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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

In Other Words: Get Busy Doing Important Stuff

My family tree is in there somewhere.

So we did the DNA ancestry test thing. No surprises - lots of western/northern European with a touch of Eastern European Jew tossed in. Yawn.

I admit that I have done some research on my family tree but this question nags at me. Is it necessary to know our lineage in order to become who we are or wish to become? Does knowing our DNA heritage/family tree influence who we are? Does it matter? Or is it just an interesting side note? Paupers are the descendants of princes and princes usually have a criminal in the family’s past.

It’s interesting and fun to see who contributed in some way to my genetic makeup but I have spent my life determining who I am.  Not knowing anything of my past has not influenced who I became. I’d like to think that I became me by choice. In fact, not knowing is a benefit because I get to create my future; it is not determined for me.

Oh, sure, there might be a bit of larceny in me because a great-uncle spent time in prison for writing bad checks. Or maybe there’s a bit of musical ability because another relative owned an exclusive music business in California. Or that another relative was a distinguished university professor. Or that a grandfather died an alcoholic death. Or that a great-grandfather was a struggling farmer. Sure, all of that DNA contributed to my health and appearance and, perhaps, intellect, but it doesn’t determine me.

DNA won’t reveal what kind of person you are. So what if you are related to an English baron? What if he was a jerk? Your actions determine what kind of person you are.

I admit that it’s an interesting topic of conversation. But then I noticed that those conversations usually turn into a game of oneupmanship and that’s disappointing because then the conversation descends into that nasty I’m-better-than-you-are or I’m-more-important-than-you-are territory.

The dignity, or even indignity, of the past can and should inspire us to be a better person. A distant cousin who has spent considerable time researching our family tree claims that a relative of ours invented the wax carton that holds milk or juice. So what. It may be an interesting bragging point but it really doesn’t do anything for me. So what if I’m related to William the Conquerer or Charlemagne? I’m still responsible for the life I build and that distant past really does not translate into life credit for the present.

DNA testing and the ancestry search are interesting but if you want to be an important part of history, then stop bragging about the past and get busy doing important stuff now.

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