back in 1929, hungarian author frigyes karinthy penned his short story ‘chain links’. chain links isn’t a story i’m very familiar with but i’m certainly familiar with the theory proposed in it, ‘6 degrees of separation’. perhaps you are also.
in a nutshell, 6 degrees of separation proposes that any two people in the world can be connected through the relationships of 6 other people. it’s basically a formula for figuring out the distance of social networks.
though it circulated as an urban myth for almost a quarter century, in the 60’s it gained credibility through research at MIT and harvard then later was popularized by psychology today. in 2007, microsoft finally provided proof of its validity in analyzing 39 billion instant messenger conversations, confirming the path distance between any two people to be 6.6 degrees.
that may or may not be entirely accurate if you’re trying to connect yourself to some unknown rainforest tribe. but if you ask me, it’s a pretty amazing discovery originally founded in a fictional story.
the following story though, i wish was fictional…
there’s been a lot of buzz today in the small town where i live. a teenage girl went missing this weekend from outside her parents home and today her discarded body was found in a ditch about 30 miles away. the girl lived not even 5 minutes from my house, my kids all knew her and one of my closest friends tutored her. that’s how it is in small towns, we may not know everyone personally, but we all pretty much know someone who does. in a community this size, the tragedy is no more than 1 degree of separation away for many of us.
i echo the choir of condolence and compassion for rachael and her family. i’m unable to understand the brutal, gratuitous taking of young life and my heart aches for the loss. this is the stuff of all parent’s nightmares.
as a community, especially among the moms i know, there’s a sort of collective shock and fear that resonates between us. we hold our own close right now, scarcely believing that this has happened here. as if here means anything. we look for degrees of separation to reassure ourselves the same isn’t about to befall our own children. ‘is my child the same age, do they have the same friends and interests, do they frequent the same places, is their hair the same colour?’. not of course, that such things prevent or cause a murder. but in the face of the unthinkable, any separation will do.
i personally am fighting hard for peace tonight. there are no answers yet and comfort is distant for many. i’ll be very glad when closure and justice come. there is no degree of separation distant enough for a stolen life.