Six Degrees of ‘Cultural’ Separation
‘Six Degrees of Separation’. An enormous, but familiar concept. It’s a pretty bold theory this one, arguing that anyone can be connected to anyone else in just six steps or less. But it’s exciting. It’s impressive. Imagine it: the eight billion inhabitants of this world all forming hundreds and thousands of conscious and unconscious micro connections every day. Just think, your new best friend, partner or arch enemy could be right around the corner and you could meet them at any moment. How? Well, they happen to be friendly with the coffee barista you frequently have a chat with, of course! Or maybe you get a crush on someone you meet at the gym and they just happen to be your work colleague’s sister’s hairdresser’s daughter…HOW. WEIRD. AND. CREEPY. IS. THAT?! You get the idea.
My fascination with the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ theory however, is from a more abstract perspective. You see, throughout my life I’ve noticed that I could apply the theory to my cultural knowledge, interests, obsessions, creative skills and hobbies. Over the years, I’ve created a mental network of connections that both excite me and solidify my passions. Whilst I admit that some of the links are tenuous, woolly constructions, I believe that others are much more obvious.
I’ve always embraced this mesmerising chain reaction of cultural and creative interconnectedness. I’ve been taken to new and inspiring heights that I never could have dreamed of, and for that, I am so deeply grateful.
Before I show you a couple of examples, here are my tips on utilising the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ theory:
1. It can be applied to goal-setting!
Supposedly, we can reach someone (or something) in six steps or less. Apply this mindset when setting goals. Whether you’re about to set up a creative business for the first time or want to explore a new marketing strategy, the same approach can be taken. Write down the goal you wish to achieve (be as specific as possible), then create a list of logical, interconnected steps that will get you there. The more you immerse yourself in your plan, the more likely you will find new ideas, opportunities and make contacts that will enhance the process. You may even end up reaching your end goal in a completely different way!
2. Remain as open as possible.
Good things happen when your mind is open. Dreading going to see an opera tomorrow night? Embrace it. You may just find yourself moved to tears, desperate to take up singing lessons. Too tired to go to that networking event? Go anyway. You may just find the contact who can take your business to the next level. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a film and theatre actor, but now I’m a writer who also helps my partner run a dance school. Whilst I still dip my toes in the film and theatre waters, the path I chose to take was an unexpected one. There is nothing to say that I can’t change direction in the future, but I’m content with my current destination. What I’m trying to say is, just let yourself be. Love, and explore your options and intricacies, because the possibilities for fulfilment in this world are endless. The Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’, is a fantastic example of the options, choices and destinies that are available for us to pursue:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
3. Be wary of cultural and creative overwhelm.
If you’re like me, you develop a lot of interests and passions. Sometimes, you get distracted and find yourself drifting away from current priorities. You want to make bottles whilst blogging and playing guitar, all whilst watching a film…. (okay, so I’m not quite this bad...)
a) Feel disheartened if you are struggling to find your focus, because eventually you will find your way. I promise.
b) Pick too much to focus on all at once! Find the balance. Be open and embrace new ideas, but not to the detriment of your main focus. Set aside time every week to watch, research, take part in, or listen to something new. This way, you can reward yourself for your efforts. Your hobbies become welcome relaxation time.
Now, be thinking about the above applications whilst I explain my take on ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. It all started with Alan Rickman. Growing up, Alan Rickman was the core hub of my universe. Everything that Alan Rickman was, liked and did was of interest to me (just to make it clear – I have never stalked anyone in my entire life). He was the tiny snowflake that gracefully rolled into a giant snowball of inspiration. To this day, I have a 600-strong DVD and VHS collection that I like to believe is down to the power of his creative influence.
I can connect Alan Rickman to all kinds of fellow industry professionals and passions of mine, for instance:
Alan Rickman ------ Independent Films
Alan Rickman’s favourite song was ‘Take It With Me’ by Tom Waits à I develop a love for more alternative music à Tom Waits was in the Jim Jarmusch film ‘Down by Law’ à I become a big lover of independent films à Alan Rickman was in the absolutely charming British/Canadian independent film ‘Snow Cake’.
And what’s amazing about this, is that there are vast numbers of sequence variations that can go completely full circle. Here’s another one:
Alan Rickman ------ Myself As a Writer
Alan Rickman was born in the same year as Tim Curry (1946) à Tim Curry became a major favourite of mine à He starred in ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ à Which was created by Eric Idle à Eric Idle is a master of the spoken and written word à He inspired my intense passion for writing songs, plays, and everything else à I write a blog article to celebrate Alan Rickman two days after his death.
Now I know some of these threads indeed hang loosely, but that’s part of the fun. Alan Rickman may not have directly inspired me to start creating decoupage bottles, but I’m pretty sure I could find a way to link them together! I will forever be able to look back and appreciate the significance that the work of one actor had on my life. He paved the way for my creative lifestyle, and I am still deeply rooted to my creative values, fifteen years later.
From books, writing, films, theatre, music, poetry, video games and crafts, the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ theory has taken me on a trip down the candy cane slide to Wonka Land, where I have indulged myself. I went for chocolate and developed a love of milkshakes. I ate gummy sweets but left with a bag of marshmallows. I’ve relished every ounce of the journey. I’ve learned and am still learning about the artistic and cultural world around me. I’m ambitious about my creative career and am far more engaged than I ever would have been without this web of cultural interrelation.
Find those connections and embrace new experiences. Use memories and inspiration to keep you motivated; reward yourself for the steps you take towards reaching your goals. Enrich your knowledge and creativity, as this may prove to be valuable when problem solving. Break free from creative stagnation, look around and find inspiration!
When Alan Rickman died, a part of me went with him. I was distraught. But then I remember that the web continues to grow, and his legacy lives on. I think about how lucky I was to meet him on my eighteenth birthday, the power of his influence and also tell myself that despite the darkness, the world can be wonderful sometimes. Did my initial passion for his work help to shape my destiny and lead me down the road less traveled? Who knows, but what an irresistible thought.
Can you think of an example of a ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ chain that applies to the inspirations in your life? I would LOVE to hear some more examples!