Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ties That Bind

There would I find a settled rest,
while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest,
but like a child at home.

-Psalm 23, para. Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Is it strange  that someone with almost no religious training has several biblical passages memorized?  Maybe not, since many of the old songs and musical arrangements that we learned in chamber choir were based on religious texts or ideas. This particular excerpt is from the end of an arrangement that we sang my senior year of high school.  While I don't recall most of the song, this part of the piece always stuck out as memorable.  Rather than any sort of divine, otherworldly experience, heaven is expressed in warmth and comfort of coming home.  The sense of truly belonging somewhere, seen through the innocent, unjaded eyes of a child.  As depictions of heaven go, this is definitely one of my favorites.

Even though I am a "grown up" now, I still love the thought of going home and being surrounded by my family.  I miss my parents and siblings and I am excited to be flying home for the holidays.  Most places you visit, you usually the need to be on your best behavior, to be entertaining and engaging.  But home is a place where you can just be.  Family sees you at your best and your worst and they still love you.  You don't always agree on things or even like each other, but the bonds of family endure.

DNA.  Deoxyribonucleic acid.  Lots of time little nucleic acids bonded together into a double stranded helical pattern.  Replicating over and over to produce the blueprint for each structure in the body.  It is almost incomprehensible to think that humans share 99.5% of their DNA with chimpanzees, and yet each human has a unique DNA profile that can be distinguished from all other humans.  DNA is both individualizing and encompassing, as is separates (distinguishes) the individual human from their contemporaries while simultaneously connecting humans to all other living organisms on earth.  In this image, a little girl returns home with the skeletal remains of her sister.  Unbreakable invisible bonds of DNA link the girl to what is left of her sister's bones, even though the recognizable features of flesh have been obliterated by decomposition.

DNA offers a powerful tool for identifying individuals and identifying those who we are closest to genetically.  In this case, the little girl is reunited with the remains of her relative combining the shared experiences and memories of family members with the shared genetic inheritance.  In this way, the siblings are able to return home together.

No more a stranger or a guest.

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