Influences and Tendencies
The holiday’s are behind us and life will start to normalize, whatever that means. Once the decorations are neatly put away, we can start pressing on into the New Year with new hopes and dreams. But for many, what awaits them in 6-8 weeks could have conflicting effect on ones perception of self.
There’s much to do about who we are and where we came from. The current tendency is to verify what we have been told about our ancestry or to find out what we haven’t been told-whether known or unknown. It seems it is no longer enough to identify with just our cultural ancestry, we want to know our specific genetic ancestry, which has the potential of opening Pandora’s box, so to speak.
Many of us were gifted this holiday season with a means of identifying our DNA ancestry through ancestry.com, 23andme.com, or one of the many other options available in the market place. We are intrigued to find out where we came from and who were the leading influencers of our own and very unique personhood. I had some time while waiting for a flight to North Carolina, so I did some “googling” about DNA, chromosomes and genes. Here’s a little summary-for those who might be interested.
*Each parent pass on 23 pairs of chromosomes to their offspring
*Chromosomes are made up of DNA
*DNA= set of instructions, or one site said, DNA is the “cookbook” and genes are the “recipe”
*Our chromosomes contain packages of genes which are expressed in our traits
*It is all of our DNA on all of our chromosomes that express who we are, not the individual chromosomes.
*DNA is in genes, genes are on chromosomes
Click on the website below for more information, if you are so inclined.
It’s all rather confusing. I spent a few hours at the airport reading and re-reading about DNA and trying to sort it out in my head. If we can visualize a pair of chromosomes, it kind of looks like this )( the chromosomes are made up of DNA. If you unwind the DNA you would see how your genes are organized on this long strand of DNA. I find it amazing that every single cell in our body, for the most part, carries our entire genetic code. Pretty fascinating.
It is our DNA that identifies who we are genetically, but that only defines us on a biological basis. It doesn’t take into account other factors that influence who we are, such as: environmental, cultural and familial. There is no doubt that genetics are very interesting, but it really is just a part of what makes us unique. Who we identify with culturally and familial is equally important. Let’s consider this a little further.
Both my parents are Norwegian. I can follow my ancestry on my dads side back to the 1700s. My mom’s side of the family has documentation as far back as the Viking era on her dad’s side (my grandfather), but we have less information about her mom’s family tree, so to speak. Either way, I identify as 100% Norwegian, but I’m born in United States, so that makes me American. Let’s consider other types of individuals, for instance someone who is adopted.
My sister-in-law was born in Korea but came to the USA as a young child. She was adopted by an American family, which makes her American with Korean ancestry. No one questions whether or not she’s American just like no one would question whether or not a child born in Brazil but adopted by Norwegians is Norwegian. However, they may be American or Norwegian culturally but their DNA will never reflect that, not that it really matters. But, at what point, over the course of time, does ones location or country become your DNA ancestry? How many generations of living in a particular land does it “qualify” you for being from that land?
If you think about that a little further, when might our decedents start to show United States of America as a place that gives them their DNA identity? Isn’t that a crazy thought? I realize the USA is a young nation, but wouldn’t you think that our “DNA as a nation” will eventually be considered? I’m not sure if I’m making myself clear, but unless you are an American Indian, your DNA ancestry is never labeled as American. We too are like an adopted child from another country. We are citizens of America but even if we are born here, our DNA does not reflect that. I’m wondering at what point will our ancestry reflect that reality?
This question never crossed my mind until I started writing this blog post. What I intended to reflect on or consider was how one reacts once they receive the results of their DNA. How will that information impact how one thinks or identifies with self? Will one start to think differently because they find evidence of something that was once completely unknown to them?
I hope that we don’t put too much emphasis on our historical DNA to the point of negating what we value as important, such as our cultural and familial influences. These influences, to me, can be equally as important. Even though I have not done my genetic DNA to date, I will continue to identify myself as having Norwegian ancestry but I am a citizen (or “adopted” so to speak) of the great land of the United States of America. I am not afraid or skeptical to have the testing done, but on some level I suppose I am reluctant to reveal something that may cause me to question who I am. There may be unknown links to countries other than Norway, which is quite likely, you know how ruthless those Vikings were. But as I mentioned before, we are more than the sum of our DNA, so it really shouldn’t matter. We are individuals brought into families, raised with traditions, and influenced by the society in which we live. That is what really makes us who we are. So, whether or not I decide to have my DNA done, and I think it can be very interesting and perhaps even “fun” to see where we came from, I’m wondering if it really makes a difference in who we are, probably not.
I think the influences and tendencies come from those who had an deliberate impact on us.
The pictures below were taken in Norway near and about my grandparent’s homestead and the birth place of my father. The human subjects in the photo are a result of 69 pairs of my chromosomes ;)