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Hyperagency: How Gargantua Reformed All of Paris


Nil admirari, a Roman maxim.

My soul, which in the contempt of this world seems to men as it were to die, shall live not to itself, but to him. Saint Augustine

Philanthropy is private action in a public space.  H. Peter Karoff.

Dr. Paul Schervish, head of the Boston College Center for Wealth and Philanthropy, speaks admiringly  of very wealthy people as "hyperagents" who by force of will, and force of money, can create the world they want, or realms within it, whether it be a corporation, a museum, a new church, or whatever it is that will constitute "life as we know it," for more ordinary mortals. Perhaps the earliest and still the most memorable of these hyperagents was Gargantua, the giant in Rabelais, here reforming all of Paris by simply unbuttoning his britches and letting loose a flood.

Some few days after that they had refreshed themselves, he went to see the city, and was beheld of everybody there with great admiration; for the people of Paris are so sottish, so badot, so foolish and fond by nature, that a juggler, a carrier of indulgences, a sumpter-horse, or mule with cymbals or tinkling bells, a blind fiddler in the middle of a cross lane, shall draw a greater confluence of people together than an evangelical preacher. And they pressed so hard upon him that he was constrained to rest himself upon the towers of Our Lady's Church. At which place, seeing so many about him, he said with a loud voice, I believe that these buzzards will have me to pay them here my welcome hither, and my Proficiat. It is but good reason. I will now give them their wine, but it shall be only in sport. Then smiling, he untied his fair braguette, and drawing out his mentul into the open air, he so bitterly all-to-bepissed them, that he drowned two hundred and sixty thousand, four hundred and eighteen, besides the women and little children. Some, nevertheless, of the company escaped this piss-flood by mere speed of foot, who, when they were at the higher end of the university, sweating, coughing, spitting, and out of breath, they began to swear and curse, some in good hot earnest, and others in jest.

The wisdom and moral imagination of Rabelais is well within Paul Schervish's range, as a former Jesuit, who undoubtably knows "contemptus mundi," the sin of vanity, and the risk of admiring earthly success without regard to the moral tenor of the larger than life personage. Yet, it is a matter of genre, and the decorum proper to discussing wealth. To write, "he so bitterly all-to-bepissed them, that he drowned two hundred and sixty thousand, four hundred and eighteen, besides the women and little children," in a discussion of giants, let alone hyperagents takes Rabelais, or one who works in his tradition, that of Diogenes, as Rabelais would agree. I would personally never write of a famous philanthropist "be-pissing" himself or herself, or all of Dallas, or New York, neither literally nor metaphorically, in a respectable blog like Gifthub. As a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, and a former apprentice Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage (The Garden of Earthly Delights), I like, Paul, the former Jesuit, now in charge of the Boston Center for Wealth and Philanthropy, maintain a higher tone. I, unlike Rabelais, one of the greatest moralists who ever lived, keep a civil tongue in my head. It is better for business.

The picture by Daumier, by the way, is of the King, represented as Gargantua, being fed by his admiring subjects. For this caricature the artist was imprisoned for six months, making my point about keeping our civic dialogs civil. Gargantua should have kept his fly buttoned, or if he did piss all over the people, Rabelais should have passed over the matter in silence. Some things are best done but not said.

The Reasonable Moralists in a World Run Mad

Beware the earnest moralist, as you would a rabid dog!, saith the Tutor. Yes, I have distinguished friends who are determined to hold moral reflections or civic dialogs on topics that make the Town Meetings on Healthcare look amiable. To them I would say, Welcome! Your project is as mad as could be, and that (not your apparent moderation and reasonableness) is its saving grace. When it dawns on you that you are either insane, in a sane world, or sane in a mad world, how will you comport yourself? My suggestion is to take off all your clothes and climb into the nearest dumpster with Diogenes. That will save your critics the trouble of tossing you there.

A Moralist Examines His Own Face in a Mirror by Lamplight

Horace said that the poet holds the mirror up to nature. So he held the mirror up and turned it in all directions in the court of Caesar Augustus, and around the streets of Rome. In that mirror appear every variation of vice and folly. Diogenes sought the honest man by carrying a pottery lamp around town in broad daylight. Had Diogenes borrowed Horace's mirror, holding his own lamp up to see more clearly - what would have looked back at him smiling? In this line of work, this moral tutorial business, the more you hold the mirror up to catch the vice and folly of others, the longer grow your own ass's ears, and your own donkey-like tail. Beware the earnest moralist, as you would a rabid dog! Diogenes knew this, as did Horace, Rabelais, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Swift, Gay, Sterne, Diderot, Wilde, Joseph Heller, and Kundera, to name a few. You could say they were "acting out."

Such were the words I spoke in my own defense last night to Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, after he got off work, teaching English as a Second Language in Wealth Bondage. He said, "Leave literature and critical theory to the professionals, Phil; you teach values-based planning for the affluent. Have you thought about getting a chair endowed in Critical Philanthropic Studies? Then you could blog all you want and get paid. Meanwhile, stick to business." Good advice, I am off to read up on charitable tax facts.

Swearing off Menippean Satire Once and For All

I am at a crossroads in life and with this blog. I am in agreement with Oscar Wilde on the importance of being earnest. Our country, our species, our planet are in peril. For solutions we have a national debt we can not repay and media-talk of an upturn.The moral dimension of philanthropy calls for earnest civic reflection, much like the health plan town meetings, only more so. And here I am loitering naked in a Dumpster, making my daily diatribe, with my imaginary friends in Wealth Bondage, whereas my real friends, of course, are entirely Free, because the Markets are Free, speech is Free, and also the country is Free. On the advice of Dr. Chadwallah, from here on I am going to be as serious as Friar John each Lent. Mardis Gras! get thee hence. I will preach the ten commandments, going light on adultery, bearing false witness, stealing, cursing, disrespecting elders, coveting, and the other unpopular ones; take confession, and impose penance. No one can object to that. I am called by God, or a god, or a fallen angel. I am not sure which, but it sure is intoxicating.

Values-Based Planning with Biblical Wisdom, Other Wisdom, or None at All

"All good financial advice is based on Biblical wisdom....that is your valued added as a Christian financial advisor," Ron Blue at Kingdom Advisors. If you flinch at the word, Biblical, with what word would you replace it? I found myself saying, "Yes, Biblical, and/or the liberal arts, or at least some wisdom tradition richer and deeper than market ideals of consumption, self-aggrandizment, and control." We are so often slaves of money, in bondage to wealth. We are the indentured servants of brands, the idols of the marketplace erected that we might worship our own vanities and trifles. Nor am I free of sin. How can a good planner not at least try to liberate his or her clients, and we ourselves as advisors, from our money addiction? "Give all you have to the poor and follow me!" remains the most flagrantly provocative financial recommendation ever given by a healer to those he would cure. Even Diogenes,  naked in his barrel, had less nerve. I was taught that the way of Christ is the way of the cross. I in my Gift Tub follow Diogenes because he never had to pay that ultimate price.

I Get a Lashing from My Own Morals Tutor

Via The Happy Tutor, sitting in his dumpster, thumbing through a text book on Greek mythology, discarded, along with an old couch, and broken tv by a Harvard Grad on his way to Yale law school.

Phil, you write a lot about Hermes as the Trickster god, and patron saint of thieves, pickpockets, merchants, whores, highwaymen, and though you do not say it, because you are such a sell out, values-based planners to the affluent. You note correctly that Hermes carried the caduceus, bringing both life and death with his poisons and potions. You point out correctly that he brought - as do your two bit philanthropic leaders - "inspiration" as if from the gods. You say correctly that Hermes was the god of the boundaries, set at the crossroads, where "we" meet "them." The same crossroads where Oedipus slew his father. You point out correctly that the pharmakos, or scapegoat was burned at the crossroads, to save a society sick with the plague. You say correctly that the greatest moral healer, or pharmakeus, was Socrates, who was executed (by being made to drink the pharmakon, or poison) for his temerity in disrespecting the gods. You do not say, though you know full well, what his specific impiety was. Hermes was the priapic god, always shown with an erect phallus. Alcibiades, the general and student of Socrates, had a in a time of war, gone around knocking off the cocks from the Hermes around Athens, blurring its boundaries. Now, why, Phil are you so squeamish about the obvious truth - The Morals Tutors, the Healers, the Preachers, the bringers of Inspiration, have always been Tricksters, Frauds, and charismatic Bunko Artists. They are "called," but who places the call? Is it God or his closest competitor, he who is second and so must try harder? The Greeks would have said that it was not Apollo who calls, but Dionysus. Hence, like a Rock Star or a Certain Politician, we must imagine the inspired man as the phallic god whose cock does the thinking. That is the shameful truth your polite prose knowingly conceals. You teach morally second and third rate people the liberal art of conjuring spirits. They become charismatic, they get followers, they have adoring, mesmerized fans and the consequences are those depicted in the myth of Hermes. The true pharmakon is satire, the strongest of moral medicines. To that I have "called" you, as my only protege, to carry on our noble trade, when the Thunderbird rots my tongue, liver too, and my body is at last laid in earth, or goes out with garbage bags on the scow. On your shoulders I have placed the flayed skin of the goat. Why have you in passing for an educator, renounced your gift and calling, wearing now the solemn black gown, and a mortarboard, when your true headpeice is the Cap and Bells? How can you as a Morals Tutor refrain, if not from satire, than from hilarity? You are authenic in every post. Your true self submerged in the persona of the well-meaning dupe among knaves. Be hermetic, if you must, concealing your message, as Jesus did in parables, but do not let the craft die out in the mockery of it that you now perform daily to your everlasting disgrace. I am ashamed to have been your mentor. Was it for this that I beat you with rods? Whored you to all comers at a price? Taught you to pick pockets? To deal in dodgy pharmaceuticals....? 

Well, Tutor is Tutor. The rest of his tirade was inaudible as Tutor sank into a drunken stupor. You can be sure, my Fellow Virtues-Based Planners for the Affluent, that I have no intention of speaking plain moral truth. What am I, crazy?  I am no sacrificial lamb, but a reputable assistant professor on his way up. I may once have made my living as a Private Wealth Advisor, but that was when I was young and foolish. That was then and this is now. (Typed in a Blackberry by PBC, while eating a blueberry bagel, in a deli at the corner of Wealth and Bondage. Tutor's outburst has been edited for appropriateness in a polite blog aimed at well socialized and financially comfortable Americans and their advisors who help them stay in their own world - profitably for all concerned and for the betterment of humankind.)

Gawd! Philanthropy is Suppostabe Fun

RT @ Missy ProctorWealthBondageCharityBall sucks. Prince Adullah wants me on G650. Must scoot!

Such are the times we live in. As a Moralist in Residence to Rear Admiral Proctor and his family, I sometimes wonder if I am earning my keep. I do appreciate Missy keeping me informed, though. Saves money on a GPS ankle bracelet. I am supposed to be passing on to Missy the Admiral's family values. Sometimes I fear I have succeeded far too well. Still, she is better than her mother, Juanita. - PBC

Framing Philanthropy - Your Frame's As Good as Mine, Jack

Via The Happy Tutor,

Sitting around naked in a Dumpster all day, shouting out to all comers about philanthropy in general and alms for me in particular, is pretty lonely. You get to noticing things. Today I saw this run down car parked outside Wealth Bondage, while the occupants, apparently, went shopping. The car had two bumper stickers. "Jesus Saves" on the right side, and "I read Rilke" on the other. It got me wondering. One person who somehow had gotten beyond our current cultural frames? A couple, bound for a quick divorce? Parent and child? Two owners of the car, with the Rilke person, more than likely, broke, buying the car used from the Jesus saves guy? Hard to tell. The meter expired and the car got towed to the impound lot. I will keep you posted if I learn anything more.

As told To Phil Cubeta over a Dixie Cup of Thunderbird. Tutor's oral midrash has been edited for grammar, spelling and cultural appropriateness, while stone cold sober, and is provided as a public service, on behalf of philanthropists everywhere. - PBC.

Welcome to Gift Tub

Donky-headband  Lend me thine ears!

For the last few months, to provide a higher rate of Social Return, our Social Investor who surely needs no introduction here, has been outsourcing all but the most Mission Critical posts at Gifthub to alienated labor in India. "The world is flat, she says, "so screw you." I had relied on Phil Cubeta, my Protege, to manage it all subject to the usual moral compromises and calculations of personal expediency.  The results are what you see - plain prose, an earnest persona that none would wish to call his own, and an audience that grows daily but has no comments, no interest in joining the conversation, no stake in the game.  Therefore, I have returned to my Tub to accost passersby in the spirit of Diogenes, the greatest uncrucified morals tutor of all time. All posts marked as "Gift Tub" are authentic and should be considered as works of art in the neoclassical tradition, that of satire, our noble trade, designed to delight and instruct my fellow citizens as to their responsibilities.  These specially marked posts represent my true teachings, couched in parables, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Please disregard the others, as the feeble efforts of a struggling Professor to ingratiate himself with the world at large, and with the wealthy in particular. Moral Reform will not come so easily, though I wish the poor fool well.  To celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of The Dumpster, you get a pair of ass's ears. Wear them proudly - Know Thyself as the Wise Man said, his ears rippling majestically.  I am the wisest of men, because I know I am a pompous ass.  Art, as Horace said, holds the mirror up to nature, as might a good barber. Is it any wonder that we wince, seeing in the mirror, as did Midas, our ears standing up proudly?

- Tutor