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11.05.2009

In case you wonder about the name of this blog...

Claude is my first name, and yes, I'm not a man! I'm not an alien either (although I often feel like one). I'm a woman and I've been one for a fairly long time - gone through all the phases, up and down (yes, including menaupause) and now I'm at peace with myself (perhaps - but not everyday). Really I'm not sure I've reached the top of the mountain and the rest is going to be downhill; wish it were so, but I haven't got a crystal ball so I don't know whether the next step is up or down. Just as well. That's what makes life interesting, right?

Nougat, the last name I use here, is not my real name of course. But it sums up what I want to do with my blog. You know what nougat is, don't you? It's a wonderful traditional sweet made of almonds and honey, usually white and sticky, but it can be covered with chocolate, dark or light, and filled with crunchy nuts. Yum! In Italy (where I live) you get lots of it for Christmas, and it comes in all kinds and shapes: small, big, long, short, soft and gooey, hard and crunchy.

One day, when I was fifteen, my father idly wondered how one makes such extraordinarily different types of nougat, particularly the crunchy vs. the gooey sort . I told him right away that it all depended on how it was cooked. He looked interested so I went on, explaining that for the crunchy variety you had to beat the egg whites hard and dry in the oven, while the gooey sort only used the yolk and you had to carefully cook it in a double-boiler. "How do you know that?" he asked. I told him I didn't, I just guessed that's the way it had to be (I never lied to my father - that's the generation I belong to, the one that was still submissive through adolescence). He laughed and immediately made a verb of it: "Claude, you are nougatizing!"

So that's what this blog will be all about: NOUGATizing...I'll just tell you what I think about all sorts of things that draw my attention everyday, and I hope that you'll post back your comments about how you feel about it - just like my father did!

For the moment, I'm intrigued by the notion of genetic memory. You know what I'm talking about: the idea that fragments of memory are handed down to us through our DNA. That things we know are innate. I googled the notion yesterday and was amazed to read the results (no, I didn't read all 12 million of them!!). The subject seemed to inspire all sorts of complex theories. There were obscure references to difficult notions such as Carl Jung's archetypes and Sheldrake's "morphic fields", but Wikipedia (ah, what would we do without it?) was reassuring on one point: it reported that scientists now generally considered genetic traits as "dispositional", that is they encode the way one reacts to stimuli, and they do NOT transfer the actual memory or experience. Phew, that's reassuring, isn't it? But tests have been carried out on animals and the results can be worrying, to say the least. There was this one where a first generation group of mice was taught how to get through a specific maze, and it took them weeks or months to learn. A year later, the offspring were made to go through the same maze, and it took them half the time. The next generation was even faster and several generations down the road, they managed it in 30 seconds, without ever having seen the maze before.

Wow! Are we all conditioned this way by our family's past?? Is whatever we're good at something we've inherited from them, just like our blue or brown eyes and our blond or dark hair? We're not responsible for our talents (or our shortcomings)? I am not me, you are not you, we're both the results of genetic chance. The notion is terrifying...or is it? What if it only meant that we're part of one great family - the human family - past and present? But isn't that a little abstract?
What do you think?


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