A couple handshakes ago

Generational Memory via Handshakes

December 21, 2023

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there's a popular (I think?) expression, having to do with how many "handshakes" until one is forgotten. like, if I shake a young person's hand, and when they're very old and they shake another young person's hand, how many of those can occur before I'm no longer remembered by any living person? can you help me place this expression? I want to cite it, but I can't remember it clearly enough to do so


The concept you're referring to seems closely related to the idea of "degrees of separation" or the "six degrees of separation" theory, although it's presented with a unique twist. The standard six degrees of separation concept posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintances apart. However, the expression you're describing adds a temporal dimension to this idea, focusing on the passage of memory through generations via physical interactions (like handshakes).

Your version involves the transmission of memory and connection through successive generations, estimating how many "handshakes" it would take before a person's memory fades from living recollection. This is an intriguing and poetic way to conceptualize the persistence of memory and legacy over time. Unfortunately, this specific expression doesn't seem to be a well-known or popular idiom in mainstream discourse.

Given its unique nature, it's possible that this expression might come from a specific literary source, a public figure's speech, or even a philosophical or historical discussion. If it's not widely recognized, citing it might require referencing the context or the source where you first encountered it, if you can recall any specific details. Alternatively, you might frame it as a personal interpretation of the six degrees of separation concept, adapted to the context of generational memory and legacy.

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