You Have Eyes Like Your Mother

By Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

We are a product of our environment, especially the environment our parents afforded us, and our genetic makeup at birth.  From the advents of modern psychology, sociology, and education, environment has been considered to be more significant than genetics in determining our outcomes in life, or so it seems.  Environment includes nutrition, educational opportunities, cultural factors, how many spankings we got, and other such things.  It is believed that one’s environment can change a life for better or worse regardless of any genetic contribution from mom and dad, grandmaw and grandpaw, etc.  Let us say that at least sixty percent of one’s outcome depends on environmental contributions that can be good or bad.  Then, forty percent remains in the relatively uncontrollable realm of genetics.  Therefore, if the kid is to have a good chance in life, environment needs to be looked after, especially when one’s genetic pool is shallow and murky considering the atmosphere at the family reunion.  Afterall, an outstanding environment can correct the direction genetic impoverishment might take us.  Or is that really, really true?

In times past, particularly in the South, Boston, and greater Great Britain, it used to be important to ask a new acquaintance “who are your people?” or “where did you come from?”  If these questions were not asked, assumptions had already been made for either obvious or unfounded reasons and very little relationship building might follow.  Underneath the surface, these are questions about genetics.  Who is your daddy or who is your momma or who are your grandparents are as important as your academic record and the vitamins you were given.  Some of us may be good musicians and sometimes it runs in the family.  So do alcoholism and depression, which can lodge throughout the branches of a family tree.  Things seem to get passed on from generation to generation like blue eyes.  So, what if we happen to be who we are and do what we do because we are mostly a product of our genetics, at least sixty percent or more?  And, can the effects of environment actually reverse the dictates of genetics?

I believe there is a lot of fogginess between environmental determinates and genetic speculation.  Perhaps we should not even talk about it very much.  Someone might think we are either a pointy-headed progressive type or a closet Nazi.  Regardless, I believe we need to remember that a good environment can fix many things but not everything.  Likewise, no one is born successful or at least decently helpful; these things usually come about with training.  Furthermore, I consider luck (what the godly call providence) to affect the good, the bad, and the ugly of us regardless of any schooling or natural heritage.  Some folk are just plain unlucky for no good reason and some folk wallow in blessings with no merit or worth to humankind.  Go figure.

Life might be like a couple with three children: one grew up to be successful but not kind; a second grew up to be kind but not successful; a third grew up to be a rotten scoundrel in every way.  These siblings floated up out of the same gene pool and their parents afforded them the same environment to flourish in or not.  All three of them were lucky in some ways and unlucky in others.  The father dealt with this unpredictable chaos by becoming a religious enthusiast.  The mother took a pottery class and briefly a lover.  Life can be like that.