Friday, February 22, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I meant to post earlier about this film which I'd greatly anticipated for months. Wayne took me for a pre-Valentines Day night out which proved fortuitous since I was so sick on the actual holiday I didn't even know it was Valentines Day. The chocolate covered strawberries I'd saved for the day went to sludge in the fridge and the gifts I'd bought the week prior were weakly handed to my valentine in plastic shopping bags. He hates plastic shopping bags.
Suffice it to say that after almost a full week on the rack (was that really a mattress?), a second week that kept the girls home from school with two snow days and one holiday, and nasty weather that has trapped us indoors I've gotten a little stir crazy. In comparison to Jean-Dominique Bauby's "locked-in syndrome," my life is a rose garden, if currently a frozen one. And as much as I feel I could go mad with cabin fever, I can't imagine being locked inside my own body with only my left eye still functioning. But that's not true: I did imagine it, so convincing was Julian Schnabel's portrayal of Bauby's plight. You can't leave after seeing the movie without feeling tremendous gratitude for your life, your limbs, the physical freedom you take for granted. The ability to kiss your kids' cheeks, to feel your love's hand in your hair.
The film, based on the memoir Bauby tapped out with his one working eyelid in gorgeous prose is visually and philosophically stunning. There seems to be no level of human diminishment from which some measure of beauty and redemption cannot be wrung. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a beautiful film--go see it, especially if you too dwell in a land of long winter and feel the walls are closing in. You can sometimes see the heavens reflected in the pupil of an eye. But only in the eye that's open.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Down with Flu

Four days captive at the Bone Crusher Inn. Will return once I make an escape.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture (or Moses and Your DNA)

And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34: 4-7)

If it wasn't bad enough to have bestowed on you the 10 commandments chiseled in stone (the origin of the phrase "you do the math") it must have been daunting to find out that failure to perfectly comply would impact not only your own sorry ass, but also your children's and your children's children and your children's children's children (the origin of multiplication tables.) Having been expelled from the garden before we passed GO and in the knowledge of subsequent generations' ingenious variations on a theme (death,) this information could conceivably have struck one, in the moment, as redundant.

A few millenium later we were rescued by the notion of tabula rasa, that we arrive as blank slates and have perfect freedom to chisel whatever we want to upon them. We author our own souls. This idea endured until the rise of the nature (innate qualities/DNA) vs. nurture (environment) debate where it was finally determined that these two influences work together to form us and that both contribute to the state of our health, abilities, dispositions and talents. While our genes ("genes as fate") determine such things as eye color, personality and whether or not we'll ever excel at the tango, we know our DNA can be altered by such things as exposure to radiation and alterations in the environment of the womb.

What we are now finding, as Ethan Watters writes in "DNA Is Not Destiny":

"a growing body of evidence suggesting that the epigenic [chemical switches and markers that help switch on or off the expression of particular genes] changes wrought by one's diet, behavior, or surroundings can work their way into the germ line and echo far into the future. Put simply, and as bizarre as it may sound, what you eat or smoke today could affect the health an behavior of your great-grandchildren."

He then quotes Randy Jirtle of Duke University (whose experiments in 2000 with agouti mice lead to this discovery,) "Epigenics is proving we have some responsibility for the integrity of our genome. Before, genes predetermined outcomes. Now everything we do...can effect our gene expression and that of future generations. Epigenics introduces the concept of free will into our idea of genetics."

It appears now that although our slates do not come blank, we do, indeed, write on them. And what we write will not only make a difference in our own lives, but for generations to come. We will bless our offspring or curse them. Perhaps if we could find the exact spot on Mt. Sinai where Moses stood we might find someone had traced a double helix in the sand.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Friday, February 01, 2008

Brain Freeze

Sometimes the idea of putting something new on paper seems as impossible as suddenly speaking fluent Mandarin. How do I write? I look at something I've written in the past and wonder where did that come from? Nothing inspires. Perhaps it's because I'm in the thick of hibernation season and my thoughts, rather than being coaxed out by the luxury of weather enforced seclusion, are on strike for a warm ray of sun. That, and the raging sore throat that has had me working in my pjs for the last two days, my throat feeling like it's been raked by the claws of a mad cat. It seems the whole world has contracted to the point it could fit on the head of a pin. I'm even bored of reading (that is a VERY bad sign) and it's only the first day of February. Note to self: next trip in for provisions, buy travel mags!