The Pancake Protocols

Usually, it is Tutor who finds himself locked in his cell, for insubordination, or some kind of misbehavior. Today, it was Tess who barred herself in her room, to duel long distance with George Soros over who would break the Central Bank of Brazil. This left Tutor free to roam the Castle, and at midnight to arrange a secret and forbidden feast of blueberry pancakes for Audrey. He whipped up ten large ones for her, and five for him, as she sat swinging her feet, in her footed pajamas, at the kitchen counter, long past her official bedtime. So, there she soon sat, before a pile of ten, large pancakes, more than any child should eat, particularly with butter and real maple syrup. Just before giving her the fork, Tutor attempts a "teachable moment."

Tutor: "That is a lot of pancakes!"

Audrey: "Give me the fork!"

Tutor: "Please?"

Audrey: "Please! Give me it!"

Tutor: "You know Momma has not eaten one thing today; she was locked in her room conquering Brazil."

Audrey: "Give it to me!"

Tutor: "Do you think Momma would like some pancakes? When she gets hungry tonight? Should we maybe save some for her?"

Audrey: "Pancakes are not good for Momma! They rot her teeth! Pancakes make Momma hyper!"

Tutor: "Maybe one?"

Audrey: "But they are my pancakes!"

Tutor: "Momma is big, you are small. What would be fair?"

Audrey: "Equal? Five? But they might make Momma sick!"

Tutor: "She has five then, I have five, you have five?"

Audrey: "So I have to share and you don't? If I have to share, you have to share!"

And so it went down. Now at 2 am Tutor is just finishing cleaning up. In wanders Momma, $1 b up for the day, and with a moment for a bedtime snack.

Momma: "Funny, I thought I smelled pancakes....."

Tutor: "Impossible, Madame, pancakes as you know are forbidden. Empty calories. Bad for her teeth. Makes her hyper."

Momma: "Do not lie to my face, Tutor, or it will be back to the Dungeon forever!"

Tutor: "Well, Madame, pursuant to my official duties, as Morals Tutor for the Future Queen, I saw fit to mingle the "sweet with the instructive," as Horace says we must, in his Ars Poetica, as you well know...."

Momma: "Cut the crap."

Tutor: "Fifteen pancakes were made."

Momma: "They were made? You made them, you mean."

Tutor: "I made fifteen, took five as my Comprehensive Cook and Trustee Fee, and gave Audrey ten."

Momma: "My God!"

Tutor: "And we discussed fairness. How much is enough for a child."

Momma: "Or for you."

Tutor: "Yes, your highness. But as you well know, moderation is the soul of virtue. Audrey felt it would not be right to give you any pancakes at all since you might develop a taste for them, gain weight, rot your teeth, become hyperactive, and maybe even get diabetes."

Momma: "So you and Audrey pigged them all down?"

Momma, hungry, opens the refrigerator door, and there are seven and one half large pancakes covered neatly with Saran Wrap.

Tutor: "Half of hers and half of mine. We thought that would be fair, if it please Your Ladyship."

Momma: "It is hard to reprimand you properly, Tutor, with my mouth full of pancakes, but insubordination must not be tolerated. It is not just the pancakes, it is that you went behind my back to disobey a direct order. (These are quite good by the way. The blueberries do make all the difference. Pass the syrup, please.) You are confined to quarters until further notice. Get out of my sight!"

And so it goes in the Castle. Master Jack the next morning reinforces with Momma that she made a wise decision. Audrey is already a wild child. Tutor sets an atrocious example. Pancakes are only the beginning. A firm hand with Tutor! He is a Force of Disorder. And Audrey could go either way without Wise Counsel, which is by the way included in Master Jack's Comprehensive Trustee fee at no extra charge.   

Teaching Self Control to Those who Will One day Rule us All

"Momma! Momma! Come quick!," cries Audrey, racing into her mother's room, "I killed him! I killed Tutor by mistake!" Momma runs quickly to Audrey's room, fearing a repeat of the Annie Oakley incident, but there is The Happy Tutor rising groggily from the floor. It seems that he and Audrey had a contest to see who could hold their breath the longest. "I am so sorry, Madame, this is the first time I ever lost."

Moments of Truth for the Courtiers to the King

Simony "is the act of selling church offices and roles. The practice is named after Simon Magus who is described in the Acts of the Apostles as having offered two disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment in exchange for their empowering him to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to anyone on whom he would place hands." (Wikipedia.) In other words, he was a magician who wanted to learn how to work real miracles, since these might command a higher price, in the logic of the marketplace. Against this is the saying, roughly, "You can commit any sin and be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven." I take this to mean for my own use the following: When the moment of truth arrives, evade it as we will, by speaking in parables, we must offer ourselves to sacrifice, or the spirit will desert us; and also that if we blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and take the name of the holy or the wise or even beautiful in vain, the tongue will rot in our mouths, and whatever eloquence allowed us to lie well, will ebb away, as Milton's Satan ebbs from sublime at first in Hell, to little more than a worm.

Jesus also said, in various Gospels, some Apocryphal, as he walked by Trump Tower or some other then colossal image of Excellence, "Bring me the stone the builder's rejected. That is the cornerstone." I take this to mean that worldly power will collapse and the first shall be last, the last shall be first, and the meek will inherit. Among the meek are the children, women, the poor, the outcast, the sick, those imprisoned, those on the margins, those on the outside of whatever wall we build. 

Cordelia cannot heave her heart into her mouth to enact rituals that enable those who are unwise or unjust. She will not bear false witness. When asked why she will not comply with the rituals of wealth and power, on whom her own well-being depends, she finally says, "Nothing." And is told that "nothing will come of nothing," and nothing does. She is disinherited, the King as deranged exemplar of the body politic goes mad, and not even a Fool, nor Cordelia, or Kent the Faithful Servant, nor healing music, can restore him for more than a moment to sanity or peace.

Many today say nothing in the precincts of wealth and power. Those are the wise ones. And I do not mean they are silent. One story, Lear, ends with bodies pulled from the stage. Another, more hopeful in a way, with the harrowing of hell. How do the wise today see this playing out in the precincts of Private Wealth? Should we ask them?

"On The Sociology of Wealth, 2016" by H. Peter Karoff

H. Peter Karoff, the founder of The Philanthropic Initiative, in the attached paper, provided here with his permission, addresses the clients of a wealth management  firm whose minimum net worth client has $75 mm. Peter is speaking with, not lecturing to, the humans sometimes termed Wealth-Holders or Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals. The context is a country, an increasingly disenfranchised "electorate," of consumers, awakening in addled fury to wealth inequality, and their own increasingly diminished life chances. Peter feels the pain of the marginalized, but also (we are all one body politic) that of his audience: 

No one likes to be put on the defensive in the communities where one lives. No one wants a diminution of family self-worth, of increased fear, of unwanted exposure, or be forced to live an ultra-private life, or be constrained to speak out or play a lead on important social issues about which one feels passionate. All these things lead to withdrawal and less, not more, investment of a family’s human and financial resources at a time when the societal need and opportunity is greater than ever before.

Peter, in prior days, I believe, not only worked on civil rights, but has counseled some of the wealthiest families in other parts of the world who do or may live in fear for their safety. Peter asks his audience to consider fundamental questions, as to the proper uses of riches in a world divided.

  1. What is our family’s definition of “wealth with responsibility” – how do our passions and values drive that definition? What “Guiding Principles” would help us be true to ourselves?
  2. What “public persona” do we have today, and what do we wish to present to the outside world in the future – being anonymous and invisible is not an option in this Web-based information accessed environment – and how do we become more intentional in communicating that public persona?
  3. How do we as a family, and as individuals, truly engage in the broader world? What does engagement mean – time, talent and experience, contacts and networks, and financial resources?
  4. What are the bridges between our isolation, our privilege, and others who do not have those resources?
  5. Philanthropy has been for many families a very successful bridge. What role does strategic philanthropy play for us, and how do we develop the competence and governance for a great philanthropy?
  6. A family’s investment philosophy and policy can also be a bridge. How do we integrate our values and principles into a comprehensive investment philosophy and policy?
  7. How expansive a role does social and impact investing play? Where are the lines between social investing and traditional philanthropy?

All positions carry with them a certain price of admission. (Even a Dumpster is owned by someone, and homesteaded on sufferance.) To be an outsider among insiders only allows so much slack. Any teacher must await a teachable moment. If words like "justice," did not make Peter's final draft..... If all questions at the end are posed as if they were "family branding" or "values questions," to be answered by the rich person, to the rich person's own satisfaction, without there being any external standard..... "Truth is a bitch that must to kennel....,' as the Fool exclaimed, exiting stage right, on the tip of his Majesty's boot. In short, if Peter's questions pose a test, who grades the Final?

Download On the Sociology of Wealth 2016 - Karoff - FINAL-1

In Audrey is our Hope for Good Governance in a World gone Mad

I am probably not the only one who is always pissed off about work related issues. As a "lifer" in Wealth Bondage, in any number of demeaning roles, most recently, cabana boy, my hot button issue has always been wealth inequality. It goes back for me to Catholic Social Doctrine, and the MLK era. It is unconscionable, in my view, for “The most trusted advisor” to a dynastic family to remain a wealth-identified Courtier, without wealth himself or herself, but as identified with wealth as was Mammy in Gone with the Wind, unable or afraid to articulate with the client a vision of the commonweal. I take “Stillness at Kycuit” to be about the best contemporary take, by a practitioner, on this debilitating topic. The best of all takes, though, was King Lear. Which, as you may recall, does not end well, for Kings, heirs, or Courtiers. As that tragedy suggests, the only way out of systemic injustice and the madness of concentrated power is good governance.  Audrey, the Once and Future Queen may be the only viable answer, as a practical matter. Once she inherits Trump Tower, all the Casinos, and The Bourse itself, there is no limit to how good things can get for those in her favor. I hope The Happy Tutor will remain in her good graces and that he will put in a word for me. May she who saved Rex, the Rescue Dog, save me. And you, too, if you behave as well as Rex and I do.

Traffick in Wisdom

 Tutor, during playtime, asks Audrey if Momma has taught her any prayers. It seems not, which of course Tutor as an ordained priest, finds quite scandalous. A young, quick mind is easily taught, even while the owner of said mind is hopping about the room like a bunny. So, at bedtime Momma hears Audrey recite,

When I lay me down to Sleep,
I recommend my self to His care;
when I awake, I give my self up to His Direction,

"My word, Tutor," Momma says, from her easy chair, "What is that? Those are not the real words! 'I recommend my self to his care?' That is all messed up! Teach her the real version or none at all, if you please." And she recites:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

My Fellow Scholars who double in Wealth Bondage as Most Trusted Advisors to Extreme Wealth, since we all have to make ends meet somehow, will recognize the Happy Tutor's dilemma. Of course, as a close friend, and drinking buddy, of Addison and Steele (from whose journals I too draw my epistolary style), Tutor is teaching the original version, as he should, but how can he say so without insulting his Lady, Patron, and Boss? So, Tutor simply says, "Yes, Miladay." Meanwhile, Audrey has drifted off to sleep.

What Tutor is thinking is, "What manner of parent would teach a kid that barbaric received version? 'If I die before I wake.....' Why plant such morbid thoughts in Audrey's mind? Her 'soul to take'? What sadistic monster would teach a child to contemplate death each night at bedtime? And yet, perhaps Momma is right. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, is perhaps of all messages the best for a Well Prepared Heir.

"Yes, Miladay, murmurs Tutor, "Contemptus Mundi, you are quite right."

"What the....?," says, Momma. And so, Tutor must once again the learn the lesson of all lessons: The Customer for Wisdom is always right.

Remember Maslow that Thou are Dust

In Maslow, the Seeker rises up the pyramid, achieving requital of needs and appetite, love and belonging, then self acutalization, then transcendence. We, our bellies, resumes, and wallets full, merge with the godhead in some way. In more mature cultures, the same story was told with a wheel, which served as the instrument of  luck, instruction, and torment. At the apogee was The Flourishing Family, or Pappa the King, but as Fortune turned her wheel, the family declines:  Pappa The King become the Pauper, and then around again, as life flows in seasons, of ripening, harvest, and decay. Family Governance as a discipline in service to Fortunate Families is still in the Grail Quest, or Romance, genre, not yet the tragic. Its insights are closer to Human Potential Psychology than to the Vanitas Tradition of which it is the conspicuous evasion. Fortune turns her wheel not only to torment us, or to serve her comic purpose (the human comedy), or out of whim, but also to instruct us in brokenness and surrender. "Hold open the wound of the negative," said Kierkegaard. I assume that is so the wound, or heavenly hurt, does not gangrene. Swelling pride, pus. The lancet pricks; the healing hurts. A little salt in the wound, as Tutor, reminds me, has long been a best practice of Moral Instruction.

The Sound of Hope

I am having to piece this post together after the fact, based on emails from Tutor, and interpretations provided by my colleague, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meanings in Wealth Bondage: All We Know of Good. Apparently, Tutor was in Audrey's room, after dinner, watching from her arched window as the last sliver of sun set below the waves. From the ramparts above came the haunting sound of Tess's flute, as if it were the soundtrack of a movie whose title was, "Hope." Tutor felt such yearning, as I have never known in him all these years. Dr. Amrit Chadwallah pointed me, by way of interpretation to Neoplatonism, to Petrarch and Laura, Dante and Beatrice, Sir Philip Sydney's "Astrophil and Stella," Yeats and Maude Gonne. I trust his scholarship, but Tutor, though a priest, goes back much earlier. What Tutor told me was that he has heard such a tune, but once, and that was long before the pagan gods usurped Olympus from the Titans. It was off the coast of Thrace, where the forests grew down to the beach. Pan's pipes, the Great God Pan, now long since dead. When Tutor, shaken, turned from the window, there  like a wild thing was Audrey, red hair flying, dancing a dance of her own devising to her mother's song.

The Poor Tutor is Smitten

Poor Tutor, judging from his recent notes "home" to me here in the Dumpster, is quite hopelessly smitten by Tess, his super-wealthy client, she who owns a controlling interest in all the world's wealth. Tess is not what you would call conventionally beautiful, but she is striking - tall, lithe, with large intelligent eyes, expressive lips, and a mass of unruly brown hair. She is not at all concerned about her appearance, seldom wears makeup, and shows no interest in any suitor, though each day brings massive floral arrangements by helicopter from the world's most eligible men. She stays fit by practicing fencing. Her fencing master, Andre, is French, an Olympic Gold Medalist, yet with Tess evenly matched. She fences as she trades stock, in the moment, in a flow state. Andre will say privately that he would never fence with her without a mesh mask, padding, and a "button" on the tip of her rapier. She forgets herself in the heat of the moment, and her ritual tap might in one thoughtless thrust go deeper than skin. She also hates to lose, to a man, particularly. 

Is Tutor so star struck because Tess is so phenomenally rich? Surely, not! Please think better of him than that. His vow of poverty has been kept for centuries, even to an extreme. (As to his vow of chastity, what happens in Wealth Bondage stays in Wealth Bondage, but he has been doing better since Molly the upstairs maid gave him the back of her hand. Apparently, she considered a 1,000 year old suitor, no matter how rakish, a bit antique. Molly is now dating Andre, but that is another story.) 

Is it that Tess is such a good mother, as busy as she is? That helps, no doubt. Tutor treasures the bedtime moments, as Audrey falls asleep, hearing one of his cock and bull stories, starring Audrey and her Rescue Dog Rex. Tess pretends not to listen, but Tutor notices how her fingers stop trading stock on the iPad, and how she sometimes murmurs and chuckles, and how Tess's breathing falls into synchrony with her child's breathing.  As Audrey nods off, the world is saved for one more day. Rising to leave, often Tutor finds Tess as fast asleep as her kid. To both he offers his benediction. (Once he did kiss the top of Tess's sleeping head, but he confessed it the Bishop, when the Bishop visited the Castle, and has done appropriate penance.)

But truly what has Tutor star struck is Tess's flute. In the evenings, after dinner, as the moon rises, she will go out to the ramparts, alone, and play to thw waves. Her music is all her own, improvised, to the waves, moonlight, and the creatures of air and sea, who seem to answer her, dancing, weaving, swooping, in the airy or liquid element. (Once to her tremolo, a  whale rose and the spout kept time to the music.) She is ungodly gifted, and daft. Wealth, the patterns in the market, also answer her call. Hence her astronomical, ever-growing wealth. But when Tutor stands at the casement, in his chapel, beneath the upper rampart, he is brought almost to his knees, as he hears her music, lifting and sad, yet vital and hopeful, too. He has the illusion that her music calms the troubled waters, and gives life to fish and the birds struggling to survive as the world changes so fast.

Is Tutor in love with Tess, her music, or with what streams through both? In any case, if you noticed any jealousy of Master Jack, you now know at least part of the reason. If you wonder if Tutor's experience is strange, or feel it is unique, you may be wrong. Petrarch and Laura, Dante with Beatrice, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Astrophil and Stella, Yeats and Maude Gonne attest to the same infinite ache, only in this case the art flows from Tess directly, not through the man smitten. Maybe times change, and the holy spirit or the muses, being women, have become feminists themselves, and are working to save the world directly through women, cutting out the middlemen. It may be earth's last chance, Tess and her kid. Tutor is grateful to be cast in a supporting role.

Audrey's Triptych

A Fake Moral Autobiography is a rite of passage; every rich kid needs to do one to be a member of the family in good standing, but it is odious all the same, and any right-minded child will be stimulated to do a Real Moral Autobiography, if only as an act of revenge upon all the Stupid Grownups. Sanctimonious is not a word children use, nor is smarmy, or treacly,  though these may appear later on the SAT, or in a cram course; self serving or self aggrandizing, are not phrases kids use, but they do have an instinct, and properly so, one that is abraded over time and lost until they too become Sanctimonious Self Serving Grownups inflicting Family Rituals on the next generation. So Dynastic Family Values and Familial and Social Dysfunction are passed down the line for at least 100 years or until the family, the community of which is a part, or the ecosystems collapse.

In any case, Audrey is working, at her request, on her real Moral Autobiography. Tutor suggests she use her crayons, magic markers, poster paint, or finger paint. First picture, "How it Was." Audrey likes the assignment and could be seen cross legged on the floor of her room, busy with her paintbox of water colors. Quite absorbed; and candidly, making a quite a mess.

Under the door of his desolate cell, Tutor sees a piece of poster paper sliding. "How it Was" is a painting of a Castle, with a high wall around it, with ponies inside, a little girl inside, and a mother wearing a crown. Above the Castle is a bright sun and a rainbow. The ponies' tails are rainbows, too. The child's hair is wild and red. Tutor affixes the picture to the wall of his cell, above the wooden plank serving as his desk. The place is brighter already.

Tutor slides back under the door a note, "Lovely! Thank you! Now, 'How Things Are.'" The note comes back, "Ok."

The next day, under the door comes, "How Things Are." And how they are is not so good. The sky is dark, the clouds tossed by the wind, lightning bolts. The sea rages against the Castle, threatening to overwhelm the beetling battlements. In the Courtyard, stand the ponies, now emaciated, with their bones showing through the skin. They are tethered by their reins to a post. The child is not alone, nor is Momma there, but a towering figure, a magician, or sorcerer, all in black, is pointing at the little girl with a long rod, accusingly. Her head is bowed.

Tutor slides back a note, "Scary! Who is the man? Is it me?"

Back comes, "No."

Tutor slides back, "Is it an evil magician?"

Back comes, "Sort of."

Tutor slides back, "Master Jack?"

Back comes, "Yes."

Tutor slides back, "Thank you, kid."

Back comes, "It was fun."

Tutor slides back, "Want one more?"

Back comes, "Yes!"

Tutor slides back, "How it Will Be"

Back comes, "Yes!"

Tutor slides back, "Make it Good!"

Back comes, "Yes!!!"

And the next day, under the door comes, "How it Will Be." And what a remarkable kid-art painting it is. The Castle under Moonlight, reflected on a placid sea. The ponies are big and strong. A little girl in a helmet, red hair protruding, gesturing to heaven with her sword is aboard one pony. A lanky figure in armor, his gaunt head without helmet, is on the other. On his arm is a shield. If you look closely you would see Audrey's Escutcheon. Own Rule Save, beneath a planet floating in space, with A U D R E Y in a semicircle above the world. The ponies are attached, like Santa's reindeer, to what look like a sleigh, but is actually Audrey's big wooden toy box. Rex, the Rescue Dog, is piloting the craft, facing forward, paws on the edge of the toy box. Behind him, piled high are huge bags of toys, groceries, medicine, clothing. Did I mention the ponies have wings? The whole enchanted team is lifting off, and flying up, up, soon to be over the battlements and gone! Gone on a mission of mercy. In the courtyard, no magician, just Momma in her crown, pointing up with one finger, and with the other hand holding a handkerchief waving.

"O My!," Tutor slips back under the door. "Thank you!"

"It's me and you."

Tutor adds, "I know, and Rex, too."

"And Momma," the note returns.

Tutor replies, "Happy Momma or Sad Momma?"

Audrey replies, "Happy and Sad."

Tutor replies, "I know, because kids grow up, even if they promise not to."

Audrey replies, "We have to save the world Tutor. There is not a moment to lose."

Tutor replies, "Can I come too?"

Audrey replies, "If you are loyal."

Tutor replies, "Yes, Your Highness."

Audrey replies, ":)"

Now Tutor has a triptych over his desk, still a prisoner, but soaring free.

But spare a thought for poor Momma. Her greatest treasures, though she owns a controlling interest in  all the world's material wealth and its intellectual property, too, are not jewels, bonds, stocks, patents, royalties, or famous works of art, but the kid-art that she keeps in the big closet where she dresses. She has them taped to her big closet walls, and often stands, alone going from one to the next, remembering how things were when Audrey drew them, and feeling how fast time goes. Recently, though, she has noticed Audrey on her bedroom floor, painting away like a little maniac. She expects to soon be surprised by the next piece of kid-art. But no. Three days of drawing and no present for Momma. What is going on?

Momma confronts Audrey. "You've been busy."

"Yes," Audrey replies.

"Painting?," Mother inquires.

"Yes," Audrey says.

"You have done many?"

Audrey says, "Three."

"Well," says Momma, "are they for me?"

Silence from Audrey

"Can I see them?"

Silence from Audrey

"Where are they?"

Silence from Audrey

"Were they for your friend? For Tutor?"

Audrey nods, wondering if she is in trouble again, or if Tutor will be in even more trouble.

"Let's go see," says Momma.

When the cell door is opened, facing the door, above the plank desk,  Momma sees the triptych. Approaching as one might in a gallery, hands clasped behind her back, Momma studies each picture carefully. Tutor stands to one side, Audrey to the other. Are they in trouble?

Momma says, "You, Sir, may join us for dinner."

And that night, for the very first time, Tutor gets to sit at the table, next to Audrey, rather than standing behind her like the butler. Now it is Master Jack in red velvet knees britches, and the waiter's red jacket, who must stand behind Momma, the most trusted servant, but without a place at the table.

Kid-Art is not for sale. It circulates only in the economy of love, grace, and gratitude. As with a pearl of great price, there is in kid-art no market and no such thing as a "trade," only gift for a gift. When Momma returns that evening to her room, to ready herself for bed, and enters the big closet for her dressing gown, there facing the door is the triptych.