A couple of weeks ago, a friend gave me a copy of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra as a birthday present. It is a novel about life in the wars of Chechnya – where over a 15-year period many people touch each others’ lives without ever knowing it. Individual threads that are all part of an intricate tapestry while believing themselves to be nothing more than individual threads. It has gotten me thinking.
Each of us live our lives thinking we are individuals. When we have insightful moments, we realize that we are interconnected with our family and close friends – and they with us. But our connections with others extends far beyond that. We see some people regularly and it is so easy to ignore that day’s connection – lost in the memory of every other day of seeing that person.
Others may only cross our paths one time in our entire life and so easy to ignore the person as immaterial us. But every interaction with another being impacts both ourselves and the other person. The man whose child you deliver today may own the house on whose door you knock in ten years when you are a refugee seeking help. The model you sketch in an art class may be the sister of your boss years later – long after the model has disappeared into the war.
My wife and I had lunch today with several of her former co-workers to celebrate her retirement. I was amazed to hear a story from one person who recently learn that a friend he had known for years was connected to one of the officers of my wife’s former company. Apparently, the friend’s father and the father of the officer had been co-workers in Cleveland years ago.
This story paralleled what I have been reading so closely that I have been wondering how often it happens – that people will cross paths, perhaps time and time again, without ever knowing of the connections. And that brings up two questions. First, now that the NSA, Google and other “big data” practitioners are mapping our interactions with others, what erroneous connections will they draw from these near misses? Second, how can we each enrich our lives by capturing these connections rather than missing them?