Soteriology of Grace

Say there were a holy spirit, or a force of life, that wants to live in and through us, and that is suffering with our world, and the creatures in it, including us. How would that spirit express itself in the financial and estate planning process as the world's wealthiest,  and the rest of us too, arrange our affairs, including what we pass on at death?

The voice of that spirit has been likened to a coal covered in ash, to a faint breeze, to a rising sea, to magma within what becomes a volcano. As a teacher or parent there is a stillness of listening, and waiting, when a larger question is asked, like a penny dropped down a well, waiting as the listener for the splash, if there is water down there, rather than just stones and dirt. Or it is like drilling an artesian well. The drill bit turns and turns through dirt and rock. Dry hole. Dry hole. But every so often, when the drill punches through, water erupts in a geyser, having traveled down from the mountains, and the melting snow, under the ledge, under dry sand, into the dessert.  When the drill punches through, the living water rises, and there  can be life amidst the sand. Or, if can be likened (H. Peter Karoff did, echoing the title of a book about Germany in the 1930's) to sleepwalkers.  We wish to sleep through this time, as the earth and all living things struggle. And we do, turning in our sleep, groaning and awakening with night thoughts, sometimes night terrors, helpless. In the image from Karoff, as I remember it, the sleepwalkers are assembling in the town square, still asleep.

As front line advisors, instigators of the conversation about identity, tradition, purpose, family, love, dynasty, community, control, we determine by our demeanor, by our own bandwidth, what is open for discussion and what is not. We determine whether conversation about the capitals, what we carry as virtues and capacities other than money, is narrow in it is definition - oriented to the survival of the family and the money, one for the other, in a virtuous circle, pivoting on a blood line. Or whether that family sees itself as part of larger community, whose fate will mesh with that of the family. We cannot bring living water from dead wells. We cannot raise the dead, heal the sick, or make the blind sighted. That would take a legitimate miracle. We are more like the dead burying the dead. But at our best we can  hold open a space, a hope, a momentary pause, where the spirit like a faint breeze can stir the curtains, or ruffle the papers on the table, or make the candle flame quiver. We cannot make the spirit come, but how often, in how many ways, have we shut her out, in our clients and in ourselves?

When we hold open a space for the holy, or the humane, or the spirit, or inspiration, what comes through that space is almost always the energies from below, at least they are mixed in with it, because we are fallible, flawed, broken creatures animated by fear, greed, lust, longing for control, paranoia, ego-intoxication, petty vanities, sentimentality, rancor, resentment, revenge, denial of death, and all the screens and defenses with which we protect ourselves from what we are called to do, perhaps at some sacrifice. The holy spirit is profligate and careless of any one life. Many seeds die on dry ground; only one here and there may survive to  bear fruit.  And that one or two may be all that is needed, each producing countless seeds. So, many are called and few chosen. The rest of us like Milton, in the sonnet on his blindness, serve by waiting, open to suggestion. Wait all our lives, some of us; die with what is best in us still unborn. And leave a leave legacy that repeats the pattern of our own sterility.

Epiphany, or hearing "the long distance call" (as Peter Karoff calls it, following a song by Simon and Garfunkle), or "the discernment of spirits," as taught by St. Ignatius Loyala, or the Quaker silence, or a time to think (Nancy Kline's phrase), or a generative moment (as Otto Sharmer calls it), or inspiration (as Tracy Gary calls it), or "whale spotting" (as David Solie calls it), or a clarity circle (as Parker Palmer calls it), or nondirective listening in the practice of Carl Rogers, all of these point toward what you could also celebrate as Pentecost. But for every ephipany there are endless apohenies, the seeing of pattern where there is none, the finding of revelation in nothing at all, the feeling of being called or chosen when it is only narcissism, or indigestion. We are imperfect vehicles for anything remotely holy. It is amazing that even the devil has time for us.

In the poem he always put first in his anthologies, and headed his first volume, Robert Frost, a New Hampshire hardscrabble farmer, trained for a time, at Harvard in Classics, invites the reader to go with him to clear the pasture spring, as the ice melts in mud-time. When the dead leaves, caked with ice, are raked away, the spring runs muddy before it runs clear. Sometimes you just have to let it run before you drink from the spring, much less bottle it. The structures created by our disciplines (law, accounting, financial services, legacy planning, gift planning, family governance) are bottling what water there is. A lot of it has not yet run clear. And we bottle it, for the wealthiest families, in structures designed to last one hundred years or more. We interpose our bottles between the spring and those who drink generations later. Goes in dirty. And must be drunk that way.

Could we simply hold that pause, as if palms up in the starlight, until the spirit (holy or unclean) speaks through our clients? Then, as faithful advisors, we do as directed.  On balance, perhaps the holier spirit in our clients will make itself heard, if we listen, until the living water runs clear.

Wisdom and Folly in Family Governance Work Considered as a Public Good

The line between daydream and delusion is a fine one, in my case particularly so, but in the recent posts in conversation with Matt Wesley, I have imagined being invited to serve on a panel at a highest level conference for wise counselors in family governance work, for the world's wealthiest families. I imagine the title of the panel might be, "Wisdom and Folly in Family Governance Work Considered as a Public Good." On the panel, in my dream, are (besides me) the most highly regarded counselors: James E. Hughes, Keith Whitaker, Dr. James Grubman, Dr. Dennis Jaffee, John A. Warnick, Marty Carter, Matt Wesley, Dr. Lee Hausner, or a subset of such luminaries. The moderator is Patricia Angus, as one we all look up to, and because like Cordelia she says little, and sees much. She could bring order from the many forces at work. Cordelia, in the play, comes from love, not just for the King her father, but for all who live under his disordered rule, the deranged body politic for which the mad king is the emblem. Without Cordelia, the King's poor Fool would be poor indeed; the cosmos and community would be out of joint; the King's suffering and illumination to no effect. Whatever the outcome of that panel, whether tragic or comic, I could die a happy courtier, my long fool's errand run. 

In Wealth Bondage by the Grace of God - A Further Explantion

A learned reader, in the Dynastic Wealth business, following the conversation with Matt Wesley about the meaning of Gifthub, and, for that matter, of Wealth Bondage, writes me to ask, if to understand WB would require a "soteriology of grace." I take the question in good spirit as a sincere desire to plumb the depths of my ouvre. I am reminded of a remark Swift once made, "that a hole may appear wondrous deep, when it is only wondrous dark." Probably, we are all going too deep. But I will try to answer the question. 

To redeem Wealth Bondage and those within it would require a sotieriology of grace, yes, a miracle, an awakening.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia, to know what soteriology is. I misread it as being derived from sortilege. Such is my relationship to grace, more like a man blowing on a prayer wheel, bought in an arcade, or casting cards to read a fortune. Wealth Bondage, as a wise reader once noted, is The Garden of Earthly Delights, or Edmund’s  Spenser’s Garden where Circe keeps the sailors, including Ulysses, enchanted. When the magic is lifted, one sailor, Grylle says he wants to remain a pig. “Let Grylle be Grylle and have his hoggish mind” says the narrator. In other words, Wealth Bondage is life seen by moderns as a Free Market where all is for sale, and the most apt language is always financial (social investment, social return, four human capitals including wisdom, love, spirituality, whatever is a pearl beyond price). Wealth Bondage is vulgarity in all its forms. It is the alpha and the omega, the source and end of all being. There is no 'outside' of it, because it represents the limits of our moral imagination.

Paradise, as some Wealth Advisors call it, where the wealthy go, and try to stay, unless deported back to the harsh realities that govern lesser lives, seems to me to be a form of Wealth Bondage. (It is also a brilliant book, Strangers in Paradise, perhaps the best book in the field in many years, on how to maintain dynastic wealth over generations, a goal unworthy of its author, it seems to me, and one from which he may some day awaken, by the grace of God, or by falling on his head, if he trips, but a common goal in the field we call "Family Governance.") That vision of an isolated Paradise  reminds me of Circe’s Garden. It also reminds me of the Floating Islands of Lagodo in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, or the blue light across the bay for which Gatsby yearns. Petronius’s Satyricon, apparently, was among the sources for Fitzgerald. “They said you was high class” sang Elvis, “But that was just a lie. You ain’t nothin’ but a hounddog.” In other words, if not grace, then laughter. When it works right, laughter is not laughter at another (a form of boundary maintenance, a way of casting others out), but inclusive, a recognition of a shared humanity, fallible, and physical, and temporal. (If Dr. Grubman's view of paradise for the rich, apart from the rest of humankind, is healed not by grace, may it be laughter, not at anyone, but among us all, in a great wave of civic friendship, binding us all, high and low, as we all exchange roles, handy dandy, Lord to Beggar and back.)

Drawing on Greek thought, Martha Nussbaum reminds us that Goodness is as Fragile as an earthly garden; it fails unless tended, and may fail even if tended. Beyond our reason or frail powers, is fate, destiny, providence, chance, and moral luck.  I play up the Christian on Gifthub more than I have any right to do. But the Gospels are familiar, and Spenser, Nussbaum, Petronius, Shakespeare, Swift,  Fitzgerald, not so much. I believe all things pass, and that dynasty, the dream of it, is at conspicuous variance with every wisdom tradition. It is like trying to stop Fortune’s wheel from turning, or to halt time at mid-summer. “Remember man that thou are dust and into dust thou shalt return.” “Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.” “All things are sliding under the moon.” “Nothing gold can stay.” The vanitas tradition. "Vanity, saith the Preacher, all is Vanity." The lesson of Carnival, or Vanity Fair. The lessons of Lent and Mardi Gras. The lesson as common as graves, and as hard to accept.

We are all brothers and sisters under the costumes. The king will become a pauper and the pauper a king as the wheel of fortune turns, as the seasons turn, as the generations pass, as we all like chimney sweepers come to dust, in Shakespeare’s lyric.  What makes me better? What makes me so special? Who am I to point fingers? Who am I to give instruction? Whatever Wise Counselors to Flourishing Dynastic Families have done, I have done worse and for less money. I am a fool, a failure, a man who once had shirtsleeves and now has none. That is the persona here, or alternative identity, or me under my own name, pretending to be me. Grace may come, but “Phil,” the speaker on Gifthub, the Hack, has no ability to pray. The nearest priest, Father Brennan, has been defrocked, for reasons  the Church has never made public, under the terms of the settlement. Brennan, now a secular priest, is no help whatsoever. He channels neither grace nor wisdom. He is a toxic healer, carrying the plague, or pox, from house to house, or scene room to screen room, in the darker satire of WB, where it draws on Genet’s scabrous “The Balcony,” where the Bishop is the Whore’s horsey, and the theme is the abuse of power, under the Nazi occupation in Paris,  and its erotic delights, considered as a parable of the deranged body politic.  Brennan has promise. I tell him if he enjoyed it more, sinned bigger and more boisterously, it could count as satire, and he might not go to jail, even if he is ultimately caught with his pants down, yet again.

You can see I find it painful to be so literal, so humorless. Brennan may be a sinner, but he deserves his privacy. Who am I to out him? And it is an insult to the Ideal Reader to whom my words are always addressed, as if the Ideal Reader required a cribsheet, like a schoolboy who has barely read the Text. As Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning, here in Wealth Bondage, said to me in the bar last night, after work, “Did you really have to do that? Make up all that stuff about your sources? It is your whole intellectual history, plus a lot of books you never read, the ones I lent you and you never gave back, the ones Tutor reposes on in the Dumpster. Are these people really unable to read Gifthub without being told what it means? I thought you said they were the world class  super-smarties. What were their Board Scores? Where did they prep? Their parents should ask for a refund. This blog is hardly AP English Material.”

Explaining a joke is not funny. Explaining the explanation, risks starting all over again with a new joke. Satire works best, I believe, when sublimated. Naming names, or coming too close to real people, as with Fr. Brennan a moment ago, or explaining all the allusions, symbolism, conceits, subplots, and subtext, and the inter-textuality of it all, strips from her the disguises in which naked truth most decorously appears, and brings it back to the ancient dance of the priest and the goat, with the priest wearing the flayed skin of the sacrificial goat that the priest will become, if the laugh goes against him.  The only person I can heal is me, and I am sick unto death like all the others. If I feel I am any better, then I am the Pharisee who kneels to thank God that God has not made him like other men.

I have no paying clients. ( That may surprise some of you.) If I required steady patronage, as opposed to foraging in garbage bins and sleeping rough, I could not write like this. “The bow is bent, make from the shaft,” as Lear says to the Fool who crosses him by speaking truth, even in jests and pantomime, which is the Fool’s job.  This upside down, inside out, style is only learned in brokenness and surrender, writing under surveillance, as one vulnerable to reprisal, by my immediate superior or the higher-ups. 

My resume went for a time straight up, then straight down. All the way up to Gothic Quadrangles with high windows, and a Porter at the Gates, with a Master's Garden, where once I sat with with my own Morals Tutor, discussing Wittgenstein, and all the way down to teaching insurance sales in Birmingham, AL, in a yellow-tinted training room with no windows, and, it seemed, no way of escaping. I have had years, decades, without a voice, or an educated thought partner, other than the many figments of my addled imagination, like Dr. Chadwallah, The Happy Tutor,  and Richard (Dick) Minim, of the East Coast Minims,  the heir to the Hyena Dog Chow Fortune, and now Senator (D) from MA. I said Brennan is real,  and he is. But that is not his real name. And he was not a priest, but some kind of veterinarian. He just pretended to be a priest to seduce women.

I appreciate readers trying to understand me, like the Doctors did at the Asylum for Lunatic Counselors to Dynastic Wealth, before the insurance lapsed, and I was turned back out on the street. I hope I have not hurt or offended any real advisors to serious wealth, particularly any wise and virtuous ones. They are rare and worth their weight in gold. (In fact, that is how they determine their annual retainer, at least in the Emirates, by sitting in one pan of a scale, like the scales of justice, while the client heaps gold in the other pan, or so I heard, maybe in my alcoholic dreams.) This is about wisdom traditions, not us. The traditions speak, when conjured, but the spirits who come are not always gracious. Mine I fear, or know, are from below.

I hope we are now good with my most educated, best placed, readers, with no offense taken. You are honorable people. Wealth Bondage, The Den of Iniquity, would never hire you. I checked your websites. You are on the up and up. I would like to be cordially included in the best circles, your circles, or tolerated on the margins, or if cast out with the trash, gently, so as not to awaken The Happy Tutor, who is sleeping it off with Dr. Rabelais in the Dumpster, after sneaking into the Costume Ball  in Paradise Hall last night, having gone as Doctors, in hooded robes, resplendent Scholar’s garb, from the Dark Ages.  Judging from their noonday stupor, I guess it must have been quite a party. I hope some day to be invited. Then I will see for myself. At this point I am just making it up, as you can probably tell.  

Understanding Satire

Satire in ancient times was surgery without anesthetic, for the pleasure of the surgeon and the benefit of the patient. Today, it is more like painless dentistry. Under laughing gas, the patient feels no pain.

This is not to say that a satirist is always a butcher. It is just that a satirist must first reform himself. And if you think sawing into your own skull is easy, in a mirror, you will never master our noble trade. Satirists, like psychologists, are often the sickest of them all. We go into it to cure ourselves, at least we should start there.

The last thing you need, if you are already healthy, wealthy and wise, is Wise Counsel, so it seems to me, since you have it all already. A healthy person is more likely to get sick in a hospital than at home. And why would you pay for what you already have in abundance? By the same token who would want a Fool or Knave as a client? I would, but I am desperate for any paying customers at all. I can't even give it away pro bono publico. It doesn't take a genius to see why.

The Unreadable Sources of Gifthub



"I am his Highness' dog at Kew;

Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”

Alexander Pope

A learned friend, in fact a Doctor of some kind, I believe, (who does family governance work with families of extraordinary wealth, and has followed the conversation with Matt Wesley over the last few weeks) expresses concern at how dark this site seems to him despite his extensive education, and says this site is hard to read, and asks me to clarify its sources in the Western Canon, Eastern Religions, or whatnot.

Generally, as matter of personal integrity, and out of respect for the truth, as well out of respect for the  reader as a person of sagacity and judgment,  the less said in the candid, plain-style, the better. It is the language of reciprocity, among the reasonable and educated, people of mutual good will, and our society is very far past that. But since the question was asked in the sincere, epistolary style of the honest and educated man, the style of the insider to privilege, the one above reproach, the person whose position is unassailable, to whom any urgent protest against the conversational norms supporting blindness to the sufferings of the multitude, seems outlandish, I will reply in that style, as one who was once there, among the super-smarties who consider themselves, or at least I once considered myself, God's gift. Now, that I am broken to a mean trade, that passes itself off as Noble, though I can hardly imagine a trade more servile, I  do see life from a darker perspective, and it makes me laugh, mostly at myself. How could I once have been so blind? And now that I see, why have I not reformed?

So in plain, moderate, dignified, untroubled  prose, writing as if I were a fully clothed, mannerly, man, in good standing, with impeccable bona fides and a good credit history, as if I had a full belly, and had slept indoors last night, and had a shave, and shoes, addressing as a peer  educated people of good will, in solidarity with them against the unwashed mob, rather than spoken into silence by a morally insane beggar, a pariah naked in a Dumpster: The roots of Gifthub are Judeo-Christian, Liberal Enlightenment (Kant and Rawls), and Pagan. Sermon, Theory of Justice, and Satire. Extended answer, for the benefit of future scholars, below.   

A first  root of Gifthub is Catholic Social Doctrine. Finding the face of the divine among the broken, the poor, the imprisoned. Among the homeless, the cast out, the denizens of a Dumpster at the Intersection of Wealth and Bondage, where the family governance people ply their five noble professions to create, enhance and preserve for generations to come the power and privilege of a few families that these trusted advisors serve as assiduously as loyal retainers did under feudalism. This work of perpetuating dynastic wealth is done (I am told on good report) by bolstering Wisdom and Virtue. This is expressed in a dream of seceding from human society or the body politic and founding a Paradise on Earth for the Rich and the Rich alone. This ideal does not comport with the common good, the common weal, the commonwealth, or with the survival of the planet, our common home. Nor does it comport with moral or mental health. Those who carry this contagion are the wounded healers carrying the plague from wealthy house to wealth house.

Sermon works better for Pope Francis than it would for me. I have no standing to offer a sermon. I might do better as a monitory example in a sermon, or moral tale, The Fool's Progress. Or if a Buddhist, I would be one burning himself alive in front of Wealth Bondage to make a point, to no effect. Doused probably in rotgut alcohol, or going up from spontaneous combustion from drinking too much and smoking at the same time. Many claim to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God, I can prove it. My police file speaks for itself.

Kant: The Kingdom of Ends. The essence of ethics, he said, is to treat each person as an end, as a member of the kingdom of ends, not as a means to an end. I see treating others as a means to an end as the ethic of seduction, low end sales, propaganda, much marketing, war and business as conquest. I see it as habit of mind so deep in us that anything else strikes us a bad business.

Buber: "I/Thou" as opposed to "I/It." I associate I/it with metrics, means ends logic, the Taylorization of work, optimal solutions just short of final, subordination of others, the Haye System, Weber's Iron Cages, and my own rise and fall in Wealth Bondage, considered as a World Class Institution that Gets Results. I associate I/Thou with those who call me Brother. Generally, Grifters, Pimps, Highwaymen, and Fencers of Stolen Goods, and their Doxies, the fine ladies and gentlemen of the road.

Rawls: "Always ask in legislating on behalf of the rich, as part of a larger polity, how that law helps those who have least. Do not adopt a rule that helps the most advantaged unless it also raises up the least among us." (He framed his difference principle in a more recondite way, but that is the gist for purposes of family governance work. Rawls thought his difference principle would be chosen by reasonable minds operating under a "veil of ignorance," creating the groundrules of a just society, without themselves knowing yet what would be their own lot in life. In other words, if you visualize as best, a world where the rich bear it away, and the many suffer, ask how you will feel if you or your children are Born Poor, rather than Born Rich.) I recognize that intuitions differ. As my friend and mentor The Happy Tutor once said to me, "I have often noted how the maids in the biggest houses look down upon those in the smaller." I take this to mean that "serving professionals," from the Butler to the Maid, to a Man of All Work, or a Privy Counselor, are identified, even in their dreams, with the livery they wear, and would, even behind a veil of ignorance choose a world in which they might be of Service to the Family of Wealth, not only in this generation, but with the son of the Butler serving as Butler to the Wealthy Man's son, and the grandson serving the son of Wealthy Man's grandson, for 100 years. Their ideal world would be on in which they could make this happen. I do not share this vision, if only because no family has ever taken me in, except inadvertently, when I was younger, through the backdoor, left open by a maid, Suky Tawdry, before she left the home, pregnant by Young Master, apparently, and joined us in our Noble Trade.

Most consciously and via endless imitation: The work and tradition of Jonathan Swift. This demonic Divine wrote both High Anglican sermons and scabrous pagan satire. In his sermons, in the court of Queen Ann, and then in semi-exile in Ireland, he calls for Wisdom and Virtue, Moderation and Reason, Good Humor and Good Sense. In the satires, he writes as a Hack turned madman, one driven mad by complacent injustice. Or as a pompous ass, standing in for the wise and virtuous reader. That was a puzzle to me for a long time. Only by imitation did I learn how these strands are the DNA of a still living tradition, latent in our native tongue. Satire is the recessive gene of the polite plain style, with sources going back to Horace in Rome, under Augustus, and in conversation with the man then wealthiest, Maecenas. It runs through Erasmus, a monk turned humanist. I believe this truth has not yet been recognized even by academics. To understand a weapon, you have to be able to use it. And while academics are "political," they do not generally write as dunce on purpose. So they tend not to see it as a rhetorical strategy akin to pontificating, or giving a Wise lecture on Virtue, only more witty, self-aware, effective.

Such are the traditions and tensions in Gifthub: Wealth Reimagined, and in our Proud Sponsor, Wealth Bondage: An Earthly Paradise. A twisted lineage that crosses back and forth between Classical, Enlightenment, and Judeo-Christian sources, with the Judeo-Christian, and Enlightenment sources often themselves riffing on the pagan. Diogenes - Dumpster - Rabelais - Carnival - Ribaldry - Laughter - Monstrosity - Dryden - the hangman as image of the satirist - Swift - Gay - Tristram Shandy - Cabaret - Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" - Camus's The Plague, Jean Genet's "The Balcony" - Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness, and James C. Scott, Seeing like a State, Domination and The Arts of Resistance, and The Hidden Transcripts of the Oppressed. Foucault, in particular, Discipline and Punish. Of course, Bakhtin, on dialogism in the carnivalesque tradition of Rabelais. And, not least the work and influence of Martin Price, my dissertation supervisor at Yale, author of Swift's Rhetorical Art.

By way of negative influences, unsuccessfully evaded, the literary critics and literary theorists once called "the Yale Mafia": Bloom, Hartman, Hillis-Miller, Derrida, and Paul de Man. From these last I learned the unspeakable, disabling truth: What I had learned at great cost, as good boy and good student, from Strunk and White, from the New Yorker, and from Oxford dons, and from Martin Price and his great mentor, W.K. Wimsatt,  the plain-style of the honest man, the epistolary style, the middle style of reasonable people, writing in good faith, had reached the dead end we now see in the work of so many. Like a dead thing it lives among us as a zombie. Professing truth, beauty, wisdom, in cordial concert with wealth and power, blind, as De Man demonstrated. I will not link, out of courtesy to the living dead. To make merry about another's blindness is like the man with a beam in his eye mocking the one with a mote in his. 

The themes across traditions: How illness in the body politic is cured.  Style as being. Style as existential decision, as ethical action. Fraud as art or as inartistic. "The Decay of Lying," Blindness and Insight. Genre and decorum as more important than specific content. ("The lukewarm he spits from his mouth.") Laughter as the best medicine. The role of pariah, the sacrificial lamb, the role of exclusion, expulsion, shunning, rustication, suppression, silence, the role of one hidden in plain sight, the role of healing and inclusive laughter. Turning the World Upside Down. And yet also postponing, since life is precious, and money too, the moment of truth. Parable, allegory, just so story, fable, nursery rhyme, the weapons of the weak. The hidden transcripts of those whose unstoried lives do not matter and whose voice will not enter recorded history. The role of women, as muses, lovers, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and role models, both personal and now professional. (Family Governance as Home Ec.)

The Dumpster is inaudible as the poor are invisible.

As for Hell, its Light is Darkness Visible (as John Milton wrote), and we need not die in the flesh to go there. My friend, do not confuse it with Paradise.

I hope these scholarly notes, in the spirit of Martinus Scriblerus, annotating the Dunciad Variorum, will help clarify things for the many scholars who will pore over Gifthub until the end of time. I am flattered and honored that the generations long process of scholarly exegesis has now begun. In time future, I hope that what now seems dark or obscure will seem blindingly obvious.

Next, I am afraid, for a reader truly committed to understanding the sources of Gifthub, both overt and covert,  it might be Wise to ask me about Wealth Bondage, our proud sponsor. While I have tried to be open and honest about the mixed intellectual sources of Gifthub, these pale in comparison to the importance of Wealth Bondage itself, the over-arching structure within which Gifthub exists and has its being, both as a all consuming reality, and as a legal fiction. It is no exaggeration to say that without Wealth Bondage, and the generous support of its CEO, Mistress Candidia Cruikshanks, she who rules us all, the Spirit of Free Enterprise, where the priceless is marked to market every day, Gifthub would not exit, nor could it have been conceived, let alone funded. But the topic, "What is Wealth Bondage?" has consumed so much energy, among so many commentators, and is so hedged round with not only metaphysical issues, bearing upon the nature of reality itself, but also so many confidentiality agreements, and disclaimers, that I must leave any discussion of it for another day. It would be fair to say that those who know what Wealth Bondage is, from years of service within its precincts will never talk about it in public, for obvious reasons. Even those who have seen it, are as if blinded by the light, and are blind guides to its inner workings. I do maintain some offline conversations with the Wealth Bondage Inner Circle, but it would be tactless to say more. 

Those who do talk about Wealth Bondage publicly have no idea what they are talking about. The first rule of Wealth Bondage is that Wealth Bondage does not exit. It is both the center and the circumference of all possible being or understanding. There is no "inside" of Wealth Bondage and there is no "outside" of Wealth Bondage. I would simply say, for our purposes here, that without getting to the bottom of Wealth Bondage, and it has many false bottoms, it would be impossible for even the best educated reader with the best intentions to make heads or tails of Gifthub, which is essentially a front for Wealth Bondage, as I have never denied. I am afraid that some such misunderstanding may have provoked the original question from an earnest but naive reader that led to this post.

I am sorry that I am not at liberty to address the most important issues openly. My reputation, connections, and livelihood are at stake. Certainly my sanity, perhaps my freedom, and maybe even my life itself are at risk. What I have presented here is mostly intellectual BS, designed to confuse the ordinary persons who may chance upon this site,  and to throw them off the scent. I am also mindful of the regulators and the certain criminal investigations into the Nature of Wealth Bondage as an ongoing enterprise. These must take priority over Hermeneutics or literary exegesis, or intellectual history, for its own sake. I hope my revealing nothing, page after page, will keep me in good standing with my Patron. I actually don't know anything, so I can't talk, even under torture. Once a naive question is asked publicly, it is best, in my view to nip it in the bud, with a good hard shot of pseudodoxia. Those who really do seek Wisdom are obviously in the wrong place, perhaps in the wrong epoch. I can recommend some Wise Counselors, but it would cost a hell of a lot more than most readers of Gifthub could possibly pay. In this way, the Wise just get Wiser, and the rest of us Poor Fools get by in Wealth Bondage, as best we can, none the wiser. This, I am afraid, is as helpful as I can be under the circumstances. My hands are tied. I am sure you understand. 

The Scene of Family Governance when those Families Rule

Some slaves worked in the big house, some in the fields. The most trusted managed the less trusted. But in the hush arbor the "hands" could whisper on the premise they would not be heard by the Master, or those who enforced his will. In reality, it is easy to imagine Master strolling by, overhearing, and feeling quite contented and in charge. What is said "offline" does not count, even if overheard. To say it to Master's face is foolish. Hence, what James C. Scott calls, "the hidden transcripts of the oppressed." As these seep out, they become a tradition, a set of devices and variations, endlessly reinvented across civilizations under domination. If I were still in literature, as a critic, I could see creating an anthology. Not to study as one studies Greek, Roman, or Medieval, medical instruments (lancet, saw, gouge, clamps, pincers, restraints, gag, syringe, mallet, salt for the wounds, cauterizing iron, sponge, bucket, needle and twine) from a museum, but to learn the ancient healer's craft. 

Roman satire was hyper-masculine. The sadistic medical imagery above is Martial's. He once noted that surgeon and undertaker give the client a double deal. Either you survive the operation, or the burial is free.

Weapons of the weak may include women's traditional ways as well. The next step forward, for the field of family governance is not satire, but home economics, done with love, of the self in family, and of the family in community. Self cannot thrive without family. Family cannot flourish in an unjust community of which it is the ruler, any more than the head can be well if the body is ill.  The speaking silences in our field- when the wise women speak, the world will be healed. And then it will be us, the men who know it all, whose idea of wisdom is to pontificate, whose idea of virtue is ourselves, who will fall silent, listen, and obey. (Not apologize, that would be asking too much.)

The scene of family governance - board room? front parlor in the big house? the counting house? the surgeon's slab? hush arbor? or, kitchen? I vote for the kitchen. There the women, professionals who have mastered the professional canon and know it as well as any man, light the fire, heat the kettle, knead the dough, wrist deep, and tell who to pass what. And the wine and laughter flow. Until maybe we forget who is in charge, and who is a fine gentlemen or lady, and who is one of the noble serving professionals, and who is just rabble like us. Rabelais was a doctor. He loved women. He would understand. "Come, let us drink!" 

The Tar Baby

Matt Wesley is maybe the first from within the field of family governance (the highest level counseling given to the highest wealth families) to actually engage with Gifthub publicly. He sees that most of the posts here for at least the last five years have been tormented by the themes of wealth disparity and the rise of a new.... aristocracy? plutocracy? oligarchy? nobility? And the rise of a new kind of advisor, one more like a privy counselor, or henchman, or consilgiere, or svengali, or wise person, or shaman, or moral mentor, or secular priest. (As The Happy Tutor says: "A most trusted advisor is a fool and knave who declares himself wise and virtuous and finds dupes who believe it." I tell Tutor, "It takes one to know one." To which his response is, "If I had duped the world's wealthiest into considering me wise and virtuous, and paying me accordingly, would I be living naked in a Dumpster turning tricks in a Dungeon for short money at my age?" Since Tutor is going on one thousand years old, I hope he can soon give it a rest.)

Whatever the new forms of the polity, and of advisors to power are, they are presaged in ancient Greece and Rome, in the Dark Ages under feudalism, in the Augustan England of Empire, in our own Gilded Age, and maybe in the slave holding South, and not just the South. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. I attempt satire, in part, because satire (and parable, fable, allegory, just so story, nursery rhyme, Rabelaisian cock and bull story) has always been the form that emerges under conditions of great social disparities, where a trusted advisor who tells moral truth openly is a damn Fool. The Plantation owners did not patronize urbane satires of themselves, as far as I know,  but they did have  Cakewalk at the Big House which, like satire, is a carnivalesque interlude to periodically turn the world upside down, to let the last be first, and the first last, and to let the meek or enslaved inherit, if only to further humiliate them, and to refresh the patterns of domination. What the slaves say in the hush arbor may be overheard, but not heard. The good Master allows just enough slack.

B'rer Fox made a tar baby.....

Matt knows Gifthub is a Tar Baby and was willing to touch it, and for that I am grateful. Let Matt be a lesson to the rest of you.

The Green Fields of the Mind (Reflections on Dynastic Wealth and our Noble Trade)

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

    A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," in a book of his essays about baseball.

If the game of baseball at the professional level were rigged so we know, at least the insiders know, in advance who wins, and always will win, for the next 100 years or more, whoever rigged it would be worth his weight in gold. Some who are trying  to keep the richest richest and most virtuous and wisest forever (the role of family governance work), I bet some went to Yale, some to Harvard, some to Princeton, some to other fine places; others have a better excuse. I wish they all had had Giamatti. He looked like a Machiavellian Prince, with a prematurely grey goatee, dark eyes, and a limp that seemed like a divine curse, to compensate for his eloquence. He spoke of wealth as "mucky pelf." Each of us was called upon not by name, but by Noble. "And now we will hear from Noble Cubeta...." In my first paper I misspelled, on the title page, the name of the author (Edmund Spenser). The name of the book to which the course and Giamatti's career were devoted (The Fairie Queene). And my own last name. He circled all these in red and gave me an A minus. I was, you may assume an heir. But no. It was his form, I suppose, of Affirmative Action.

Paradise on Earth

Could it be Eden without seasons? Could we emigrate there, if we had enough money? Could, if we ever get there, hire a consultant to teach us how never to lose it? Say Paradise is a garden now in which all things wither, and even the best tended stalk can be ruined by rain, pests, birds, drought. If everything is "sliding under the moon," (Mutabilitie Cantos, Edmund Spenser), what have we but seasons in a green world? I learned this from A. Bartlett Giamatti, in the last classes he taught at Yale before he became President of Yale, and then Baseball Commissioner. Even in those classes on Spenser what he most wanted to talk about was the Boston Red Sox, and the dream, always unfulfilled that they would win a pennant.) It would not be baseball, would it, if the same team won the Series every year? Even if we could hire a coach who could do it, wouldn't it be better if the games were close?

Turn About is Fair Play

Maybe some day Dr. Rabelais, whose universal cure was laughter, will return and with him rowdy Festivals in the Great Hall. Turn and turnabout, whether in the way of muses, or in the ways of servant and one served, or of wealth and power, or the cycles in Fortune's ever turning Wheel, or the cycles of the tides, seasons, liturgy, and generation, is only fair, and without it, "nothing gold can stay." (Frost on autumn foliage.)

The Woman's Muse

Female muses, like the Graces, and strippers on the pole,  wear - naturally - diaphanous gowns or nothing at all. Do women's muses wear leather jackets, like Patrick Swayze, in "Dirty Dancing"? I asked my mentor the Happy Tutor, and he zipped the jacket up and down. He is intolerable.

Carly slays The Donald

With her horse face and the degree in Medieval History, Carly Fiorina bests The Donald in debate. Afterward, to help herself calm down and fall asleep, perhaps, she watches on her iPad, "Dirty Dancing for the one hundredth time. "Nobody puts Baby in the Corner," says her muse. When women rule in the future as men have in the past, I hope we get more thanks for our role as muse, than we men have accorded women in that role.

Her Prior Art

Petrarch, Dante, John Milton, Yeats, they all wrote from a woman's dictation. Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, could long since have asserted prior art and owned the entire Western Canon. Instead, the men got the fame and the royalties. Unfortunately, for me, Calliope has graduated with a triple major, Business, Law, and Women's Studies. She says she has engaged an intellectual property attorney. This blog may have to shut until the whole thing gets settled. The only things worth reading here are the posts she wrote. I can't deny it, much less under oath.

In a Castle by The Sea - The Backstory on Tutor

Times change. In olden days, under primogeniture, it was easier than now for a noble family to flourish for many generations, since assets (land, knights, ladies in waiting, livestock, servants, tapestries, treasure, peasants, hunting dogs, armor, fine plate) were not disbursed through many lineages, but kept as one. Tutor in that era was a kind of dual passport serving-professional. He was both of noble birth himself (the second son of a country squire), and also a morals tutor to a noble family. (He had gone to Oxford, and gotten a degree in Divinity.) 

Last night, in an old National Geographic, Tutor, as we bedded down for the night, came across a photo of his old castle, or more correctly that of his Lord and Master, whose name is now but a footnote in history, though Tutor lives on, through this Blog, immortal. The Great Hall, the Master Bedroom, the Kitchen, the Dungeons, the Chapel, are all empty. The moat is full of water, but the drawbridge has collapsed. Once, Tutor told me, long ago, when the young lady of the castle was ill, Dr. Rabelais himself came when sent for. "Whether he made her better or worse," says Tutor, "she was never again the same, but  seemed much happier.  Apparently she was better, but she was always asking her mother to send for him again, so whatever she had, it must have been chronic." Apparently, no one lives there now but ghosts. It may be sold, the article says, to a hedge fund manager or a Silicon Valley entrepreneur for some large fraction of a billion, pounds, euros or dollars, I don't know which. Since the article was from two years ago, it probably already was sold.

Times change, but not human nature. Today's highest level families, like those in the olden days, need Moral Mentors. "Even today, a degree in Divinity," says Tutor, "is the gold standard. Charles Collier, Matt Wesley, Paul Schervish, Keith Whitaker. They are following in my footsteps, as best they can, not being themselves of noble birth." Tutor, long since past his prime, naked and regal on his garbage-sacks of old books, snug in our Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, as drunk as a lord, dreams of making a come back.

"I know that Castle, every back stair, every secret passage, every dungeon, each stall in the stables, the altar in the chapel, the confessional. I knew the mason who hewed the first foundation stone. I know the peasant who died laying it, and whose skeleton may still lie there, for all I know. The Bible has not changed a bit, though I hear it has lately been translated into the vulgate. And I can still dance a jig. Yes, My Lord. No, My Lord. Why not mentor the new heirs as we did the old? In those days we did have families that flourished for a lot more than 100 years. Some  I mentored ruled the yeomanry and basically owned the peasants for a thousand years. The knights swore fealty on their knees touched by their Master sword." He started to tell me how he mentored the heirs, but I can't repeat on a blog devoted to passing on Family Values, under current conditions, except in the more traditional Christian Families, where the old ways are still accepted as the best way, and most of those families are not rich enough to keep a private Parson on retainer.

I told Tutor he has a lot reading to do if he is to qualify or stand out against the burgeoning competition. "Rabelais?" He asked, or "Mother Goose? Aesop? La Fontaine? La Bruyere?"  "No," I said, "maybe Virgil, but nothing funny, obscene, or silly, except maybe Chaucer, and nothing too cryptic. Today's ultra high net worth clients are not so good with hidden meanings." With that he assumed the most scholarly face imaginable, and rose up as if to preach a sermon, or give a scholarly lecture, buck naked, tipsy, pompous as could be. A quite convincing priest or scholar, except for the high-flown nonsense that came out of his mouth. And of course it made me laugh. I can't imagine how even in the Dark Ages a guy like that passed for credible. "The title of my sermon," he intoned is, "The Proper Use of Riches, and my subtitle is Human Flourishing, or Paradise on Earth, How to Obtain and Retain it, Best Practices of the Wise, Virtuous and Wealthy in all Eras from Ancient Times to the Present."  Maybe a thousand years ago, in the Dark Ages, he got away with it as the younger son of  noble family, but today our clients expect us to wear clothes.

The Man without a Nose (Moral Fables for Trusted Advisors to Wealth)

"Phil," Tutor said to me last night, "when you meet a man without a nose, it is not always because he has the pox. Sometimes it is because he cut it off to spite his face." My hand went immediately to my nose. It was still tender and inflamed from alcohol, but otherwise intact. I think I must be anxious about my recent post on Matt Wesley, and the possibility that he, as a trusted advisor to wealth, and a Divine by training, might respond amicably, rather than distancing himself from me as a pariah in a dumpster, passed by in silence, as I should be. His nose looks good on him;  mine on me. It would be terrible if we used logic to address ideology.  That never ends well, particularly if you do it in public.  For example:

  1. Wealth disparity does not exist.
  2. If it did exist it is a good thing, not an injustice, but a result of the hidden hand of God working through the market
  3. If it is a bad thing, it is a necessary evil
  4. While it may exist and be bad, wealth disparity does not matter because heirs within two generations, will dissipate the money through their well documented vice and folly
  5. We as Trusted Advisors can fix this by helping parents choose their values from a list, or from a set of cards, and pass them on to their kids
  6. We, the Wise and Virtuous, can also help the rich by serving as moral exemplars to them and as moral mentors to their heirs. Sighted ourselves we can cure their blindness. Healthy ourselves we can cure their sickness. They just have to incentivize us. Our time is limited and we can only save just so many families from themselves. We must start with the richest because they can do the most good or harm, and because they can afford to pay us a good retainer.
  7. For the fortunate few centa-millionaires and up who can afford us, we can make sure they enter Paradise on Earth, and remain citizens of it forever, far from the stinking mess they have left behind, the fallen world of poor struggling mortals enmeshed in sin and death. 

I was taught, by Tutor, long ago, that to those to whom much is given, much is expected. This was not presented by Tutor as optional. He simply took me OTK and thrashed me, until I learned the lesson. Maybe for that reason I now take it as Gospel.

But, in all fairness to the ideologues, the mystified, the false prophets, and the gullible in dynastic wealth planning,  I can see the other side too. There are rewards and punishments that shape our thoughts and feelings, and make or break our careers. The nursery rhyme about Simple Simon may be about that.  Those with a penny get to eat the pie. Those without the penny do not get pie, or plum. You can look for a whale in your pail, but unless the client fills it, you have not got squat.

If we alienate our patrons by drawing attention to their responsibilities, they may not accept us as their Secular Priest, Morals Tutor, Trusted Advisor, Most Trusted Advisor, Privy Counselor, Concierge, Consigliere, Person of All Work, Swami, or Family Dynamics Coach. We may be thrown out on our ass, and have to cage charity from a Dumpster, a sorry life for a moral paragon like me. 

Speak well of the devil: I sometimes feel God put me on earth as an object lesson to others, an example of what goes wrong in Paradise if you mistake the Gospels for truth.

The Happy Tutor is a special man. He is also a fictional figure, not a figment of my imagination as some might assume, but of Erasmus's, in The Praise of Folly. At least he was drawn by Holbein as an illustration. We would be a world class fool if we followed his example, Matt.