Could a house really cook for us, sing us songs, and rock us to sleep? Could our children become so enamored with such a house and its features that they would plot mom and dad’s destruction rather than be separated from their “tech fix”?
Ray Bradbury thought so. And he wrote about it in the year NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY – ONE! That was when he published “The Veldt” in the anthologyThe Invisible Man. (The story was again published in The Illustrated Man nearly two decades later.)
What would Bradbury be thinking now with all of our smart phone technology … iPhones … iPads … apps … automated homes … big screen HD TVs? He might be pleased with himself for so closely predicting the technology. But then, add a horror story or two or three or four (only these aren’t fiction) of kids for whom murder and technology fixations go hand in hand. Terrifyingly, Bradbury’s story leaps out and off of the pages like a pair of famished lions, swallowing us right up with its blatant reality.
Last week I published a list of 25 Great Short Stories. It was that list which led me back to “The Veldt” . Although some of the stories on the list contain their own disquieting themes, I wasn’t prepared for Bradbury’s story even though I had read it in high school. (And as a side note, a happier list of children stories is almost ready for a near future post!)
With big screen TVs plastered on the walls of every room we step into from home to work to school to church to the grocery store … and with some of the tantrums I’ve seen thrown over the deprivation of technology, Bradbury’s story hit me all over … aimed with ice-cold accuracy at my heart.
I had to ask myself, “If he got the technology right, how did he do with predicting the fractured relationship of indulgent parents who just wanted their children to have every modern advantage and of kids altered by these electronic goodies?”
Sadly, as the stories I linked above (and dozens upon dozens more that can be found with a couple of easy google searches) indicate – Bradbury nailed it.
I wish science and faith had a better relationship. I think science does a decent job of predicting human capabilities. Bradbury (along with many of his sci-fi contemporaries) see the potential of these capabilities and warn us where unchecked preoccupation will take us … i.e. Slow down or we will lose what we love most.
Faith, too, warns of unbridled pre-occupations and passions. But faith offers a better outcome. Faith says we can find our peace and relationship if we acknowledge our brokenness and need for God.
Science explores and warns … faith balances and heals. Again, I say faith and science are a good match for each other, and how I wish our “modern” culture agreed.
I’ve digressed … back to parents. Could our ambitions for our kids really result in blind hatred of us? Or suppose we dismiss Bradbury’s extreme, shock-value outcome in “The Veldt” and decide that he was simply being metaphorical, trying to warn us that we’ll at the very least lose our kids emotionally if we don’t stay on top of our discoveries? Is he right?
I wrote recently about some things parents should have on their radar regarding cell phone/smart phone usage. Right after that, this article showed up taking the topic much further.
It was interesting to watch the response of students when I asked them to read and paraphrase the article. Some were quick with their boxing gloves. “No,” I said. “Not this time.” I just want you to summarize the facts, not debate the article.”
I know what some were thinking (and a few of them did sneak in their thoughts anyway) … they didn’t care what the article said. They are choosing to stick by their gadgets, certain that they are not susceptible to the warnings. Honestly, I lean the same way which makes this blog a pre-cautionary tale to myself.
I wish that “wishing” or “thinking” or “knowing better” could keep us from addictions. I have witnessed far too often that glazed look and disconnect that comes when the computer screen is open in front of someone I am trying to have a conversation with. Or when a cell phone is in hand. Or when a steering wheel and a text message can’t seem to part ways. Or when a normally mild and kind youngster becomes a raging monster as soon as you insist he shut off his video game and come out of his room … raging to the degree that the parent is a bit afraid.
Ray Bradbury wasn’t the first to warn of final days on earth.
Scripture was way ahead of him (words in bold, done by me):
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (II Tim. 3)
But hang on … there’s another promise; a happier one.
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:4-6)
Another old testament scripture says that God puts before us life and death. “Choose life,” He says. (Deut. 30:19)
Yes, choose life! Choose relationship. Choose love. Choose conversation. Choose investment. Choose hope. Choose sharing!. Choose memory making. Choose living and choose it today!