July 23, 2012

DNA Sutra

A Discussion with Author Richard Eskow

In the Summer edition of Tricycle, Richard Eskow explores the relationship between genetics and identity in "DNA Sutra: The Genetic Karma of Our Inherited Selves." Moved to action by the possibility that his health is failing, the author sends his DNA away for testing to see what's written in his genes—the scientific "blueprint" of his self.

To study the self is to know the self, said Dogen. Our genome is like an ancient sutra. Like a sutra, the genome carries a series of brief coded instructions from the past. Genes guide our growth and bear programmed instructions. To learn more about mine, I laboriously filled a vial with spit and mailed it to a company called 23andMe. Then I waited.

To know the self is to forget the self, Dogen continued. Genes influence our health, our appearance, even some of our preferences and tastes. More controversial reports suggest they also influence our talents, sexual orientation, propensity for violence, even whether or not we’re safe drivers. Is there a 'self' at all, or just an aggregation of genetic tendencies?

Eskow will be leading a discussion about his article throughout the week, available to all Tricycle community members. Click here to read the whole piece and contribute your thoughts.

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