Random Thoughts

Of Moving Fingers & Indelible Writing

on The Wall

Amongst the ancient cultures, civilizations and countries, the Greeks and the Indians stand out in the number of myths and their made up explanations for a host of natural phenomena. On the other hand the Jewish myths which constitute the Old Testament are a diametrically opposite of the minor and irrelevant status of the Jewish kingdoms. They had neither the power, wealth or clout to be even a minor player in the arena of the Middle East and were repeatedly dominated and forced to pay tribute to their masters, who were Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians or Persians from time to time. They sought solace in writing imaginary stories about their belated triumph or rescue by their uniquely jealous, tyrannical and sadistic god (torture of Job) or one of his hallucinating prophets. 

In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian king Belshazzar fails to see the handwriting on the wall and succumbs to defeat by Darius, the Mede. Then Daniel, who has become an employee officer of Darius, disobeys a decree of Darius, which forbids any of his subjects from praying to anyone other than the King Darius during the holy month. Daniel, being Jewish and bound by his covenant given by penile foreskin cannot pray to anyone except his god, Tyrannotheos prepucephilus and is punished by being thrown into the lions’ den. His god rescues him and he is honored by the king and his accusers punished. Such themes recur in other Old Testament stories like that of Joseph, Abraham etc. and are a mere reflection of the hopes and prayers of a weak peoples desperately praying to a divinity for hope and justice, the root causes of religion together with a desire for immortality. There is no historical record of a Babylonian king named Belshazzar or a Persian or Mede named Darius who overran Babylon. (Cyrus did)

The purpose of this article is not to chastise Israel for its past historical weakness or its still prevalent habit of making up false stories, as it is a strong nuclear power and the dominant state in its neighborhood, a lesson foolish India has yet to learn. The past history is important to understand that the Medes and Persians dominated their neighborhood and infamous Medea, wife of Jason, the Argonaut who stole the Golden Fleece was from Georgia and the Georgian language is derived partly from ancient Persian, as is Tajik, the language of Tajikistan. Azeri is spoken in Azerbaijan and also northern Iran (surrounding Tabriz). Georgia and Tajikistan allow a visa free entry to Iranian passport holders. India does not get the same privilege from Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, even though their national languages are connected to Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali and Ardha Magdhi.

In fact Persian was the official court language of the Mughal empire and as former Indian Supreme Court Justice Katju has so aptly announced in a talk in California, Urdu which is a hybrid of Hindi and Persian (after it was Arabicized) interestingly is made up of Persian adjectives, adverbs, even nouns, but predominantly Hindi (Sanskrit based) verbs. The two most recent supreme leaders of Iran are Azeris. Iran through language and ethnicity is connected to northern India and Pakistan and hence Not An Yahoo’s accusation, for the bombing of Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, Georgia and attempts in Azerbaijan in retaliation for the assassination of Israeli nuclear scientists, allegedly attributed to MEK with the help of Mossad and CIA.

I beg my readers’ indulgence for my long winded digressions. They are not for showing off as some have in the past misconstrued and accused, but to reveal connections. I am not claiming the wisdom or insight of a Buddha who sees the unity of everything, but the awe and delight of a child when it first stumbles from mere babbling to understanding speech and its purpose to convey thoughts and meaning. Thus the other great Persian poet, Omar Khayyam (Hafez, Saadi and Rumi were the other three) in one of his most famous verse, as translated into English by Fitzgerald says –

From Wikipedia -
Verse 51 of Edward FitzGerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The poem, in turn, refers to Belshazzar's feast as related in the Book of Daniel, where the expression the writing on the wall originated.

When I went to my ophthalmologist after my cataract surgery and intra-ocular lens implants, his assistant tested my visual acuity by projecting the usual decreasing size letters and when the doctor came in and asked me, “how do you feel Gaurang?”. I told him that he was a miracle worker and I should be addressed henceforth as Daniel, as I could read the handwriting on the wall.

My story like a stream of consciousness narrative has a deeper intent. What Omar Khayyam and much of the East and eastern religions inculcate is a form of fatalistic attitude and our inability to change our Kismet.

The moving finger is like the three fates of Greek mythology or the Viddhata who inscribes our future on the sixth day of birth in Hindu mythology. There is far more important family of moving fingers, which are responsible for the development of the embryo from a single celled zygote (union of sperm and ovum) to a normal human baby. Once again, I am going to quote from Wikipedia to help readers understand what Zinc finger protein transcription factors do.

“Zinc finger protein transcription factors or ZFP-TFs, consisting of activators and repressors are transcription factors composed of a zinc finger protein domain (ZFP) and any of a variety of transcription-factor effector-domains which exert their modulatory effect in the vicinity of any sequence to which the ZFP domain binds.[1]

Zinc finger protein transcription factors can be encoded by genes small enough to fit a number of such genes into a single vector, allowing the medical intervention and control of expression of multiple genes and the initiation of an elaborate cascade of events. In this respect, it is also possible to target a sequence which is common to multiple (usually functionally related) genes in order to control the transcription of all these genes with a single transcription factor. Alternatively, it is possible to target a family of related genes by targeting and modulating the expression of the endogenous transcription factor(s) which control(s) them. They also have the advantage that the targeted sequence need not be symmetrical unlike with most other DNA-binding motifs based on natural transcription factors which bind as dimers.[1]
[edit] Applications

By targeting the ZFP towards a specific DNA sequence and attaching the necessary effector domain, it is possible to down regulate or up regulate the expression of the gene(s) in question while using the same DNA-binding domain. The expression of a gene can also be down “regulated by blocking elongation by RNA polymerase (without the need for an effector domain) in the coding region or alternatively, RNA itself can also be targeted.[1][2] Besides the obvious development of tools for the research of gene function, engineered ZFP-TFs have enormous therapeutic potential including correction of abnormal gene expression profiles (e.g. erbB-2 over expression in human adenocarcinomas[3][4] and anti-retrovirals (e.g. HIV-1[5]).”

The newest recombinant genetic technologies allow us to design Zinc Finger Proteins to attach to specific single genes and thus prevent or enhance the unzipping of a specific gene or genes from the curled up helical DNA to enhance or retard the copying of that stretch of DNA to RNA and ultimately the final protein. Other newer developments in genetics and molecular biology revealed to us that many hormones act by attaching to cell surface receptors and activate proteins which begin a cascade of intracellular chemical and or physical alterations in proteins that speed up the heart or break down glycogen or glucose. Steroid hormones use surface receptors to enter the cell and eventually the nucleus to activate or suppress genes. Viruses including HIV also use specific chemical receptors to gain entry into the cell and use reverse transcriptase enzyme to convert their RNA genome to DNA which is inserted into the human genome and hijacks the cell’s machinery to reproduce itself. HIV uses a specific cell surface protein named CCR-5 to gain entry into the cell, usually a helper T cell called CD4+. Initially, this causes no significant harm, but when this helper T cell is activated by other infections, instead of joining the defenders and urging them on, it starts spewing off copies of the enemy virus. In this it resembles the sleeper Soviet agents or the activated Al Qaeeda sleepers in the UK on 7/7.

Approximately 1% of Caucasians have a double dose of defective CCR-5 gene and thus have an non-functioning CCR-5 protein or their cell surfaces, which blocks the entry of the HIV virus into the cell. These patients do not develop AIDS even after repeated exposure to the HIV virus. An American patient with AIDS, from California, developed leukemia in Germany and his bone marrow was destroyed by chemotherapy and he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with two defective copies of the CCR-5 gene. The patient after some years is free of the virus without any anti-viral drug treatment. This led to the researchers getting the idea that if they could damage the CCR-5 gene in an AIDS affected patient, it may result in a cure.

A synthetic Zinc finger protein transcription factor was made which would attach to the CCR-5 gene. It was coupled with another protein called a nuclease enzyme which would cut the DNA at the point at which the Zinc finger protein had attached to the CCR-5 gene and thus delete a few of the nucleotides. The normal repairing enzyme of the body would stitch back the two ends which would have lost a few nucleotides by the cutting and this repaired gene missing the nucleotides would produce a defective CCR-5 protein. At the ribosomes where proteins are made the machinery reads the code by triplets of nucleotides and attaches specific aminoacids. So the message is altered from “If tiger comes scoot” to “if tiger comes shoot” or “if tiger comes hoot”. The faulty protein prevents intracellular entry of the HIV virus and the disease.

Thus the moving finger’s writing is not absolute, indelible or fatal. Let me end with an apocryphal ancient myth about the first and greatest grammarian and linguistic scholar Panini. He was what we would now label as an Afghan. His works Dhatupada and Sandhi were probably written on the banks of the Kabul river. His mother took him to an astrologer to find out his future. The astrologer said the boy would be illiterate. The precociously intelligent boy asked why the astrologer concluded so. The astrologer replied that the boy’s palm had no line for education. The boy asked him where would such a line be? When the astrologer pointed out the location on the boy’s palm, the boy grasped a knife and made a long line on his palm and said, if lines determine future, I now have the longest line. I think it is effort and talent which determine future. He could have quoted my favorite lines of Henley if he was a time traveler.

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Thus, Rubaiyat, Fates, Allah are mere crutches for the weak and foolish, in this era of designer genes (or is it jeans), and not all words are written by the moving finger and at least some of them are not indelible. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

Top | Random Thoughts

Views: 3336      Comments: 4

Comment Such a joy to read your writings.

20-May-2012 23:46 PM

Comment Whether 'Madhi'(Budhdhi) is stronger than 'Vidhi'(Fate) or vice versa is immaterial. One should keep on doing one's duties accepting whatever the outcome is. Think deeply, analyse wisely and decide firmly BEFORE doing anything! Don't pass judgements on your or others actions or outcome. And finally 'Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu'. However, 'Avan arulale avan thall vanangi'i.e. even for worshipping Him, His aid is required (a Tamil saying).

01-Mar-2012 00:20 AM

Comment Thank you Sruti for your encouragement and appreciation. My winter trips to India clear the cobwebs from my eyes and brain and I return to the US like a proverbial million dollar jackpot winner in Las Vegas, who goes to the five star casino restaurant for his complimentary meal and orders a burnt toast, overcooked eggs for breakfast and then requests the waitress to sit down at the table and nag him, as he was feeling homesick.
Thus India and the US become like the old Gujarati saying, "Kaano dittho gamay nahi pun kaana winaa chaaley nahi.

gaurang bhatt
26-Feb-2012 10:04 AM

Comment Hello Dr Bhatt,

Beautiful writing! Welcome back.


26-Feb-2012 09:09 AM

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