Controlled violence patrols the perimeter of the walled city, protecting hearth and altar, and protecting the trade routes. Among the merchants and thieves goes a god in disguise, asking all, "What is wealth?" He is Hermes the trickster, god of the crossroads and boundaries of life and death, of physicians and quacks, healers and poisoners, intercessor for conmen, poets, and false prophets. He asks his mark what wealth is as a setup. He then offers a potion to perfect it. Swallow. A big bolus. Open wide!
Tutor has noticed what other's have not. What puzzles Master Jack, makes perfect sense to Tutor. In all the market turbulence, Big Momma, with collars and straddles, and options, increased her share of the world's wealth from 51% to 72%, bankrupting several undeserving billionaires. Yet, her pace was slow, her face drawn, even the music from her flute, as she paused to watch the waves, was sad. Reason? Her beloved, Audrey, she who will one day rule us all, was depressed. "The Polar Bears are dying." She had seen a picture. Big Momma will own and rule the world. But only Audrey can save it. Tutor, a 2,000 year old child himself, will accompany her as she does. Civilizations rise and descend to barbarism. Species die out. Humans mutate into whatever comes next. But always there will be a Queen, and when she no longer needs a Tutor, he can always play her Fool. Of course, he can also double as hangman. "Innocence must be protected," say he, turning the wheel of his rack, on which a miscreant is torn asunder. If only Tutor did not enjoy it so much. But in truth we all have issues. And you can't blame a moralist for loving his job.
When Audrey and her Tutor have serious work to do, in owning and saving the world, they retreat to her enormous wooden toybox, and sit facing each other soles pressed to soles, peddling as they ruminate. Audrey’s coverlet is pulled over the top of the crate, making a canopy. Master Jack and his protege, Master Bliffil, are on other business bound. They may be talking to Momma about Family Systems. Trust Protectors. Mentors. Black Sheep. Heirs, in general, and Audrey in particular, as Asset or Liability on the Family Balance Sheet. Who knows what all. Our business is different. “Did you know polar bears are falling through the ice, Tutor?,” Audrey asks. “How can we save them?”
Yes, of course, conversations are dying as the neurochemistry of the social is studied and manipulated by Silicon Valley. Yes, Facebook or Twitter could be optimized for humanity, built around love rather than money. But why would they do that, Sherry? The best products are addictive and extract value invisibly, walled gardens as seductive as a casino. And we idolize those who do this. Destruction and reconstitution of humanity on an owned platform is their achievement. The costs are externalized.
To convene more humane conversations, for the benefit of self, family, and society, among internet-addled humans, our fellow citizens, across our tribal divides, is a fool's game. (To which, therefore, Tutor and I are well suited.) What does it pay? For those with the skills to do it, the proper fee, based on education, years of experience, value of the work, its rarity, and the opportunity cost of providing it, might be $10,000 to $20,000 a day plus expenses, first class, with limo service from the airport. The proper audience might be "super-citizens," and/or those who advise them on leading a flourishing life, within a dynastic family, while the world falls apart. In market terms that is the fee, and the audience, and I have the agendas, the experience, the temerity, the connections, and all the collateral. Then there is the beggar's bowl, the shared bottle of bum wine in a paper sack, the Dumpster and a vow of poverty. If you want wisdom, the only price is free, because it is not for sale at any price and acquiring it is suffering unto death. But for more money I will give you what you need (worldly-wisdom) to advance the well-being of you, your family, and your business - while the world falls apart. I know it is wrong, blasphemy and sacrilege, but, at my age, my looks shot, my body and mind shattered, I have nothing else left to sell.
You might wonder what Audrey got from Tutor for Christmas. Hard when he only makes $7 a day plus room and board, and needs most of it for beer, to get something meaningful for the girl who will inherit the world, but she loves it! Keeps her warm when she sleepwalks through the cold Castle. Also, being a dinosaur scares off any monsters or intruders who might be about. She now refuses to take it off, night or day, and it should really be washed.
Serious question for my fellow professionals who would uphold the highest standards of Wealth and Wisdom Mentoring for the Scions of Ludicrously Wealthy Families. Tutor's mentoring methods are unorthodox. To Audrey every night at bedtime, after story time, as she drifts off into dreamland, in that split second when she is falling into sleep, he whispers, "I love you, kid." And every so often, she whispers back. "I know." Be aware that Momma is present, most often. In her lounge chair, multi-tasking as a mom and as the world's most devastating futures trader, working her revenge on every male money manager on Wall Street, breaking each, one by one, just in case it might have been he who abused her. "Bankrupt them all and let God sort them out," is her mantra. Audrey sleepwalks because she is looking for Real Dad, forever missing. Question is: under these special circumstances, is it ok that Tutor loves Audrey, a child very much in need of love and protection, too, since she is a menace to herself and others? Or should he be more professional and say, "I like you, kid, and always will"? Or, even, "I hold you in highest regard?" Doesn't matter what anyone says, though. Tutor's methods are from another era. He loves her. Why? Because she is lovable, that is why. Some day adoring crowds will shout her name, reaching out their hands, holding children up to see her, caught up in a frenzy of love, or projection or transference. She will be the Nation, the World. History, Majesty, and Justice Incarnate. The Market Itself, made Manifest. Surely, not to love her would be a sin?
Yet ideas can be true, although men die:
For we have seen a myriad faces
Ecstatic from one lie.
Auden, "Sonnets from China"
Among Master Jack's tribe there is a proverb, oft told, to justify Premium Services from Trusted Advisors, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." Tutor has seen that cycle among upstart families, in the financial centers, and now Silicon Valley, how they rise and fall, from obscurity to wealth to folly to obscurity, or worse, and some have hired him, as Tess has, to provide a patina of culture, a touch of class, to the barbaric heirs. But that beating that proverb has not been the focus of his personal brand or business model. He follows Aristotle's theory of the polis. First democracy, then the rise of the nobles and autocrats at war with one another, then the demagogue or warrior king. The people turned against one another, while their pockets are picked, or turned against a common enemy. Then consolidated power, in king, queen, emperor, or figure like Tess who already owns a controlling interest in the world's assets, then revolution. Then over again, like shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves, but on a national or planetary scale. How to beat that proverb? Tutor is Old School and has an obvious answer. When the Leader or Owner rises above the law, when her power is the law, when she can point at the sea and say it is calm when it rages, and all agree; when she can point to night, and call it day, and all put on sunglasses, what matters is the Leader's character.
Tutor sewed the diamonds into the vest of youngest heir of the Tsar, and protected her from that first fusillade in the death pit into which she and her family had been cast. It was he who taught geometry and ethics to the Princes in the Tower, and gave them last rites, as they slept on the night before the emissary of the new king, strangled them in their beds. It was Tutor who counselled restraint to the adolescent King Charles the Second, and taught stoicism to the young Sun King, or tried. For us, however, for our time, for our body politic, there is hope. In Audrey Tutor has found a Once and Future Queen who will rule, like Elizabeth in Shakespeare's time, virtuous and just, warlike and kind, magnificent, and beloved of nobles, tradespeople, soldiers, bankers, and shopkeepers of all sects. First among savage equals, he is a Trusted Advisor of Last Resort. Committed to wisdom and virtue, as are all the best Trusted Advisors, he and he alone is an ordained monk. He alone has taken vows of chastity, poverty, and silence, keeping one of the three for now over one thousand years. His ignoble peers, most rooted in law, banking, or family counselling, serve families to preserve them. They call that their "fiduciary standard," and deem that their "noble trade." Tutor serves the best families to preserve God's Will on Earth.
Teachable moments for she who will rule us all: Holidays in the Castle. Pursuant to his Learning Objectives (the inculcation of wisdom and virtue) Tutor and Audrey will cook and serve a superb meal in the Great Hall to the servants and cooks, and to Seal Team Seven. Not Momma, and not Master Jack. They will neither serve nor be served, but for one meal serve themselves, as if they were middle class, who must open a can of tuna and chop celery unaided. Our future queen and her faithful Tutor will slave in the kitchen, all Christmas morning, and by 2 pm the help will roister in the hall, calling for seconds, and demanding service, drunk on wine and power, however temporary. But what will be on the menu? Tutor suggests a whole steer, roasted on a spit, or whole pig with an apple in its mouth, or peacocks or swans with feathers intact. But that would mean butchering an animal, a thought repugnant to Audrey. Tutor suggests lobsters boiled alive. And that is rejected out of hand as totally cruel. How could he even think like that? Even Rex the Rescue Dog whines at the thought. So, they have settled on hamburgers and hotdogs. (Logic? Have I not already explained that facts are malleable to power? Stow your logic. Smile. You want a hamburger? Or would you rather starve amidst plenty?)
Audrey is flipping to D in the index of her Family History, provided, with gilt pages, by Master Jack, as a Value Add from the Private Bank of Wealth Bondage. “Where is Dad?” Awkward silences. She throws the book at Master Jack, Momma’s Most Trusted Advisor, and takes to her bed, eyes open and unseeing. Body rigid. Will not eat. Will not talk. Rex licks her face, but gets no reaction. Who can blame her? What use is a Family History if it leaves out the parts we really need to know? Doctors come and go, recommending strong drugs, or forced feeding, intravenous life support. Ultimately it is Tutor who called in to help. His is a mixed reputation. Preferred Clients are uneasy with his delight in taking Penitential Scenes too far, but he is good with children. They consider him a defective child to be patronized. Which is how he sees himself.
So, lanky Tutor in Hawaiian shirt and faded black priest pants, kneels by Audrey’s bedside, letting his breathing synch to hers. “Are you westing in you Westinghouse, you little wascal?” No smile from her, but as a cartoon scholar she is processing the allusion. “Sad wabbit! Your big ears are all flopped down!” Tutor points in heartfelt consternation. “They are all folded over!”
Her hands clap to her ears. “No they are not!”
Tutor hops heavily off, hands making big upstanding bunny ears. Audrey leaps from the bed. “That is not how bunnies hop!” And it is true, she bounces and bounds much more like a real bunny. He has to admit defeat, as she crows in victory.
The little moments that matter most don’t get into the history books, but history turns on them. The world will be saved by a wascally wabbit, or not at all. The next time you work for a billionaire family, even in the most humble capacity, mowing a lawn, driving or repairing a car, teaching high school or prep school English, providing investment advice or a full body massage, watering plants, providing wisdom, facilitating the sorting of values-cards, creating a family mission statement, writing a family constitution, conducting an offsite family meeting, or just following orders conveyed down the line through your immediate superior, remember that you may be the difference between saving that Dynasty, and having it fall into tawdriness, opportunism, and chaos like the rest of the world.
Tutor read it to Audrey. For fun he had hidden a pea under her mattress. The next morning he asked her at breakfast how she had slept. She smirked her royal smirk, and handed him his pea. “I slept perfect,” she said, “because I took your stupid pea out first.”
This seems to be a parable about a fairytale, the interpretation of which would require a highly trained professional. So I asked my colleague, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meanings in Wealth Bondage, what it meant. He said it was emblematic of the historic change from Dynasty founded on blood alone to Dynasty founded on merit plus blood. "Audrey," he explained, "is the daughter of the woman who through her own merit, as a Trader, owns a controlling interest in the world, and Audrey through blood will inherit the world, and through merit, save it." He went on to say that in his considered view the parable is an update to Virgil's Eclogue 4. There he began to lose me. I had thought the fourth Eclogue was a coded prophecy of the second coming of Christ, disguised as apologetics for an Emperor and his possible son.
I have to say, though, that like any work of great work of art, my story about Audrey probably has many meanings, the most important being esoteric, hidden like the dried pea to see who among my readers is A Real Princess.
Audrey, the pint-sized tennis demon, just half-again as tall her racket, has bested her Tutor in straight sets. She walks off court with majestic serenity. He is bouncing his racket on the clay, and cursing. He did win one solitary point. He crowed. She said, “You are so competitive, Tutor. Tennis is just a game.” That made him so mad, he lost every point after that. “Why if you are not competitive, do I always lose?,” he mutters, crestfallen.
Lounging naked in my Dumpster of Broken Dreams today, at the intersection of Wealth and Bondage, reading the most recent issue of Family Office Magazine, looking at the babes in bikinis on the yachts, I was pleased to note on page 48, an article, A World of Educational Possibilities, highlighting the benefits of an Itinerant Tutor, hopping around the globe with the kid, and parents. Things may be looking up for me and The Happy Tutor. He has his hands full with Audrey, but if your kid needs a Morals Tutor, or your wife does, or you yourself need a Morals tune-up, or a better grounding in the Humanities, have your Most Trusted Advisor knock on my Dumpster Wall. I am not doing much of anything at the moment, and my probation officer says I am now free to travel. Will work for tips.
Dame Wisdom and Master Folly are collaborating on a book for very rich people, “Managing Your Money Wisely to Preseve Your Dynasty Forever.” Folly does the work; Wisdom takes the credit. In fact, in the new edition his name has been deleted since it put some influential readers off. Such is the Wisdom of this world. We would be foolish to call it Folly. Wiser to call it wise, and cash in while we can.
This much is as clear as a New Yorker cartoon. The scene is Manhattan, 8:30 am, Madison and 32cnd. The Mysterious Aunt to the left, Tutor to the right, Audrey age 6, in a skirt, which she only agreed to wear because she is allowed to wear her blue jeans underneath, and in one of those chest harnesses with a leash that kids have in NYC. Traffic is piling up, horns are blaring, taxi cab drivers are gesticulating. Why? Because Audrey, like a husky in her harness, has powered her way, against the light, into the intersection. Her left hand is raised in a commanding gesture, to signal stop. Aunt and Tutor are pulled along behind her. The caption reads, “I’m Audrey!” Which should be sufficient explanation for any NYC cabbie.
As for the Aunt herself, I am pretty sure she works near this intersection. Maybe a compliance attorney for New York Life, Met, Axa (in the old Equitable Building) or in a nearby law firm. I have a sense that she is involved in Advanced Markets, Estate Planning, Private Family Services, Family Governance, or the like. She is educated but not a philosopher. She may not have read Laplace, Leibnitz, or any other theodicy. She has not read Virgil's paean to Augustus. She has not read Pope’s "Essay on Man," but she has heard of Candide, having read it in high school. Still, she has a confused sense that virtue, wisdom, wealth, power, and spirituality, and maybe good taste and good sense, go together somehow. She feels that the richest, being the most wise and virtuous, the strongest and most noble, form a natural hierarchy, with the richest and most virtuous subordinating, dominating, buying out and ultimately bankrupting the lesser nobility, until all wealth and all wisdom and all virtue culminate in one person. That person's heir, if properly mentored, will rule us all; and all will be well with the world, and all things in it, as long as the dynastic chain remains unbroken. “I’m Audrey!”
Hurricanes. Dogs floating through the streets in crates. Nuclear missiles. Cannibal Islands. A Castle called home with armed guards with automatic rifles. It is a world much in need of saving, but at 9.5 years of age, what is Audrey to do, even with Rex as fierce protector, and a Tutor as Porter, schlepping her equipment? Momma says Audrey is hyper. But the bubble bath is gone, since Audrey used in for Rex. Maybe a warm bath, anyway, and a story about….?
Momma used to come in to chaperone, and supervise, and try to figure out how Tutor does it, keeping Audrey in balance, when no one else could. Now, when Tess comes in at bedtime it is more to calm her own jangled nerves. It is hell to trade grain futures under threat of war and flood. Maybe Tutor could spin a yarn about The Castle itself, and the winding passage, down, down, down. Fathoms below sea level, down through the layers of quarried rock from which the Castle was built centuries ago. Torches alight. Rex coming too, not afraid. Momma coming, but following Audrey, Tutor, and Fearless Rex.
When the passage narrows like a vortex, the walls cold as the north sea, and reaches the final floor: What treasure? Yes, a box, cedar wood, leather straps, but what will it contain when opened? Tutor in his checkered career was once a card sharp, a clairvoyant, a Gypsy palm reader, a conduit for spirits in table tapping frauds. A seller of Papal Indulgences. He knows how to read the mark’s “tells.” He is reading Audrey, pausing. Reading Momma, pausing, what is in the treasure box? Jewels? A crown? A crystal ball? A book? At “book” Momma unconsciously nods. So does Audrey. “A Book,” cries Tutor, “it is a book!" As for what is in the book and what is in the title, that part is easy. "The first letter under all that dust is what? Is it an A?" Audrey nods vigorously. "No, it is a T. It is The Book of …. ? What is that first next letter? A! Yes it is, ‘The Book of Audrey.’ But what is in that Book? My word! Empty pages! Is that right? Page upon page to record the Future Adventures of Audrey. Could they be written already in invisible ink? Maybe with lemon juice?” That is all it took, Momma is asleep in the arm chair, her iPad fallen to the floor. And Audrey is in dreamland, her face an angelic smile. Tutor disentangles himself from Audrey’s embrace, kissing her forehead goodnight. The same for Momma? Or a priestly blessing? “Sleep tight!”
So our world is saved for one more day.
Tutor, as Mentor to Audrey, our once and future queen, was hired by her mother, Tess, who owns a controlling interest in the world, as a last resort, when all the other options in Wealth Bondage had been exhausted, including temple bells, a family therapist, a Wise Man, a defrocked priest, and a whole troupe of Most Trusted Advisors dressed as clowns. When Tutor had arrived it was down to medical doctors, an iv, and talk of shock therapy, for 8 year old Audrey who would not get out of bed.
The most insubordinate and louche of resources, The Happy Tutor himself, was Tess’s last option. (She had found Tutor in an autographed copy of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly in the Castle library, next to a diary of Rabelais in which Tutor had figured as a drinking companion in their Oxford days. Tutor had once lived in the adjacent Castle, it seems, and had served as Tutor to any number of princes, princesses, saints and moral monsters. Tess had Googled him and found he was still semi-active, at the corner of Wealth and Bondage, in some kind of Dumpster of Broken Dreams, filled with old books, tossed there by the prep school students on the way home at vacation.)
Tess’s attitude to Audrey might be best expressed in her own words, “I would wrap you in cotton batting, if I could.” She had said that earlier when Audrey, testing her cartoon theory of walking on air, if you don’t look down, had walked off an embankment that she called a cliff, and fallen, nearly breaking her neck. As Audrey was helicioptered out to the main land hospital, Audrey had said to Tess, “I am sorry, Momma, I looked down!” To which Tess said, “I would wrap you up in cotton batting if I could.”
Today, Tutor is standing at attention to be dressed down by Tess. Tess heard that he had been seen dropping Audrey on her head. (Which he had been, holding her by her ankles and dropping her on her head from a foot above the floor. Her thick, bushy, hair had buffered her fall, and she loved the game, wanting to do it over and over. Then she had turned the table, telling him that she would hold him by his ankles over the parapet, "to build trust," which she had, before he wiggled back to safety.) "Why did you put Audrey at risk? How dare you?" Tess demanded to know. Tutor said, “To build trust, M’am.” That did not fly, so the question was repeated as, “I hired you to help her not hurt her!” To which Tutor thought fit to reply, “Not all help is helpful, M’am.” That did not fly either, so the question was repeated as, “I hired you to protect my daughter and keep her safe.” To which Tutor thought fit to respond, “There may have been a misunderstanding, M’am.” At this point Audrey came into Momma’s bedroom, and went up to her Tutor, standing at attention, too, to take her share of the blame. Tutor continued, “M’am, this young sprite, is a menace to herself and others. I had assumed my role was to protect the world from her, our once and future Queen.” Audrey reached her little hand up, to hold his. Defiant, together, two against the world, with an eye to saving it. Unbowed even before the wrath of Big Big Momma, she who owns a controlling interest in the world.
We are all playing hurt, protecting ourselves from damage done long ago. Audrey. as you may remember, was conceived in a gang rape on the passed out body of a 19 year math prodigy, on the Trading Floor of Wealth Bondage, at a party in young Tess's honor, to celebrate a trade in which she broke the Bank of Brazil, reducing the country to mob violence, and making $ten billion for WB. All her life Audrey will seek Real Dad. But how can he be found? DNA tests on every trader in NYC? Their random guests? Her Father is Creative Destruction, the Dionysian/Apollian, life/death force that drives the economy, politics, war, art, the moral universe, nature, our biology, and the global economy itself. Tess had never had more than one glass of wine, and three Champaign toasts in her honor at a dinner had been her undoing. Pregnant and ashamed, Tess, already in the Forbes list of wealthiest people, had fled to this remote Castle by the Sea, to hide her face, and her swelling belly. She had vowed that no one would ever hurt her daughter as she had been hurt. A remote Castle quarried from volcanic rock, whose moat is the roiling sea. Seal Team Seven, indeed a small army of mercenaries. 24/7 surveillance cameras in every nook and cranny of the Castle. Background checks on every employee, every visitor. Audrey is about as safe as nearly infinite money can make any child.
But Momma, wary and vigilant as she is, is a good momma, and seeing Audrey standing so tall, to take her punishment, whatever it might be, by her Tutor, prepared to take his, even if it is banishment, how could her heart not melt? “Well, Tutor, you do have a point. How will the world fare, once Audrey inherits it? How can it possible survive?” Hugging her kid, she continues, “He is right, you just might turn the whole world upside down, and for the better, too, but please, Tutor, can you build trust next time in some other way?”
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
Email Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.