Six degrees….

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometimes you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Santa brought me an iPad for Christmas this year, and so I am learning what my new little friend is capable of during this long and lonely month when my closest friends seem to be the chickadees outside.  They are not on Facebook, where the rest of my friends live, so it’s good to have someone to complain to in person who doesn’t tell me to “get over it”  when I get too maudlin in January.  The biggest challenge I have (aside from trying to decide whether to leave the house every day) is trying to outwit the neighbor dog who, I’m pretty sure, stole the suet I’d hung from a high branch last week.  Based on the number of dog tracks at the base of the tree, that’s my best guess of where it went. It could have been a wolf, I suppose, but my money’s on Lola.

When I’m not teaching online, or wallowing in winter self-pity, or contemplating the digestive tracts of wolves,  I am spending an inordinate amount of time on my iPad, doing research on things I didn’t even know I was interested in.  If anyone looked at my web surfing history in January, they would lock me up.  For real. They would.  This is mainly because the Internet is a HUGE place.  You start on Facebook, and then make a left turn at Pinterest where it is entirely possible to spend the rest of your life or at least the rest of January if you have no self-control or a career that you actually have to get dressed and leave the house to do, which I don’t.  And don’t even get me started about Etsy.  Or Google. Trust me on this.  Just. Don’t. Go. There. You will never be able to find your way back out and then someone will find you, all shriveled up and bug-eyed from staring at a small screen for hours on end Googling random stuff like how to crochet a chicken sweater.

All the photographs I’ve ever taken with my phone were magically transferred to my iPad by the Girl,  so that’s been another fun way to waste time.  I’d totally forgotten that I’d  saved so many photos of former students with their kids.  As I swiped through photos of the dozens of young men I knew as college freshmen with football dreams dancing in their heads before they became husbands and fathers,  I thought about how teaching students of other races and countries and religions has changed how I see the world and measure its size.

Through the magic of Google, I learned more about the theory known as “six degrees of separation” first proposed by the Hungarian writer, Frigyes Karinthey.  It’s the belief that everyone on this planet is connected to every other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. Just think of that for a minute. Seven billion or so people on Earth and only five people separating you from getting to know as many as you choose to get to know. Kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it? I know it blew mine. What if we are all on one big Facebook Friends list, after all?

I don’t know if Karinthey was right,  but I still choose to believe in a cosmic connection that links us all, one to the next, in a chain.  In January, particularly, as  I watch the snow fall softly and ponder the lives of a few skinny chickadees and a mystery canine with a greasy face and a bad case of indigestion.

They are connected.  I guess it isn’t such a stretch to imagine that their human relatives are, as well.



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