11Feb/07Off

Is it in your genes?

I was watching a PBS Program that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. hosted. A show called African-American Lives. In it, he traces the genealogy of some famous African-Americans such as Whoopi Goldberg or Oprah. Oprah’s great or great great grandfather moved a school to his property to allow young blacks to be educated. His son was also a renowned educator nicknamed “The Professor”. Of course, both host and Oprah commented on the leitmotif of “education” in her life/family.

Whoopi’s great great grandfather was one of the few men to successfully get and maintain a landholding in Florida, so her leitmotif was one of perseverance.

Do we carry leitmotifs in our genes, or is our natural, human need for storytelling give us the lens through which we view the events and actions of our forebears?

There are things in my family’s past that I disavow vehemently. And being the first one to go to university maybe ever makes me a different branch on that tree in any case. But I also know that dark humour carries through the generations, and a certain ability for parallel thinking that results in ingenious applications of household items. So, maybe I have a tinkerer gene?

Nature versus nurture and all that. Maybe what I have is because my parents and my grandparents taught me a certain perspective on life, and a way of thinking. Maybe I had the predisposition to be so. I think all of us hate the idea that we are only biochemical beings, that much of who we are is *determined*.

What I like about the idea of a “leitmotif”, however, is that it brings back such things as theme, or metaphor, or story. A pattern that can have beauty regardless of the outcome or the ways it in which it manifests.