Thursday, July 17, 2008

History, Genes, and Reenacting pt 2

Way back at my very first blog, I wrote how I believed that an ancestor's memory genes could be passed on in the same way that looks or actions could be passed on.

This is what I wrote back in November of 2007:

Why is it that the past enthralls me so much? I have asked myself that question many times but I have no absolute answers. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in the passing of genes. Of course, we know that genes are passed on from parent to child. What I mean is, (correct me if I'm wrong) it's genes that make us act like, look, even sound the way we do, right? "You have your great grandfather's talent for carpentry," "you sing just like grandma," or "I can't believe how close you resemble your grandfather when he was your age." We've all heard something similar, right? Then why can't genes be passed on that enable us to have the same feelings as our ancestors? I mean, if my great great grandfather truly loved his life and his era, then can that passion be so strong that it can be passed down? Can memories (or snippets of memories) be passed down as well?

Well, I have spoken to numerous people since writing this and I have found quite a few who, although they may not necessarily agree with my philosophy, admitted it gave them food for thought.

And then I also found more than I thought that did agree with me on this subject.

I believe in what I wrote with all my heart, which is why I do not believe in reincarnation. Those moments one has when they step into a certain old house or into a museum and they get that feeling of familiarity is when the idea of reincarnation seems to be tossed about. Well, I don't believe that at all. In fact, the medical world, without realizing it, tends to back me in my own personal theory about the transfering of genes rather than backing the reincarnation theory.

The great classical composer, Amadeus Mozart, was (and still is) considered a child prodigy who wrote his first symphony at age eight. Reincarnation? Highly doubtful. More than likely it was a musical gene that was passed down to him from an ancestor of his, quite possibly from his own father, who was also a composer and musician.

My own son took to playing the guitar at the age of just about a year old - the videos we have of him are our proof - and, by the age of seven was already performing Beatles' songs. His first was "I Should Have Known Better" - once again, we have video proof.

Is my son a prodigy? Was he reincarnated from some past musician, maybe Jimi Hendrix?

Yeah, right.

You see, I play guitar and have played consistently around him since his birth, much in the same way Amadeus' father, I'm sure, performed instruments in front of his son. I began teaching my first born to play correctly at age seven and he took to it immediately. In the nearly 14 years since, he has become quite the accomplished musician and has taken on jazz and classical playing as well as rock and folk.

Now, there are old home movies of me as a youngster playing the guitar and the drums. A little family history research shows that my mother played the cello in the 1930's and my maternal grandmother and her sisters were child performers back in the 1910's and the early 1920's.

Genes being passed on.

So, back to my original question/thought/theory: can memory and feeling genes be passed on? Can a person of today walk into a historical place - even if it's one that neither they nor their ancestor had ever been in - and feel like, well, "this is right. This is the way it's supposed to be" or "I'm home"?

I get that feeling every single time I step inside nearly any historic structure, especially if it's from the late 18th and 19th centuries. I get that feeling every time I am near a horse with or without a carriage. I get that feeling when I re-enact.

And, I'm sure this would explain why I visit Greenfield Village a dozen times a year, along with my annual visits to Crossroads Village, old schoolhouses, and, yes, even my semi-annual journey to Gettysburg.

On our very first date, back in November of 1982, Patty (who would become my wife two and a half years later) and I, getting to know one another, spoke of our morals (both of us had very traditional "old-fashioned" morals), our interests - mine in history (and music) and she in traditional crafts like crocheting, knitting, and interests in quilting and spinning. We also spoke of the type of house we would like to eventually get (we agreed on either an old Victorian or a farmhouse). This on our very first date.

After 23 years of marriage we still have the same values, morals, and interests. Only now, due to re-enacting, we can "live" our dreams and passions, if only for a weekend at a time.

And due to our passion for antiques, we have tried to turn the inside of our 1944 bungalow into what I call a pseudo-Victorian. It will have to do until we can eventually get our dream home.

The thing is, all of this that my wife and I love - re-enacting, antiquing, old-time crafts, traditional morals - are all a part of these 'memory genes.
I think time will eventually show that I am correct in my assumptions.

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