Michele Bachmann babysat Gretchen Carlson

The two women talked about it on Fox and Friends two days ago:

Clearly, this isn’t earth-shattering news, but I wanted to highlight it for a couple of reasons. In the first place, I find it inspiring and motivating to learn that Michele Bachmann solidified her hardworking ways at a young age and that her caretakers’ instinct has been and continues to be organic. In other words, while it might be plausible that she took in 23 foster children because she thought it might “look good” as she pursued other professional dreams, it’s far less plausible to believe she babysat for the same reason. But the fact that she chose to babysit suggests to me that her passion for children began long before she had her own or before she and Marcus became foster parents — and that a genuine desire to give of herself led her to parent as prodigiously as she has. In other words, I wanted to write about this because I unabashedly think Michele Bachmann is a remarkable woman — but rarely receives the credit she deserves, perhaps because pundits are studiously trying to avoid giving the impression that they support her presidential candidacy.

But, secondly, I wanted to comment on this little nugget because I find the links between people particularly interesting. For some reason, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me that two poised and energetic women like Michele Bachmann and Gretchen Carlson are connected in more than just a professional way. A recent study shows that any given two Facebook users are connected by as little as 4.74 degrees of separation — less than the standard “six degrees.” Even as the global population grows, the world shrinks.

But, while we might all be more connected than we think, what circles we revolve in are not determined solely by chance. I’m fascinated by the way bright minds or bubbly personalities or hard workers seem to find one another. Take the Inklings, for example. How remarkable — and yet utterly understandable — that such highly inventive and insightful men would form themselves into a private little circle to hash out ideas.

But what stirs me now is the knowledge that the 21st-Century equivalent of the Inklings exists somewhere and it seems perfectly probable that they exist online. Today, just as then, top researchers, top writers, top talkers interact with one another, shape and influence each other’s work — but more of them interact with more of them, if that makes sense. It’s easy to think, in this Internet age, that information has become so important as to be almost unimportant. Everybody has a chance to sound off — and publication is instant — so it’s easy to feel that words don’t matter and that ideas come and go, with no durability, exerting pressure on the day-to-day, perhaps, but failing to profoundly shape history. In fact, the opposite is true. The aggregate force of so many opinions in contact is itself an idea most powerful. So, on the one hand, we are no different than any who have struggled to answer questions, but, on the other, we are equipped with each other as nobody in history has been before. That is, the spark of collaboration between two minds once was the result of just in-person interaction — and now can be the result of as little effort as a tweet.

All of this has been said before — that Twitter is the largest cocktail party in the world, that the Internet is the largest salon — but it never ceases to amaze and perplex me. As I’m recollecting all I have to be grateful for in advance of Thanksgiving, allow me to add this to the list: How lucky we are to live in 2011!