Sunday, November 28, 2010

Intentional Destruction

A car crash crumpled my husband's car into the shape of a big red accordion, and I am grateful.

It was around nine years ago that I ran that car head-on at 45mph into a concrete barrier. Then, with maneuvers that seemed to defy the laws of physics, I managed to flip the vehicle around as it continued to barrel down the offramp so we hit the same barrier, in reverse, perhaps fifty yards further down. Seatbelts held us steady as airbags deployed during initial impact. When we finally came to a stop some seconds later, we were very quiet.

I was shaken by the experience. My nose was bruised and my lip was bleeding a little from being hit by the airbag. But that's all! It was amazing. The EMT who happened to be first on the scene very much expected to find us badly injured. The police officer who came later for the accident report sounded suspicious when we told him we were the two in the car, because he didn't see how that could have been true.

How did we survive so well? Because the car was designed with its passengers as the priority. The car, as it was created to do, crumpled like an accordion each time it hit the concrete barrier. And because the car absorbed so much of the impact, our bodies didn't have to. It totaled the car, of course. But it was worth the loss.

The people who make cars have many goals -- physical comfort, low gas consumption, safety, reasonable cost, attractiveness, durability, and so forth. They could have made a car that kept its shape beautifully... but at a personal cost much higher than that of the car. I'm glad they didn't.

This has reminded me of life lately. I have various goals and they sometimes are mutually exclusive, which often becomes particularly apparent in times of crisis/stress/etc. I need to consistently re-examine my values and make intentional choices consistent with them. When I do this, I am far more likely to absorb unplanned impacts in the right ways.

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