Saturday, February 18, 2017

We're All Mutants!

I have diabetes and one of my sons has a birthmark that makes his hair all different shades and textures. I had a medical professional tell me once that we all have about 7 things “wrong” with us. That idea always interested me. It was always reassuring in a weird way.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about how we’re all together in this thing called Life- that we have enough things in common that we can (and should) get along. I’ve tried to focus on the positives (Look, we all have someone we love!) or the humorous (Hey! We all have to poop!). I began to wonder if I looked at the not-so-upbeat side, maybe I’d have a more convincing argument.

I dug into it a bit more and it turns out that yes, we’re all messed up! Rob Stein wrote Perfection Is Skin Deep: Everyone Has Flawed Genes for NPR back in 2012 where he outlined some research on the subject of genetic mutation that had been done up to that point. This research included estimates based on one study of 179 individuals which stated that the average human has about 400 defects to his/her genes and at least a couple of those defects are known to be connected with specific ailments.

The study also indicated that although the test subjects had major defects, they were all functioning as healthy people. Their genes read concerns for failure but their lives told of success.

That reminded me of something my own father said to me in his later years as he struggled with the ravages of the lung disease, emphysema. I was a depressed and frustrated youth at the time and probably bemoaning how I should die because of some failure I perceived in myself. He looked at me and smiled, saying something like this: “You’ll be amazed at how strong your body’s spirit to live is. It will stop at almost nothing to survive.”

My take-home messages on all of this?

Our bodies want to be here.

They are our vehicles to experience and enjoy this world. For that reason alone, we should treat them with respect and support them with good choices and healthy living. Our very DNA gives us ways to cope with imperfection in unbelievable ways; stop-gaps and redundancies that allow us to succeed. Let’s not stand in its way through unsafe and unhealthy choices.

We all have problems so we should truly accept that fact.

None of us asked for the genetic roll of the dice we received. We should recognize that and support each other. That includes operating a health care system that acknowledges and helps alleviate the pain and suffering any one of us could face, and does regularly, through no fault of our own. That also includes offering all our children the best education system we can to help them reach their potential and succeed.

There are “problems”. And then there are real problems.

The very wackiness of our genetic code allows for an amazing variety in humanity. My son’s hair does not affect his ability to thrive- it’s just a part of him. The worst thing it does is make his hair stylist’s job a bit more difficult. OK, a lot more. Hair, eyes, skin, even how we learn- the more we just accept and work with how we look and are, the more time and resources we have for dealing with the real problems.

We’re all mutants. Let’s be proud of it together!

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