Thursday, March 17, 2011


When I was sitting in my office today I thought I had a great idea. Something fun, interesting. At the time I couldn't wait to get home and share my idea with everyone and now that I am home I'm feeling a little self-conscious. But I'm going to share my idea anyway.

Stanley Milgram was a social psychologist. He went to Harvard and was a professor at Yale. And he conducted two of the two experiments that I remember studying in my psychology classes. One was, simply, "The Milgram Experiment." That's the one about obedience and authority, morals and personal responsibility, in which participants willingly administered 450 volt shocks to another person, who in these experiments was an actor pretending to be electrocuted by the fake shocks - but the actual participant didn't know that as he was steadily turning that dial higher and higher. It's memorable, and worth reading about. I tried to attach a link, but I can't figure out how to do it. Just look up "Milgram Experiment" on Wikipedia. I know there's an extra step there because I'm computer illiterate, but it really is very interesting.

The other one is his "Small World Experiment." That's the one that taught us all about the six degrees of separation. He sent packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska with instructions to forward them on to someone who they thought would get the package closer to this one particular person, unknown to them, a stockbroker in Boston, Massachusetts. In the experiment it took an average of six people to get the package to him. Thus, we live in a small world where we're only six people away from anyone.

Here's the idea: Since I'm financially, emotionally, and in most other ways stuck in Arkansas, let's play. Six degrees of separation, that is. I'll write the name of someone who I want to contact me and every one of you reading this (all 10 of you) think of someone you know who could get my message one degree closer. Let's see how long it takes. I mean, if you're interested. I'll start easy. Someone not famous. Someone who is probably local to most of you. The person who actually started this whole thought process for me was Dr. Fred Durer. He is the doctor who delivered my seven-year-old, Adam. I liked him a lot and I was thinking that, if I delivered babies for a living, I would be desperately curious about what these babies were like as children and adults. I wanted to tell him that Adam is an artist, and that he's really good at building things with Legos, very focused and serious, and that his hair still isn't dark like mine.

I could Google him, or give his office a call, but I don't need to actually have a phone conversation with him, and I could write a letter, but I'm not a savage, if I don't have your email address I can't write to you. I don't even think I own any paper. So what I need is the email address for Dr. Fred Durer. Or better yet, slip my email address, somehow, into his pocket with a note about how it got there. Maybe that's too creepy, I just thought that rather than getting information back to me through the chain it would be easier to just have the information going one way. That would be a bit too much like telephone and we all know how that ends up. I'm usually too embarrassed to even say what I think I heard. Okay, information going one way. Get him my email address, surely he'll be curious enough about this crazy experiment to contact me. He'll really have no idea who I am, so we better clarify that I was a patient and he delivered my son. Also, I'm married and an entire state away, so there's no funny stuff going on. That's your task. I send you out into the world, each by your own paths, in search of this one man. And how much more special will he feel knowing that a whole army of bored people who waste work hours reading their friend's blogs have been mobilized on his behalf, instead of a nice card? I'm excited. I am the spark that becomes the flame, the stone that causes the ripple that becomes the crashing wave! We can do this!

If this works, we'll try someone else. It's doesn't have to be all about me either, give me ideas. Who do you want to draw near in six degrees? How about Kevin Bacon?

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