They're My Cousin


In early July 2014, I was sitting in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, excitedly awaiting the first keynote of one of my favorite conferences during the year, WDS. This year, A.J. Jacobs, known for pouring his everything into his life experiments and writings was the opening keynote.

During his career he has done many things, including living all the Biblical laws for a year and reading the entire encyclopedia, all of which he documents for our entertainment and enlightenment. So, I wasn’t sure what new experiment he would be proposing.

It certainly wasn’t what I’d expected.

It also had a profound impact on the conference.

He had discovered genealogy (or family history, if you like). As part of this, he’d learned estimates are such that everyone on the earth is at least a 50th cousin to every other person.

This simple fact changed his perspective. If we are all cousins, then we are all family. If we are all family, then we should be treating each other a lot better than we seem to be doing.


Throughout the rest of the conference, any time someone would reference something cool or amazing another person or attendee was doing, it would be immediately followed up with “… and they’re my cousin.’

That certainly built camaraderie among the attendees, but also served to remind everyone that we truly are one large family living on a blue marble in the infinite expanse of space. Perspectives changed.

What would the world be like if we could always remember our neighbor, the homeless man on the street corner, the enslaved child, the loud-mouth coworker or the enemy across the ocean or border is and will always be our cousin?

Oh, and by the way, this coming June there’s going to be a big party, the Global Family Reunion put on by A.J. You’re all invited. If you can’t make it out to New York, there’s a number of satellite parties occurring around the country.

So, go forth and do cool things, cousin.

Photo courtesy of crater (Jack Lasky)CC-BY-2.0.