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The Consequence of Intimacy

My favourite book I read this summer was All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai.  It’s a really hard book to describe without ruining anything along the way, but an easy book to talk about out of context (meaning, even if you haven’t read the book) because at its heart, the book is Mastai processing the loss of his mother at a young age.  I mean, yes, it’s also about time travel and alternate realities, but peel away the quirky and it’s a love letter to all the people we will love and lose.

So there are four things I want to talk about with the book.  Again, you don’t need to read the book to understand them, and reading about them will not ruin reading the book yourself.


So the book opens with an idea that stems from Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.  That “when you invent a new technology, you also invent the accident of that technology” (p. 14).  So you invent the car, and at the same time, you invent the car accident.  Can’t have a car accident without the car.  And the reverse; as we invent things to prevent the car accident, we are also inventing the problems that could arise out of those solutions.

The main character — the narrator — states on page 15:

I’m not a genius like Lionel Goettreider or Kurt Vonnegut or my father. But I have a theory too: The Accident doesn’t just apply to technology, it also applies to people. Every person you meet introduces the accident of that person to you. What can go right and what can go wrong. There is no intimacy without consequence.

So when you connect with a person, you also create in that moment, the possible bad outcome of that relationship.  We can debate the term “bad,” but at the very least, you will lose that person after a long time of loving them.  That will hurt.  But you could also have that relationship negatively impact your life, from changing your self-esteem to moving you away from places where you would have otherwise gone.  You may not even know that the relationship is tugging you in the wrong direction, or all the otherwises that were in your path and now they’re not.

We talk a lot about the people we’re happy that we met because they changed our life for the better, but we spend much less time talking about the people we regret meeting.  The people who have had a negative impact on our life with their “accident” looming larger than their invention-like side.  It’s a weird thing to think about: The people you wish you had never met.  People you’re sad were at one point in your life.

We can paint a rosy picture, claiming that every interaction is meaningful and adds to who we are as a whole; positive or negative.  But this book so beautifully explores that cost of loving someone, or, at the very least, letting them into your life.

Your thoughts?


1 Cristy { 09.19.17 at 8:11 am }

This is a thought-provoking post. Particularly at the moment as Cyrol has been trying to track me down again (seriously, I’m more than over it). But there are lessons that have been learned from the whole experience that have beneficial. And the same can also be said for every relationship I’ve had that’s ended poorly and/or painfully.

No one likes to get hurt. In fact, many are so risk-adverse that they try to construct in solutions to prevent the hurt. But I’m also a believer that if you don’t open yourself to the potential for hurt, or the accident, you also miss out on some potentially amazing benefits/gifts.

2 Sharon { 09.19.17 at 12:23 pm }

Interesting. If I stopped and really thought about it, I would no doubt think of people I’ve encountered over my lifetime that I would have been better off without. But to your point that relationships lead you in a direction you might not otherwise have gone. . . I wouldn’t be who I am and living my current life without having had those (unhappy/negative) people in my life, so can I really say that I wish I had never been involved with them? Probably not.

One specific relationship that springs to mind is my two-year relationship with my ex-fiance, which ended in March 2007. It is indisputable that I never would have met my husband but for the way that relationship played out. And since so much of my current life is a result of meeting my husband — our marriage, our children, even our home and some of our friends — I couldn’t have skipped my relationship with my ex and still had all those things.

3 Chris { 09.19.17 at 2:15 pm }

That’s an easy one for me- I’ve thought a hundred times if I’ve thought about it once. How much better my life would be if my father’s mother had never been a part of it. If somehow she’d died/disappeared just never been allowed to be part of my life. If somehow she hadn’t been allowed to be around me. Sure, I am stronger. Because by all accounts I *should* be dead. But, living through 18 years of intermittent torture? Knowing every time I was around her that I would be in life-threatening situations clearly wasn’t good for me. I’d be a more trusting, open, person without that baggage. And, I’d be okay with being a little weaker if it meant not having nightmares of watching her threaten to kill my mom and my dog, or remember being thrown off a 30 foot deck and breaking my skull, or being left outside overnight, or having guns shot at me or any of the hundred other things she did

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.19.17 at 3:36 pm }

You just blew my mind. And we need to talk.

5 Raven { 09.20.17 at 11:04 am }

Wow what a concept, this is kind of mind blowing for me.

I have never really thought about it, but I have always felt people are in your life to teach you something – whether it’s short or long. It’s a struggle when someone is nasty or cruel, to figure out what the lesson may be but there always is one and I find it makes it easier to accept that they were a part of your life for a reason – making something good, of something bad. Even though sometimes the bad is can be REALLY bad.

You always make me think! Thank you!

6 Valery { 09.21.17 at 3:37 am }

I can’t help but think about the time being pregnant with twins. It was my secret dream. I was over the moon. And then I lost one at 8 weeks. I was terrified the rest of the pregnancy. The singleton is a healthy four year old now. Every now and then the what-ifs creep up on me. Though usually in the form of what if the twin had made it.
If the twin never was, i might have been worried instead of terrified. Who knows, I might not have been too heartbroken to try again.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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