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January 2008

The Moral Physician's Risks and Rewards

Once you see that in Athens the moral philosopher presented himself as a physician for the soul, a lot comes into focus. "Physician heal thyself" reminds us that we Morals Tutors are as sick as those we seek to heal. "Pharmakon," meaning both remedy and homeopathic poison reminds us that in seeking to heal, our words may injure. "First do no harm" reminds us to be careful of the client's well-being but also of our own. God forbid we heal the client and get crucified for our trouble. (Adapted from Plutarch's Life of Alexander The Great in which the best counselors and physicians serving Alexander are, variously, rewarded, speared, ignored, crucified, or too scared to do their job.) We cannot heal the morally diseased client, if we ourselves perish in the process. So I tell myself, but our noble trade has its own inherent risks; we cannot always heal others without breaking our patient's skin, or risking our own.

The Trash-Roasted Wieners

To support myself as a pro bono Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, I scavenge from dumpsters in the better part of town. Last night I had found a wiener, and was roasting it for my supper over a burning barrel of trash. Along came Connie,  a highly successful values-based wealth advisor friend of mine. "Phil," she said, "if you were more respectful of wealthy people's illusions, you would not have to eat trash-roasted wieners for supper." I replied, "Constance, if you ate trash-roasted wieners for supper you would not have to flatter the wealthy." (Adapted from an anecdote told of Diogenes, the founder of my lineage of dumpster dwelling Fools. As a side note, Diogenes was chased from his home town for debasing the coinage. Seems he gave good coins in return for false. On a more positive note, he died at age 95, some say by holding his breath, a mistake I will not make.)

Continue reading "The Trash-Roasted Wieners" »

Are Fundraisers Overpaid?

Give and Take:

Jeremy Gregg, development director at Central Dallas Ministries, on his blog, The Raiser’s Razor, blasts his peers for talking about how much more they could earn if they worked in the business world.

Since they are always asking others to give, why do fundraisers get paid at all? Seems hypocritical me. As Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families I take no money. I count myself lucky to be allowed to wander the streets.

Metanoia: Reflections of a Latter Day Fool

Thanks to Jeff Doyle at Handmeon who emailed me this information from Wikipedia: In the Eastern Orthodox Church there are three forms of genuflection.

Bow--this is a simple momentary inclination of the head and shoulders, without bending the knees. In some situations it is accompanied by the Sign of the Cross

Metanoia (metany; поясной поклон, poyasnoy poklon)--similar to the bow, but deeper; sometimes referred to as a "bow to the waist." The metanoia requires making the Sign of the Cross either before or after the bow, depending upon the tradition of the church;[3] bending at the waist without bending the knees, so that the worshipper's head is level with his or her waist; touching the floor with the fingertips of the right hand; and straightening up again. The metanoia is an abbreviated form of full prostration.

Prostration (земной поклон, zemnoy poklon)--This requires making the Sign of the Cross, getting down on hands and knees, touching the forehead to the floor, and standing up again upright. The requirement to stand upright again is commonly explained as being because Christ not only descended into hell, but rose up from the dead.

Under "metanoia" Wikepeida notes that the word can mean many things, though most often translated as change of heart, change of mind, or repentance, it can also refer to a rhetorical figure in which the speaker states something, retracts it, and then restates in a new and more apt way.

As we reflect on our own lives, or those of clients, friends, and donors; as we reflect on the meaning and purpose of our gifts (whether or wealth, talent, or love) to what greater than ourselves do we bow our heads, or genuflect? We to the donor? We to the client? Or, do we kneel together in the face of obligations or a mystery that might humble us and bind us all? When we as advisors say that the donor's values must be served, is this idolatry (in the proven style of marketers everywhere), or an indirect way to say that in serving what is highest and best in the donor or client we serve something beyond us both?

If in the presence of a donor or client we create an appropriate space, respectful and expectant, a state of waiting and listening, what may make itself felt is the movement of what some people call the holy spirit, others might call the muse, or some might call passion, or some might call inspiration. But, however you frame the language, in giving is (or can be) something close to the holy, so that we are its instruments. That too is strategic philanthropy. To work in that spirit of communion and commemoration is a calling, no less than a trade, job, or profession.

To get a privileged person to repent and bow before something greater is a Fool's errand, if you are a Cynic. That is, the moment of recognition, when the scales fall from our eyes, may come through laughter, or a practical joke, no less than through reverence. The advisor who elicits metanoia, will, like a good doctor, use whatever medicine will work the cure in a particular case. For some hardened sinners, in bondage to wealth, a good beating is still the best bet. Penance is supposed to follow repentance, but sometimes it works the other way around. Setting a good example helps too.

Human Flourishing in the Green Zones

Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, now lives most of the year in a tiny cottage in Belize. Dave Pollard, of How to Save the World, searching for authentic community, visits Bageant, weighing the real versus online paradise.  Here in Dallas we are Rapture Ready. I have friends  who have worked on Wall Street, now moving their money to Switzerland in gold bars; others with fine educations are buying a cave in a remote location, stocking it with provisions. Is it any wonder that good money can be made in Global Stability Solutions? I am going to stick with Morals Tutoring for the rich.  Inside the perimeter, in the Freedom Towers, life is not bad.

Ashoka's Citizen Base Initiative

Thanks to Dave, in a comment on an earlier post, alerting us to Ashoka's Citizen Base Initiative

Citizen sector organizations (CSOs) of any size, age, or geography can free themselves from the chronic dependence on unpredictable and unsustainable foundation and government funding. CSOs can become self-sustaining and maximize their social impact by developing a broad base of citizen support.

Ashoka's Citizen Base Initiative stimulates the citizen sector to cultivate a broad base of resources—money, people, goods, services, information, and partnerships—in order to increase the sector’s efficiency and social impact on a global scale.

The CBI approach 'tips' the mindset of the citizen sector toward building a broad base of support...

Ashoka has researched and is now disseminating a powerful set of proven best practices in building Citizen Base Initiatives. (Note how nicely this nomenclature gets combines forprofit, nonprofit, and  governmental elements; all could be represented in a Citizen Base Initiative, as it spirals upwards based on the energies, synergies, and results achieved by its citizen stakeholders. Fundraising takes on a different complexion when you consider your "donors" not as cash machines, but as fellow stakeholders in a common intiative as citizens for community benefits in which the giver shares.