Last Updated on January 7, 2023

I’ve always liked fables. Cute stories that have an embedded lesson. (More about reading here.)

For a while I’ve been planning to write a few myself.

I like mental models, and I write regularly about them in a short non-fiction format. I have been thinking for a few years about writing little fables to illustrate the models.

The idea came to me after a friend told me a poignant story that was a striking illustration of the idea that correlation does not imply causation. I will post that story below. Maybe if I write enough of them and get good at writing them I could compile them into a book one day.

Anyway here’s my first attempt at a fable. (Maybe this one is a bit long but I’m trying to live “done > perfect”. I wrote this about 7 years ago when I first moved to San Francisco, and have been trying to find time to “finish” it… But it’s been nearly 8 years…)

Julia’s Fables №1

When Marson meets Martha

My friend Marson was recently recounting the story about how he fell in love with with Martha. 

Names have been changed.

Marson and Martha

It was late July and Marson was on holidays from his engineering job, and had traveled from his home in Vermont, up to New York. He met Martha in a quiet cafe and he asked her for her phone number. Martha was a student a couple of years his junior, finishing up her economics degree that fall. The two arranged to meet the following week for a date. 

Martha, who was born and raised in New York, took Marson to one of her favorite New York neighborhoods, a vibrant place, where they happily wandered the streets. Many dates followed over the next few weeks when Marson was in town, the pair going all over New York. Marson said he had “the time of his life”. One day, when wandering through the bustling Central Park, Marson was feeling so much joy. He told Martha he had fallen in love with her. 

Eventually and inevitably though, a few weeks later Marson needed to leave Martha and to return to Vermont to his job.

Marson and Martha talked frequently on the phone after he left, and defaulted into a long distance relationship. Marson would visit her in to New York when he could get time off work. Eventually, the two considered whether Martha might move to Vermont to be with Marson. Marson was ecstatic when Martha said she would move down the following month after she graduated.

Marson was counting down the days until she arrived! They’d only been dating a few months, and normally he wouldn’t move in with someone so soon, but given she was moving to Vermont to be with him, it didn’t really make sense for her to get her own place, so they decided she would move in with him. In November Martha excitedly packed a truck and headed to meet her love.

Martha moved into Marson’s flat. Marson had an inkling that something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite work out what it was. And given Martha had moved all that way to be with him, he thought he owed it to her to dismiss that nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

One day it struck him rather suddenly. He’d fallen in love with the city, not the person.

The good feelings Marson had while in New York with Martha were more about the city, than the person. The feelings for Martha were correlated with the good feelings for New York, but not the cause.

Correlation does not imply causation.