Since we don't have wifi in the Dumpter and I cannot afford a cell phone, I do my blogging and market research into what the wealthy really want at the public library with the other homeless people. I follow Rich Kids on Instagram to find possible prospects for my moral tutorials, and was shocked recently to see a photo of Audrey holding up her rescue dog, Rex, licking her face. Apparently Tutor must have borrowed Momma's iPad to show that not all rich kids are jerks. The difference, obviously, is Moral Tutorials from people like Tutor and me, who are post-materialists. Ours is a noble profession affected with the public interest. It would be demeaning to take money for it, but alms would be appreciated.
Tutor Skyped me last night at 3 am. Apropos of whatever was on his mind, he said, "Social Enterprises now have as many bottom lines as there were once gods on Mt Olympus. It takes only two to make tragedy, and three for farce. Soon Ovid's Metamorphoses will be taught in business school. They call it 'story telling.' The best stories drive metrics. If only they might read The Bacchae. Reason rules the polis and the great god Dionysus calls for Hillary's head." Tutor may be drinking again. I worry about him sometimes. "If this is what a lifetime of reading gets you, Tutor," I said, "we are better off ignorant." He said, "You are in good company." Then he hung up.
How to be a Most Trusted Advisor to Intergenerational Wealth - A Word to the Wise from Big, Big Momma
Poor Tutor! He has been sobbing and thrashing on Audrey's bed, hands and feet flailing, as she, with her back turned to him on the floor, works on a puzzle, ignoring his noise. Eventually, without turning around, she asks, "Tutor, what is wrong with you? Why are you crying and crying?" He says, "Because you said I am not a trusted advisor." She says, truthfully, "Because you are not. You are just my babysitter." "I know," says Tutor with a heaving sob, "but you said you don't even need a babysitter." "Because I don't," says Audrey calmly. And to make it worse, she elaborates with a secret truth, "Momma told me yesterday that you need a babysitter more than I do." Tutor wails! "Ok," says Tutor sitting up eagerly, "I have an idea. You be the most trusted advisor and I will be the kid, ok?" Audrey rises, turns, draws herself up to her full height, with an imperious mien, like a Head Butler, or Privy Counselor, on parade. Her left hand is behind her back, her elbow crooked. The right arm is extended, pistoning in and out, with forefinger straight up. "Bla, bla, bla," she intones, in synchrony with the finger. Tutor rises and sits down cross-legged on the floor, his hands over his ears, his eyes closed. After a time, he says, "I know, let's both be trusted advisors, ok? I want to be one too!" So the lanky Tutor stands, his finger extended, facing a child not tall enough to reach his waist, whose extended finger is about as high as his knee. "First one to laugh loses, Tutor!," says Audrey. So they have a "bla, bla, bla" battle, getting louder and louder, with faces as solemn as can be, until the door opens, and there is Big, Big Momma, the Warrior Queen of Wall Street. "What is going on in here? I can't think with you shouting 'bla, bla, bla' like two complete morons." "We are trusted advisors!, Momma," shouts Audrey. And then it is Momma who laughs, and says, "Well, advice is best given in whispers." And so it is.
Having told Audrey her bedtime story, and having untangled his lanky frame from her sleepy form, Tutor pauses on the way out beside Momma in her easy chair. Being a Morals Tutor by profession, and a lifelong bore, Tutor cannot help sharing his unsolicited wisdom. "Madame, for Audrey's sake, you might consider giving her a kiss when I depart, and saying something like 'I love you, child; I always have and always will. You are infinitely precious. Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite!' Long after we are gone, she will feel that love and be strengthened for whatever trial or tribulation keeps her awake at night." Momma (known by Audrey as Big, Big Momma, though she is slender) looks up from her iPad, "Of course, I tuck her in once you are gone." Tess then extends her right arm out long, in imitation of the pedantic gesture so beloved by Tutor, her forefinger pointing straight up. Her arm pistons in and out. "I always have and I always will." Her eyes and finger return to the iPad. "Dismissed!" Momma is Momma, conquer the world as she will. Tutor returns to his monk's cell, by the Dungeon, scene of better times in better days.
Bedtime is the best time for stories, as the Castle quiets down, and even busy Momma takes a moment to bask in peace and love. Just to see hyperactive Audrey quiet down and nestle into Tutor's shoulder, and smile half in a dream is gratifying to world-conquering Momma's human heart. Tonight Tutor is telling a tale that Wordsworth told from his own childhood, when England was still enchanted by fairies and goblins and no smoke could be yet seen from factories, and time was measured in seasons, and sunrises and sunsets, and no man or woman lived by the time-clock, measured and managed like mechanical things effectively and efficiently to some grim purpose, not their own.
Scripture is hard enough, Wordsworth riskier yet. But Audrey knows no better. "You see," says Tutor, long ago, not that far from the Castle back in the old days, there was an old, old beggar who used to walk from town to town. White hair, white beard. He had a staff or stick he used as a cane. His clothes were raggedy, but he is hale, that means healthy, and strong for his old age. Can you see him, Audrey, in your mind's eye?" She affirms she can, indeed, nestling closer, and with her little dreamy smile. Rex has crept up the bed and lies with his nose on her chest, her hand on his head. "Well, see the old beggar now. He is sitting on a bench, but it is not really a bench, at the edge of the highway. It is step that horsemen (and horsewoman, too) use, there were no cars, to get back on a horse. Well, the old man is sitting there. He has a crust of bread, can you see it? in his hands. Guess how he got it? A girl about your age, who had red hair and lived with her Momma, not in a palace or castle, but in a small hut in a small village had given him that crust, which her Momma had given her to eat herself. She was hungry, too. But she gave the old man the bread. When he walked by their house, he did not stop and ask; she ran out with her own breakfast." "That was really nice of her," says Audrey, "because she was hungry, too." "That's right," says Tutor, "but look now. See how the old man's fingers shake. He is so, so old, his hands are shaking even though the morning is warm. He is so infirm, that means weak, the birds are not afraid of him. They have come within the reach of his staff, unafraid, to peck about his feet. His palsied hands are shaking breadcrumbs to the ground, and the birds surround him for their feast. He too is a giver. Kid, can I recite you some out loud? It doesn't sound like regular talk, it sounds more like Gospels in church, ok? Just a little bit." Tutor knows it by heart. As he says, it memorized itself.
Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been,
Themselves the dealers-out
Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.
"I would give my bread to the old man, too," murmurs Audrey, her hand stroking the stiff fur of the unlovely dog she rescued from the pound. Momma has put her iPad down. This time, as Tutor exits, his charge fast asleep, Momma's hand comes up to be clasped in parting, sans cash in the palm. "One human heart," murmurs she. For Tutor it is joy and a relief to feel love circulate, from past to present, towards a future, through the text. A castle by the sea can so cold.
Tutor, dressed as a priest at leisure in black standard issue priest pants, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and red, white, and blue biker head band, his feet in Jesus sandals, with black tire tread for soles, is on Audrey's bed, rereading Hans-Georg Gadamard's Philosophical Hermeneutics and trying unsuccessfully to decipher the notes he had made in the margins forty years earlier while tutoring General Pinochet's kids in Chile, on assignment as a Morals Tutor for The Private Bank of Wealth Bondage. Audrey, heir apparent to the material world, in pink corduroy play pants, Audrey T Shirt (emblazoned "Own Rule Save" over a globe spinning in space), a faded blue denim jacket, and grubby pink Keds, is sitting back turned to Tutor on the floor with crayons and poster paper. Momma's birthday is coming up soon. (August 9th, to be exact.) Audrey, concentrating so hard the tip of her tongue is out, is drawing Momma a picture. After many minutes, she raises her work over her head, arms extended. "See what I made?" She does not turn around.
The picture shows a girl about Audrey's age, with as it happens a shock of unruly red hair, wearing pink corduroys and a blue denim jacket, floating upward, over a castle courtyard, holding two big bunches of colorful balloons, on which are written, "Happy Birthday Momma!"
"That is great, kid!" says Tutor. "Momma will love it. She can buy any painting in the whole world, but only you can give her what she wants most, 'Kid Art' from her own kid. But don't forget to sign it"
As Audrey signs, Tutor begins to make huge snuffling, crying sounds, like Mr. Snuffalffagus. Audrey does not turn around. In a caring, diagnostic tone she has learned from Momma, she says, "What is wrong? What is wrong, Tutor?"
Tutor wails, "I want Kid Art, too!"
Audrey calmly points out, "But you don't have a kid."
Tutor wails, "That is why I am crying!"
Audrey says, "Well, you are not my Dad."
Tutor wails, "I know I am not your Dad."
Audrey says, "Well, I could make you something on your birthday anyway, maybe."
Tutor wails, "What birthday? I don't even know when I was born!"
Audrey instructs him, "Ask your Mom and Dad."
Tutor breaks into a wild moment, like some of Audrey's, fists dancing over his head, "I don't have a Mom or a Dad!"
Audrey knows this is serious. She puts the crayon down and joins him on the bed, her arm around his waist. "Everyone has a Mom and Dad, Tutor, even if they don't know their Dad."
Tutor says, "I never knew my own Dad." Audrey comforts him, "Me, either."
Tutor wails, "But at least you have a Momma, I don't know my Momma, either."
"Well," says Audrey, where were you born? "All I can remember is a barrel, or trash can, or dumpster on the street somewhere, Troy, Rome, Carthage, Babylon, Jerusalem. I don't know! I never had a real home."
"That is very sad," says Audrey. "I could make you something for Father's Day, but you are not a Dad." Tutor wails louder. "And you have no birthday, at least you don't know when it is." "Could you do it for Most Trusted Advisor Day?," asks Tutor. "No, says Audrey, going back to the floor to finish signing her art work, "because you are not the Most Trusted Advisor, Master Jack is. You are just my babysitter, and I don't even need one. Besides there is no such thing as Most Trusted Advisor Day. Tutor flails about raging and groaning, pounding the bed with fists and feet, like Audrey having a meltdown.
"Maybe for for Christmas," says Audrey, "if you are good. Now act your age. How old are you, anyway?"
"Well," Tutor says, "Dr. Rabelais, my old friend from College, examined me once, and he said I am at least as old as the hills. That was back in 1513. And I must be older than that now by now."
"Act like it, then," says Audrey, "and maybe I will make you a painting some day, too. Calm yourself!" ("Calm yourself" is a phrase she has learned from Momma.) Rising she reaches under her pillow. "You can hug my blanket if you want, but be quiet now, ok? You know we can't make so much noise all the time. It hurts Momma's ears. You can hug my snuggy, but don't chew on it, ok?"
Slowly Tutor returns to normal, hugging Audrey's security blanket, and turning the pages of Philosophical Hermeneutics this way and that in search of the meaning, much like the intended reader of Gifthub.
Been talking to my mentor, The Happy Tutor, about our role as highest level consultants (wisdom, virtue, taste, manners, and spirituality) to highest level wealth holders. Tutor, as the younger son of a noble family, having roistered at Oxford with Dr. Rabelais, got ordained as a friar, and hired himself out, as a Morals Tutor, centuries ago, to Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare's model, apparently for Falstaff) whose family had built the Castle now inhabited by the world's wealthiest hedge fund manager, Tess, and her daughter, our once and future queen Audrey, who will inherit a controlling interest in the world, rule it, and save it in the nick of time, if all goes well, and she gets help she needs from me, Tutor, and Rex the Rescue Dog.
So, Tutor looks upon our work as what he calls "our noble trade." Tough love for those who, above the merchant class, the military class, the judiciary, the lower level employees, the unemployed, the poor, the halt and lame, the imprisoned and the oppressed, are closer to God. Selected by the market, often selected by high board scores, these, the best and brightest, marked out by wealth, status, and rank, are those who own, rule, and save by right, for the benefit of all. Yet, he says, we are not mere courtiers, machiavels, moral biographers, men or women of all work, privy counselors, consiglieres, cat's paws, henchmen, technocrats, publicists, lobbyists, or apologists for family enterprises that are beyond good and evil. Our role is to take the heir in hand at a formative age, to shape and mold with cold showers, corporal punishment, fasting, prayer, rigorous study of ancient and modern texts, military or other public service, so that the best and brightest can achieve their God and Market given "call," to own all, rule all, and save all. Tutor is, admittedly Old School, he does believe that blood become bluer in a Dynastic Family over time, but not automatically. That moral, intellectual, and spiritual refinement must be drilled in from birth, generation by generation, by morals tutors like us. The thoroughbred must be broken to the bridle.
I asked Tutor, realistically, how society can trust a trusted advisor, so near the seats of power, not to become a lackey, a flunky, what Romans called a "parasite," or to become what the Catholic Church calls a "Simoniac," one who sells holy things for money or preferment. The temptations of the flesh, status, power, and of material things are so great! That, Tutor told me is why legitimate Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest families must acclimate themselves to poverty, chastity, fasting, prayer, endless study, public disgrace and contumely. Only those hardened by life on the street, naked, like Diogenes in a Dumpster, who eschew any payment, other than a modest stipend and room and board, and who are crazy enough to speak truth to power, to be whipping boys or girls when called upon to take a beating in a good cause, can be trusted to help the world's wealthiest track straight and true with Wisdom and Virtue. I took this as good news, insofar as I have no clients, no money, no clothes, am certifiably insane, and am a total pariah with my fellow citizens of all genders, races, classes and creeds. Even, then, as Tutor reminds me, I am at risk of spiritual pride, making a virtue of necessity. My temptation will come, he says, when and if a client ever offers to pay me for Wisdom and Virtue. "Better," he said, "you peddle your fanny for loose change, behind the Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, than sell wisdom and virtue to Mammon's Minions as if it were an asset they could own, like financial capital. The muses, the graces, the holy spirit will not be traduced. Prostitute those ladies, and you will find," he said, "they are the fates, and the furies."
Nevertheless, saving my soul is not your problem. I am willing to accept the moral hazard of working with you, as an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual, no matter your current moral condition. I am like a Doctor who takes the hardest cases. ("Phil," as my friend Junius Martial once said "is both a surgeon and a mortician; if the surgery fails, the embalming is free. Either way your family gets you back looking better than ever.") If you have net worth of several hundred million dollars or more, then, have poor morals, and are foolish, and want a quick pop - a taste, a free trial serving, of wisdom and virtue - let's talk! It would be helpful if you can bring to your free initial consultation a list of your moral defects, a list of literary and philosophical or spiritual books you have read, if any, an account of recent follies, and any indicators you have noted of moral blindness, spiritual pride, self aggrandizement, hard-heartedness, or parti pris. (Noted in yourself. If you note such defects in others, I am happy to work with them, too, and am pleased to offer a family and friends discount. If you note these defects only in the poor, I would only ask for a modest subsidy.) I can then provide you with a custom letter of engagement, with cost, time line, and projected benefits, "Before and After." I cannot grant you attorney client privilege, but Tutor can provide the veil of the confessional, as well as absolution and penance, if they are required to put you on the straight and narrow path in your own Journey from Sin to Salvation.
At bedtime Tutor tells Audrey stories, often tales from memory, tonight one about babes in the wood, a story about trusts, in effect, though also about swindlers and thieves.
"Once upon a time, long long ago, about the time this very Castle was built, back in the Dark Ages, though ours are not that bright, a mom and dad entrusted upon their deathbed a fortune to the mom's uncle, with the proviso that he care for the two kids, a brother and sister. And, if by some chance the two little kids were both to predecease him, the uncle could keep the money." Audrey listens intently. She is learning words like "entrusted," "predecease," and "proviso," picking them up in context. "And so the uncle hired two thieves to take the kids into a dark wood and kill them. The children, only three or four years old, rode off with the thieves on horseback, waving gaily to their uncle, as if they were going to a party. In the woods the first thief prepared to strangle the kids. But the second, feeling sorry for the children, took his knife and cut the first thief's throat." What does Momma, who sits in on story time, think of this horrific tale? Hard to tell; she is in her easy chair, a recliner, with her feet up, relaxing by playing online poker on her iPad. She always seems to win, though for stakes far lower than when she trades foreign currencies, or commodities. She does not seem to be listening. But Audrey is.
"So the second thief says to the kids, 'Stay right here, I will go into town and bring you food and drink!'" Audrey nestles closer. This is a good story tonight. "But days and days went by. And the nights were damp, dark and cold. The second thief never came back." Audrey's little body stiffens. The little boy and girl waited and waited, but he never came back." "Like real Dad," murmurs Audrey. "My Dad never came back. What happened to the kids?" "They waited and waited." "I am waiting," says Audrey. "Then," says Tutor, "they wasted away and died of hunger, and the birds came and buried them under twigs and flowers." Audrey leans into Tutor, stiff. "I love you, kid," he whispers to her. Audrey says, "But you are not Real Dad; I want my Real Dad. You only love me because Momma pays you to." Tutor masters his breathing, sharing her sorrow, her incurable wound. "Momma pays me $15 a week, kid, and payday is every Saturday morning. Here it is Wednesday night, and it is all gone. I bought a six pack in the commissary on Saturday night, and that rope chew toy for Rex. So, you don't get any more love until Saturday, after nine am......You will just have to wait." It is a good answer; Audrey smiles, safe and warm, and her form, with Tutor's arm around her shoulder, relaxes into sleep.
Disentangling himself gently, Tutor rises, his duties done for the day, and passes Momma on his way to the door. Appearances to the contrary, hyper-vigilant Tess, the Warrior Queen of Wall Street, can win high stakes poker against all comers, and also monitor bedtime, every word. Her hand comes up. Tutor is used to that, like one parent passing the baton to the other. But this time in her palm, held by her thumb is a folded up bill, $5? 10? $100? Who knows. Tutor says, "Madam, thank you, but we Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest Families are not allowed to take tips. Ours is a noble trade. Besides, I have all that I need and more. Thy need," says the unlikely priest over his shoulder, "is greater than mine...."
Well, yes, The Happy Tutor has mellowed since his days as Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, but when called upon he can still deliver that flash one handed thrashing for which he was once so well known, sought out by Dynastic Wealth Holders, for whom home truth is a bittersweet thrill at market price.
PMA has achieved what appears to be an effortless breakthrough in planning for truly successful families, those who affirm and plan for a community larger than self and family. "Effortless grace," achieved with endless effort, and self overcoming. Sprezzatura: We may be professional courtiers to wealth and power, but in the spirit of Horace and Castiglione, this is how from the best advisors are supposed to sound, from within a wisdom tradition that encompasses some of the best and worst in human history (Rome under the Emperors, Italy under the Mediciis, America here and now). We may not be able to endow our clients with a social conscience, nor are we permitted to lecture, hector, or sermonize, (nor satirize, of course, as only a madman or fool might attempt) but gracefully suggest? I am tormented and driven to extremes trying to say what PMA says with such tact, apparent ease, kindness, and grace. If her work and manner are not the future of our profession, we in wealth planning are on the wrong path. If you try to walk that path, you will soon see how clumsy we all are by comparison, so clumsy that we draw back and fall into our old proven ways. We have no idea how to broach the question of "the proper uses of riches" in a putative democracy. PMA is doing that so gracefully that it seems natural, necessary, and to be welcomed with gratitude. She holds up the highest hope for those she serves, and what higher compliment can there be than that? May her efforts prosper! And may she have as many followers as there are fools and knaves in our profession. (I say that as a fool very much in her debt.) If she were taken up and imitated only by the wise and virtuous, that would not fill a room large enough to need a microphone. It takes great courage to do what she does. She stands alone.
"Give me a penny and I will sing you a song, but give me the penny first." - The Hack persona in Swift's Tale of the Tub
On the main stage, a well known attorney is demonstrating how with a Dynasty Trust a family can grow $4.5 million to $450 million over five generations. In the hallway I am talking to a first time attendee who grew to reasonable wealth from extreme poverty. His comment to me sotto voce, "Surreal! I have never been to a conference like this. How can they be so out of touch?" At dinner several of us having to get to a tv to see the convention addresses, as our leaders dance around wealth inequality, and the bitterness of the former middle class, and young people, driven downward by globalism. The next day at the wealth conference our sympathies are enlisted for billionaires whose fortunes, without our help, may decline to only millions, "from shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves."
The influential talk in the highest reaches of wealth planning is about wisdom and virtue. (Dunce addressing a hall of Dunces, listening with the admiring face of awe.) Surely our talk, our little congregation, must stink in the nostrils of a just and avenging God?
Paging through the handouts, as less likely to trigger me publicly than sitting through the sessions, I came upon a field leader, glossing the famous scriptural passage, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." His take, with raised eyebrows, was that this "may seem to be an ought." Yes, God is like that. He created us and has certain standards. Our "five capitals" (as if virtues were our personal property!) have both assets and liabilities. Our assets are a gift. Our talents are a gift. The earth itself is a gift. We owe back; and to deny that is pride, blindness and sin. Yet, he who did the handouts calls himself a Secular Priest. Lauded, praised, imitated. The time is ticking down to zero. We will owe an accounting.
The murmur even in the halls at our own conferences is growing. In serving the wealthiest, and twisting every wisdom tradition to their greater glory and perpetuation, have we not failed those traditions, ourselves, our clients, our country and our world? It is long since time that the sotto voce conversation in the hallways made the main platform. There are those I would nominate for the role, sooner than me, as more knowledgeable, better read, more connected, more ethical, but to praise them by name here in the Dumpster would be to draw them into disrepute, and jinx their career prospects. The logic of wealth planning is such that to be known for being morally sane, and 'out' about it, is a disqualifier. We are not paid to take care of humanity. We are paid to take care of billionaires, or the richest we can find. They do not take kindly to servants who forget their place. So, here in the Dumpster, I lay claim to the obvious. Quote him as we will: Dante did not put wealth advisors, Machiavels, and secular priests in his Paradiso. They boil in his hell. Hell is where God is absent, or his name taken in vain. Hell is ourselves, when we lose touch with love that animates all creation. We are not wise or virtuous. We are opportunists. Quote Chaucer as you will: His journey is not a sanctimonious defense of entrenched power, where the Wife of Bath wears a wimple and curtsies to the King; it is a version of Carnival, where ordinary people have their say, often obscene.
Of course, I could be wrong. Give me a penny and I will sing another tune. The truth is that I am only bitter. After 12 years of offering to tutor the rich on their morals, I have yet to bag a single client. It pisses me off that some people I could name get $5,000 to $10,000 a day for doing it, and they know Jack Squat about Dante, Beckett, Frost, Shakespeare, Chaucer. As with coinage, the counterfeits have driven out the pure gold. Like this post. Pure gold, and what do I get for it? Passers hurrying bye with eyes averted as if I were the one who is insane. How do you think I got so crazy? Conference after conference. It would make you crazy too. If my being naked, Buddy, offends you, buy me some clothes. I would take a shower if I could afford the shelter. You think you are better than me?
Audrey (heir, as faithful readers well know, to an ownership interest in the global commonwealth), is on the floor, in the faded blue denim jeans, no longer rolled up since she has been growing, and her Audrey T-Shirt, with her name emblazoned over the Globe. Under it is the family motto, "Own Rule Save." Tutor, formerly Senior Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, now Morals Tutor, to the World's Wealthiest Child, lounges on her bed, lanky legs extended in his black priest pants, his hairy arms protruding from his short sleeved, untucked shirt, something he got in a thrift shop, in a bold Hawaiian pattern, several sizes too large. He's reading Boethius, The Consolations of Philosophy. Audrey intent like a little maniac is making some crazy gestures with her fingers instructing Rex, who sits with with one ear cocked, quizzically, as if the concepts were just beyond his ken. "Audrey, what are you doing?," asks Tutor. "Teaching Rex about the five capitals." "What five capitals?" Audrey raises her fist with thumb up. "Audrey, who taught you this?" "Master Jack was teaching Momma." (Master Jack is Momma's most trusted advisor, with cultural fluency in both wealth and wisdom.) "OK, so what is the thumb?," asks Tutor. "Financial Capital!" "Right, like the five little piggies," says Tutor, "that big strong one went to market. What is the second one; did it get roast beef?" No, Silly, this one is my Intellectual Capital!" "Right, so what about the next one?" Audrey flips him the bird. "Did Master Jack do that? Show me how he did it." Audrey holds her hand out flat, turned toward him and merely waggles the middle finger, in a way that is not in the least suggestive. "This is my Social Capital." "Right, be careful not to stick it straight up. No, don't do it again. And the next one?" "I can't remember." "Maybe," Tutor probes, Physical Capital?" "I can't remember." "Ok, so what is the little finger?" "Spirituality!" shouts Audrey, turning her hand so the little finger is uppermost and wiggling furiously. "Master Jack says, 'We must keep our Spirituality uppermost as we plan our 100 year Dynasty! The thumb supports all the others!'" "Right," says Tutor, "and the Holy Spirit cried, 'wee, wee, wee, all the way home.....'" Audrey flips her hand up and down, wiggling and waggling; now Holy Spirit up, now Financial Capital. Then the other way around. Rex barks.
"Sweetie," says Tutor, "stop!" "Don't ever call me Sweetie!," Audrey admonishes him. "You know you can't. I will not allow it!" Audrey stands haughtily, arms akimbo, every inch a Queen to Be. (Not a Princess.) "I am sorry, kid. Now, where was Master Jack's other hand? Was it in his shirt like Napoleon, or what?" "I think it was behind his back." "OK, kid, stop, let me show you how it really is." Tutor stands up, and holds his right hand out relaxed and flat, by his side, extended. "This hand is the Holy Spirit. She lives in Eternity outside of time." He then extends the other hand out long by his side, fingers flat and together, palm forward. "This other hand is all living things, in the Temporal Realm, from greatest" (he wiggles his thumb) "to the least" (he wiggles his little finger). "The right hand is the Sacred; as she gives life and grace to us, so we give love and gifts to one another. We love one another as God loves us. We give to one another as God gives to us." Tutor places his two hands together in a steeple of prayer. "So Sacred and Profane, Flesh and Spirit, are warring opposites and yet one." He brings fingers together, interlaced, closing in the gesture of reverence, as if praying for his own redemption, a sinner, head bowed. Audrey has been mirroring his gestures, like an athlete of the spirit and flesh in training. But her animal energy is so high. Her mind is wandering. "Audrey, what else did Master Jack teach Momma?" Audrey is reaching for the figure eight rope chew toy. "He said we are on a Journey!" Audrey has now got Rex, his jaws clamped on the other end of the chew toy, and is beginning to torque her tightly muscled frame like an Olympian throwing the hammer. "Own!," Audrey intones, as Rex lifts off the floor, making a 360 degree circuit, paws outstretched. "Rule!" Audrey intones, as Rex, terrified, makes a second, faster circuit.
Tutor and Audrey communicate almost by telepathy. He knows what is coming. "Save!" Audrey intones as Rex is whipped round in the third and final circuit. Tutor leaps spreadeagled, three feet from the floor, blocking the open casement window as Audrey releases and Rex arcs from Time toward Eternity. Rex hits Tutor in the belly, knocking the wind out of him. They land in a panting, agonized, tangle on the floor, as Audrey piles on, shrieking her all-conquering Audrey berserker war whoop, like her red headed ancestors, led by their warrior queen, overwhelming a Roman Legion, at some far flung outpost in Gaul.
Enter Momma with iPad. "Damn it! See what you made me do? I was buying Panama, but you made me hit 'PA!"" She stabs her finger against the screen. See? What am I supposed to do with Pennsylvania? Jesus H. Christ, will you two keep it down in here just for once?"
Who wrote the history of the New World? It was not the Aztecs. So, today, terra incognita is slowly mapped by Harvard Business Review. The violence to primitive nonprofit people is accompanied by the chance to convert to Metrics, and be measured and managed to death, while paying homage to The Leader.
Recovering in the Dumpster this morning with the kind of headache only the cheapest wine can inflict, I was hit with an almost irresistible thought, given my lost life as a literary critic. What if I were to write a "critique" of PMA, Esquire's, ouvre, at Trusts and Estates, asking who is her lineage? As for themes: The School of James Hughes. As for genre and style: Talk of the Town (E.B.White in The New Yorker at its zenith), Dr. Johnson's peripatetic essays in The Rambler, and Horace, Sermo 1.9 (Horace and the Bore). One strand via Hughes: that of The Bore, who would be the Most Trusted Advisor, The Privy Counselor, and Man of all Work to Augustus, or at least Maecenas. (The Roman term for such loyal retainers was "parasite," not a term of respect, admittedly, but look whose talking.) The other strand in PMA is the "virile plain style" of the neoclasscial tradition of the honest man, the plain dealer, the moralist, the candid insider, writing in an easy way for others who are, or think they are. Such a self-respecting person speaks truth to power, and is admired for it by the leader who might behead those whose lips tremble at the moment of truth. Yet, PMA is a woman? That, too, and that is why her work in "family dynamics," and "family governance," or home economics, resonates. The language of strategic reason, the languages of love. Love of the arts, included. Of course, if this post could be blown up to the size of a Doctoral Dissertation in English Language and Literature, I might yet be Dr. Phil, in sky blue robe with the dark blue and gold slashes, and monk's cowl, though I have no pants and am barefoot, as befits an Honest English major with a degree in Philosophy.
For those Trusted Advisors, or Consiglieres, or Secular Priests, new to lit crit, just one question: In PMA's recent essay, "Are You "Wealthy'?," blowing up the School of Hughes, blasting its foundation (unwavering fidelity to the wealthiest, doglike loyalty to the Patron), she happens to leave a meeting of The Bores Who Serve Billionaires, and gets better advice on wealth, wisdom, virtue and happiness, from a cabbie. Was there really such a cabbie? What if she made that up? What if the Bore in Horace is made up, more a 'type' of the eternal parasite than an actual trusted advisor wannabe on a particular street in Rome 2,000 years ago? Would it be contrary to the editorial policy of Trust and Estates to publish fiction? Could it countenance satire, towards which the style of Horace, Dr. Johnson, and even The New Yorker (see the cartoons) tends? Traditions, like Audrey herself, have an atavistic gene that expresses itself when the civilization it carries is imperiled. As was Rome under the increasingly mad, or corrupt Caesars, as were gouty English royalty in Dr. Johnson's era, during the American Revolution, as are we now as The Wealthy Bear it Away, and the addled masses, around the globe, react and revolt, with the Duck Dynasty Patriarch needing as much help on Family Governance and Family Dynamics as anyone else, as does Trump. And on such "governance," of the grand self within the grand family, and grand family within the broken polity, that the future of our world depends, contested by billionaires and those who serve or follow.
Now, if you will excuse me I must cage enough for another bottle, "the hair of the dog." Failed as a literary critic, failed as a Morals Tutor, failed as a protege of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, may I at least succeed as a Beggar before old age sets in and indigence is friendless and wineless? And so now I: "Pray, Kind Sir, step in here for a moment behind the Dumpster. Let me have a word with you on the QT. I know you are well connected with Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Geneva, London, the Gulf States. I, though you might not know it to look at me now, am a learned man, a moral man, a wise man, a blameless man, virtuous. These very rags bear witness to my integrity. I have never sold out for the money, or prostituted my talent. I have chosen not to bathe, or hose off, because I am me, the human animal, authentic and incorruptible. Surely, you must know Maecenas? Caesar? Gates? Zuckerberg? Soros? Adelson, Thiel? Might you introduce me? To improve their taste or morals? Mentor their children? Prepare their heirs? Slit a throat? Prosecute a case? Keep secrets? Procure a mistress? Reduce taxes? Build social capital by buying an election? There is nothing that is not ennobled by my Patron's wealth. Nothing no matter how vile need be hidden from me. I have seen it all, and done worse. Pray, Sir, how are your own children doing? Could I prepare them Sir? Can you at least spare a quarter? Just one dime, Sir, and I will let you pass."
Tutor, representing Tess and Audrey both, is in a bit of an ethical bind. In the back of Momma's closet is a superb flapper costume that she bought for the The Great Gastby Party a few years ago at the Castle. Beaded tube dress with fringed hem; shoes, head band, and racoon coat. Now, if you were to open the racoon coat on its hanger, you would see that a two foot by five foot strip has been cut from the back of it. Does Tutor tell Momma or does he not? For you, as a Trusted Advisor, to make the right decision in this Case Study, and get one Credit Hour for Ethics, you do, of course, need to know the whole story.
Last night at bedtime, Audrey wanted a made up story, not a book story. The made up ones are best. Tutor told her about a girl long long ago, in another era of climate change, when the ice ages came. A girl with - yes - red hair. "But I have red hair!," squeals Audrey, her fists dancing. "Yes you do," says Tutor, "but this little girl has freckles all across the bridge of her nose." "But I have freckles all across the bridge of my nose!," squeals Audrey. "I know you do, but this little girl's name was Audrey!" My name is Audrey!," shrieks Audrey. "Well, then, I should probably tell you a family secret," says Tutor in a stage whisper. Tess who also likes story time, since it puts her to sleep even more quickly than it does Audrey, tenses a bit in her arm chair. ("Tutor," she thinks to herself, "Now what?") "Well, this Audrey in the Ice Age is actually your great, great, great, great, great, great - his voice rises with intensity with each of about 30 greats - until Audrey shouts, "Grandmother!" "Yes," Tutor, your great, great great......" Tess exclaims, "Please, Tutor can we get on with this!" Well, it turns out to be a very good story about the Cavemen and Women whose tribe - the Neanderthals, actually - though Tutor touches on this aspect gently knowing how self conscious Audrey is about her red hair which science has shown comes from the Neanderthals. The tribe is threatened with extinction. The food they gather is dying out. The winters are longer. Outside the cave's mouth, Audrey, her mother, and father can see snow flakes falling. They are hungry. Momma has boiled bones, dry old bones, night after night and there is no nourishment in them. Unless Audrey and Dad can bring down a Mastodon, the family and the tribe will perish.
Audrey, I should tell you, even at 9.5 will in moments of deep bedtime reflection, sometimes insert her thumb, much as you might sneak a cigarette at a party, or in a moment of deep relaxation, even after you had kicked the habit. Audrey is sucking loudly. Tutor, as he always does, pauses to pull her fist away, making a loud wet pop. Her eyes swivel towards his. The thumb goes back in. The story continues.
Dad tells Audrey that he cannot bring a Mastodon down alone, and the tribe's hunters are too weak with hunger. It is down to her and him. (Sucking sounds, serious sounds of sucking.) Dad helps Audrey sharpen a flint spearhead. He shows her how to wet animal sinews until they are elastic, and then wind the spearhead to the shaft, and dry it by the fire, until it is good and tight.
The last image Audrey and Tess see in their mind's eye, as both fall asleep, is a child, with red hair in all directions, in a fur tunic, carrying a spear by her father's side, framed in the cave mouth, against falling snow at sunrise....
So, now you understand probably about the strip of fur missing from that coat.
Ethical Dilemma: Does Tutor tell his Employer about the culprit? Or, does his Fiduciary Responsibility to his charge mean he must keep her secrets? In times of great stress for a species certain regressive genes are sometimes expressed. What had saved the Neanderthals from total extinction, allowing them to interbreed with the other more advanced hominids were certain traits - like courage, stocky legs ("But I have stocky legs!"), and broad flat front teeth, like miniature piano keys. ("But my teeth are like that, see?") The point I am making is that Audrey may save, whether she owns, whether she rules. She carries the gene for survival. Knowing that, and knowing that your professional responsibility is to the one who pays you, and perhaps to the Heir you are paid to prepare, do you have any responsibility to the tribe that kid can save? I don't know how you process all this. But I can tell you what Tutor did.
Momma is in her study, shorting the Bank of Brazil. Audrey in her fur tunic, carrying a large, brown, plastic baseball bat (thin grip, very wide barrel, used for teaching little kids to hit a nerf ball), enters, to present herself. Tutor behind her. "Momma, I am sorry I wrecked your fur coat, but I have to save our Tribe." With that she waved her massive club, as Rex the Rescue Dog, ran back and forth, now a mighty hunting dog. Momma glances up from the iPad. "And did Tutor encourage this?" "No, Momma, he did not know." "Very well," says Momma, "Save the tribe, but please next time, ask me first before you wreck my stuff. And Tutor, stay for a moment."
"She is doing well, isn't she?" "Yes, Madame, much better, I should say. More cheerful." "Just as well she is learning to eat what she kills, because Dammit! the Bank of Brazil just rose by three points while I have been talking to you! I am down by $4 billion. Now, beat it; I have work to do."
Tess, on track to own a controlling interest in the world, is both musical and a mathematician; both are one to her. She sees numbers and notes in a symphonic synesthesia. When she relaxes on the battlements with her flute, the whales surface, and seem to dance in accompaniment, with the seabirds. Yet, she is also "good with numbers," and reasons as such. Startled by Brexit, and the new nationalism, she reviews her prior, well advised logic.
- Buy companies in the rust belt
- Move jobs to China
- Break the union in the US plant
- Reincorporate off shore and pay no taxes
- Reinvest philanthropy in China where the money is made and where 100 lives can be saved as cheaply as one in Flint
- Optimize profit
- Fund a PAC to maintain the political status quo
- Optimize across all countries to do the most good because "All lives have equal value" (Gates Foundation) and "Talent is evenly distributed around the world, but opportunity is not" (Chan Zuckerberg Charitable Initiative).
- Look for synergies across bottom lines, i.e., if owning a social media platform in Silicon Valley where programmers command high salaries, use social impact investing to fund a start up to train programmers in Africa to earn one dollar a day; good for them, good for profit at social media firm, good for profits on African startup, on balance good for the world, even after adjusting for wage declines in Silicon Valley. (C.f.,the first program funded by Chan Zuckerberg Charitable Initiative.)
Why then are some of the ignorant, the low information voters, those left behind in the "Big Sort," by IQ and SATs, and by the movements of the market, calling for a return to a time when they did better? Do the Alt Right, Black Lives Matter, Trump or Bernie voters, the followers of Le Pen, simply not understand that when the economic pie gets bigger, and we optimize for human good worldwide, and for the owner's share of the pie, that the interests of the dispossessed at home cannot be weighed in the balance more than a life in India, China, Mexico, or Afghanistan? Isn't it all math, after all? The pie is bigger, owner's share is growing, certain losers suffer. Innovation, Disruption, Creative Destruction. All in all, the totals of human happiness worldwide are trending up. Metrics have been checked. The math is sound. The altruism is maximally effective. What is the problem?