Friday, January 21, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

 “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where…it is going” (John 3:8).

Eighty years ago a Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, wrote a short story entitled “Chain-Links,” in which he proposed the idea that any two individuals in the world are connected through, at most, five acquaintances. His theory has been revived with the expansion of the internet and recent social networking innovations—Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, et. al. His theory is known these days as “Six Degrees of Separation.” 

Picture an individual somewhere on earth, someone you know by reputation alone. According to Karinthy’s thesis, five friends link you to that person. You know Tom, who knows Jerry, who knows Susan, who knows Mary, who knows George, who knows that individual.

It’s impossible to validate the theory, but, properly understood, there may be something to it. Some years ago I received a letter from a man I’ve never met—one of the most prominent and influential men in the world—in which he told me that a brief note I had sent to a close friend several months before had found its way to his in-box and had encouraged him in a time of weariness and dark despair. I don’t know the length of the chain, but the friend to whom I sent the note sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend… Eventually my scribbling made its way to the man in question.  

It may be that you and I are indeed links in a chain that leads to every other person on the planet. This means that a simple word offered in love, guided by the wisdom of God, and borne aloft on the wings of the Spirit can have unintended but eternal consequences.

Should we not then fill ourselves full of God’s word and pass it on to others with the prayer that God will use it for his intended purposes? Who, but God, knows where that word will go!


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