Tutor Skyped me last night at 3 am. Apropos of whatever was on his mind, he said, "Social Enterprises now have as many bottom lines as there were once gods on Mt Olympus. It takes only two to make tragedy, and three for farce. Soon Ovid's Metamorphoses will be taught in business school. They call it 'story telling.' The best stories drive metrics. If only they might read The Bacchae. Reason rules the polis and the great god Dionysus calls for Hillary's head." Tutor may be drinking again. I worry about him sometimes. "If this is what a lifetime of reading gets you, Tutor," I said, "we are better off ignorant." He said, "You are in good company." Then he hung up.
Been talking to my mentor, The Happy Tutor, about our role as highest level consultants (wisdom, virtue, taste, manners, and spirituality) to highest level wealth holders. Tutor, as the younger son of a noble family, having roistered at Oxford with Dr. Rabelais, got ordained as a friar, and hired himself out, as a Morals Tutor, centuries ago, to Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare's model, apparently for Falstaff) whose family had built the Castle now inhabited by the world's wealthiest hedge fund manager, Tess, and her daughter, our once and future queen Audrey, who will inherit a controlling interest in the world, rule it, and save it in the nick of time, if all goes well, and she gets help she needs from me, Tutor, and Rex the Rescue Dog.
So, Tutor looks upon our work as what he calls "our noble trade." Tough love for those who, above the merchant class, the military class, the judiciary, the lower level employees, the unemployed, the poor, the halt and lame, the imprisoned and the oppressed, are closer to God. Selected by the market, often selected by high board scores, these, the best and brightest, marked out by wealth, status, and rank, are those who own, rule, and save by right, for the benefit of all. Yet, he says, we are not mere courtiers, machiavels, moral biographers, men or women of all work, privy counselors, consiglieres, cat's paws, henchmen, technocrats, publicists, lobbyists, or apologists for family enterprises that are beyond good and evil. Our role is to take the heir in hand at a formative age, to shape and mold with cold showers, corporal punishment, fasting, prayer, rigorous study of ancient and modern texts, military or other public service, so that the best and brightest can achieve their God and Market given "call," to own all, rule all, and save all. Tutor is, admittedly Old School, he does believe that blood become bluer in a Dynastic Family over time, but not automatically. That moral, intellectual, and spiritual refinement must be drilled in from birth, generation by generation, by morals tutors like us. The thoroughbred must be broken to the bridle.
I asked Tutor, realistically, how society can trust a trusted advisor, so near the seats of power, not to become a lackey, a flunky, what Romans called a "parasite," or to become what the Catholic Church calls a "Simoniac," one who sells holy things for money or preferment. The temptations of the flesh, status, power, and of material things are so great! That, Tutor told me is why legitimate Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest families must acclimate themselves to poverty, chastity, fasting, prayer, endless study, public disgrace and contumely. Only those hardened by life on the street, naked, like Diogenes in a Dumpster, who eschew any payment, other than a modest stipend and room and board, and who are crazy enough to speak truth to power, to be whipping boys or girls when called upon to take a beating in a good cause, can be trusted to help the world's wealthiest track straight and true with Wisdom and Virtue. I took this as good news, insofar as I have no clients, no money, no clothes, am certifiably insane, and am a total pariah with my fellow citizens of all genders, races, classes and creeds. Even, then, as Tutor reminds me, I am at risk of spiritual pride, making a virtue of necessity. My temptation will come, he says, when and if a client ever offers to pay me for Wisdom and Virtue. "Better," he said, "you peddle your fanny for loose change, behind the Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, than sell wisdom and virtue to Mammon's Minions as if it were an asset they could own, like financial capital. The muses, the graces, the holy spirit will not be traduced. Prostitute those ladies, and you will find," he said, "they are the fates, and the furies."
Nevertheless, saving my soul is not your problem. I am willing to accept the moral hazard of working with you, as an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual, no matter your current moral condition. I am like a Doctor who takes the hardest cases. ("Phil," as my friend Junius Martial once said "is both a surgeon and a mortician; if the surgery fails, the embalming is free. Either way your family gets you back looking better than ever.") If you have net worth of several hundred million dollars or more, then, have poor morals, and are foolish, and want a quick pop - a taste, a free trial serving, of wisdom and virtue - let's talk! It would be helpful if you can bring to your free initial consultation a list of your moral defects, a list of literary and philosophical or spiritual books you have read, if any, an account of recent follies, and any indicators you have noted of moral blindness, spiritual pride, self aggrandizement, hard-heartedness, or parti pris. (Noted in yourself. If you note such defects in others, I am happy to work with them, too, and am pleased to offer a family and friends discount. If you note these defects only in the poor, I would only ask for a modest subsidy.) I can then provide you with a custom letter of engagement, with cost, time line, and projected benefits, "Before and After." I cannot grant you attorney client privilege, but Tutor can provide the veil of the confessional, as well as absolution and penance, if they are required to put you on the straight and narrow path in your own Journey from Sin to Salvation.
"Give me a penny and I will sing you a song, but give me the penny first." - The Hack persona in Swift's Tale of the Tub
On the main stage, a well known attorney is demonstrating how with a Dynasty Trust a family can grow $4.5 million to $450 million over five generations. In the hallway I am talking to a first time attendee who grew to reasonable wealth from extreme poverty. His comment to me sotto voce, "Surreal! I have never been to a conference like this. How can they be so out of touch?" At dinner several of us having to get to a tv to see the convention addresses, as our leaders dance around wealth inequality, and the bitterness of the former middle class, and young people, driven downward by globalism. The next day at the wealth conference our sympathies are enlisted for billionaires whose fortunes, without our help, may decline to only millions, "from shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves."
The influential talk in the highest reaches of wealth planning is about wisdom and virtue. (Dunce addressing a hall of Dunces, listening with the admiring face of awe.) Surely our talk, our little congregation, must stink in the nostrils of a just and avenging God?
Paging through the handouts, as less likely to trigger me publicly than sitting through the sessions, I came upon a field leader, glossing the famous scriptural passage, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." His take, with raised eyebrows, was that this "may seem to be an ought." Yes, God is like that. He created us and has certain standards. Our "five capitals" (as if virtues were our personal property!) have both assets and liabilities. Our assets are a gift. Our talents are a gift. The earth itself is a gift. We owe back; and to deny that is pride, blindness and sin. Yet, he who did the handouts calls himself a Secular Priest. Lauded, praised, imitated. The time is ticking down to zero. We will owe an accounting.
The murmur even in the halls at our own conferences is growing. In serving the wealthiest, and twisting every wisdom tradition to their greater glory and perpetuation, have we not failed those traditions, ourselves, our clients, our country and our world? It is long since time that the sotto voce conversation in the hallways made the main platform. There are those I would nominate for the role, sooner than me, as more knowledgeable, better read, more connected, more ethical, but to praise them by name here in the Dumpster would be to draw them into disrepute, and jinx their career prospects. The logic of wealth planning is such that to be known for being morally sane, and 'out' about it, is a disqualifier. We are not paid to take care of humanity. We are paid to take care of billionaires, or the richest we can find. They do not take kindly to servants who forget their place. So, here in the Dumpster, I lay claim to the obvious. Quote him as we will: Dante did not put wealth advisors, Machiavels, and secular priests in his Paradiso. They boil in his hell. Hell is where God is absent, or his name taken in vain. Hell is ourselves, when we lose touch with love that animates all creation. We are not wise or virtuous. We are opportunists. Quote Chaucer as you will: His journey is not a sanctimonious defense of entrenched power, where the Wife of Bath wears a wimple and curtsies to the King; it is a version of Carnival, where ordinary people have their say, often obscene.
Of course, I could be wrong. Give me a penny and I will sing another tune. The truth is that I am only bitter. After 12 years of offering to tutor the rich on their morals, I have yet to bag a single client. It pisses me off that some people I could name get $5,000 to $10,000 a day for doing it, and they know Jack Squat about Dante, Beckett, Frost, Shakespeare, Chaucer. As with coinage, the counterfeits have driven out the pure gold. Like this post. Pure gold, and what do I get for it? Passers hurrying bye with eyes averted as if I were the one who is insane. How do you think I got so crazy? Conference after conference. It would make you crazy too. If my being naked, Buddy, offends you, buy me some clothes. I would take a shower if I could afford the shelter. You think you are better than me?
Recovering in the Dumpster this morning with the kind of headache only the cheapest wine can inflict, I was hit with an almost irresistible thought, given my lost life as a literary critic. What if I were to write a "critique" of PMA, Esquire's, ouvre, at Trusts and Estates, asking who is her lineage? As for themes: The School of James Hughes. As for genre and style: Talk of the Town (E.B.White in The New Yorker at its zenith), Dr. Johnson's peripatetic essays in The Rambler, and Horace, Sermo 1.9 (Horace and the Bore). One strand via Hughes: that of The Bore, who would be the Most Trusted Advisor, The Privy Counselor, and Man of all Work to Augustus, or at least Maecenas. (The Roman term for such loyal retainers was "parasite," not a term of respect, admittedly, but look whose talking.) The other strand in PMA is the "virile plain style" of the neoclasscial tradition of the honest man, the plain dealer, the moralist, the candid insider, writing in an easy way for others who are, or think they are. Such a self-respecting person speaks truth to power, and is admired for it by the leader who might behead those whose lips tremble at the moment of truth. Yet, PMA is a woman? That, too, and that is why her work in "family dynamics," and "family governance," or home economics, resonates. The language of strategic reason, the languages of love. Love of the arts, included. Of course, if this post could be blown up to the size of a Doctoral Dissertation in English Language and Literature, I might yet be Dr. Phil, in sky blue robe with the dark blue and gold slashes, and monk's cowl, though I have no pants and am barefoot, as befits an Honest English major with a degree in Philosophy.
For those Trusted Advisors, or Consiglieres, or Secular Priests, new to lit crit, just one question: In PMA's recent essay, "Are You "Wealthy'?," blowing up the School of Hughes, blasting its foundation (unwavering fidelity to the wealthiest, doglike loyalty to the Patron), she happens to leave a meeting of The Bores Who Serve Billionaires, and gets better advice on wealth, wisdom, virtue and happiness, from a cabbie. Was there really such a cabbie? What if she made that up? What if the Bore in Horace is made up, more a 'type' of the eternal parasite than an actual trusted advisor wannabe on a particular street in Rome 2,000 years ago? Would it be contrary to the editorial policy of Trust and Estates to publish fiction? Could it countenance satire, towards which the style of Horace, Dr. Johnson, and even The New Yorker (see the cartoons) tends? Traditions, like Audrey herself, have an atavistic gene that expresses itself when the civilization it carries is imperiled. As was Rome under the increasingly mad, or corrupt Caesars, as were gouty English royalty in Dr. Johnson's era, during the American Revolution, as are we now as The Wealthy Bear it Away, and the addled masses, around the globe, react and revolt, with the Duck Dynasty Patriarch needing as much help on Family Governance and Family Dynamics as anyone else, as does Trump. And on such "governance," of the grand self within the grand family, and grand family within the broken polity, that the future of our world depends, contested by billionaires and those who serve or follow.
Now, if you will excuse me I must cage enough for another bottle, "the hair of the dog." Failed as a literary critic, failed as a Morals Tutor, failed as a protege of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, may I at least succeed as a Beggar before old age sets in and indigence is friendless and wineless? And so now I: "Pray, Kind Sir, step in here for a moment behind the Dumpster. Let me have a word with you on the QT. I know you are well connected with Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Geneva, London, the Gulf States. I, though you might not know it to look at me now, am a learned man, a moral man, a wise man, a blameless man, virtuous. These very rags bear witness to my integrity. I have never sold out for the money, or prostituted my talent. I have chosen not to bathe, or hose off, because I am me, the human animal, authentic and incorruptible. Surely, you must know Maecenas? Caesar? Gates? Zuckerberg? Soros? Adelson, Thiel? Might you introduce me? To improve their taste or morals? Mentor their children? Prepare their heirs? Slit a throat? Prosecute a case? Keep secrets? Procure a mistress? Reduce taxes? Build social capital by buying an election? There is nothing that is not ennobled by my Patron's wealth. Nothing no matter how vile need be hidden from me. I have seen it all, and done worse. Pray, Sir, how are your own children doing? Could I prepare them Sir? Can you at least spare a quarter? Just one dime, Sir, and I will let you pass."
When one people, perhaps better organized, with a better Leader, conquered another, erased the loser's histories, tore down its monuments, killed or enslaved the men, burned its sacred texts, raped and impregnated the women, slew the innocents, profaned the altars, then came new histories, new monuments, new laws, a new king, new coinage, new standards for a promotion, new ribbons for National Heroes, and improved standards of decency. More civilized than the savages rightly put to the sword.
When the truth is unspeakable, guilty, when it is the truth of the marginalized and subordinated, then it is best spoken without being heard, hidden in plain sight. Told in parables, fables, allegory, and jokes; overheard, not heard. Stirred up from the bottom, this is Carnival, or Mardi Gras, madness, licentiousness, the promiscuous intermixing of high and low; riot, drunkenness, abandon, the mad world of Dionysus, the god of Alexander the Great, even now in New Orleans, staged in status contest, and as good business, by the town's elite. Stirred up from the bottom (first Carnival, then Lent), it is the crucifix after the fact, held up as an object of worship - holy, holy, holy. The priest who at midnight fornicated with the mayor's wife on the altar, as the drunken crowd (including the mayor) cheered, gives the Lenten sermon in the same cathedral, and rightly so. Coming and going, both are true, just not all at once, which is why the liturgical calendar endlessly repeats, to accommodate the whole truth.
From the bottom up, the world turned upside down, what do we do with the unthinkable, the unspeakable, at least half our moral truth? We call it art and hang it on the wall in the rich man's house. We wear britches, at times, and sometimes not. In the confessional, in a whisper, the Mayor's wife confesses her adultery, accepting penance, again on her knees. So, Wealth and The Will of God sprinkles holy water on Wealth Bondage, as priests have long blessed fleets headed off to war. On the priest's performance, no less than the whore's, Wealth Bondage, my generous patron, has built a resilient brand. May God be thanked.
Ah, Master Jack, ye knew this already, did you not? And because you do, you consider yourself Wise, having tasted the tree of knowledge, and become as a god? Such are the double-sided-truths, like the emperor's coin in the fingers of Christ, young Audrey must learn if she is to own, rule, and save, in this fallen world? That is why Tess must keep you on retainer as her most trusted advisor? Her consigliere? Secular Priest? Man of all work? Mentor to Youth? Yet, look! There Audrey is, with Tutor, hopping about like a Well Prepared Hare. Perhaps, one day, it will be your head on the block in Tutor's dungeon, or on a raised stage as a spectacle, lesson, and entertainment for the rabble. But, be assured, that as a Professional Courtesy, as one Trusted Advisor to another, in my capacity as the Omniscient Author Function, I will do my best to give your inevitable fall a comic turn. At least, you can be sure I will find it funny. And sometimes laughter is contagious, the best cure for the plague we spread as healers. And if you, too, smile, then all is right with the world. The laughter then passes, the wheel turns, and we can all get back to our serious business.
Readers have asked how can I, a flawed, mortal man, of questionable and fragile mental health, know from my dumpster what is happening at The Castle by Sea, near Scotland, where my mentor, The Happy Tutor, is now gainfully employed as The Least Trusted Advisor to Tess, the Warrior Queen of Wall Street, and her daughter, Audrey, age 9.6, who will someday own, rule and save our world, as you shall see in due time. In particular, and this is a real conundrum not just with me but with, say, Fielding, Dickens, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Virginia Wolfe, to name a few, how can I as Omniscient Narrator, actually see inside the characters' heads, and know their thoughts, and their most secret feelings? At one level, the answer is obvious: As Omniscient Narrator, I am just doing my job, no more or less bogus than, say, Impact Investing, or Subprime Loans, or Collateralized Debt Obligations, or politicians' promises. For every foolish reader, consumer, investor, or voter, an omniscient narrator stands ready to tell a tale. It is a big circuit of wishful thinking, feeding on itself. At another level, the answer (as to how I can hear the voices inside another person's head) is again obvious: I am insane. That seems more likely.
So, now that the Audrey project is taking off, and is billable, and my job in Wealth Bondage is no longer in peril, I am back in the Wealth Bondage Health Plan and am able to see a Counselor on a regular basis. Her name, I had not told you this in earlier posts, is Dr. Maevis Bryerly. She looks like a retired Lumberjack in tweed business attire, about 220 pounds, with arms like a weight lifter, and fists the size of hams, which triggers in me a lot of bad memories of my early days in Wealth Bondage pitching payday loans to the retail market in Yukon, prior to moving up into Private Banking, as assistant Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, under the Happy Tutor, with a specialization in Donor Motivation.
Dr. Bryerly asked me, today, how my journaling was going. She had assigned it to me, without realizing that I was posting it all over the internet. She considers that both a sign of my poor mental health, and cause of it not getting better. Now I am shunned not only in person but also by millions of passersby who read and mock my posts. I long for even one "like," "follower," or "friend," but years into this, I have nothing to show in response to my posts but stony silence, vitriol and scorn. I asked Dr. Bryerly about my Omniscience and she said it is nothing; I should not worry about it. It goes with megalomania, psychosis, and other traits associated with greatness. But, I said, "The voice I hear dictating the voices and inner lives of Audrey and Tess and Tutor, is your voice, Doctor. I merely take dictation. You are my muse! I love you so much Dr! I dream your words in my sleep!"
She said this is worse than she thought and would adjust my medication. More lithium. She said she is not my muse; and I don't really love her. It is just a transference, which is just as well, because if I loved a woman who looks like a Lumberjack, I would have to get my head examined. She said she would work through the transference with me, but I should probably not be drinking so much when on lithium, particularly after my lobotomy. The voices could just be delirium tremens.
I know that for you, as Gentle Reader, this may be Too Much Information (TMI), but I have always believed that Full Disclosure leads to trust. Without your believing in me as the Omniscient Narrator, I can't tell you what is going on inside Audrey, and have you accept it as true. I don't know how you would trust me if you thought that I thought that I am really Omniscient. I know it is really the Muse, speaking through Dr. Bryerly into me. As a Doctor of Human Psychology, she can see and hear what is going on inside people's heads. That is her job. She is trained to do it. That gives me the confidence to post here verbatim, without any editing, what I hear her saying inside my head. I know I will some day be cured, which is why I want to write everything down on line now, so that when my head goes dark, I can read it here and remember what it once was to be inspired.
I ran into my Muse today (I think of her as that, though she considers herself my therapist), not at her office where I go for help with the voices in my head, but at a hotel bar, where I had gone to network and cage a drink. She had already had a few too many, so I escorted her to a cab, and sent her home. On the way out the hotel's door, leaning on my arm, she said, "Fuck being a Muse.... other people's poetry and projections.... all I ever wanted was a little farm in Licenza at the foot of the mountains, where I could keep a flock and grow olives.... and that bastard Caesar gave it to fucking Horace....."
I walk into her office. She offers me a seat.
"How are you?," she asks.
"Good," I say.
"Do you feel you are making progress?," she asks.
"Yes, I feel I am now almost past the point where I have to deny I hear your voice inside my head all the time," I say.
"Tell me," she says, glancing at the clock.
On her pad she writes, "Relapse."
Family Governance for Governing Families. The role of the artist, under a patron. The role of the King's Man. Support, absorb, refactor, and subvert, for the greater good. More power than a Wise Counselor in the traditional Courtier mode. More power than Parliament. Only an all licensed Fool could do more. Were I a wise man I would join Wise Counsel, giving sage advice to families as powerful as our former Monarchs, before we broke from English rule.
The Wise make good use of literature, as of everything else. If they were wiser yet, they would be Fools. And perhaps The Happy Tutor could show them how. He is a Secular Priest, or actually a real priest, educated at Oxford as a cleric, since under Primogeniture (how our august predecessors beat the proverb, ashes to ashes, and rags to rags), he had to go into the army, become a judge, or be a priest and scholar, with a parish, or a school, or if lazy, as Tutor is, and a drunkard, and carouser, he could set up as a Morals Tutor to his noble neighbor's brats. Mentoring the Heirs, as we now say. The Happy Tutor is also the Lord of Misrule. So are our Wise Counsel, today, if by Misrule we mean the rule of the richest forever. Fool is one thing, Coxcomb, or Villain is another.
In Lear, do we pity the pauper at the base of Fortune's wheel as it turns, or the King at the top who must inevitably fall? When the highest and lowest trade places, 'handy dandy' who goes in ermine, and who in rags? Change places, and who is the thief, and who is the justice? Who is the sighted one? Who is blind? Who is sane and who mad? Riddle me that, Wise Counsel. But more importantly, can we like Shakespeare, speak truth in riddles to power, and still be awarded our four yards of red cloth to wear the King's livery at court? So far Tutor, buck naked in a Dumpster, must await future delivery. Advantage Wise Counsel.
If I were to write my own Book on Wealth and the Will of God, I would add the epigraph: "Wiser are the Children of Darkness." And believe me, I have learned that to my own cost. Let it be a lesson to us all.
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.