The Gattaca Effect

The movie Gattaca is about a world where genetic manipulation has reached a level to where unborn fetuses can be genetically modified so that they come out with higher levels of intelligence, physical abilities, and life expectations. In the movie there are two brothers, one who was born after the procedures became available or mainstream and one who was born before.

There is a pivotal scene, once the boys are adults, that is the basis of my term “The Gattaca Effect”. The two men start swimming out to sea, playing a game of chicken. The first one to stop loses. Despite the fact that the genetically altered child always won as children he finds himself unable to keep up with his brother. Stopping, he asks why it is that he, the genetically superior specimen, can’t keep up. The answer from his genetically natural brother is simple: “I don’t save enough energy for the trip back.”

This has always struck a chord with me. I call it “The Gattaca Effect” simply because I have yet to see another term that accurately depicts the trait. “Heart” comes close but doesn’t entirely embody the calculated do or die mentality. Whatever you call it, there is a right time to use it and a wrong time.

Sometimes you have to put it all on the line and risk the loss of everything in order to find success. Other times there are plenty of options available that do not require such a risk. Determining the right time to do each is really an art. Understanding that losing everything is an option and being able to entertain that idea is something that is rare.

The Mentality of Nothingness

Let’s do an exercise. Think of nothing.

Now, describe to yourself what you just imagined. Most of us will say something along the lines of “big black empty space”, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The very essence of nothing is that it is utterly lacking in all attributes. The attributes of big, black, empty, and space are all things that true nothingness is devoid of. In fact, the very word nothing is an oxymoron in that it describes something which, by definition, nothing is not.

As humans we have to step back from the brink of incomprehensible states and apply our paradigm wrapper to the complex in order to bring it to a level were we can understand it. Simply put, we are a label happy bunch that likes to have everything classified just so. While this works well for many things, the concept of nothingness is likely to never (a cousin of nothing) be one of them.