By Philip Seeman, OC, MD
I’d like to be able to say that merit is always rewarded, that the worthy are recognized and that success inevitably follows upon hard work. This is the ideal but, in this life, success, however defined, is distributed more or less randomly. Good health depends more on genetic inheritance than on judicious life style. Abstinence helps, but where is the merit in a joyless life? Financial rewards depend more on family wealth and whom you happen to know than on your own creativity and effort. Having gone to a high school such as Upper Canada College is a plus to be sure. There is definite merit in having chosen to go there. Marital happiness depends on luck, where and when you happen to have been hanging out when a potential partner appeared on the scene. Discernment has little to do with it. Beauty and charm, the reasons you fall in love, contribute very little to marital contentment. Fame, at best ephemeral, is always capricious. Skill, talent, and industry all contribute but, in the end, whether they bring you fame or not is anybody’s guess.
How about reflected pride, the joy of seeing our children succeed? Does the achievement of our children depend on our parenting strategies, our love, our nurturance? Maybe not. It has been shown that children whose fathers die young do best in life, achieve the most prominence. Where is merit in all this?
Ah, but there is another life, a life after death when our disembodied souls will surely attain their just reward. Or be transplanted in the next reincarnation into peacocks.
Philip Seeman, OC, B.Sc. & MD (McGill), PhD (Rockefeller), D.Sc. (Toronto) is the father of Neil Seeman (UCC ’88). His Nobel-nominated work between 1964 and 1974 on the membrane actions of drugs led him to the discovery of the antipsychotic receptor, now re-named the dopamine D2 receptor. This research forms the experimental basis for the dopamine hypothesis of how the brain reacts to stimuli.