Canvassing a fair rule set for the upcoming "Save our Country" Scapegoat Lottery

Taking "The Bacchae" as a model of healing the  body politic does have one defect. The scapegoat was the King, Pentheus, and we don't have a King. We are a democracy, leading to the need for a fair procedure for picking scapegoats, which is the purpose of this important post, created pro bono publico, by a citizen down on his luck, but hopeful of preferment, when things get better again in our messed up country. 

In the earliest myths, the priest slits the throat of the sacrificial animal, and is then stoned to death himself. Scapegoats included outcasts and pariahs, the deranged, foreigners, lepers, political enemies, and the mentally ill. But they also included wise men like Socrates and Boethius, godly men like Christ, patriots like Cicero, clerics like Saint Thomas Beckett, and Kings like Oedipus, Pentheus, Charles I, Louis XVI, and even a Tsar and his whole family. 

Given all of human history, and much of literature and political theory and practice, surely, we can all agree on the need for a steady supply of scapegoats, but we must also agree on a fair procedure for designating as many as needed. I realize that calling for scapegoats to unify a nation is a good way to become a scapegoat, even if I was not one already. By way of ground rules, maybe, we can agree to exclude any elected officials, designated Morals Tutors, or anyone who is a significant owner of property. That would narrow it down to the expendables, while keeping me (destitute as I am, and a pariah), off the bad list. I come under the exemption for Wise and Virtuous Counselor to the World's Wealthiest Families and their Puppets. (That is a long list, and I am happy to share it with any Billionaire, in or out of the Cabinet, needing a Wise and Virtuous Counselor, but the short list is either me or The Happy Tutor, and he is currently fully engaged in mentoring Audrey, our once and future Queen to Be.)

Actually, maybe we should put on the good list anyone who has read "The Bacchae" and/or Rene Girard on Violence of the Sacred, or Carl Schmidt on a body politic defined as friend against enemy; or building on Schmidt, Agamben, on the state of exception, in which democracy is abrogated during a state of emergency because only a top man can save us inside/outside the rule of law. Anyone who cannot prove he or she has read and digested at least two of these (may my feminist friends please excuse the word) seminal texts goes into the Scapegoat Lottery, unless they qualify under one of the other exceptions, like powerful person, wealthy person, male, white, of European descent, Christian, monolingual in English, or a personal friend of mine, or full-paying client for morals tutorials.  


I am not Saying to Lynch the Happy Tutor for our Sins

In the earliest rites of Dionysus, unless earlier were worse yet, the priest slit a bull's throat, and was then stoned to death by the crowd, in jubilant celebration. "Tragedy is the splitting of the ethical substance," per Hegel. Wholeness in Parker Palmer, Jung, and so many positive psychologies is a peaceful seeming circle. But tragedy finds integrity in an arc, the slash of the knife. In American history, Lincoln, soon to be assassinated, invoked the better angels of our nature; Sherman earlier having burned Atlanta. The women were made to dance barefoot in the ashes, while Union troops exulted. Sacred violence, Rene Girard called it, the corpse bleeding into the ritual chalice. "Eat of my body, drink of my blood." From such barbaric rituals, individuals, mobs, and communities are born again. 

Who among us, then, what familiar stranger, what insider/outsider, will be the scapegoat to heal our body politic? I would rather be the priest than the goat, but I fear the roles are one. Tutor is far better qualified, Dear Lord! Let his be the suffering and the expiation of our sins. He is the best there ever was, an Ancient, unblemished by time. I am a latecomer, interloper, a moral fraud. Wise and Virtuous Counselor to Fools and Knaves. I may be The Moral Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, but he is Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage. He taught me everything I know about our Noble Trade. I am just his apprentice, one of many, he has taught and discarded along the way. I am not worthy to touch the hem of his garment. I am not saying my mentor, The Happy Tutor, should bleed for our sins. He is a better man than I. Burn him!, if you must burn someone. He is not here right now, but I have his new address.


For a fine mind like mine can neither be bought nor borrowed, but make me an offer

At Wise Counsel where theologians, therapists, legal minds and others help Dynastic Families be Wise and Virtuous and so preserve the family and the wealth for 100 years or more, as a public service, I see they cite Seneca, suicided later by his best client, Nero, "A good mind is neither borrowed nor bought." I told my friend and mentor, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, that we might  borrow that remark for a tagline at Gifthub, if only to hint, however broadly, that Tutor and I, with our fine minds, have neither borrowed our wisdom and virtue nor been bought. Tutor just looked at me with disgust. I like him a lot, and appreciate his high standards, but I think when it comes to self promotion he may be out of touch with the times. We are Wise and Virtuous Counselors to the World's Wealthiest Families. What does good taste have to do with it?  It is all Wealthbondage, after all. 


Eugenics after Trump, per William Schambra

William (Bill) Schambra (Dr. Schambra, in fact) is one of the most vital and stimulating thinkers on philanthropy, public policy, and political theory and practice. Although he may not spend much quality time with the hicks, lubbers, life insurance agents, money managers, petite bourgeois clients, religious zealots, patriots,  and white trash to which I have devoted my own meteoric career in Wealth Bondage, and while he is no longer a speech writer for Republicans energizing this disreputable base, he does channel some of that anger, and resentment of the elites to which Bill (presumably in self-loathing) belongs, as an honored thinker, in his own right, a denizen of a reputable (as these things go) think tank and a familiar speaker wherever policy and philanthropy elites meet (such as Council on Foundations and Philanthropy Round Table) to settle each other's hash.

Bill (Dr. William) Schambra, says now, in an essay at Nonprofit Quarterly, "About what Happened," that it is the liberal approach to fixing things, an approach that Bill likens to Eugenics, that account for Trump's rise. It is true - I agree with Bill -- that my progressive friends do feel they are "more highly evolved," a phrase some actually use, than the knuckle draggers in the flyover states. One of my progressive friends, a Harvard educated PhD, from a family that fled the Holocaust, even has a statistically valid test he administers to people to determine how highly evolved they are in ethics, with the Authoritarian, Faithful, Mercantile, Ignoramus as the lowest of the low, and with the open minded promiscuous, cosmopolitan intellectual as the The Finest Fruit of Civilization So Far. It is also true that a large number of voters, behind the curtain, chose to approve an explicit agenda that involves visceral hatred, scapegoating, gloating cruelty, mob-mania, deportation gangs, vilification of minorities, defense of boundaries and borders, unless female, and assertions of racial identity and superiority.

Those who, like Bill have, since at least Nixon, whistled to the dogs had better feed them. When those Bill sides with, the lubbers, come for elites, he had better have some symbol he can paint on his door to indicate that race-baiting, misogyny,  and xenophobia are good with him, appearances to the contrary. Bill is a personal friend, and a role model; he is a good man with a record of inciting deep thought, passionate thought, about philanthropy in a free market in a just society. He is ungodly gifted and can channel the great God Pan, or Dionysus drunk on blood, a gift he shares with Euripides and with Trump. In this case, though, he had better update his Theory of Eugenics with input from the Alt-right if he wants to get traction and be in line with God-In-History, as we make Progress towards Cultural Purity.

Euripides? The Bacchae is what I had in mind, as in the prior post. Tragedy follows satire at the Festival of Dionysus. In These Great Times, it is Farce first, or Punchinello, then Tragedy. Sacred Violence, for that we need a scapegoat. Eugenics is cold science. Dionysus prefers havoc, a mob run amok, a lynch tree, human sacrifice, a god bleeding into a chalice, at least a lamb slain on an altar, if not a son of the priest, or the priest himself.

I am reminded, speaking of the great liberal project, of Isaiah Berlin, whose favorite quotation was from Kant, "From the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made." At heart, liberalism is the view that in each of us -- all of us - high and low, educated and uneducated, is a spark of the divine, largely obscured by sin. I believe that, too, but the pre-Christian god whose spark I channel, as does Bill, as do some of the Higher-ups in Wealth Bondage, and their minions, is elated by suffering, the suffering of the one expelled, the one fired, the one subordinated, the one molested or broken to submission, the one whose humiliation fuels the rituals of The Apprentice, to which role - The Boss  - I aspire. The difference, I am sorry to say, is that after decades in Wealth Bondage, in service to my generous patron, she who rules us all, I have never risen from prostitute to pimp, let alone owner of the Bordello. In a Master/Slave hierarchy (please Bill, credit me here with Hegel) from the dregs on up to the Gold Encrusted Palace of Good Taste, I never made it above the slave of slaves, the butt of all jokes, even my own. If, unlike Bill, I identify with the losers and feel their rage, it is because I am one. I want to hurt others now, as I have been hurt. If I cannot live in the Big House, with Bill, or serve as Doctorate Inside the Belt Way, in a Think Tank, I want to burn it all down.

When my blood is up, as once in awhile it still is, I exult in the shrieks of those burning, in the fear in the eyes of those who will be sacrificed, in the flinching and groans of the satiric victim I flay for her own good, to heal her, set an example, and cure our sick society. Nothing would please me more, as beaten down as I now am, than to make myself feel great again by restoring the moral order, by burning my enemies alive, as human torches, while I sip a cool drink, or eat lemon sherbet, as a Distinguished Guest, in the Rose Garden, and have my pick of the defeated females, who cannot resist me (for I am, grotesque appearance to the contrary, irresistible!, since all women love the man with power to harm on a world historic scale).

At last I have a party, indeed a country, to which I can pledge allegiance with my heart, soul, and body, once we have purged ourselves of the toxins, exterminated the vermin, and Restored the Righteous like me. A job for which I feel well suited, if I can be awarded a badge, a uniform, a billy-club, or other sufficient sign of my superiority, and license to use it. All I need is a sign! A hint as to whom I should beat, or threaten with deportation, or death. Or, if there is to be a Think Tank of the Unthinking - Who better than I? I believe Bill disqualified himself from the Future of Policy by coming across once again as a reasonable man with a conscience. I say to my Fellow Unreasoning Americans, let us spare Dr. William Schambra's life, when we come for the Elites. He has done little good for our cause, but little harm, too. Well, of course there are two sides to every story. Let justice be done. I would spare his wife, if it were my decision. I owe him that much.


Sacred Violence As the Primordial Social Compact

Casinos, brothels, and spectacles of cruelty. What we can still learn from Rene Girard and, I might add, Carl Schmidt. The scapegoat (pharmakos) burned at the crossroads to seal the social compact, and cure or purge the body politic. View the faces of the citizens, men, women, and children, about the lynch tree. View the faces beneath the cross commemorating sacrifice with the chalice of blood, ask yourself about the "business model." The flock, fleeced and butchered, worshipping the butchered shepherd. In Wealth Bondgage we own the platform on which bullying, and protest against it, are converteed to clicks, likes, shares, market data, sales, votes, power, and preferment. To build on the broadest and most solid foundation we at Wealth Bondage build on the best and the worst in human nature. Good or evil? What is your pleasure tonight? In our scenes rooms, encompassing both, the house always wins. 


Impact investing - Friend or Foe of Philanthropy?

Looks like I have just now agreed to talk on impact investing for a group of fundraisers in May.  They want me to provoke table conversations with such questions as these. 

  1. What is impact investing, as opposed to earlier forms of socially conscious or screened investing?
  2. Where does it fit in your work as a nonprofit? (Endowment?)
  3. Is impact investing friend or foe for fundraising? (A recent US Trust survey of wealthy families found that 1/3rd  do impact investing, and 1/3rd of that third said they do it in lieu of giving)
  4. How do advisors get paid on philanthropy? How do they get paid on impact investing? Any predictions where that will go?
  5. Will impact investing steal your nonprofit mojo?
  6. Are children raised in a mall, whose only categories are “own,” “manage,” “buy,” “invest,” and “consume,” and whose social status, identity, and sense of community are confirmed by “likes” and “friends” going to prefer impact investing to deeper and more challenging engagement with a cause?
  7. Will any rational person prefer sacrificial giving to impact investing when both get results, and confer feel-good bragging rights?
  8. What is your “competitive advantage” vis a vis impact investing  if you are, say, the Catholic Church, Jewish Federation, Georgetown, a soup kitchen?
  9. In seeking the good, the betterment of humankind, to whom, to what prayer, poem, tradition, or prospectus,  do you turn in the dark of the night?
  10. Heidegger wrote, “We live in society, we dwell in community.” If impact investing lives in the market, in what community do you and your donors dwell?
  11. If your gift planning is transactional, all about the art of the ask, who do you think is better at sales, you or the investment advisor?
  12. When income tax and estate tax deductions are eliminated for the highest capacity donors, under Trump, how will you tell a story true enough and compelling enough that the “social investor” is willing to accept a guaranteed 100% loss of his or her funds via a gift, when he or she can get (according to the investment advisor) a market return and greater impact by keeping the money under management for the Greater Glory of God and the Betterment of Humankind in the Bank of Wealth Bondage?

Any thoughts? Further questions?


Autumnal Reflection on Legacy

A true story for once: I am in a restaurant in Dallas, at a table of financial advisors and attorneys. To my left across the table is an advisor I have known and worked with ("Legacy Planning for the Wealthy") for thirty years. He is a business friend and colleague. To his right is an attorney who is famous for, let us say, naming a tax strategy as "Ulysses." My friend, after a couple of glasses of wine, is whispering behind his hand to the attorney, and laughing. My friend is looking at me as he laughs, as is the attorney. So, my friend says, to the attorney, "Ask him go ahead, ask him." Ask Phil if he has read Irish literature. And yes I have read Ulysses, my father taught it. My Aunt taught it. I taught it, and also Joyce's Dubliners, and the fine story with which it ends, "The Dead." Why, then, is legacy planning the sorry mess it is? Why has it become The Book of the Dead? Simple: Because those who know better, are silenced by the Living Dead and become Zombies in their turn, the revenge of this world upon the next. Legacy planning begins with conviction, as to a handful of questions. The questions do not have answers. Neither the CPA nor the attorney, nor the financial advisor, can answer them. The questions require decisions in the light of whatever we hold holy, and to share that with the advisors is to be exposed to derision. So the living dead bury the dead alive. Questions:

  1. How much is enough for me? For my family? How much can I/we devote to something larger than ourselves?
  2. What lives in me, from what source, or seed, and how will that live on through others after I am gone?
  3. What in this moment, at this crossroads, for me, my family, and our community, am I called to do, even if others scoff?

What sheds light on these questions are traditions that go back to year one, and earlier. Scriptures, classic texts, more recent texts channeling those, the traditions of democracy and of the economy (buying, selling, owning, investing, measuring, managing, scaling, and cashing out). The pearl of great price. The birds of the air. The seed that falls on infertile ground. The pearls before swine. The branches of the old tree burned. The faithful servant whose only service in his blindness is to stand and wait. To create a space in and out of time, that moment in every day that Satan's watch-fiends cannot find, to come to conviction, is what we each must do before we go to see my good friend, the best of the bunch, or the attorney to his right. The seed has a thick husk for good reason, so it can withstand weeks, years, centuries of drought. What will live on? Even the dead husks will die out too if the seed within them does not sprout. In my friend, in the attorney to his right, seed within the husk, for them too. We do not wholly die until our last breath. Even in that breath the sinner can be saved. Afterward comes the eulogy, and the reading of the will. As a Rabbi said to me once, "Your last will and testament is your final teaching. What do you want it to say?"

 


Is this Cheating at Morals Tutoring? You decide!

It is 9 am, time for Audrey's court mandated daily hour of Morals Tutoring by a Qualified Morals Tutoring Professional, but the silence in her room is palpable.

She may have hurt Tutor's feelings. She is sitting in her blue denim jacket, and pink corduroys, with her back to him, quite content to work on her Thelma and Louise coloring book. She has told him terrible things, without even looking back over her shoulder at him, as he lies on her bed, sorting his Values Cards, bearing the Christian Martyrs, to decide on his Personal Values. St Sebastian today seems right, shot full of arrows. Audrey told him that he is not her Most Trusted Advisor; not even her Morals Tutor; he is just her babysitter, and she does not even need one. She knows it hurts him, and that is why she says it so calmly, like our future Queen, setting her Queendom to rights. The Servants must know their place, even Tutor. Brooding, face downcast, Tutor rises and dejectedly shuffles toward the door. Audrey does not see him, as her back is turned, but she senses him escaping. "Where are you going?," Audrey asks reproachfully. 

What fun would it be to be alone? Really alone? Much better to sit with back turned, imperious and self-sufficient, as the Tutor witnesses separateness and confirms it. How sweet to make a grownup whimper. No sense letting one escape.

Tutor knew that all along, because he suffers from the same problem of reality-mediated-by-the-other. Without Audrey, or some other child to have fun with, he would not be a Silly Grownup, anymore, he would be an ancient man growing more ancient every day. He only got to be thousands of years old because, luckily, there has always been another prince or princess or inheritor to coach.

So, Tutor returns to the bed. He knows it may be cheating, at least it is in a gray area, but he will write up today as 'Worked with Audrey for 60 minutes on Lessons from the Christian Martyrs." He did work with her, in a sense. She worked, he worked. They worked together? About as well as any client ever does with a morals tutor, I think.

Today, though, Tutor gets the last word. "OK, so I am not your babysitter. Some day I am going to be your P.O."

"What is a P.O.?", asks Audrey rising to the bait.

"Parole Officer!," shouts Tutors, exuberantly, his fists dancing over his own head, as Audrey does when excited. 

Our once and future Queen, serenely crayons on.  Her face says, "What a Stupid Grown Up." But she does not deign to make a sound.


The World Turned Upside Down within the Very Castle Itself

Momma, also known as Big Big Momma, though she is as slender and lithe as an Olympic fencer, but big in the eyes of the traders she daily defeats on course to own and rule the world before she hits 35, and big in the eyes of Audrey, who is still waist high, and big as a mother is big forever in the heart of the one she raises, is hovering outside Audrey's door. "It is rather quiet in there," she says to herself. "Too quiet; what are those two up to now?" Those two meaning Audrey and her Tutor.

When Momma opens the door, she sees two half creatures, two bodies cut off at the waist, butt-side up, and the two of them with their heads between their legs, faces red, hands clasping their own ankles, galumphing about the room.

"What in the name of Heaven are you two doing?," asks Momma. "You are supposed to be doing your lessons," she adds. "I am," chirps Audrey; "Tutor is preparing the Heir, Momma. He is teaching me how to turn the world upside down so it is right side up again!" You as faithful reader must know that Tutor, following both Stoic and Christian Doctrine, teaches that the last shall be first, and the meek shall inherit, some sweet day, when the world is righted at last. "Momma, you are upside down! You are walking on the ceiling. Be careful, Momma, you might fall down!" "Well," says Momma, playing along, "You had better save me. Turn me right side up, please." Audrey and Tutor turn to face each other, heads inverted, like a crack drill team from another planet. "Ready!," shouts Audrey. "Steady!," replies Tutor. "Go!," exclaims Audrey. And both stand so fast the blood drains to their feet, and they stagger about like drunks, until Audrey clutches her mother's legs, and Tutor falls rump first, to the floor. "I saved you, Momma," murmurs Audrey, "You are right side up now!"

I mentioned this strange episode to my colleague in Wealth Bondage, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, BA in Forensic Hermeneutics, University of Calcutta, and PhD, English Language and Literature, Yale, now Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning in Wealth Bondage, and he assured me that, though the incident may be real, it is also a fable, or parable, for God writes the Book of Nature in Types, for our instruction. So, I took the bait, and asked what the parable means. He said, "The World Turned Upside Down is a trope going back to Diogenes, he of the famous barrel, who once counseled Alexander the Great, to give it a rest, and not bother conquering the world, since happiness could be found by sitting down in the sun by Diogenes and his dog by the barrel or dumpster in which the sage lived. Later, towards the end of his days, Diogenes asked to be buried face down, so that when the world turned right side up, he would be facing in the right direction. That trope," Chadwallah continued for my edification and yours too, if your hunger for hidden meanings has kept you reading thus far, "was taken up in the Enlightenment, as a subject of poems and masquerade balls, all leading up to the American and French Revolutions. Speaking now," said Chadwallah, "as the Shop Steward for the Wealth Bondage Chapter of SIEU in our fight for $15 dollars an hour, I take this parable as a sign that Revolution will come, not from the shop floor only, from the least among us, but from inside the very Castle of Wealth Bondage itself, through the good auspices of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars, who has come again, to save us all from ourselves, and to mentor our once and future Good Queen Audrey, who I take to be a Type of Astraea, Goddess of Justice, who will own, rule, and save us all....." For this kind of tripe, Dr. Chadwallah expects $15 an hour? But he is a good friend, and we all need a dream or delusion if we are to get through another day in Wealth Bondage, The Way It Is. Most of us just pretend we are free, insofar as we consume, or that we can get free if we do as told, think as told, and don't make trouble  for our clients, donors, immediate superiors, or the higher ups, to whose status we aspire, as if that would do us any good. At least Chadwallah has a plan: let Tutor fix it for us. We certainly can't do anything about it for ourselves.


Audrey, the World's Wealthiest Heir, on Rich Kids of Instagram

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. 


American Bacchae

Bacchae
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.


Tutor gets Tutored by Momma

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.

 


The Old Cumberland Begggar, a Version for Audrey

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.


Kid Art - How Audrey Helps Tutor with his Terrors

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.