The ratings don’t lie. And they are telling us that millions are watching TV programs such as Who do you think you are?
That’s clear evidence of just how fascinating we find it to trace our family histories back through the generations. And to watch celebrities doing so!
In particular, I’ve been intrigued with how moved the featured personalities are by the heartbreaks, injustices and challenges experienced by their ancestors, even though they are encountering them for the very first time.
Shocking discoveries also pepper family histories, such as learning of a relative who promoted slavery, or of others who were criminals and prisoners. Or finding your forbears got rich by ill-gotten gain or else were chronic paupers. Not to mention records of disease and mental illness resurfacing over the generations.
Nevertheless, our feelings of connection to earlier generations can also lead to healing in families when today’s values and insights about race, religion, nationality and circumstances throw new light on events from long ago. We learn to understand and forgive poor decisions of the past, and take a step towards better understanding the people around us today.
But wherever we live in the world, the conventional wisdom has been that we’re stuck with our genetic lucky dip, such as dad’s big nose or nana’s short temper. If we’re blessed with grandpa’s kind and gentle disposition or mother’s lovely olive skin, it may seem like a fair trade-off in the “win some, lose some” genetic lottery, on which is seen to hinge myriads of physical, mental and emotional outcomes for each of us. Or so the science of genetics would suggest!
However, increasingly it is turning out that we don’t need to blindly accept the hands we’re dealt with in regard to any predisposition to either poor health or poor behaviour!
The newer science of epigenetics raises important questions about long-held biological beliefs about inherited deficiencies. Some advocates say they have proved that diabetes, autoimmune diseases and many cancers are reversible, and practitioners claim that genes can be regulated through a combination of better diet, exercise and the introduction of meditative practices.
In particular, they found that a spiritual practice could unchain people from the belief that deficiencies were fixed and must be tolerated, whether these deficiencies appeared as a proclivity to malfunction or to be obese or angry.
Seeking spiritual means to unchain people from the belief that discord and disease were a fixed fact was at the heart of a discovery made by a woman who was ahead of her time and whose ideas continue to influence change in how we view ourselves. Through her explorations of both biblical spirituality and the modern healthcare approaches of her time Mary Baker Eddy discerned and explained the close connection between a consciousness of existence as bounded by walls of restriction, limitation and decay, and the proclivity to be sick and to behave poorly.
In Science and Health, she describes how men and women will eventually learn to defend their right to good health. “…(we) will control (our) own bodies through the understanding of divine Science”, she says, and identifies this Science as the spiritual understanding by which we can drop our present beliefs, and instead recognize harmony as the spiritual reality and discord as material unreality. Then, she says, “…we shall never depend on bodily conditions, structure, or economy, but we shall be masters of the body, dictate its terms, and form and control it with Truth.”
Well, a young woman called Lisa Shaulus discovered what such insight could mean for her. While still a teenager she faced a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, knowing that this autoimmune disease is often considered genetic and incurable.
Courageously striving to escape the frightening prognosis, she avidly explored various forms of alternative medicine and theories on the mind-body connection, as well as spirituality and its link to health. Her journey finally led her to the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and as she studied them and also had healing prayer from someone more familiar with these ideas she said she learned that health was an “indestructible part” of her “divine inheritance”.
She found her way to total freedom quickly. Lisa had replaced the belief in genetic vulnerability with the understanding that disease didn’t have to be part of her experience.
Dedicated gene researchers continue to seek solutions and make discoveries in the desire to give hope to humanity. And genealogy research provides a fascinating record of our ancestors, which can lead to newfound appreciation in families and the community. This is progress that helps take off human shackles.
Nonetheless, when our true spiritual nature becomes better understood, theories derived from genetics and genealogy may be outgrown as limited thinking disappears.
In differing degrees, we’re all beginning to discover more about who we really are, so that our genes or family tree need not predetermine or negatively impact our life experience, behaviour, talents, intelligence or health.
This article was published on Online Opinion.