pressures make a good deal of sense, if we assume that (1) up until very recent times, Europe has been largely if not entirely a very bad place; (2) on the other hand, Europeans are most unlikely to do much of anything really bad in the future.

But I suspect neither of these are very wise assumptions. And so it seems to me that today more than ever Americans and Europeans both need the Atlantic Alliance, or else something very much like it. Regardless of what precise form it may take, some sort of Atlantic compact, or fraternity, or commonwealth is a thing they will always have need to maintain; and if they ever dispense with it altogether, they will sorely wish they'd kept it. The Americans need it because they need to keep looking eastwards, to remember where they've come from, and to recollect that the stupendous fact of being American can never make them more than human, or better than sinners. The Europeans need it because they need to continue looking westwards, to remember where they've gone to, and to recollect that the stupendous fact of being post-colonial will never make them cease to be political, or incapable of exploitation. In short, they both need to keep facing each other, if they're ever to get some semblance of a handle on their present mutual contempt, on their current mutual superiority complexes. Above all, both need to accept that even they do not stand outside of history, even now; and that they can never escape it.

Which is all the more reason, I think, for them both carefully and quietly to recall, and to ruminate on - and to teach their children (of whatever ethnic origin) to reflect on - everything that has passed between them from then until now. And also everything that has passed between them both and the rest of the world. Because so much evil - as well as much good - has taken place in that long intervening period. Which is to say we have so much to learn from, and be heedful of, and humble about. And of course there have been other exploiters in the world besides us Westerners, and some of them much worse. And others worse yet will surely follow. But I defy anyone to show me a civilization that has thought more about what it is to exploit, and that knows better what it means to be an exploiter - how it corrupts not just the "city" of Man but the soul - than we very first unifiers of the globe.

Naturally, too, the "inexorable" economic laws of Mexican labor and Chinese capital will go on beckoning Americans, just as they did President Polk and the first Anglo-Californians. And the "inestimable" economic opportunities promised by Russian and Caucasian and Central Asian resources will continue to draw Europeans, much as they did the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler. All the more reason, again, for us to keep somewhere near the forefront of our minds the memory of our mutual pasts, and not just the anticipation of possibly opposite futures. Nobody - not even globally enlightened Americans and Europeans! - has so thoroughly recovered from the Addiction of Exploitation that he's in no danger of becoming an exploiter all over again, in new pastures and fresh fields. And nothing better justifies a further, deeper, more unashamed exploitation than the feeling that you are, after all, being counter-exploited in your turn (and perhaps even by Mexicans and Chinese). And all the more so when that feeling is true.

To forget is only to repeat. And neither of us has any hope of of understanding - of remembering - either the ongoing nature of the World, or how low our own human natures have fallen, except as we continue to embrace the humility of standing face to face, and resist the temptation to turn completely back to back.

01 November 2010

A Culture of (Walking) Death

How fitting, that this most righteously indignant, apocalyptically angry election should come on the heels of the most luridly decorated Halloween in memory. Or at least in my adult memory. (Could they possibly have been worse when we were kids?) Indeed I doubt if anything could be more revealing of the real condition of our times - or of the true direction of our country - than today's adult culture of Halloween (which may be our children's culture of tomorrow). Anyhow, I'm sure our modern Hallows' Eve is a far more telling and accurate revelation of who we are, and of where we're going, than any fashionable jeremiad pouring forth from either Tea Party, NPR or Nancy Pelosi.

Now I know that, in some quarters, the extreme fury and ferment surrounding these elections have been touted as evidence of the Nation's hunger for moral renewal. I want to suggest that our present Halloween habits may be no less proof of an equally mighty moral renewal - one very different, I'm sure, from most Americans' conscious intentions, but perhaps for that very reason far more consistent with the underlying logic of our common positions than any of us realize. After all, whatever their differences, most media-visible Americans are all but united in extolling values like human self-reliance and opportunity, and the need of the self-reliant in particular to embrace the Future by throwing off the dead hand of the Past. What better way, then, to represent this harrowing end-time conflict of Future vs Past than with the dramatic themes celebrated by today's adult version of Halloween? And what better way to depict the suppression of a creeping, vile and malignant Past than by dramatizing the need, not just to throw but to chop off, a hand not merely dead but clutching and clawing?

But now here is a very disturbing thought, even to the unlikely likes of me. I'd like to think that Americans of, say, 100 years ago had considerably more time and patience for the dead than we more let's-get-on-with-it souls of today. But it's just possible that our American culture, what with its glorious tradition of the Alzheimerization of historical memory, has never really been comfortable with this business of ancestors. It may be that America has always regarded the dead in all their forms, both recently-deceased and long-term buried, as more or less of an inconvenience, a burden. And burdens of their nature can be very dull, inactive things, and doubly so when dead. In terms of entertainment and excitement you can only get so much mileage out of the deceased, at least this side of eternity. If anything their very ghostliness keeps most ghosts from being really formidable. How appropriate, then, to the challenging, dynamic Age we live in, that a truly ground-breaking innovator and prophet should have emerged not a second too late for our enlightenment! How fitting that, in the fullness of time (1968) a George Romero should appear, bringing in his train how many dozen other exponents of his today-thriving-as-never-before genre, to take all the dullness and burdensomeness out of being recently dead, and make even our dearest late-departed into something really challenging and dynamic! That is, into a horror and a terror. And then we go and further honor their memory by dressing up like them. O that we should live to see such times! in which our screenwriters see visions, and our film-makers dream dreams.

So it is a fair gauge, I think, both of our modern idealization of ceaseless mobility and change, and of our modern loathing of anything suggesting finality or lasting peace, that respected film artists like Romero have found their own exhilarating answers to the age-old questions of whether the dead are raised, and with what body do they come. Observe how they're not content merely with desecrating the unburied dead, or demonizing their apparitions. But no, they won't even let their bodies rest. They won't even let their physical remains bide in peace till their Savior come. And no surprise to anyone there, I should hope. Indeed, as I've suggested elsewhere, our American civilization has its own cocky, nasty, turn-everything-on-its-head rejoinder to just about anything one finds in Scripture - yes, right down to Revelation and the Resurrection of the Body. So then let's - why not? - let's imagine our bodies, not as awaiting an unspeakable glory at the hands of God, but as drifting into a state of travestied hideousness at the whims of a presumably Godless Nature. Ah, now there's an end-time struggle for us self-reliant Yanks! There's a final reckoning worthy of Stan Lee-scale superheroes, in which lonely Man is pitted against elements not only merciless but actively malignant. In short, against a universe both godless and evil. And a mighty good thing too, since that way both the resources and the saving resourcefulness are all placed right back where they belong, and where they've always been: On ourselves.

Lastly, how fitting that these strange visions, both of resurrection-as-nightmare and of radical self-deliverance and self-redemption, should have arisen in so progressive an Age as ours - one that prophets and angels of Progress longed to see. An Age filled to all fullness with every manner of dietary and sleeping disorder (proof positive of our greater productivity, no?), along with boundless dreams of human (worker-)perfection through mechanization. Because please note that, in St Romero's Apocalypse, the resurrected dead are not just compulsive eaters, but essentially sleepless eating-machines. In a word, supremely efficient for the task to which they've been appointed. And, from what I gather of the latest installments, becoming ever more efficient - and faster! - all the time. Now that's what I call time (and Progress) well-accounted-for.