If a church for the deeply depressed....

....for those without any money or any prospect of it, with a statue at the door, of our Lady of Sorrows, facing a cross in the nave, on which her son died, were to have a liturgy, I wonder how that would differ from the Gospels? To which feckless query, my Tutor replied, Who should we ask, Phil, who would know? Someone wise, probably, don't you, think?

Tutor is getting more difficult, more intransigent, and less coherent, as he gets older. He is wrestling with his own mortality, the mess he made of his life, and long-term effects of alcoholism and academic study. What we, as Wise and Virtuous Counsellors to The World's Wealthiest Families need, I think, is a middle way between the Scylla of Ethical Theory and the Charybdis of Personal Poverty. Speaking for myself, I would like to think that Wealth and Will of God will add up to a bed for the night, and a hot meal.

In Service to what?

Lear, I opined to my mentor, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, is a play about family, governance, and about loyal service. Cordelia, who cannot heave her heart into her mouth, is faithful to herself, and her father, the King, but her father. The Fool? To what is he in service? To the King, Cordelia's father, but the King as King, whose body is the body politic, and whose rule is divine by right. In serving what is kingly in the King, he serves God and man, the raggediest among us. Wealth in Families, Flourishing Families, but who will plausibly connect that with a flourishing community, ecosystem, cosmos? Wise Counsel?
Tutor, who is retired from active Professional Service to the rich, now caging what he calls "gratuities," with the squeegee men at the crossroads, said, If that is supposed to be a question, Phil, you really are morally insane. The Fool was funny, and he could sing and dance, in the cold rain. The play is about Machiavels, blind men, and liars, as you well know, and have not got the courage to say, lest you offend.
Tutor may be right, but I try to be tactful. I don't want to end up like him, on the street.  

Wisdom Comes to Market

Very hard, even for one as wise as I am, to make a rational market in Wisdom.  The need is there, but not much demand. The ones who need it most value it least. And when it comes to rating a Wisdom Provider, how can a Fool rate Wisdom wisely? Even "liking" a proffered wisdom nugget, even Tweeting it, does not necessarily translate into mastering it. Generally, in sales, step one is translating a Need into a Want, but when I try to get Fools to acknowlege the need for wisdom, I get called an impudent fool, and beaten in my turn. It ever has been thus in our noble trade.

A new Classroom sealed Hermetically

Reading my own words in the river of "notable" ephemera flowing through Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, and Linked-in, I realize that contesting the frame of the discourse (Wealth Bondage) is impossible. Social Media is a trillion dollar corporate effort with a clear business model. I am an unpaid content provider, supposedly motivated by a desire for banal self-representation and need for "friends," "likes," and "followers," to soothe my anomie and sense of despair. Few glancing at this will know it was written by a naked man, in a Dumpster, sitting on a pile of rotting books and dreaming of a New Classroom, sealed hermetically from the elements in which we now live and have our being. Without that context, you probably think I am normal. Like you?


Readers have told me that you find it hard to relate to my endless posts about the world of dynastic wealth, and the Trusted Advisors, who in return for Patronage, provide their best Clients with bespoke truth, wisdom, virtue, and beauty. (Without patronage these highest human goods would be in short supply. Who would advance them without a healthy subvention? The whole process of finding truth, achieving wisdom, or creating beauty is tedious. Virtue is a pain in the ass. Even for high wages, I am not sure it would be worth it.)  For the rest of you, then, at no charge, here is access to your next meal

On The Ideology of Dynastic Wealth or, Why Elk shit in the Woods at Yellowstone National Park

Ecologists, I am told by a dynastic wealth planning friend, re-introduced wolves into Yellowstone, and the return of these highest level predators led to an increase in the health of the overall ecosystem. For example, when the wolves chase the elk, the elk shit in terror and pound the shit into the soil with their hooves, increasing the growth of the grasses on which lesser creatures depend. Dog shit on my shoes, yes, in the tradition of Diogenes - but it is almost impossible to pound it into the pavement at the Intersection of Wealth and Bondage, where generous patrons are scarce, and seldom reward even my best behavior. Maybe I should move to Colorado.  You can keep wealth there in a dynastic trust, it seems, for 1,000 years. That seems long enough to ensure the prosperity of highest level predators, those who serve them, and the whole ecosystem too.

The Habermassian Public Square

Habermas is the last of the social contract thinkers who believe that  truth and justice emerge in politics as in academics through the open peer to peer debate of citizens. I am drawn to that idea, even after all these years, as a drunk is drawn to the bottle. I sought the public square, and all I got was the Dumpster at the intersection of Wealth and Bondage, under the neon signs flashing Tweets of no importance to anyone. This post into the ether. More cognitive clutter. Anodyne for anomoie. Someone important is getting rich off the advertising and data mining, but that person is not me.

On America's Largest Homeless Camp plus insights into the World of Ultra-Wealthy Inheritors

I know someone well who works not in San Jose, but in the San Francisco parks system, as a gardener. She tells me that the homeless in the parks are now so numerous that her gardening duties are sometimes subordinated to working around their encampments.

On what may appear an unrelated note, I am reading a $99.99 plus $5.99 handling and shipping paperback of some 177 pages, Taking the Reins: Insights into the World of Ultra-Wealthy Inheritors. The cut point for Ultra-wealthy for the study is control of $100 million or more. Topics include working with advisors, philanthropy, inheriting more than money, concierge medical care, using connections effectively,  art collecting, risk management (including legal risks and abduction risk), working within a family office, and to me most interestingly, bargaining skills. The book teaches what it calls "I win/You, whatever" negotiation. A win/win is "optimal," win/lose is "excellent," for the winner. In either case, the $100 million or more net worth bargainer should always win, even if the other is pushed to the wall, given weaker bargaining skills, or a weaker bargaining position.

May I cordially submit to the heirs who each control $100 million or more that the social contract cannot continue as "I win/You whatever,"  where the wealthy pride themselves on pressing ungodly advantages and win, while the rest get "whatever." Ferguson, homeless camps in our wealthiest cities, bankruptcy of former industrial towns and cities, influence purchase and peddling after Citizens United, and the planning for the ongoing acceleration of dynastic wealth are simply not supportable under any social compact, respectful of human dignity.     

The book in question had only a 114 of the 100 million dollar heirs as it's sample size and skewed, it seems, towards honorable people - those who may very well be a part of the solution. As the book puts it, Ultra-High Net Worth "voluptuaries" were not surveyed - maybe they were having too much fun to be interrupted, or maybe they will be the subject of another volume. Heirs, responsible hard working ones, and even voluptuaries awakening at noon, those of you worth more than whole towns or old European duchies: Please bargain for a shared win. Leave us a little, the gleanings in your fields.  

Added later

OK, because you asked how a bum like me, with mental problems, who lives in a Dumpster, bought a $100 dollar book, the answer is that I am often sent books to review. I always give my true opinion, in return for getting more books and friends, favors, clients, deals, access to information flows, and ultimately a good reputation as Trusted Advisor to Wealthy Heirs. As for the Voluptuaries, I refer them to my colleague, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Heirs in Wealth Bondage. Tutor is the highest paid morals-serving professional on the planet, and, believe me, has plently of high priced competition, better looking, younger, better educated, more supple, and lacking only the deft swat of a practiced hand.

"Do you know the difference between a talent and a charism?"

She asked me the question at a reception for a financial services college where I work (as a moral fraud) to which she and her parents have long been donors. Her father at 91 had taken a credential in philanthropy that I teach. ("At my age, Phil" he had said, "this is my market.") Before asking me the question, she had asked if I am Catholic, which seemed like a yes or no, so I had said yes. Her father died this year; her husband died this year; her prior husband had died prematurely years ago. Her children are grown and will not enter the family financial services business. My question which had opened this flow of conversation was, "How are you?" So, I admitted I did not know the difference between a talent and a charism.

A talent, I learned, is given to us for our own use, as we wish. A charism is given for a purpose we cannot shirk, and which lives on through us, and through those we touch. The holy spirit, too, like the unholy ones, knows social marketing and goes viral, is contagious. Or, the preferred analogy or parable would involve seeds, which split open the shell, even on dry ground, seeking the light and the earth.

That is Catholic or at least Gospel language, but if the holy spirit is to speak to us, it must use language we learned when we were still young enough to learn a language, often at our mother's knee, perhaps kneeling with her, or listening on her lap. (Your mother, your language. Be grateful you have any language of love. If you hear you will hear in langauge as personal to you, as this post is to me. Then you too will be a Fool, witting or unwitting, holy or unholy, and in your own voice.) 

Speaking of mothers - Socrates said he followed his mother's trade, that of a midwife. She was a maeute and he used the maeutic method. Think how the baby is born, if you can recall seeing that, or have borne it. "We are born," wrote St. Augustine, "between urine and feces." The woman, like the seed, is torn open. Women in childbirth do not, I have noticed,  speak like preachers in church, or moral philosophers explaining Altruism. In Socrates's time a Cesarean was performed without anesthetic. You think that is hard, ladies, recall that Socrates's clients were all mature men, town elders in positions of wealth, influence, and power. Now you get the joke about the maeutic method, the holy spirit, and charism too.

Inspiration - Gethsemane. You can get that too. "What is in it for me?" You might say that is not the problem the holy spirit seeks to solve. The dark night of the soul. Fall and winter, before spring. Voice following the burning coal sizzling the living tongue, preceding an interval of prophecy, followed by an undignified end. 

As it happened we were seated last evening at dinner beside each other, and talked about a center for personalized philanthropy or life leadership perhaps convened within a faith tradition or across traditions that would open a space for the spirit to speak and to connect to the world of material things, including money and legal work. In such a space I would be sure to invite (without telling anyone in advance for it would freak out the customers) the dark spirits, or maybe the dark spirit would come unbidden, hitching a ride with paying customers. If you open a space you had better welcome them, like Halloween, for Trick or Treat. Either way they will be served, as we know from the living History of All Religions, and from our own personal history if we have been broken to see it.

Robert Frost's first poem in his first volume, reprinted first in his anthologies later, was "The Pasture Spring." We go with the poet in VT or Maine, to open the pasture spring as ice melts into mud. We open the spring by clearing the dead leaves. (I am told by Scholars that this might be a classical reference by a country poet who dropped out of Harvard, having studied Classics.) The water from the spring runs muddy before it runs clear. The women in childbirth does not speak in pieties; every curse, every obscenity, heralds the joy of new life, and the infant's wail, the first lungful of air.  

When I read about Wealth & Wisdom Consulting, as an emerging profession, a trade, a market differentiator, or Value-Add,  I go a little nuts. In a tradition, like that of an established church, or the professing of English Literature, you get through a canon, years of training; you get to wear black robes, slashed with color, you get to wear a ceremonial hood, like a monk's cowl, and after decades of drill, you get to call yourself Doctor or Father or Sister whatever term denotes the Learned, and the Wise. Then you profess or teach in a shared language to fellow communicants, even if it is deconstruction, Marketing, or the arts of rhetoric (politics, law, hermeneutics, sophistry).  To present yourself as a Wisdom Consulant, as if this were a Brand, or a job, or an honor self-bestowend, is to show yourself oblivious to the dark spirit that loves us as we are, and lives in us and through us and revels and riots in our Wisdom and Virtue as avatars of Blindness, Learned Stupidity and Santimony and Vice. Those the gods would destroy they first make successful, wise, virtuous. "Thank you, Lord for not making me as other men," saith the High Priest.

Know yourself - the first rule of moral philosopy - and the Angels' favorite joke. They teach us in pranks played, the fall from grace, the moment of despair, the humiliating reversals, the turn of fortune's wheel, and the moment of recognition, by self and others, that makes for tragedy, scandal, expose, or a good pratical joke. 

The spirit (lest she be understood by those she would damn - see St. Mark on parables) speaks in opposites - the women suffering, cursing, torn asunder, perhaps bleeding to death, lives to see and rejoice in the bloody birth. To induce labor - that is wisdom consulting, and first you have to bear, and be born, a child yourself. Calve like a cow. Ludicrous to see it, laughable.  The little monster born from the larger.

All I did was ask her, "How are you doing?" It was rude of me not to ask you. How are you doing?