Dunbar Numbers, Relationships & Magic

“Humanity will have to extricate itself from these bags created by false moralists, according to whom we taste happiness and then pass judgment on it as if it were a piece of fruit. But I maintain that even for a piece of fruit we can do something to help it taste good. This is even truer of marriage and every other human relationship; these things are not to be tasted or passively accepted; they must be made. A relationship is not like a bit of shade where one if comfortable or uncomfortable depending on the weather and the way the mind is blowing. On the contrary, it is a place of miracles, where the magician makes the rain and the good weather.”

—Emile-Auguste Chartier (Alain), “Happiness” in Alain on Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

In the main, Alain’s advice is good. We often do not try hard enough to keep the relationships we have. We fail to create new bridges to others when we could. We do not do enough to make our relationships better.

There is a magic in believing in others, being vulnerable and opening ourselves up to the possibilities of creating a relationship. It’s not something to be judged. It is an opportunity to be transformed, and in the transformation, magic and miracles can happen, if we believe in them.

But, magic requires the right environment, and there are limits to miracles. We need the right assistance, props, and an audience that, even if sceptical, wants to be amazed.

Who is our audience? Study after study confirms that most people have no more than:

  • 5 intimate friends
  • 15 close friends
  • 50 friends
  • 150 acquaintances

So, if we want to perform a bit of magic, it might help to be a little selective about the venue and the audience. We need assistance to bring magic to life. Given this small world we all live in, we need to find people that will help us make magic.

Most people want a world filled with magic. It’s easy to find helpers in this world. But, we also need to recognize that some people practice a singular magic.

Hoodoos, psychic vampires, psychopaths, and their kindred spirits have their own magic. It is disruptive to any other kind.

People go through bad periods, and as good friends, we should support them. Sometimes people lose their magic for a time.

But, a few want to drink at the magical well and have a thirst that can never be slaked. They take but rarely give. They wound but cannot find it in themselves to apologize. We all know people that would rather poison the well rather than share a dipper.

Be a generous spirit. Believe in magic but also know that magic isn’t always enough. It can, and does, fail us. If someone doesn’t offer the dipper and doesn’t help create any magic, eventually, we will need to find someone else.