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Wanderlust gene: Why some people are always chasing greener pasture

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By Sharon Maas

There are people who stay at home, content, and never travel.

There are others who seem always on the move, criss-crossing across the globe in search of—what? The perfect country, the perfect home? Or is it just curiosity? Do they simply seek adventure, new experiences? Whatever the cause, they are globetrotters, always on the move, never a whole year in the same country, the passport never out of date, always ready grab. Their money spent not on new cars or new furniture or new clothes or new stereo equipment, but on flights and accommodation and all the related expenses. And spent without the least regret. And even when they are dirt poor, they still manage to travel. Somehow.

I belong in the latter group. And I envy, how I envy, the first group. That sense of knowing, without a doubt, where you belong. That here, in this house, this town, this country, I will stay. Not to feel that urge to leave again, to find a better place, a better home. Roots. To be rooted in one spot, and never to leave again. As I grow older that need grows stronger and stronger.

I am now 64. Over my lifetime I have lived in seven countries on four continents. Those countries, in no particular order are: Guyana, India, the UK, the US, Germany, France, Ecuador.

By “lived” I mean I spent at least six months in that country, and had the intention, or the hope, of settling there permanently. Yet always I moved on. The most permanent of those countries is Germany, where I have settled, mostly, for the last forty years. It will not be my last home in this life.

And even apart from living in those seven countries, I have travelled to many others. Trekked through South America for a year when I was 19. Taken the overland route to India from Europe when I was 23. Taken trips to other European and Caribbean countries. And I have a bucket list of other countries I’d love to visit: Australia. Canada. Vietnam. Malaysia. Indonesia. Kenya.

But why? Where does this urge to move come from? And why do some people never feel it? My husband, for instance: he had only left Germany once before I met him, and had never flown. Perhaps it was one of the things I liked about him: that sense of permanence, of being rooted. I lacked it. I longed for it.

I recently read an article that discusses whether the urge to move is genetic. This psychology blog says that the inherent urge to travel can be traced back to one gene, DRD4-7R. This gene has been dubbed the “wanderlust gene” because of its correlation with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness. DRD4-7R is a genetic derivative of the gene DRD4, which is associated with the dopamine levels in the brain. Those who carry this genetic information, says the blog, typically share one common theme, a history of travelling:

A study by Chen (1999) found the DRD4-7r form of the gene more likely to occur in modern day societies where people migrated longer differences from where we first originated in Africa many thousands of years ago. Another more recent study also reported similar findings: those who lived in cultures whose ancestors migrated out of Africa the furthest and the fastest/earliest were more likely to have the DRD4-7r gene (Dobbs, 2012). These findings suggest that this gene could be the motivation behind the yearning to travel, to move and to see the world: as it possibly did with our ancient ancestors.

I can well see genetics playing a part in my own urge to travel. I was born in British Guiana, now Guyana, in South America, of mixed race heritage. In my ancestry are Africans, Europeans and Amerindians—American Indians, or Native Americans. Could it be that my genes are urging me to go back to where my ancestors came from? To Africa, to Europe? Even Amerindians, according to the Bering Strait theory, came to the Americas from Asia 20000 years ago.

And yet, and yet.

To me, my restlessness is more spiritual than physical. If it were physical, then why is my deepest sense of home located in India, instead of in Africa or Europe? Why is it that India, at least, a certain spot in India, that draws me like a magnet, so that, when I am there, I can say with all my being: Yes. This is it. This is home.
A Hindu might say that my soul remembers a past life; that before this birth, I lived in India; that this is the cause of that homing urge.

In the end, though, I believe that home is not a place. It is a state of mind. A sense of deep inner peace, unmoving, unchanging. And since it is within, it should be accessible wherever I am in the world.

One day, perhaps, I shall find that permanent inner home. And then I shall no longer move on.

This article has been taken from IBN Live

  • Shriya Katoch

    This really interesting.Finally some explanation for the human instinct to travel.

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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Government invites entries for first National CSR Awards VOA

At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

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Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

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Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)