Health&Science: Being You-It's Not Just In The Genes
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 00:09
You are wonderfully unique. And I’m not saying that in a preschool-confidence-building sort of way, either. Your genetic code is distinct from the seven billion people that currently exist on our planet, and in all likelihood, it will probably remain distinct from the billions, trillions, or quadrillions to come, contingent on how long it takes NASA to master intergalactic space travel.
There are, of course, exceptions—I’m looking at you, identical twins—but even then there are identifiers to distinguish them from one another (unless they have the same hair length, in which case they are the same person to me). By and large, however, you are the only you, and only you can do the things that you will do.
Even the most menial tasks have a certain beauty when viewed with the correct perspective. Anyone can take out the trash, but only you can do it just the way you do. Similarly, you have a perspective on life that only you have. When you see the color blue, it may look like the blue I see, but it is not the same blue. If you are colorblind, then it is an entirely different blue. We live in the same world and entirely different ones all at the same time.
This sounds nice, but is overall a pretty useless observation unless you do something with it. You and I are obviously not the same person, and you’ve been told you were special ever since you started watching Barney back when you were four years old, so what’s the big deal? Maybe there is no big deal after all. Maybe it’s stupid to think about these things and even more stupid to write about them. Maybe our individuality is nothing more than a biological fact, the significance of which extends no further than its utility in evolution.
You can determine a lot just from looking at someone’s genome—eye color, your risk of developing type II diabetes, whether or not your ear lobes are attached directly to your head or not—but it can’t tell you if someone is a good father, or if they laugh at their own jokes all the time, or if they are one of those people who are constantly inviting you to “like” their group’s page on Facebook. There are intangible elements that we all have, the culmination of which defines both how we view ourselves and how we are viewed by other people.
When you work in a fast food restaurant, you wear a uniform. The uniform serves many purposes: identification, sanitation, and safety are a few. It also, in a way, reduces the employee to just that, an employee. When you are having a disagreement, it is a lot easier to yell at and berate someone wearing a uniform than it is to yell at someone in plain clothes (or so I would infer from my past experiences). This is probably in part due to the feeling—one that we don’t have a word for in the English language—that you only experience when you receive a medium order of fries instead of a large, and in which you are filled with an unquenchable rage that can only be satisfied by julienned potatoes soaked in boiling grease and coated with more sodium than any doctor would ever recommend ingesting. In part, however, people treat fast food employees poorly because the uniform makes them lose an aspect of their personhood: their own individuality.
Uniforms in fast food restaurants are one thing, but there are other more unsavory ways that people are dehumanized. The best way to prevent this from happening is to firmly assert your individuality. Do what you want to do, and make decisions for you. You were born to do exactly what you are going to do, and whatever you do, you are the only person capable of doing it the way you do.
Genetics is pretty cool, but genes didn’t build airplanes and spaceships and those trucks with the rotating part that transport liquid cement across large distances. People did. People are more than their genes or the uniform that they put on when they go to work in the morning. Each person is unique in a way that no other is, and we should take pride in this. Transcend your individual components, and be an individual.