It is astonishing to me, that our genetic codes are written like a stories, complete with instructions, punctuation, notes and intervals. We know that we are not the sum of our genes, but do our genomes tell the story of our whole and what would be the form of that whole? To understand our whole, biologists say we must start with the smallest part of ourselves, that fundamental part called the gene that makes us human.
I then turned to the form of the gene molecule with its two twisted strings joined by base pairs of nucleotides forming combinations like words, instructing our proteins to build a body and house a mind, feelings and a breathing soul, deep inside this person that is me. Houses then became my metaphor for the souls of men as they live in the land.
The way that our souls claim and marvel at life, not only affects the environment but also changes something deep inside of us. Whether our behaviors can re-write our own genetic instructions remain a contentious issue. ‘Attributing behavioral consequences to DNA methylation may be overreaching says Adrian Bird, but there are correlations.’ 1] And so I reasoned, behaviour may not change our genes, but it certainly re-writes some part of us.
I then remembered my sketch of Jacob’s ladder from some years ago, because it now resembles a DNA double helix turned straight.
I then read the story of Tabitha, who lived two thousand years ago. It goes like this:
There was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation was called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and deeds. And it came to pass in those days that she was sick and died. They washed her and laid her on a bed in an upper chamber. And then sent two men to Peter, begging him to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper chamber where all the widows stood by weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was still with them. But Peter pushed it away and kneeled down and prayed : and then turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha arise.’ And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up and called the widows, and presented her alive. And it was known throughout Joppa and many believed. 2]
She must have earned these names travelling between Judea and Greece for Tabitha was her Hebrew name and Dorcas was her Greek name. Both names meant gazelle, but each had different connotations. Her ‘Tabitha’ name described prominence in the same sense that a gazelle was conspicuous and beautiful, while her ‘Dorcas’ name described the gazelles of the Negev desert, where they roamed the dry river beds and arid mountains regions thirsting after springs. But more so, in Greece, ‘Dorcas’ was also used to describe a woman of Christian faith – as a person whose soul was made new by the Spirit of Christ. This re-interpretation of her name from one border to the next, then invokes that change in her soul, as she now walks agile and light, but sure-footed like a gazelle from the parched lands on earth into the paradise of God and back.
Then the understanding of her whole arrived like the early morning dew. It must be that her twisted DNA streams have become joined to the crystal river flowing down Jacob’s ladder. This gazelle woman then becomes my allegory for the everlasting tree of life as it drinks from the river of life.
I then sketched her in clay in the form of a teapot-combine, as the fragrant waters flows in and out, deep inside this allegory that is written on her own purple garment.
- Hall, S, 2013. Behavior and biology: the accidental epigeneticist. Nature Journal, [Online]. 505, 7481. Available at: https://www.nature.com/news/behaviour-and-biology-the-accidental-epigeneticist-1.14441 [Accessed 2 October 2017].
- Acts 9:36-43