human relationships

October 10th, 2004

Imagine you're driving a car.. you stop at a red light and another car pulls up alongside you. Now you're drag racing, both drivers are impatiently waiting for that green light. Now, of course drag racing makes no sense unless the cars are comparable in performance, otherwise it would be a blowout. So there you have it, two different cars, but similar in performance, waiting to start the race. Finally comes the green light, both cars speed out burning rubber. It's neck a neck in the race, both drivers shifting gears to reach that top speed.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where we extricate ourselves from this very dangerous and very illegal practice of drag racing. Now let x go from zero to infinity as we imagine a straight road of infinite length. The two cars are both going at top speed and their speed is the same. Now imagine that we tie a piece of string, attached to the mirror of one car, going toward the other and fastened there around the mirror once again. These two cars are now bound by a thin piece of string, they are tied together.

If you've seen the title, you've no doubt guessed that the human relationship is represented by the piece of string. The two persons involved are both quite solid, consistent individuals who are set in their ways and appreciate that a systematic approach to a relationship is what will earn you success. But that also mirrors their attitude in other aspects of life, people are mostly static, they don't change much over time, even if they do change sometimes, those changes are then carried over for long periods of time. Thus the potential which exists in trying to match up two people who share enough common ground to make a relationship meaningful is quite significant. But once this relationship is established, it will go on to suffer from a plethora of unforeseen problems which prove extensively difficult to get around.

Let's head back to the drag race. If you can imagine two cars racing, their only incentive being who will cross the finish line first, as they are in fact racing along an infinitely long track, you can imagine that their respective paths will be identical. There is a piece of string holding them together but if either car was to make the slightest turn outwards, that string would snap immediately. So if people grow apart, find out that they no longer share enough common ground for a meaningful relationship, it will be in jeopardy. But that's rather the unlikely scenario. Much more likely it is that the two cars are in fact not identical, one may accelerate faster than the other. Perhaps one is aerodynamic and subject to little air resistance, while the other is bulky in shape, causing the mirror holding the string to shake feverishly. Perhaps one has exceptional suspension while the other jumps at every bump in the road. It is the sum of all these specifics that makes the string dance in the wind with a very great risk of snapping.

It is the sum of all these specifics that makes a relationship a highly volatile compound. While the persons involved are stable, static entities, the bond between them is not unlike the flame in your fireplace, it has no defined state because the sum of all possible states is infinite. And because no two people are equal, it will never be stable. It will always be affected by 3 factors listed in order of likelyhood: (1) the people don't match at the required level of precision, (2) the environment in which the relationship exists is highly dynamic and prone to affect it negatively and (3) the people grow apart/change.

Is it then logically correct to conclude that the human relationship is an atrificial construct, an ill coneived conception at best, a fata morgana? Do we not all strive for highly robust and functional relationships? Who is content with 25%? Ah, but herein lies the obstacle. We may all strive for perfection, but we will never have it. No matter how much one person may want to achieve these lofty goals, the result is entirely dependent on both individuals, both of whom have different philosophies, different values, different approaches, different minds.

Is it then inevitable that in the course of this race toward infinity one of the drivers will fall asleep and end up in a ditch, perhaps crashing the other car in the process? If not, what is the likelyhood of both making it? 1%? 1.5%? Are we kidding ourselves to begin with?

Here's the essence of it.. even if you think you have a strong relationship, you will never know that until it is truly tested. Here's the pitfall.. at times it seems as if the string had been replaced by a thick, solid steel beam welded right into the chassis of both cars. But the steel beam is not real. It is there because we want to imagine that it is. But taking a closer look, there is nothing more than a string in its place. And even though the beam doesn't undergo the shocks that the string would, it does instead accumulate that energy over time, to the point when it has to be released. So if we rely on a beam holding the cars together instead of a string, it is only pushing back the inevitable, sooner or later there will be a release of energy strong enough to snap the beam in half just like the string could snap at any time.

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2 Responses to "human relationships"

  1. Erik says:

    My goodness Martin, did you just use a metaphor?? I'm impressed, though of course being you, you had to drive it more towards the scientific corner rather than the poetic opposite. ;)

    Still, very nicely analysed. You may well be right, but that may not matter.

  2. numerodix says:

    Well if I went all artsy I would completely lose myself so I had to preserve some point of reference. ;)