I am in Seattle to teach a workshop at Hugo House (no relationship either to Gernsback or to small European cars), and am suffering from jet lag. This is not sleeplessness a la David Blaine (see previous post) or the Sleepless in Beggars In Spain, but it's difficult enough for me. And yet there's only a three-hour time difference between Seattle and New York State. Other people manage with ease. Why not me?
Partly because I get up so early anyway; 6:30 a.m. is actually 3:30 a,m, here. But partly it's genetic. I may think this because at the moment I'm reading (when awake) Matt Ridley's terific book, The Agile Gene. The book contains the usual fascinating information on gene research, wriiten in Ridley's readable style, but here he's also after a larger point. In the old controversy between nature and nurture, Ridley takes an integrative view: Genes determine a lot of temperament and predilections, but environment determines the form that behavior takes. In other words, you may be born a strongly aggressive, authority-despising person, but in some environments (South Central L.A.) that means you end up in jail or dead, whereas in other, quieter places you merely end up a misfit. To me, Ridley's most interesting point, buttressed by a lot of data, is that as we age, the effects of environment ameliorate genes less, not more. A child more-or-less conforms to the environment he finds himself in (family, peer groups, larger culture), but an adult is free to find his own niche (within practical limits). Thus, as we grow older, we become more what our genes say we are.
I like this. Certainly in my case it rings true. There are a lot of milieus I feel free to reject for myself, which once I would have felt pressure to fit into.