Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Stone-Age Way of Life

I am a cartoon guy. Always have been. Always will be. I guess it is the fantasy and escapism that sort of draws me in.

As a child two of my favorite cartoons were The Flintstones and The Jetsons. I assume you are aware of these two shows. If you are, you know that they are based upon two families that live in different eras—one in the stone ages (Flintstones) and the other some time in the future (Jetsons). The futuristic Jetsons was the one, however that made me hope, dream and imagine—imagine what the future would be like in the far away 2000s.

The future always seemed so bright. According to The Jetsons, we were going to have flying cars and homes in the sky. We had a lot to look forward to. Gadgets and gizmos that were going to make life easier, all brought to life by the time we reached the year 2000.

We are in year 13 of the 2000s and many of those anticipated widgets are widely available for public consumption. We can engage in a video chat session with people next door or in another country. We carry around tiny computers called smartphones and have larger versions of those do-hickeys called tablets. As comedian Louis C.K. says, “Everything is amazing!” Most of the these inventions have something in common. They are designed either to connect us or give us more time so that we can connect with those we love.

Think about it though. Do you feel more connected today with your friends or family than you did, say 20 years ago? I know I don’t. I have fewer personal conversations with people even though all of this great technology is at my fingertips. I am less connected. We are less connected.

From a familial perspective that is concerning. I want to be around my wife and kids (most of the time). I want to be woven into the fabric of their lives, but many times I actually find myself buried into one of my “futuristic” devices. You know, the ones that are supposed to connect us.

A guy named Hal Runkel, author of ScreamFree Marriage, says, “We all crave connection.” We desire it in our marriages, with our kids, in our extended family and in our communities. Nothing gives us fulfillment like a connective relationship with someone else.

In my heart, I desire a return to a simpler time. A time when I didn’t choose to allow a tiny, little device to morph into a huge barrier between me and my loved ones. If I were going to be a cartoon character, I’d rather be Fred Flintstone than George Jetson any day. Think about it, Fred spent time with his wife, kid and friends. He had a social life. He belonged to Royal Order of Water-buffalos, for goodness sake! He might have been mad all of the time, but dog-gone it, at least he was around Wilma, Pebbles, Barney and Dino!

George Jetson, on the other hand, was always either at work, on his way to work or coming home from work. What kind of life is that? Sure he had lots of cool stuff, but it looks like he paid for it. Makes me wonder how daughter Judy and his boy Elroy turned out. Not to mention Jane, his wife.

Some of us have a lot in common with ol’ George.

We secretly wish, however, that we could go back to a simpler time when personal connection was part of our family’s DNA.

You know what though...I think we can have the best of both worlds. I believe we can enjoy what the “future” has given us while holding on to the connection that we really crave.

Here are three ways we can do so:

1. Be Present
When your spouse and kids are around, make it your aim and goal to simply be present. It is not enough to be in the room with them. Become involved with them. Talk, laugh and listen. You will always have “something else” to do. Press pause and enjoy those you love most.

2. Be Intentional
I don’t know if anyone has ever been successful in achieving the “work-life” balance. I don’t know if it is even possible to achieve. Even though the goal may be out of our reach, we still must strive to be intentional about how we spend our time if connection is what we are after. This may mean making it a point to come home from the office at a certain time or scheduling date nights once per month for you and your spouse. We are only given so many hours in a day. We must be intentional with how we use them.

3. Be an Example
Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This oft quoted phrase epitomizes the personal responsibility that we must take in order to create necessary changes in our families. Once we decide to change our part of the “disconnected” pattern in our families, we invite each member of the family to change as well.

From this day forward, let’s be intentionally mindful of what is really important. Connection.

Fred Flintstone got it right. If only we had a Brontosaurus bone to chew on.

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