Even before I could speak, I had this reoccurring dream: I was breathing ice cold air and it felt good in my lungs. Even though there was ice all around me, I did not feel like I was freezing. I was in a huge cave where fires were burning and groups of people who I felt were my close relatives where wrapped in fur rugs and clothing. I remember a feeling of belonging and a sense of excitement and joy when through the front of the cave came a cold blazing, rising sun that began to fill the place with its light. I could smell the sweat of others as they awoke, stretched and yawned. At this point, I would awake in my bed in suburban Baltimore, County in Maryland, USA.
More Comfortable in Cold
In my 20th-century life I could never seem to grasp the contentment I had in that primordial dream, but I discovered in my mid-twenties that I functioned and felt more alive in the cold weather. When many of my co-workers would complaint and whine about the snow, I would thrive in it, feeling like it awakened some sense of invigoration and adventure in me that the warm weather killed. It was really fun to hunt, run, hike in the ice and snow. I don’t know why, it just came to me instinctively. Conversely, the warm and hot weather slayed me. I wanted to hide and keep out of the sun. I could hardly keep my eyes open some days, wanting to take afternoon naps and drink cold water. It wasn’t until the 21st century that I discover what was probably behind my feelings and dreams. It was then that I took two different DNA tests to find out the scientific details of my ancestry. When I got the results, there were quite a few surprises.
For one thing, I found that my ancestors were more Nordic than Celtic, and that instead of being of Irish and Germanic ancestry, my DNA was almost identical to the British and Danish peoples. But the big surprise was the 2.3% Neanderthal DNA that flowed through my veins and the veins of many others of Western European descent.
At first, the thought of having Neanderthal ancestors made me feel a little uncomfortable. After all, for decades, these people have been depicted as sub-human cave dwellers. It wasn’t until recently that it was discovered that Neanderthals actually buried their dead, sometimes even with flowers. They also created art on cave walls and lived in large communes, cooperating and co-exiting.
It wasn’t long before scientists explained that having Neanderthal DNA had some pluses and negatives. For example, if you have Neanderthal genes your blood coagulates quicker than many other nationalities. I know mine does and have even had a dentist notice and remark about it. Scientists reason that this probably comes from so much hand-to-hand fighting among Neanderthals. Natural Selection saw to it that those whose blood coagulated and healed quickly survived. The downside is that this quick coagulation sometimes leads to life-threatening blood clots.
Some scientists also believe that some Europeans with Neanderthal DNA have more resistance to many viruses not found in other modern humans. The downside is that along with this those with Neanderthal DNA have more of a tendency toward depression. Nonetheless, I have learned to embrace my Neanderthal DNA and look forward to a time when I might once again have that recurring primordial dream I had when I was a child.
© 2018 Chet Dembeck