Is there anything more irresistible?
Finding what appears to be a pure heart in this world, a virgin of sorts, is such a rarity. Innocence in the age of technology is nearly impossible. But we still look for it. We look for the tabula rasa, that pure, uncut marble that we can then sculpt and form into something beautiful. It’s an experiential version of nature versus nurture. An extension of the human need for permanence in a world full of illusion. A way to prove to ourselves that our birth is of no consequence.
But science is increasingly challenging that positional theory. Genetics continues to emerge as a pre-determined road map for our lives. We have a sweet tooth not because we grew up with dessert but because it’s genetically pre-programmed. Like our belief in something greater than ourselves. Or the people we find attractive.
We accept such fated moments when it relates to our individuality, like being born with certain talents. Or not. Some of us have natural drive. Others are born lazy. How we eat, if we exercise, who we enjoy spending time with, and ultimately, how we live our lives, is all because of the genes contained in our DNA. Intelligence is one of those very factors. People who have it can be born in any social situation, no matter how poverty-stricken, no matter how abusive, and with effort, after applying their natural gifts, can rise above. Seems that the ability to persevere is genetic, too.
So what does that mean for those without the DNA for success???
Whether you’re born in the rural South to uneducated factory workers, or in a more urban environment with similar circumstances, socio-economics dictates it’s more likely you will grow up in a poverty-stricken and abusive household. It’s also likely you will not be educated either. And as an uneducated adult with fewer choices, you will then continue the cycle of frustrated poverty and abuse, with an increased chance for involvement with criminals/in criminal activity. But in the United States, it’s not just a social problem. It’s not just economic. Because, in the States, regardless of finances or social standing, everyone has the opportunity to be educated. It’s just of matter of starting the process. And, of course, believing in yourself. Once you start that journey, statistics show you will make $1,000,000 more over the course of your lifetime. You will be a home owner. You will have a better quality of life. Your children, and grandchildren, will, too. President Obama is a great example of that fact.
Though there are definite disadvantages to being born into poverty and abuse, your genes determine the “choices” you make from there. People with intelligent genes will seek out opportunity to better themselves and their lives. When they finally find an open door, they’re smart enough to walk through it. Like Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s (1856-1950) play, Pygmalion, based on Ovid’s original tale of man’s ability to create his own destiny.
Shaw’s play sees a professor, Henry Higgins, elevating a poor, uneducated girl with criminal relatives from the streets to high society. During Eliza Doolittle’s education, both the student and the teacher fall in love. But because each comes from very different worlds, miscommunications lead to Eliza leaving. Higgins sees it as a betrayal; he expanded and improved Eliza’s world. He gave her everything. Yet, she still walked away….
Higgins, an intellectual, begins to reason that Eliza’s leaving was for the best, given where she came from. She would never have been happy living in his world. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, right???
Shaw’s original ending was meant to show Eliza’s independence, that she had somehow successfully evolved. Higgins triumphantly proclaims, “Galatea!” as if he put the spark in an individual who was nothing more than a piece of lifeless stone. But that ending was merely an example of patriarchal idealism—apologies, Mr. Shaw. In reality, Higgins would not have felt triumph any more than Ovid’s Pygmalion would have rejoiced had his beloved Galatea come to life at his hands, then, fell in love with another man.
What kind of woman, or man, would take so much from another human being, walk away, and feel okay about that? Not the kind that’s made of stone. No, no…it’s the kind made of lies.
Our character is who we are. But things like loyalty and courage are also predetermined by genetic traits. When we act without either, it’s because we lack the DNA. It’s like expecting a worm to be gallant. Or a pig to recognize the value in a rare pearl. But there are a lot of worms out there who pretend to be more than they are. And pigs who try on expensive pearls before going back to their 564-square foot trailer parked amongst overgrown weeds, abandoned vehicles, feral felines, and wandering packs of stray dogs.
If Eliza had the intelligence to learn all she did, despite where she came from, she would have also had enough intelligence to go back to the professor who opened up her world, making her a better person. With gratitude, not attitude, she would have brought him back to life in return. In fact, that is ultimately how Shaw’s play ends. It was translated to the silver screen in 1964 with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews as “My Fair Lady.”
Though Eliza initially leaves the professor who expanded her horizons for the possibility of something else, she knows she is in love with her teacher. The life he introduced her to was what she really wanted, or she would have never gone with him in the first place. Higgins wasn’t perfect, but those imperfections were part of why Eliza loved him. Part of what made them soul mates.
Higgins, on the other hand, feels betrayed by Eliza. He is confounded by her behavior, given their connection. Even though he misses her terribly, Higgins determines that, should Eliza return to beg his forgiveness, he would turn her away. Despite his heart turning hard, Higgins still recognizes that life with Eliza was better than life without her. The recognition leaves room for the possibility of a reunion. However unlikely.
So, what happens next?
Just as Higgins begins to settle back into a routine, Eliza shows up. Even though the professor understands the student has returned for what are probably the wrong reasons, that same attractive innocence is still as irresistible as it was when the two first found each other.
Ego and pride are also genetic. So is the ability to tell right from wrong. Eliza may have first left the professor simply out of panic, an expected (if not immature) response given her socio-economic background. And because Eliza is able to figure that out pretty quickly—thanks to those intelligent genes—Higgins can ultimately forgive the betrayal.
But what if we applied a dash of real life to the rather magical Hollywood ending? What if Eliza took everything the professor gave her, the clothing, the luggage, the travel, the education, the culture, the new social and professional contacts and opportunities, the hopes and dreams, her new sense of confidence, and walked away without so much as a "thank you," never to return???
She’d prove my point. Genes trump environment. You can take the girl out of the gutter, but you can’t take the gutter out of the girl.
Or, apparently, the boy….