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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Small Worlds

Tonight we had a couple over for dinner who are friends of my Public Health housemates. As we got to talking, it turned out they both went to Macalester College in St. Paul. And then it turned out that one of them lived a few blocks from me while I was in Minneapolis. His band used to record in the old flower shop across the street from our apartment (I was unaware it was a recording studio).

This reminds me of how, at Carleton, this guy Ned who I only sort of knew came up to me once and said that while he was in Paris the previous term, he had hung out with a girl who wrecked my car in high school (I slid off the icy road, and Molly did the same in her Jeep while I was already there). And did I mention that Femi and I ran into two sisters who are students in Baltimore at a laundry service counter in Cusco, Peru? Small world, as they say.

Or, I would say, small worlds. These were odd connections across different times and places, but not entirely coincidental. These are all people of the same cultural niche and demographic as me, and we tend to run in the same circles, live in similar areas and do similar sorts of things no matter what part of the world we're in. It's a much smaller world than the world at large, so it's not as stunning as it first seems to have these sorts of coincidences. I guess that's a reminder of how much our circumstances shape our experiences and perception of the world.

(I am posting quite a bit, and indulging meandering thoughts. This indicates that I have a lot to do -- thesis draft due Thursday -- and posting on my blog is a nice procrastination tool. It's really getting to crunch time, so I will now disappear into a hole for the rest of the week.)


lj said...

"thesis draft due Thursday": h-dogg and i thought something like that was afoot...

so *that's* what goes on in that greenhouse. i think someone told me that it was a studio once, but i'd forgotten. i always thought it seemed like such an obvious place to grow pot that it was surprising it wasn't getting raided more often.

your small worlds stories remind me how on the Moscow program, members of our little 15-ish person group kept running into each other on the streets of a city with 15-million-ish people. it kinda weirded me out until it occurred to me that out of the many many street corners in Moscow, there were only a few where we were likely to often be. it would've truly been strange to run into my fellow Carls in the middle of nowhere in the suburbs, but not so odd that i often saw them near one of the downtown metro stops.

although thinking about it this way ("same cultural niche and demographic as me") makes the coincidences seems less surprising, it really makes me feel smaller and even more insignificant: on a large scale, there are many people with whom i am basically interchangeable.

perhaps the best small world story i have is that in Budapest, this Carl Paul had a friend visiting from Paris (he knew her from working in the Bemidji language camps). talking to her, we realized that we had met before, at a party in Diesel's room in Goodhue my sophomore year. at that party, Will S had shown up with a few girls in tow. it turned out that they were going to college in a tiny town in Missouri where i gone to debate tournament, and we remarked what a small world it was.

teague said...

That is a good small world(s) story.

I don't think you should get too depressed on the "I'm completely replaceable" angle. You do bring some very different things to the table in terms of knowledge and experiences (and even outlook) than other people in our social circles, and I think that goes for most folks. To me, the more important life insight here is that we ought to be aware of how much our experiences are guided by our place in society, and try to -- ahem -- "live outside the box," at least sometimes.

(Feel free to make fun of me for appropriating that cloying bit of business management motivational self-help slop.)

hannah said...

Teague, get back to work.