Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Genetic Thinking"

I recently met this guy who’s a Professor of Government and International Relations at Georgetown University.  The guy is a friend of our friend Ruth, who’s an artist.  Ruth has been commissioned to design a stained glass window and she wanted to photograph the professor’s hands underwater to include in the picture.  She asked if they could use our pool for the photo shoot, I said yes, and that’s how I met him.

The professor was easy to warm up to.  Our pool is covered to keep the heat in – we like our water temperature around 88 degrees – and the man immediately volunteered to help me retract the pool cover, a somewhat laborious process, but it’s not interesting, so I won’t go into it.

The professor radiated an energetic, upbeat vibe, which I immediately recognized from my not having one of my own.  It turned out he had written a new book, and would be delivering a promotional lecture on it that evening, and we were invited to attend.

Which we did.

The event was held at the home of some super-wealthy couple in Beverly Hills.  There was a gathering of fifty or so people of major means.  Plus us.   

Of Dr. M, Anna and myself, I am the least educated in interior design, but though I rank at the bottom of the decorating totem pole, even I could detect that our host couple had “missed” horribly with their furniture, their thinking being, 

“We have an expensive house.  This is expensive furniture.  So it fits.”

Incorrect, I observed smugly, compelled by envy to uncover an edge on my financial superiors.  Big money versus good taste?  I’ll take good taste every time.  

(Though I would ideally prefer both.)

The professor began his lecture by telling us that that morning, he had Googled “America In Decline” on his computer, and had discovered over a hundred and thirty-five million links.  I think they’re called links – places you could go, to read about America being in decline?  Apparently, there are over a hundred and thirty-five million of them.  Most likely, written by more than one person.  If not, man!  What an undertaking!

The professor started with their arguments – not all hundred and thirty-five million of them, but the recurring ones, supporting the premise of America being in decline – the deficit, the debt (which I am unable to distinguish), gridlock in government, the irreconcilable cultural divide, the polarizing media.  He took about five minutes chronicling these issues.

Then he made his “turn”, and for the remainder of his forty-minute talk, he refuted these arguments, asserting with what he called “cautious optimism”, that, though the current situation was unquestionably precarious, the Ship of State would find a way right itself, and things would ultimately be okay. 

The country would make it.

Two things come to mind here, though they’re really just the “heads” and “tails” of the same coin. 

On the one hand, I could not, with clarity, reproduce any of the elements of his encouraging argument.  His positive assertions flew right past me.  If they landed in my ears, if was merely for a rest, before moving on.

I know there were a lot of them.  And they sounded quite  persuasive when they came out of his mouth.  They just didn’t stay with me.

As if – I suggest – I was congenitally unable to hear them.

Turning things around, yes, this man was a respected scholar in his field, but it occurred to me, that his perspective on “The American Condition” was less a matter of study and consideration than of personal temperament.

In the way I appeared to be genetically incapable of absorbing his argument, the professor was genetically constricted from arguing any other position.

"Yes, but he had strong supportive facts."  I recognize the professor's "strong supportive facts." But there are facts out there to support anything.  Why was he won over by these facts?    

My observation totally fit.  The guy was energetic and upbeat helping me uncover my pool earlier that day.  And here he was again, energetic and upbeat about America’s future.  The man couldn’t help himself.  It was simply the way he was.  

Energetic and upbeat.

How seriously, then, should I take his pronouncements, which are, arguably, less a product of expert evaluation than a genetic hiccup?  The same kind of hiccup – but with the opposite message – that prevented me from taking anything he said in.

That’s the message I came away with from that talk, besides that super-wealthy people are not immune to furniture train wrecks.  Being me, I was incapable of incorporating what he was saying.  And being him, he was incapable of saying – or believing – anything else.  And, though we would both claim to be thoughtful people – him, professionally, me, freelance – our “carefully considered opinions” may simply be reflexive expressions of our genetic encryption.  

Concluding sentence?

His would accentuate revitalizing diversity.

Mine, the virtual impossibility of getting along. 

(I went back and put in “virtual”, so I wouldn’t seem too “out there.”)

(He probably put “cautiously” before “optimistic” for the same reason.)


Pharmacy Online Blog said...

Genetics (from Ancient Greek γενετικός genetikos, "genitive" and that from γένεσις genesis, "origin"),a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms.

Best regards,

Medicines Online said...

Genetics deals with the molecular structure and function of genes, gene behavior in context of a cell or organism (e.g. dominance and epigenetics), patterns of inheritance from parent to offspring, and gene distribution, variation and change in populations,such as through Genome-Wide Association Studies. Given that genes are universal to living organisms, genetics can be applied to the study of all living systems, from viruses and bacteria, through plants and domestic animals, to humans (as in medical genetics).