We are each, so I am told, separated from every single other person on Earth by no more than 7 degrees. By how many degrees, I wonder, are we separated from the lives we might have lived and the people we might have been.
A couple of days ago Jinny and I got in touch with an old friend from high-school and college named Kerry (via facebook of course). For whatever reason this set me to reminiscing this evening. I met Kerry in high-school while I was involved with a youth program called Bible Quizzing. Bible Quizzing is exactly what it sounds like, a youth program based on Bible memorization and competition. It is every bit as hip as…well, as the word hip I guess. Nevertheless it was a formidable force for good in my life and I am deeply grateful that God nudged my path in that direction. I was involved with Quizzing from the beginning of the 7th grade until one year after I graduated from high-school (one year, incidentally, longer than most people are generally allowed to keep participating). In my second to last year the strangest, and in retrospect most wonderful, thing happened. Three of my friends who had always kind of looked down on Quizzing decided to join up.
Trevor, Trevor and Jon were all my age and the four of us were very nearly the oldest group of teens in our entire district (which was and is made up of all of the Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in Saskatchewan and Manitoba). We were a ridiculous lot to be sure. It is important to note that my friends did not join up due to a sense of confederacy or brotherhood. They joined for the same reason that teen-aged boys do everything. They wanted to meet girls. And they did. Which is actually the point of this story.
Trevor S. met nobody, he ended up marrying somebody from our church. Good guy but not a factor in this particular story (sorry Trev). Trev P. and Jon, however, both met girls. Trevor met Kerry and Jon met Carrissa. Trevor and Kerry dated for years and that Kerry is the same as the Kerry I started this post with. She’s a wonderful woman who has always made me laugh and pushed me to be a better Christian than is my wont. She is, in fact, almost directly responsible for my current theology of Scripture and my leanings towards post-evangelical/post-liberal theology (but that’s a story for another day). Jon and Carrissa have now been married for about the same amount of time as me and Jinny. Through our newfound friendships with Kerry and Carrissa my friends and I met John (aka Potsy). John became (and remains) one of my very best friends and stood up for me at my wedding (and I for him at his, and both of us together for Scott at his).
That was a long paragraph with a lot of names in it. Very few people who read this blog know or care about any of those people (my friends don’t really read my blog, they’ve had enough years of my BS already). The thing that I want to emphasize is that the simple decision that Trevor, Trevor and Jon made to join Quizzing had a profound effect on my life (and on theirs as well, but that’s a good deal less important to me). Indeed without that decision I doubt very much that I would be married to Jinny today. The existential moment when I decided to actively pursue Jin was the direct result of some good old fashioned teen dating drama involving people I knew only because of that Quizzing decision. That existential moment, just in case any of you are curious, occurred on the toilet as all good existential moments do.
And so I wonder by how many degrees I am separated from the me that I might have been. What might that me be like? Without Jinny I have some suspicions that he’d be something of an annoying, selfish bastard. Even more than the me that I am is I mean (how’s that for an unnavigable sentence?). Every moment of our lives we step into a new room with new doors. Each door we walk through leads to another room with one less door. Most people are relatively comfortable with this concept because it implies that we all choose our own fate. What we forget is that each door we walk through limits not only our own future choices, but the future choices of every other person in the world, regardless of the number of degrees of separation.
My life, your life, Trevor’s and Trevor’s and Jon’s and John’s and Kerry’s and Carrissa’s lives and all of the other lives of all the other people you know and don’t know are connected. Meta-data, intertextuality, chaos theory, call it whatever the hell you like, we touch each other. We are determined by each other. And we are determined by God. By how many degrees am I separated from my theoretical spacial/temporal other self? I have no idea but I thank God for each and every one them.