By SHERYE S. GREEN
Missing George Jetson
Where’s George Jetson when you need him? The cartoon TV show, The Jetsons, was one of my childhood favorites. The weekly program, set in space-age Orbit City, borrowed its name from the Jetsons, a family of four. Episodes highlighted hilarious dynamics between the father George, wife Jane, daughter Judy, and son Elroy. The animated science fiction series made life in a technologically-advanced world appear exciting, appealing, and seemingly easy to navigate.
George, employed by Spacely Space Sprockets, worked regularly from home. This often proved more challenging than anticipated. A common plotline involved some high-tech piece of time-saving equipment breaking down and a family member imploring George to solve the problem, thus posing a looming distraction for him. Other days he conducted business while trying to ignore the noisy chatter and laughter of his children or tune out loud whirring noises caused when Rosey the Robot began vacuuming at precisely the same time George began a briefcase conference call with Cosmo Spacely, his boss.
One of the main takeaways my four-year-old self-gleaned from watching The Jetsons was that George’s quality of life was not always improved because of technology. I’ve thought a lot about George in the past twelve months or so as I’ve had to learn new technology skills, especially as a classroom teacher. How I wish I could pull up a chair beside him and ask his advice in how to deal with technology but, more importantly, to find out how George dealt with distractions.
Both terms interruption and distraction describe something that disturbs the process of an action or creates a break in a pattern of conversation or thought. What places a distraction in a category all its own is that this type of disturbance causes not only a physical disruption but a mental one as well. Dictionary.com defines a distraction as “mental distress” or “that which distracts, divides the attention, or prevents concentration.”
One of the greatest distractions of this modern age is that posed by the Internet. Even though the Bible doesn’t specifically mention cell phones, computers, or social media, God’s Word is full of practical advice about using prudence and wisdom when dealing with subjects that in and of themselves aren’t bad but, when pursued in excessive fashion, can take our eye off the ultimate “ball” of the Christian life—trusting in God with all our heart.
My classroom is a “brave new world.” I now engage with students who many days seem much more interested in the sights and sounds emanating from their laptops than in anything I might have to say to them in person. Hard pressed to compete with the Internet’s entertainment value, I’m learning innovative ways in which to connect with them.
Likewise, as a writer, I’m compelled to formulate creative ways to engage my readers. Constantly confronted with an enormously steep communications learning curve, it feels many days like I’m climbing Mount Everest in my gym shorts. Attempts at mastery of mediums of social media such as Facebook and Twitter leave me feeling like a nincompoop, totally incompetent of learning the lessons needed to pass the daily test of Internet communications, despite the degrees behind my name.
Even though the landscape of twenty-first century America is markedly different than that of first-century Israel, Jesus is the one constant that has never changed. He often addressed this issue of distractedness, “… for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also” (Matthew 6:21 Amplified). Jesus didn’t have to contend with Facebook or Instagram, but He rubbed elbows daily with disciples and doubters alike who struggled to maintain focus in their lives.
I well remember my own days as a student in a classroom. What distracted me in the early seventies, however, was probably either an inviting new library book I’d just checked out or a good friend in the next row trying to pass a note to me right under the nose of our teacher. The dilemma, however, was the same my own students face—give my full attention to the distraction or exercise self-control and ignore it.
I worry about the distractions that seem to dangle themselves in front of us every day, vying for the attention of our hearts and minds. I am especially concerned for the younger generation. Any person, thing, or idea can quickly become a distraction even for believers, especially if it draws our attention away from the Lord. Technology is a wonderful tool and must be handled as such. While a timesaving method to access literally millions of bytes of information in a ridiculously short period, surfing the Net can also consume inordinate amounts of time and lead you down pathways you’d have been better off not taking.
Seldom discussed as such, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Scripture uses other terms to describe self-control, among these sound judgment, a disciplined spirit, and a good mind. Paul shared with his spiritual son, Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion” (2 Timothy 1:7 Darby). My plan is to access more of God-given self-control and focus less on the distractions.
There won’t ever be an hour, a day, a week, or a year when we won’t be faced with distractions. Like death and taxes, they’re facts of life. Most distractions are beyond our ability to control. What we can control, however, is our reaction to them. These pesky irritants can either lead us two steps forward and ten steps backward or they can be neutralized and reduced to no more than mere interruptions.
As alluring as the Internet’s communication possibilities may be, I can’t help but remember that Jesus and twelve noblemen in sandals turned their world upside down while using the time-honored medium of face-to-face communication. May God grant to all of us the self-discipline and discretion to use the tools of this modern age in responsible ways. That’s a plan even George Jetson would like.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.