"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: go with the flow

forever . . .

In our local paper today, there was a long article about a couple who were “the longest married couple” in the country. It was pretty interesting because they grew up across the street from each other and fell in love. Then her father wanted her to marry someone else he had in mind so the couple eloped. That was over eighty years ago. Yep, you read that right. You see a lot of couples celebrating their 50th or 60th and I haven’t heard any around the 70th, but eighty years?

So of course someone asked them what accounted for their marital longevity and the answers were pretty simple:
“We just live with contentment and we don’t live beyond our means,” John Betar said. “Just go with the flow.” John’s now 101 years old and Ann is 97. The photo showed both of them smiling. They’re still living in their home along the Fairfield, CT. shore and enjoy watching their grandchildren and great grandchildren grow. John opened a grocery store in Bridgeport after they married.

Family is the key to their longevity, they said. They had five children and now have fourteen grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren. “That’s what makes life what it is,” Ann Betar said. “We were fortunate enough to live long enough to see this. . . and it’s really one of the most gratifying things in the world to see your great-grandchildren, to see your grandchildren become adults.”

John Betar added, “That’s what keeps us alive. We live for them.”

Sounds like a great plan to me: live with contentment and within your means. Go with the flow and enjoy seeing your family grow up. I’ll second that.

nature and nurture . . .

Today, there’s a fascinating article in the Science section of the Times which describes the work of Dr. Hopi Hoesktra, a biology geneticist at Harvard. Her recently published paper in Nature outlines work her team of researchers have done to distinguish genetically traceable traits in two different species of deer mice by the way that they build burrows and provide escape hatches (or not.)

We are not mice but we might as well be to think about what we have control over in the way that we look and behave in the world as much as the person beside us or across the table from us. Much has been made of how much acculturation (nurture) has influence on our personalities and character traits. What if, for example, much of it is genetically persuaded if not outright determined; e.g., “we were born that way?” Recently, there has been so much information about how behavior is influenced by our DNA and the physical/biochemical makeup of our brains. And this is not just from watching “House” on TV either.

In my own life, I have been surprised to gradually understand how many habits and traits I have that are similar to my father’s, the helpful and the not so helpful: insight and intuition, bluntness, adherence to what you believe in even though others may disagree. So much literature is devoted to describing these kinds of parallels in families and life consequences that result from them. I’ve often wondered whether it was the nurture from such strong traits growing up that causes that symbiosis or whether it’s mostly genes. Probably some of both.

In any case, the reason I am writing this post is that the deer mice research is truly fascinating to read about. And to think that we humans might also be genetically predisposed to either building long burrows versus fat ones and whether or not to provide an escape hatch in the burrow is, well, a humorous reflection on our own human behavior.

I know that many of us take life too seriously (that’s me) but that we may also have ancestors who have done that for eons before us it seems. How happy we are with ourselves depends on a lot of things. Luck is a big one, it seems to me. That’s been an influential factor in how life has made corrections for me almost in spite of myself, and for which I am ever thankful. So, with nature (genes,) nurture (environment) and luck (unpredictable opportunity) maybe it’s time to give in to the Zen idea of just going with the flow, and not to resist because of some preconceived idea that maybe we know better.