Friday, November 23, 2012

nature vs. nurture

i find it fascinating how things present themselves and how we view them and what sort of weight to apply to them.

a friend asked me last night, about the concept of nature vs nurture.  and while my belief system goes so much farther than that simple concept, there are some interesting points to examine in that simple scenario.

from as early back as i can remember i was drawn to the darker elements. i grew up in an urban working class neighborhood and there was a various and ever changing cast of characters. the hippy neighbor who dried seaweed on her porch. the hispanic family across the street. the pot smokers and the drunks and for awhile a prostitute. there were the familys who lived there awhile, like mine and my couple best friends. and the transitory ones who moved in one summer and were gone the next.

the kids in my neighborhood, when i picture them in my mind, are the kinds of kids who are wise and older in their eyes. we had a swagger and a bravado. we grew up with working parents and often very little supervision. in the summers we lived at the park and ate free sandwiches provided by the city.  we made plastic lace keychains and crafts out of tongue depressors. we got in fist fights, climbed trees. snitched cigarettes from our parents and smoked them behind garages. parking lots were our playgrounds. dumpsters our treasure troves. we were outside from sun up to sundown, thats just what you did.

there is something you learn about life, and people when you grow up in a time and place such as the one i did. you learn to read people and situations.

the walk to the park was about 6 blocks and you had to pass a whole lot of houses from point a to point b. most houses were nice. but here and there would be a house that you crossed to the other side of the street. you develop a certain antennae. you learn to read people, not based on how they look, but on how their energy is. i've tried to teach this to my kids. you meet people and you get a feeling right off. and when your antennae goes off, and you get a bad feeling about someone, no matter how they look or who they are or weather or not you are "supposed" to trust that person, listen to that antennae. but i'm not sure its the same if you arent listening to that, all the time.

but using that knowledge, there were people i liked to be around. there were homes my parents had concerns about me being in. i remember my mom asking me if my friends mom smoked "funny cigarettes". she did. all her friends were pot smokers and i loved them.  they seemed so care free and relaxed and fun. no one hurt me. no one tried to influence me. we had to leave the room when they were smoking but we'd hang out with them while they'd listen to music and listen to them talk.

these are things i didnt think about much as a kid. it was simply, life. i remember a night there were gun shots right across the street. sometimes he hispanics liked to get a little squirly at the holidays with shot guns, but this was different. my dad came into our room to let us know it was nothing to worry about, the prostitute across the street was just shooing at her john, she missed. nothing to worry about.

fast forward to high school. one night we are hanging out at a house. somewhere off broadway no clue whose house. it was a mix of hs people. and adults. men and women in their 30s, 40s. career partiers who dont think its odd to be passing around joints and bottles with teenagers. the men who leer openly at 16 year olds in mini skirts. and i remember very clearly thinking "these are my people."

i was told from a very early age how terrible drinking was. i was cited examples of relatives who's lives were destroyed from it. a common theme was "do you want to end up like uncle larry?"  Uncle larry being the flagship of failure. the problem was, I LIKED uncle larry. yeah, he was a drunk. my dad repeatedly had to bail him out of jail. pick him up from the hospital after he'd get rolled.  for awhile uncle larry stayed with us. i'd sit up and watch tv with him. usually drunk from a night out. he'd say "you shouldnt drink kid". and id say "yeah i know. but i do" and he'd say "yeah, i know" and he got it.  it was simply. my nature. it simply could not be contained.

so with my nature being so evident and my will being so strong, it would seem like the obvious path was one of complete self destruction. and that was pretty much the plan. live hard, die young. but there was something in the way i'd been nurtured, that kept reigning me back in.   i fought it i fought it hard. at somepoint in my late teens, it occurred to me that i had a choice to make.

and i met this beautiful boy. he was dark and moody and brooding. he drank alot, played hard and had the same live fast attitude i did. but he was also extremely intelligent, well read, well spoken and deep. and he came from a nice family in the burbs. i remember thinking very clearly, we will live fast, but we will pull up and out of it and settle down and live like normal people this can be done!

and thats sort of what we did. we moved to the burbs, had a couple kids. tried to live like grown up people. tried to meld.

but that dark part of my nature is still there.  i still prefer dark dive-y bars. i'd rather sit and talk to a career alcoholic than a ceo. there is still a part of me that could easily be a barfly, who could live a nomadic life, making my family from people along the way.

but thats not the choice i made. i chose to live a different life. that belies my nature to some degree.

choices, free will.

that doesnt answer the question of nature vs. nurture. but i dont think we can be contained or defined by either. we simply have a path, and free will. and all the dna and all the coaching and direction we get along the way only change or influence us to a certain degree.

No comments:

Post a Comment