Toronto – Canada





Moving On




Now that I am recently widowed, I spend time recalling my early intellectual life.  I see that I have stayed with the ideas of my 1960s guru, Talcott Parsons. He taught that while wealth and mental health take singular commitment, their risks are two-sided.  There is always more than one way to fall off a wagon.


For example, with respect to wealth, Parsons believed that any society that values data-based thinking and achievement can be wealthy.  Too much “particularism” (vested interests, favoritism, nepotism, corruption) prevents it. Hypothetically, a rich society can also have too little particularism and fail to regulate its markets.  Parsons did not live to see the financial crisis of 2008 but my business and my family struggled to get through it.  I learned the hard way that he was right.


With respect to mental health, Parsons believed that rushed, indifferent care of infants puts them at risk of becoming sociopaths, while engulfing, possessive care leads them to be compulsive.  Too indulgent care of toddlers makes for mania later on, and too strict care makes for depression in adulthood.


I married in 1963 and bore four children. In the 1980s, my family business had government contracts and Canada had a very strict central banker.  As a result, I became very aware of the problems government can create for business and the hazards of over-bidding when interest rates are high.  Then “the great moderation” happened and I relaxed, believing that we are a wealthy society and we know how to govern it.  Oh, how I was wrong!


In the meantime, I thought my family was perfect warm, fun-loving and busy.  I was oblivious to risk in this sphere.


In the spring of 2017, my husband was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer.  We slowed down.  An acquaintance of mine, a palliative care specialist, advised me that this did not have to be a bad time just different, special.


While my husband’s dying was very sad for all of us (we were now 22 people), I thought as a family we functioned better. We were more patient with one another, more mindful.  I hoped we had permanently improved.


Oh no.  After his death we resumed our fast-paced, peripatetic ways.  In the last year, 18 of us changed addresses.


I reread Parsons and doubted our parenting. Were my husband and I too detached, too engulfing, too indulgent, or too strict?  I think now that as we rushed from special schools to camps to ski hills, we were overly enthusiastic about opportunity for achievement.  We edged on overdoing it and so did the culture.  We can’t help moving we were brought up this way.


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