On Time Travel

There’s an entire class of solutions and advice that I find perfectly hits the sweet spot between annoying and useless. I call these steaming turds of so-called wisdom, “time machine advice”.

Let’s say I grab a piece of hot metal and burn my hand. You might tell me “you shouldn’t have grabbed that piece of hot metal!” I am going to agree with you one hundred per cent, but that does not make your advice terribly useful.

Sometimes you might offer advice that is actually a useful idea for the next time the situation arises, like saying “get in the habit of holding the back of your hand near the metal, you’ll be able to sense the heat without burning yourself.” That’s all well and good, and if we’ve moved on to the “learn from this experience” stage I might even solicit this advice. But if I’m standing there with blisters and charred flesh all over my palm, the only advice I want right now is about proper first aid.

I call these time machine problems. “Cool, so all I have to do is invent time travel, build a working time machine, jump in it, go back to the moment before I grabbed the hot metal, and then—and this is where your advice really is so refreshingly straightforward—just not do that. Thank you! Oooh! And then, I could go forward in time to where you gave me this advice and tell you it actually wasn’t the most useless thing I’ve heard all day! It’s win/win!” I, uh, may have given this speech to one or two people over the years.

We see this all the time in D/s. Imagine me going onto a forum and saying “Hey I delegated this task wrong and I didn’t follow through and then when I confronted my sub she got all upset about it what should I do”. You’ve no doubt see the kinds of responses that a bit, well, time-machiney: “Well you shouldn’t have delegated it wrong in the first place” or “You should have managed this better” or “Your problem is you’re not doing D/s the One True Way™.”

I love that the responses you all wrote to me on Monday fell neatly into two categories. First and foremost was “don’t beat yourself up/it’s going to be okay/it’s not that expensive a package”. Going back to the hot metal analogy, this is all you wonderful people saying “here is first aid for a burned hand”. Second, many of you told me how you have handled this kind of situation. This could have been construed as time machine advice except for the fact that I explicitly asked you to tell me how you have avoided burning your own hands. We were definitely at the “learn from this experience” moment, and I absolutely invited that input. My point here is you all are awesome.

If I’m not digging on you for your advice on Monday, then what am I banging on about? It’s this: I judge any plan or system not on how well it works when everything is running smoothly, but by how well it works when everything isn’t.

If a system only works as long as nothing goes wrong, I tend to think it’s a pretty stupid plan. If I’m trying to follow the One True Way™ and I screw something up in my relationship and the only way to fix it is to not have done it in the first place, then the One True Way™ is not a very good Way. If it has no answers for the situation it’s kind of hard to say it’s the True way. And given that every forum is piled up to here with these schemes, I’d say they’re common as dirt. They’re hardly rare, nevermind them being the One.

What Beth and I have is not the One True Way™. I would say what we have is a Pretty Good Way That Doesn’t Always Work But Almost Always Makes Things Better Even If You Screwed Up Somewhere Along The Way.

I’m not even going to put a ™ on that. I’m sure the domain name is already taken anyway.


2 thoughts on “On Time Travel

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