Have you ever had a chance to look at human DNA? I have.
When I was in college, we did a biology lab where we extracted our own DNA from a swab taken from our mouths. It was a remarkably simple process. Take the swab, add some chemicals, shake the concoction up, and there you have it.
The result was this minuscule, white wispy strand that looked a lot like lint. The professor even gave us a little vial that could be attached to a necklace, a pendant of what literally makes us what we are.
I remember thinking, “This is it. This small wisp of genetic material is what we can be boiled down to.” All the time we spend trying to improve our lifestyles, look beautiful, and stay young seemed futile. I was holding the biological essence of who I am in the palm of my hand.
I found the thought rather depressing.
However, as I think back and consider my life since that day, I have realized that we are not just the sum total of our physiological parts. Yes, who we are as physical beings is what it is because of our DNA. Yes, much of our personality and appearance is the direct result of our genetic material.
But the thing that makes us human–that gives us a soul–are the choices in our lives and in the lives of those around us. I have inherited certain qualities from my parents, but the most important thing I have gained from my them is an understanding of love, what it means to be a good person, and how to live a life of meaning. I look at the world through contact lenses and glasses but the way I see the world is based on the perceptions, conclusions I have arrived at, and the attitude I have adopted.
I am a human woman because of my genetic make up. But I am human being with a soul because of the things I have chosen and the choices of others that have influenced my life.
So even though a little strand of DNA created countless years ago is important, it is just the first piece in an enormously complex puzzle that we call life.