You always, somehow inevitably, know someone who knows someone who knows someone, who… *insert anything*
I just found out that I know someone who knows someone, who’s friends with people that have been affected horribly by MH17. That’s only three degrees of separation.
We’ve all heard of the theory of “six degrees of separation”. It simply means that any two people can be connected to one another in six or fewer steps.
The key word here is, of course, connection. It’s the more important part to focus on. We’re not separated by six degrees, but connected to each other in six steps (or fewer).
Just look at how we know each other individually. Friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues. If you look at the number of people in your life, and then consider all the people they have in their lives that you know of (never mind all those that you don’t know about), and continue down that line, you end up with a very large number.
It grows exponentially, in fact.
More and more of us are becomings citizens of the world, having lived outside of their own country, or perhaps having travelled extensively (or both) and made friends in many different places, met people all over the world.
That means the diversity of people, their backgrounds, cultures, religion, nationalities, offers even more connections that you wouldn’t have had, if you had never left home. I have personal connections to people in Australia, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Israel, Italy, Ukraine, France, etc. etc.
Friends on every continent and/or from every continent. There’s a slight difference. I’m not aware that I know anybody in South America, but I know people from South America.
Now, where am I headed with this?
Humans do a lot of things to each other. Most of the things that are currently resulting in wars or civil wars or unspeakable acts of violence outside of actual wars, are informed by something that happened in the past. Which means, in order to try and comprehend what is happening in Gaza right now for instance, you need to know a bit of history, recent history, a summary of the last seventy years and then another one of the past five thousand years.
You don’t need to go that far to try and understand what is happening in the East Ukraine right now. A few decades is enough.
The same is true for every conflict zone on this little blue planet.
And even if you do your research and find out what the historical reasons for present conflicts are, it doesn’t help you understand why we cling so desparately to a past that few remember, trying to do what? Bring it back? Turn back time? Reinstate a status that didn’t work out the first time around?
I suggest you go back further in time, when we were hunters and gatherers roaming the lands in small tribes. On a cosmic scale that wasn’t very long ago. How far do we want to go to justify our quarrels.
If Earth was 46 years old, humans would’ve been around for about four hours. A minute ago the industrial revolution began. And then think of everything that has happened in the last sixty seconds of our time on this planet. All the good and the bad, the wonderful and the ugly.
Let’s loop back to the beginning.
We are seven billion people living on this tiny blue planet, the third of eight (sorry Pluto) in an unremarkable solar system on a side arm of an average sized galaxy in an ever expanding universe. We don’t know if there is any other life out there. And we do our utmost to destroy the life that is right here.
We’re humans, male or female or somewhere in between, all in a variety of colour combinations on a somewhat limited palette, who come in as many shapes as there are people. We speak nearly 7000 distinct languages, live in almost two hundred different countries and are still all connected by about six degrees (or fewer).
We go to great length to ascertain individuality. Each and everyone of us. We are all unique in many small ways, each with their own story. But we are of one kind. At the end of the day, most of us want the same things. A home, love, security. Very basic things. Food, clothes, not to be bombed or shot at.
I’d say that 99.9999% of us want those things. It doesn’t matter what country we happened to be born in, what belief system our parents bestowed upon us, what colour of skin, of eye or hair and what language. Most of us have no desire to shoot their neighbour.
I would also hope that a large number of us is rather concerned about where we are headed and that, perhaps, climate change is something we should be getting serious about.
Let’s start by thinking of how we are connected and how we can use that instead of all the ways that separate us. The stranger you meet on the street is, after all, the friend of a friend of a friend. If you think like that, you may actually consider their well-being instead of wondering, if they might want to harm you or if the differences between you could cause conflict.
Humans, infinitely mysterious, are also capable of doing a lot for each other. I believe our capacity for love is greater than our capacity for hate. Otherwise we wouldn’t still be here. But we are flawed and awfully fallible and have so much to learn still.
For all intents and purposes MH17 was collateral damage. Senseless and avoidable. That is true for every civilian, who died in the last fifteen days in the Gaza stripe.
But the front page news don’t show us the whole picture. The majority of us continues to live peacefully, going about our days, caring for the people in our lives and making sure to recycle properly. Teachers preparings new lessons for their students, doctors saving lives. Conservationists looking after endangered animals. Scientists discovering new cures for diseases or listening to the far reaches of the universe, learning more of our origins.
Most people will likely never really dare to look closely at the bigger picture, the cosmic scale, the grand scheme of things or delve into the deeper history of human kind. They will continue to think in terms of separation rather than connection.
But those who do, will hopefully be the ones leading the way for all of us.