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Cherry blossom aversion

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

Question: Is Mercury pretty much always in retrograde these days? For every two steps forward I take, it feels like Mercury — or whoever oversees this science experiment we call Earth, pushes me back. Progress is slow going at best and inconceivable some days. I don’t think I’m alone in this molasses-coated reality, and while society trudges forward to bring us a better existence in many ways: technology, language, medicine, Mitch McConnell and his cronies are sliding down backwards on their backsides with arms and legs outstretched like a bunch of wet babies on a Slip ‘N Slide.

My eye doctor can tell if — and when — I’m going to have a stroke, “bust a nut” no longer means what you think it means (ask a teenager) and our cars are practically driving themselves… But all the republican lawmakers want to talk about is voter fraud. As if most Americans have time to sit around on Sunday morning after church and plot the ways they’ll vote more than once. Hi, if they’re so concerned with non-citizens voting, they should check out all the corporate bots online. For Pete’s sake, it’s not even a Trojan horse. It’s right there, in our face, as we massage our egos by posting pictures of our breakfast and answering personalized questionnaires about childhood …

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Facebook posts today are what writing on a gas station bathroom wall was in my youth. We post the most asinine things online, barely stopping to check the spelling, before sharing it with the whole world. I can’t help but worry about how this will affect future generations and their sense of relevance. I mean, not only do they have to sort through the family baggage, but they have to do it in front of everyone. Intergenerational trauma is a thing and we’re just beginning to understand how emotional impacts are passed down through the family genes, just like eye color and sports team fanaticism.

The process of epigenetics, where the readability, or expression, of genes is modified without changing the DNA code itself. Tiny chemical tags are added to or removed from our DNA in response to changes in the environment in which we are living. These tags turn genes on or off, offering a way of adapting to changing conditions without inflicting a more permanent shift in our genomes…

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… A 2013 study found that there was an intergenerational effect of trauma associated with scent. The researchers blew acetophenone — which has the scent of cherry blossom — through the cages of adult male mice, zapping their feet with an electric current at the same time. Over several repetitions, the mice associated the smell of cherry blossom with pain.

…When their pups smelled the scent of cherry blossoms, they became more jumpy and nervous than pups whose fathers hadn’t been conditioned to fear it. 

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– BBC.com, “Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations?” 

The article goes on to explain that the young mice in the experiments were raised by adult mice unrelated to them, i.e., mice who had never smelt cherry blossom, to be sure the trauma was actually passed on through genetics. Ha! As opposed to what — the mice family picture albums? I can’t help but think this must be how aliens feel about us. I bet we are indistinguishable to them, and whether or not we grow up with our natural parents is of no significance. I’ve said it before, the best theory for our existence I’ve heard so far came from my best friend in fifth grade. Our entire universe is sitting on a shelf somewhere in a classroom in the cosmos and once in a while they check on us to observe the effects of their latest experiment. For all the great accomplishments of mankind, where are we really in the grand scheme of things?

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Not that far from where we started, by my account. Still fighting over religion and women’s bodies, still envious of the caveman with the most rocks, still excluding each other based on random luck of the draw, i.e., place of birth and inherited physical traits. As we learn more about epigenetics, maybe our focus will shift to healing past transgressions, instead of reposting our aversion to cherry blossoms year after y

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