Chapter 2.2 One’s 150

One’s 150

Have you ever been sitting on the freeway or toll road and wondered what was going on in the life of the driver next to you?  Then you look at all of the cars going in both directions, all the different people with different problems, different hobbies, different viewpoints.  Then you blow that out to your city, your state, your country, the world … really does make one feel small.  We are a speck of sand, a grain of salt.

“Life-a sexually transmitted terminal condition.”
Walter Prager (1910-1984), Swiss Alpine Skier

Somewhere I had heard a theory that there are really only 150 people in the world, that all of the others you see around you are simply fluff….fillers.  Hmmm… that means only 150 people max will read this book ….that may prove this theory in itself!  I guess if you’re reading this, you’re one of the real 150.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit  a very persistent one.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German Theoretical Physicist

Now this theory of 150 people can be taken in different ways.

  • A.    All those other people are but clever imaginations of the mind, down to minute detail, and there are only a few of us really wandering in chaos of imaginations.
    B.    In one’s lifetime, one really only connects closely to 150 people.  They make up your universe, your life, your memories.
    C.    At any one point in one’s life, you really only have 150 people that are in your life … at that time.

I have pondered these a bit, and it seems that in my life, the second and third options could have some potential.  I doubt that I have the creative capacity to generate all that fluff in A.

Surprisingly, research has been performed on the social capacity of the Homo Sapien brain.  In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell cites a conclusion made by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar:

“The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.”

Mr. Gladwell explores the 150 theory further with additional group dynamic examples.  Beyond 150 people, things start to unravel.  It seems that 150 makes a good community.  One knows the grocer, the butcher, the seamstress, the trash man.  If we feel disconnected it could be that our communities are lost in malls and internet shopping.  We have little personal interdependence on people around us.  We don’t really know them … because we don’t have to.

Of course we have all interacted with more than 150 people…school friends, teachers, salesclerks, teammates, business acquaintances, friends, relatives, morons, good people.  And most of us can count more than 150 people that we have actually gotten to know beyond “Hey.”   The criteria could be as small as a familiar grocery clerk that you’ve spoken with beyond “Slide your card.”  Someone that you’ve joked with or engaged in a communication beyond cliché pleasantries.

“U.S. soldiers, with whom I now have more than a passing acquaintance, joke that they track my movements in order to know where they will be deployed next.”
Christiane Amanpour, International Reporter – CNN

But as I am older, and I look back, there are certain relationships or encounters that seem to stick in my memory better, either through longtime relationships, through specific encounters, or because some people re-entered my life-space.

Have you ever noticed that some people keep popping up?  Not always someone that you consider close, but often just casual acquaintances.  In The Celestine Prophecy (as well as many other “new spirituality books), these encounters should not be considered coincidental.  These return encounters should be noticed and explored, because there is something to be learned from this person.  We need to take some time to figure out what it is, to be attentive.  So far all I’ve gotten is that I can finally remember their name, after re-introducing myself again ….

In fact, I need to learn to be more receptive in more of my encounters.  Our connections with people are supposedly not random.  These people can bring new direction, minor information, or trigger memories of someone else or some time past.  Don’t shine them on!! Most casual acquaintances probably do not carry life-changing insights, but they may lead to something you have to remember to do … or begin to do.  Maintain accessibility, don’t close so-called irrelevant people out!

“An acquaintance that begins with a compliment is sure to develop into a real friendship.”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish Author and Poet

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One Response to “Chapter 2.2 One’s 150”

  1. Znic Says:

    150 people, very interesting. I have often wondered why I keep running into former acquaintances so far away from home. I say it’s a small world when this happens. But you are correct, they are part of the 150 people I choose to maintain as real contacts in my life. Yes, I think we choose who we maintain our relationships with. Have you ever been to a resturant of store and noticed someone familiar, but chose not to approach that person???
    Makes you wonder.

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