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Jewish World Review June 13, 2005 / 6 Sivan 5765

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

Car GPS systems — you gotta love 'em | I finally got one of those GPS systems for my car. You know, you plug in an address and the device tells you, in words, how to get to where you want to go. Actually, I've had it for a little while, but I just figured out how to work it. Four kids, a new suburb, no choice.

I've found that the key is to tell it what city you want information on. Otherwise, the system will try to find an address on Elm Street in about 17 different locations. Not helpful.

There are a couple of other "keys," too. Like, for the longest time I couldn't figure out why it didn't want me to travel on, well, highways. I guess it was some secret "preference" set deep within the system, by some Luddite who hated fast roads.

Anyway, I've finally got this thing up and running.

Here's what I love about it. This calm, female voice is constantly ready to give me directions on my terms: "Turn right, ahead." "After two miles, turn left." "Proceed on the current road." (I love that one.) But best of all, "You have arrived at your destination."

Wow. If only somebody would tell me about my life when it is that I have arrived at my destination. That's something I could use.

This is why I think these things are so popular. You can never really make a mistake. There are no value judgments. If I were designing one of these things, I'd program it to say, if you made a wrong turn, "You idiot — you have messed up. Pull over and get out of the car. Get out of the car now!"

But no. Inevitably, you miss a turn, and the babe on the GPS system doesn't care. No problem. There are no bad road choices. She'll just direct you down a new path and get you back on the right one without once making you feel stupid. Even if she has to say, "Proceed five miles ahead and make a legal U-turn," she doesn't scream, "You idiot. You blew it. You'll never make your party on time. How dumb could you be to miss that turn? Find a way to turn around now!

I recently loaned a friend my car, and she commented on the calming effect of the guiding voice in a sea of unknown traffic patterns.

If only we could have that in life. I'm not talking in the sense of we Christians believing we have a GPS system in the Bible. That's all true. What I'm looking for are things like: "Buy this peanut butter instead of that one." "This dress is perfect on you." "Choose this movie." Or maybe, "Children, obey your mother."

But what would be really great is, when you do mess up, to have the calming voice tell you how to get your life back on track. No judgments, no "You are an idiot for yelling at your boss." Just something like "Proceed in this job only for the next two weeks, then make an immediate exit."

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And if I could have a system that would guide me through sixth-grade math homework with my kids, that would be really great. Just a gentle, "Go back three steps in the problem and proceed again" — not "You must really feel stupid right now for not being able to do this."

Still, I have to face the fact there are times when all of us need to hear things like: "What were you thinking? Are you nuts?" Or, "You dummy — leave the relationship now. Leave it now!" Or, "How could you do that??"

I guess that the idea of a life guided without censure — without "mistakes," without being told some paths work and some just don't, without ever being held accountable for having really gone off the track — well, it seems really nice. But the fact is, at some point, everybody needs a healthy dose of value judgments. In the end, they are what help to guide us safely to our final destination.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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