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,
     Amen.

"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.


Audrey Recites her Moral Bio in a Family Meeting, wearing her Best Party Dress and Mary Janes

In blue velvet party dress, white hose, and Mary Janes, her red hair well brushed, and almost tamed, Audrey is paraded into Momma's room by Master Jack, wearing his dark suit, as a handler might lead a prize poodle at the Westminster Dog Show. Audrey is doing her best Shirley Temple imitation. She bows to Momma and curtsies to Master Jack. She recites with a simpering smile, "I was a bad little girl, and I was lost, until Master Jack was hired as my Moral Mentor. He was sent by God, as Athena sent Mentor to save Telemachus! And now I am a good little girl and always will be, Momma." Then she bowed and curtsied, and bounded from the room, a Well Prepared Hare. Jack smiled his crocodile smile. Momma rolled her eyes. "Someone is tutoring that kid," she thinks, "and it is certainly not Master Jack." But the servants say Tutor has not left his cell. "Ah, me," Momma thinks, "that crazy priest is such a pain, but who else could get Audrey into Mary Janes? They must be communicating by telepathy."

 


Audrey's Moral Autobiography Faked

Audrey slips under Tutor's cell door an urgent note, "Tutor, Master Jack says I have to do my Moral Biography. What is that?"

Tutor slips back a note, "Simple! You tell him that you were lost before he came, now you are found, and you owe it all to him."

Audrey replies, "That is a lie, Tutor!"

Tutor replies, "It is not a lie, it is a game."

Audrey replies, "He is playing?"

Tutor replies, "Yes, to impress Momma."

Audrey replies, "He is an asshole."

Tutor replies, "Don't use bad language."

Audrey, "Sorry."

Tutor, "Will you let that asshole beat you?"

Audrey replies, "We will chop off his head, right?"

Tutor replies, "No, do what I told you."

Audrey replies, "Lie to him about how he saved me?"

Tutor replies, "Yes."

Audrey, "Then he wins and Momma will marry him!"

Tutor replies, "Momma has more sense."

Audrey, "I can't lie, it is wrong."

Tutor, "Chopping off heads is wrong too, sometimes, right?"

Audrey, "But sometimes we have to!"

Tutor, "And?"

Audrey, "Lie to liars!"

Tutor, "Hug"

Audrey, "Hug."


Tutor's Cell and The Moral Purpose of his Punishment, a Lesson for Children

I don't want the many children who love The Happy Tutor as their Silly Grownup, ally, role model, and friend, to be concerned that he is now in a Dungeon. He is just in a "time out," as you often are, when you are sent to your room,  whether you deserve it or not. The cell is just his room, in the Castle, a monk's cell, the only difference now is that he is forbidden to come out, until Momma says he has been punished enough, and he promises never to take Audrey off the island without permission. That is a good rule and for her own safety. Tutor may be a Morals Tutor, and a priest, but like the rest of us he has to be careful, follow rules, and listen to Momma. He is lonely, of course, but he is not totally alone. Audrey, when everyone is asleep, quietly goes down the stone stairs, and passes Tutor notes under his door, so they are still in touch.


A Gift Observed in Solitary Confinement: A Melancholy Post on Philanthropy and Civilization

Those who care about him, as flawed as he is, will be sorry to hear that Tutor has, for the last three weeks and two days, been banished to a small cold cell, two floors below sea level, for having messed up again. He went AWOL with Audrey to a candy shop on the mainland where the middle class people live their dull lives of endless toil. He and Audrey both gorged themselves sick on penny candy, slipping back into the castle well past Audrey's nap time. Momma, to say the least, was not happy. Master Jack gloated to see his rival Morals Tutor demoted from Second Most Trusted Advisor to Miscreant in Irons.

Tutor has been allowed to take only one book to his cell. He considered the Bible, but rejected it as work-related, given his role as Friar in Residence at the Castle, and besides he knows it by heart, in English, Greek, and Latin. Instead he chose A Gift Observed: Essays on Philanthropy and Civilization, a good slow read that could last days, months, years, or decades, depending on when Tutor will next hear the Jailer's key turn in the rusty lock, if ever that day comes.

So how come Tutor has to live in solitary, reading a difficult book, when Audrey only had to go to her room for 2 hours? Tutor pled guilty to being a bad influence on Audrey - it was his idea; he is a grownup;  he was the one who rented the skiff, and all funds expended were from his stipend, largely exhausting it for the month. At least the Dungeon is in the Castle. He might have been sent back to the Dumpster, which, now that he is out of it, seems larger and more commodious. Not that I wouldn't want him back, but it is good to be able to stretch my own legs out without tangling with his.


The Role of the Royal Eunuch in Preserving Dynastic Families, Historically Considered, with Application to Current Times

In ancient times, a hot-blooded conqueror would sack a city, and his soldiers would share in the spoils: rapine and plunder. The conqueror might then establish a harem to grow, preserve and perpetuate his dynasty. The most trusted advisor was a eunuch. Thank God, in our time it is different. More later, after my lobotomy.