Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Jetsons

I grew up with Judy Jetson.

If you are too young to know about "The Jetsons", get thee to YouTube, Google, or Wikipedia to fill in this important gap in your cultural and historical knowledge. (Pictured above, left to right: Astro, the dog ["Rastro!"], daughter Judy, meet George Jetson, Jane, his wife; his boy, Elroy. . . dee dee deep da deep dah dee dah. . .)

Strange that after spending a couple of weeks pondering the Houston fossil display of 3.2 million-year-old Lucy and our human prehistory, that I should leap to my childhood memories from 1960's TV Land and everyone's favorite family of the future, the Jetsons. I guess I'm pondering A Big Question: What makes us human?

Perhaps because the 60's were so tumultuous, the Jetsons were a comfort. The moral of the story seemed to be, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." In spite of space travel, civil rights, and urban blight; or video phones, robots, and flying cars; teenagers would still be teenagers, dogs would still tear up the house, and your boss would still be a jerk. "The future is safe. No matter how much change occurs, we will still be --

George Jetson's car flew him safely to work at Spacely Sprockets as he read the newspaper. (Kind of funny to think of it now. Even Hanna and Barbera had not imagined email, Blackberry, or NYT Online.) Jane sat in front of a mirror that applied her makeup and fixed her hair. She could whip up a scrumptious steak dinner instantly from a pill (just add water), and clean up afterwards in a snap. Take that, June Cleaver! Jane also had Rosie the Robot as housekeeper, nanny, and confidante. The most memorable episodes always involved the hilarious malfunctioning of some piece of technology -- Rosie on the fritz, conveyor walkways standing still, cars careening between planets -- forcing the Jetsons to solve the problem on their own, "the old fashioned way," as it were. As it ARE. Was "The Jetsons" actually an archetypal hero's epic journey, in which human qualities withstand bombardment by technology, and triumph? Hmmmm. . .

When my clients in the Feldenkrais Method ask me, "Will I be able to (fill in the blank: walk better, stand taller, sing, golf, move without pain, etc.) without thinking about it?" I understand what they mean. We idealize a George Jetson life, where the mundane and the unpleasant are dealt with remotely, or on auto-pilot. When we deal with problems, we want things fixed. We seek out experts, substances, or programs of various types to fix us. However, to experience the potential for pleasure in life (which lies at the heart of the Method), you have to be involved and engaged. You have to be paying attention. Ultimately, it's your ability to learn that lets you ride the wave of change.

I used to envy Jane Jetson, but now I enjoy preparing meals for friends and loved ones. The shopping, the chopping, the stirring, the tending, all connect me with my senses and my experience of aliveness. Our technology -- from ancient implements of chipped stone, to the iPhone, to bionic limbs and organs and beyond, even to flying cars? -- can help us feel more alive, or more disconnected from ourselves and our own capacities to create, to survive, and to thrive. The choice is ours.

When do you feel most alive?

(This piece was originally published in the Feldenkrais Center of Houston newsletter 04/21/2008)

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