Friday, May 5, 2006

6 degrees of separation & a Thought

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Last night, RB, a friend of his, and I went to an opening for a photo exhibit of Thailand after the Tsunami. The pictures were taken by RB's co-worker Maggie, while she was visiting there on a trip shortly after the disaster. Maggie had gone with her friend Lisa to the devastated region and both returned with pictures and decided to do an exhibit with the proceeds going to the Tsunami Relief Fund.

I decided to call my best friend Anne-Marie (aka Babycakes) to see what she was doing and if she wanted to go. It turns out that her colleague was Maggie's cousin and they were all heading there together to support her. We laughed at the irony of it all and how people were connected. When I got to the cafe where the exhibit was taking place, a familiar voice called out my name. I turned and there was my co-worker standing in the doorway. It seems his fiance is the cousin of Lisa and they too were there to support.

All of this got me thinking about the Six Degrees of Separation Theory proposed by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929. The theory is that everyone on the planet is somehow connected to another person on the planet through a chain of no-more than 4 other acquaintances. The idea that we are all connected in some way, gives me comfort and makes me feel closer to each person I know. It also makes me wonder why there is so much hatred, bitterness and strife in this world. If we are all connected, are not each of us brothers and sisters? I know the thought is rather juvenile and I realise that the politics of the world can't be reduced to such simplicity. But what if they were? Imagine what we could do or accomplish if we all thought of each other as a connected network of family and friends.

Imagine no more hate, pain, famine or war.

The beauty of it all seems so clear in my mind, but I realise that I am a dreamer and that the reality of life on this planet is far more complicated than this one theory. But I still have hope that things will change and that possibly you or I can illicit change through our network of connections.

So, with this in mind, I proposition you all on a project that I have been ruminating upon. To some, the idea may seem rather foolish or bizarre, but I believe there is something in this idea that can potentially make a change, be it in society, yourself, or the World.

Maybe all.

There is a need for change. A need for compassion and understanding in our World, that I think we have forgotten about. Our lives have become so complex and frenetic, what with our jobs, families, social lives and own personal issues, that we have lost sight of the other role we play as members of a Global community. My belief is that through action we can often discover something beautiful in ourselves and others, and that it will plant a seed for change. I believe that every person in this world is connected in some way, and that a single action of good can start a wave that will continue and travel across the globe. Just imagine the following scenario, which I recently experienced:

You are walking down the street. The ominous clouds indicate imminent rain and everyone is rushing about, focused on their own worries and destinations. Then, out of the blue, your briefwork bag breaks and the contents spread across the sidewalk, the wind carrying many of your work papers across the street. You stop, curse and can’t believe your day is going to shit, when a stranger begins to pick your papers up in front of you and out of the gutter. Another person sees that person, realises what is happening and also begins to help. Soon people across the street are running about and into the street to assist. You are dumbfounded, but also immensely grateful to these strangers. Soon, all is recovered. Everyone smiles and your Thanks are noted and everyone carries on with their day.

You, continue to work, smiling despite having your papers in disarray. You are thankful and feel a bit of warmth that others were so kind. The strangers in turn, walk away with a slight spring to their step. They too realise that they have done something kind and that it may have helped this stranger. No names, numbers or words were exchanged, yet everyone feels the same warmth, the same sense of community. These people continue this sense of well-being through the day, and it is infectious and without realising it, they have affected hundreds of people indirectly, through one single act of kindness.

I suppose, none of this is all that new. People always talk about doing good things, and many people do. As I mentioned, I have a project in mind that I have been working on for a year or more that I hope will come to fruition. All of my recent experiences have indicated that I need to do more with my life and that I need to give back. I've never been one to believe in destiny, but I am beginning to wonder if everything that is or has happened to me has some reason. I hate getting all spiritual and philosophical about it, but just stay tuned, as I may need your advice, help or hand.

Much love,

P.S. I realise that this post is the epitomy of tangential thinking, but my thought process tends to run like a train wreck, from one thing to the other until I actually find some valuable lesson from my experiences.


angel, jr. said...

I've always believed in showing kindness whenever possible. However, believing and acting upon it are two different spectrums. Sometimes if in a bad mood I can show the worse of myself to a complete stranger.
However, I have acted kindly or helped out complete strangers before. And it does feel good. I've always been taught to treat others as you would like others to treat you. In some ways, I believe the unkindess shown to me has been karma from the past. And that the compassion bestowed on me has also been energy that I've put out there.
It isn't hard to believe that we all know each other/are connected to one another in some small way. But there has to be a unifying tie that binds us all together--otherwise we couldn't classify ourselves as one species. If we could only find this tie that binds, maybe the peace will come, the hatred will cease and understanding will prevail.

Polt said...

I find just saying hi to people you make eye contact with as you pass them on the street makes me fell better. They smile,and i smile in return, and then i'mfeeling a little better.

yeah, I know,it's silly, but really, I enjoy it.

tornwordo said...

I don't think it's juvenile to think that we could all consider ourselves as brothers and sisters. It could happen if say, a pandemic strikes and only 10 percent are left to carry on.

Tallguy said...

Oh, of course everything that happens to you is for a reason! There are NO coincidences --- none at all.

Random acts of kindness you say --- hmmm.....

StonedBunny said...

hey sexy EPI!,

how about this for six degrees. I actually have six degrees of good ole Kevin Bacon.

I worked with Alan Frew formerly of glass tiger on his Healing Hands video. (I am the guy on the wall of spikes who ends up in a chapel soaking wet.)

Alan Frew worked with Rod Stewart in hmmm I forget the video. My Town I think.

Rod Stewart worked with his soon to be former wife Rachael Hunter in the video Broken Arrow.

Rachel Hunter was on an episode of Mad About You with Paul Rieser (sp?).

Paul Reiser worked with tadummm Kevin Bacon.

Life is a very strange case of missed buses, sliding doors, and chance encounters. Serendipity rules.

One of my closest friends is from and lives in Montreal. We met in Singapore and became fast friends and fell madly in love. Funny that one has to travel across a planet to meet a lover/soul mate.

Once on a beach in Antigua in the West Indies I was walking along and came across a friend from the east coast of Canada who I had not seen in a couple of years.

Funny how space and time and connections seem to interweave and yet stay separate and distinct from each other.

I love to use this analogy. Picture at this very moment there are 6.5 billion movies playing simultaneously on this planet. We are the main Character in our Drama. Sometimes we are surrounded by supporting Characters and sometimes we are part of an Ensemble Cast. But we alway return to our singular story.

Right at this very moment as you read this post I am a supporting character in your story. But as I was writing this post Epi is a supporting character in my story.

It is quite overwhelming to stop and think about all those stories unfolding.

Here is a neat thing I like to do. Think of everyone you know and see if you can imagine them doing what they would be doing right now. Then try to see how many of those stories you can keep going through your mind at the same time.

Think of all the love and joy and hurt and pain they may or may not be going through. Hard to do and overwhelming if you let yourself feel it.

Now think 6.5 billion stories at the same time.

Babsbitchin said...

Darling, this is a captivating composition, far from juvenile. Yes, it may be spiritual, never stand ashamed to have some form of spirituality, it is the peacekeeper and stabalizing factor, the good that is left in this world. This is truly an intriguing and thought provoking projection of what could be and the six degrees of separation is a good inclusion. Let me tell you what I believe, take what you want but this old bag has been around and this is my personal observation...
"Forget about coincidence, luck or magic as it does not exist, only divine destiny.As we go through life, things happen for a reason. You meet that person who inspires you, that person who put you through hell,the guy who said something that stuck and changed your outlook, death, birth,calamity,trials and tribulations, it is all for a reason. If we choose to see we have the choices and we learn from every downfall and uplift, then we begin to see our life as a puzzle. Each new thing we learn from, we are given a new piece to that puzzle which is our life. The more pieces you amass, the more of the Big Picture you begin to see; The Meaning of Your Life and the Divine Destiny of it All." That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Kisses!!

Anonymous said...

awe epi, this was such a beautiful post. i enjoy following your stream of consciousness... as we grow old, those of us who are really aware of what is going on in the world around us, eventually realize that we can either doing nothing or doing something to make our world better. i wish more people were as passionate about life as you are. its wonderful to see.

Sister Staceypatrick said...

We need dreamers like you in the world my dear - that's what gives the rest of us averags schmos hope that there is a chance for something better and that we do not completely suck as a species.

Keep the glass half full baby, that's why we love you!


Anonymous said...

simply stated: we are all connected. not even by six or four degrees. we are all connected and the sooner we understand, the better.

ink said...

Great post, Epi, and a worthy goal. Every little bit of positive energy, every little bit of kindness and generosity, makes the world a better place and each of us a better human being.

I've always believed that "what goes around comes around," and that those who behave badly automatically create badness in their own lives (if only from the weakening of their own "best selves" ....).

With so many of us focussed almost exclusively on "self-help" these days, it's worthwhile remembering that when we help others we help ourselves.


P.S. BTW, really liked what StonedBunny had to say about being starring players in our own dramas and supporting players in other peoples'. Cool!

Brian FInch said...

Your stream of consciousness is much more prettier than mine! I wouldn't say your thought process is a train wreck at all.

So many people do not realize that they play an active role in creating their realities. Too many people prefer to be victims, I choose not to be.

Lee said...

I love how your mind works.

Six degrees, eh? So which one of you buggers is going to give me Jake Gyllenhaal's phone number?

Phoenixboi said...

And with this post you have made me smile and think of something beautiful and real.
See you have made a difference already to someone many miles away on the other side of the world.

epicurist said...

Angel - We all make bad choices and can be roving bitches at's human nature, but I believe the majority of us are innately good. Karma or the philosophy of kindness is really a logical thing. :)

Polt - I totally agree. when someone smiles or says "hi" to me, it always cheers me up.

tornwordo - Morbid, but true! :p

Tallguy - Funny you mention Random Acts of Kindness. A few years ago as I began this process, I thought of doing something titled that. I recently found out there is an organisation out there already. Obviously I'm not the first, and thank god for that!

StonedBunny - Ahhhh, I can always count on you to fire those synapses and make me think of things in a different way. I really like that analogy. By the way, I remember you in that video. You showed it to me 12 years ago. ;)

Babsbitchin' - I've made that same analogy as well. Life is a puzzle, and since I love puzzles, this should be an interesting game.

Bees - Heya sweets! Thanks, and I think there are lots of peeps around, just a lot are overwhelmed by their own lives.

Sister Stacey - Glass will be full all the time babes! A nice Cabernet?

Anon - Very true!

ink - I agree about the "what goes around comes around". Call it karma, call it the philosophy of good and bad. Call it what you like, but it does exist. Oh, and I agree about StonedBunny...he never fails to amaze me.

Miss Retro Virus - Welcome! I agree wholeheartedly and will go further to say that we play an active role (as StonedBunny mentioned)in creating other peoples realities. Those who choose to be victims, will be, and I personally can't draw much strength from them because they are always taking strength from others. There must be some balance in these relationships.

Lee - I'll have to ask around, but if I find it, I may just keep it for myself. ;P

epicurist said...

Phoenixboi - Aww, thanks. And now you've made me smile (ok, giggle). ::wink::

Aethlos said...

WOW, i couldn't believe an urban myth as absurd as the "six degrees of separation" was actually couched as having any validity whatsoever in Wikipedia. Just goes to show you how wary one must be of the site. Judith Kleinfeld actually went back and studied Milgram's archives from Yale... only FIVE PERCENT of ALL his packages/passports ever found the other person... the degrees of separation between me, and say a grandmother in Irian Jaya is at least into the thousands. It's strange that people seem to have a desire to believe a myth this outlandish... it shows how deeply as humans we need to feel connected. The sad truth - is that you are born alone, you sleep alone, and you die alone. Being "connected" is a Conscious experience - which has a strong impact on the unconscious. But we are all pretty much alone. The trick is to find some fantastic people.... AND BE ALONE - TOGETHER.

epicurist said...

Aethlos, you little cynical curmudgeon. :) I don't necessarily subscribe to the Six Degrees of Separation as an actual truth per say. It's more the story and the idea that as humans, we are all capable of developing relationships and that we have the "power" to make change with those connections. You are right in that we humans have a need to be connected. I don't however, believe that we are born alone, sleep alone and die alone. That's a rather morbid and cynical (no offense, darhlin) way of looking at our lives.

circuitmouse said...

just discovered your site, and I couldn't think of a better meditation for ending the year (and beginning a new one). I've given up on the custom of making New Year's Resolutions, but I do like the idea that how we perceive the world and our actions at the start of the new year might well guide us throughout.

Happy New Year!