Genetic Determinism

Many times in my life I have used genetics as a sort of determinism to limit my own potential. Certainly, there are things that I am genetically incapable of doing, but that list is much smaller than I usually realize. In a sense, saying I can’t do something because of biology (or society) can be an excuse for not trying, an easy way out of a hard situation. There is also a tendency to compare my abilities and potential to others and assume roles… for example, my brother is the artistic one, which means I’m not artistic.In a family of six kids we all kind of had unofficial roles and passions to help us stand out as individuals.

The areas of my life where I have used genetics as an excuse is varied.

  • I’ll never be comfortable with an open relationship because I’m naturally jealous or monogamous (I certainly overcame this one)
  • I’m naturally “stocky” and I will never have six-pack abs (Working on this now, I wanna get sexy for all the ladies and gents)
  • I’m just not a good artist
  • I’m not creative a person and creativity is something you’re born with (I actually don’t think that is true, I’m beginning to see creativity as a muscle to be exercised instead of a genetic trait like eye color)
  • I’m terrible with foreign languages and will never be fluent in one
  • I’m not musically talented and can’t sing or play an instrument
  • I’m not a good dancer
  • I’m not good at helping people who are mourning
  • I’m not a funny person

I am certainly never going to be the most talented person in any of those areas, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect them outright if they are areas that I truly want to grow in. Instead of using genetics as an excuse I need to be more honest with myself, and that means my weakness in those (and many other) areas generally falls into two categories: improving in them is very difficult or I’m not really interested in improving in those areas.

Roles, identities, and the things I love and hate (or are good or bad at) can provide me with direction and purpose in life, but I shouldn’t mistake them for who I actually am. I am someone who does economic analysis, but I am more than just an economist. I am someone who isn’t good at art, but I am more than just a bad artist. I am a person who enjoys being outside, but I am more than just an outdoorsman.

When I accept something as beyond my control and wrap my identity up in it, I abandon opportunities for improvement. Instead of seeing something as an area in which I can improve with hard work, I just surrender or; instead of seeing something as a subject that I genuinely don’t enjoy or have an interest in or see value in improving I act like a victim, “I would love to draw but I just don’t have the talent.”

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“Natural” Happiness

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Occasionally when I talk about using drugs purely for pleasure critics respond with “that’s just not natural”. This strikes me as a little strange. There seems to an arbitrary line between what is “natural” and what is “unnatural*” when it comes to enjoyment and pleasure.

If I travel to far corners of the world and witness beautiful scenes and feel pleasure this is “natural” (despite how “unnatural” getting into a metal tube with wings and flying across the world may be). If I get together with friends and take a pill and because of that pill I feel love, comfort, and pleasure this is often seen as unnatural. Pleasure comes from interactions from the brain and it doesn’t matter if these reactions come from visual stimuli, tactile sensations, or ingesting a pill.

This stigma is really not “natural” or “unnatural”, it is a rejection of the new or things that one party doesn’t really understand. It is a push to maintain the status quo and resist innovation. It is much easier to define something as unnatural than to actually hold a real debate about the pros and cons of a certain practice because to open the door to debate means the possibility on being wrong.

If you truly love someone you will celebrate all the joy they feel, regardless of whether it comes from holding a new child, skydiving, travelling the world, or taking a pill. Joy is joy, pain is pain, they are little more than reactions in the brain. The source should have no impact on how you view a person. There are many other things to worry about in this life, if a loved one feels joy that itself should be supported.

 

*Unnatural is actually an awful word to use. To say something is “unnatural” is to say it doesn’t operate or exist in nature and obviously everything we interact with exists in nature or else we wouldn’t be able to interact with it like we do. It is a deceptive word that is used when people are trying to say that what you are doing doesn’t conform with their moral code.