He would slay his own son, but awaits the sign on the tele-prompter. (From Phil's upcoming Life and Sayings of the Happy Tutor.) I may not be Boswell, but I owe my friend and mentor at least this much, to preserve the best of his Table Talk for future generations. Tutor may be immortal, but like the classics generally, he is a bit the worse for wear. Unless we capture and codify his aphorisms, there is a chance that they will be tossed out, with the sacks of garbage, when the big truck comes to empty our abode. What the aphorisms may mean, it is not for me to say. They are a chain of signifiers; we do know that much.
I was attending Council on Foundations, as as honored guest, when to my horror, I saw that the Happy Tutor was on the agenda for the Evening Plenary Session: "Making the Most of Wealth Bondage: Mastering Social Change Before It Masters You." I see him walk, or really, swagger, in the front door of the Biltmore. I had been afraid he would come naked, his normal business attire, but no, he has on that god-awful white bell bottom leisure suit, with the rayon shirt open to his waist, and those gold chains, or gold-plated chains, over his hairy chest. He has shades on that looked like they had belonged to Sony Bono. He flashes me a sign with both hands raised high, index fingers and pinky extended - Hook 'em Horns.
I follow him into the packed ballroom, acting like we are strangers. Down the aisle he goes, doing that Chuck Berry air guitar act of his, with the splits, every third chord. By the time, he gets to to the podium, he is wiping his brow with a scarf, like Elvis, "Thank you, that you very much...." When he starts his lecture, or really it was more like karaoke, the red-jackets were serving the baked Alaska. Within 10 minutes, he had them all on the dance floor. The dowager in the low cut dress was waving her waffled arms, and doing the hokey-pokey. The waiters were doing the monkey with trustees in pin stripes. Admiral Harlan Proctor, head of the finance committee, was doing the samba with his daughter, Missy. Senator Dick Minim (D. MA) was slow dancing with Smoky Joe, Senior Public Relations Counsel for Wealth Bondage. Joe McPatriot, drunk as a skunk, was running around saluting all the flag lapel pins, and there were hundreds. Even Sister Lucy was smiling. She may have taken a vow of silence, but it didn't stop her from tapping her foot. The little kids in their Sunday Best were tearing around the tables throwing water as their parents chased them. I didn't have the heart to stick around and see what kind of party this all degenerated into. I went back to my room and watched one of those cable movies.
Next morning checking out, there was Tutor, buck naked, dragging a garbage bag he had borrowed from the maid to use as luggage. I asked him how it had turned out. "Phil, he said, it was going good until someone lit the table cloth on the dais on fire. That set off the sprinklers, the police showed up, Missy was arrested for public indecency, and the Convener got tazed and dragged off in cuffs. They pulled her by her hair all the way down that hall. I think they are trying to bail the two of them out now." I asked if he had accomplished his objectives. "Yes, he said, "we turned the world upside down pretty good. Do you know that our esteemed Founder, Diogenes, asked to be buried faced down so that that when the world was turned upside down, he would be right side up? Well, the world keeps turning over. This morning the guests were eating their omelets and reading the Wall Street Journal, same as ever. The wait staff was as invisible as ever, and I am out of here. We don't any of us really want social change, not until the check clears anyway."
The Cynics, the real ones, were actually a serio-comic school of moral philosophers. Serio ludere, "play seriously" was their motto, or so I am told, by Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning, but I wish that foolish tradition had died out for good. The last thing we need is a real Morals Tutor in a field like this. For those of you saw me with the Happy Tutor, forgive me. I do not know the man. Philanthropy is a serious businesses. I cannot stress enough the importance of being earnest.
God planted The Tree of Knowledge in the Garden to teach us a lesson. He said that there are certain things we must not know. "Eat and be as gods," whispered the Serpent to our First Mother. Knowledge of what is really going on is best left to the devil.
As the alcoholic cures his hangover with "a hair of the dog that bit him," so capitalists cure global warming with more capitalism. If you want a real social investment, Mr. Clinton, with a solid bottom line, buy the makers of riot gear.
Great book and an interesting article about it from the Christian Science Monitor. Wealth can corrupt and wealth planners can make it worse. Surely, this is not news, but it is important to be reminded and to take the message to heart. What fascinated me, re-reading the Midas legend, is that it was Dionysus, not Apollo, who cured Midas by having him wash his hands in a flowing stream. Interpret that as you will. Apollo with the bow and arrow is the clear-eyed image of the visionary planner. Why then Dionysus, he of the floating wild hair, of drunkenness, revelry, madness and war? Could be a screw-up, I suppose. The Greeks got it wrong? I think so. But for the heck of it I asked the Happy Tutor who said,
Wealth seeking is cold-eyed madness, shared from the top down and the bottom up. It is wealth bond*age on a world historical scale. We will not purge this moral disease until Dionysus returns to lead the dance of the goat.
Sounds like a severe over-statement to me. Wealth seeking is essential to the GNP and all we have to do is balance it with a few bromides and all will be well. Given how touchy people are, particularly the rich, the last thing we need is the goat dance of satire. It would be bad for business.
I appreciate the link from my friend and nemesis, The Happy Tutor, but I do wish he kept better company. Being seen in a Wealth Bondage Bordello with Peter Karoff, Albert Ruesga, and Tracy Gary making nice to the low-rent customers around back by the Dumpster is not going to do much for my professional reputation as Trusted Moral Advisor to America's Wealthiest Families. I am trying to promote rich-family values here, people. Bow your head like in Church. We are in the presence of great sums of money. And where you find money in large quantities you will find sanctimony, and hyprocisy, as well as vigilance and retribution, more so than a sense of humor. So do not giggle, or the laugh will ripple throughout the congregation calling into question the very greed on which our society depends for its essential functions. Read Adam Smith: giving is ok, but what would happen if everyone did it? The world as we know it would fall apart. We would have democracy, liberty, joy and spirituality running rampant. Best to leave such forces of extreme freedom deep under.wealthbondage.com where they belong, as if in the catacombs, under Rome.
Personally, I am not looking to get crucified either. The rich are ok with me. Their values are noble. I love them all, regardless, as long as they tip me well as the Moral Advisor to them and their kids. So, Tutor, if you don't mind, Back Off! I am trying to run a reputable business here around philanthropy and I don't need you screwing it up, just when I begin to get a little credibility as a Morals Tutor to the Stars.
A friend, an inheritor, sent me a link to Dr. Jack Grubman, as a possible resource. He is one of a growing cadre of psychologists specializing in the mental and emotional ills to which wealth is prone.
These psychological areas are important for the financial professional to understand and know how to manage. Dr. Grubman coaches financial advisers about psychological aspects of wealth management along with consultation about the impaired client. He teaches in the Masters Program in Financial Planning at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley College (Massachusetts). His course, Psychology in Financial Planning, covers the psychology of money, basic behavioral finance, and client relationship skills.
"Well and good," said the Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars, when I mentioned Dr Grubman to him. "A lot of wealthy people are deranged, but it is a moral disease best cured the old fashioned way, with a scourge, scalpal or pillory." That is Tutor for you, always trying to drum up business for what he calls "Our Noble Trade." We all have to make a living somehow and there are enough morally impaired rich people to go around. That is what I like about working in philanthropy. You get to help rich lunatics pass on their family values and remake the world in their own image. Why cure them when you can serve them?
The Literal for Those Readers Who Need It
Actually, working with persons of wealth and their families as human beings with all the ills to which humans are heir is important work. Getting a pyschologist on the team is often an important step in helping a person or a family build and implement and communicate a worthwhile plan for the family's personal or dynastic ambitions. What goes unspoken in the financial industry, allied disciplines, and indeed our culture, and the point this post tries to make through obliquity, is that hubris, for example, is not only a mental illness, it is a moral fault, one that can bring a polity down. Pride, vanity, intolerance, megalomania, narcissism - are these diseases? Or moral deformties? We need to be able to do more than palliate and treat the symptons of a system that is failing us because of its over-estimation of the importance of money, and we need to find in ourselves and root out, the habits of mindless courtesy and deference to those who make this world go in its current direction because, however sick they may be, they have the money, the power, the entourage and the following to make their views prevail. (I hate to be so literal, but not all readers can read at the AP English level, and probably, since I have mentioned a real psychologist , I owe it to him to be explicit. Heal the sick, Doctor, but as a citizen consider with The Happy Tutor what we must do with the wealty reprobates if we are to purge and heal the Body Politic in which they play such an important role!)
Speaking of high class philanthropy blogs, our corporate sponsor, Wealth Bondage, has a new prosocial tagline: "Doing People Good." Whether you are a do-gooder yourself or just like to get done good, WB has it all.
Congrats to Lenore Ealy on her new Philanthropic Enterprise Gang Blog. She shows great courage taking on the Happy Tutor in one of her initial posts. As a mild mannered honest broker, I can see merit on both sides, and will move out of the way as quickly as possible. This is not your Dick Minim style philanthropic conversation any more. It is all about wealth, power, and politics - one person promoting the ideology of Wealth Bondage, the other, subverting it. (But which is which you ask? Take AP English and report back.)
Yup, been thinking because you asked, about how I see myself beyond my corporate self. The answer is not "financial advisor," nor "trusted advisor," but teacher in a certain very specific tradition. Education comes from "educere" to lead out. Socrates saying that he was (incongruously) the "midwife" to his interlocutors, helping them (male though all were) give birth to what is already within them, latent. Also, as model (in humility) I follow the Trickster Jesus of the Gospels. And also, Diogenes, the naked man in the barrel who accosted the wealthy of his day, including Alexander the Great, and helped them, as would a Zen monk, to awaken, often by setting them paradoxes, or rousing them to fury just short of violence. I do not believe any more than you do that philanthropy will save democracy. It cannot, obviously. The rich are blessed in their own way, but the truly gifted/accursed are the artists, the poets, the prophets, the holy fools. That is the role to which I most deeply aspire, or better yet, am most deeply stuck with. So, I play the fool and the courtier both. But the fool is for keeps. The courtier "financial services professional" is an IQ Test for the client, my various bosses, and colleagues. Most flunk. Diogenes naked in the streets with his lantern in broad daylight, seeking the honest wealth holder, the honest power broker, a "trusted advisor." That is me. The Trickster who teaches by getting the other off balance. Beware. Of course, I do know sprezzatura, the style you suggested some well bred donors expect. (You know it is from Castiglione's Book of the Courtier? A handbook on how to prosper at Court among the knaves?) I will be as gracious and deferential with your friends as would any courtier to Queen or King. But you asked for an account of who I am. That is it: Troublemaker, as Peter Karoff once said to me. Troublemaker for democracy, maybe not unlike you and your cousin George Pillsbury when you were then as I am now, just a beginner. Haymarket - wasn't that a labor riot?
As an ex-college professor, let alone a financial services trainer, I am reconciled to misreading. Even at Yale many a future ruler of the universe could not follow an agile writer. So, instead of being hard to read, I am very easy. As easy as a billboard or a children's sock puppet. Unless you understand me. At which point I am nothing but trouble. In me as in a raven is the grapeseed. Shat out, it grows to the intransigent vine of Dionysus and democracy. The red wine of the grape, spilled from the Cross, drunk as blood from a chalice - believe me, I meditate on that, as a good lapsed Catholic with a humane education. I have about as much choice in this as does a man or woman in being gay. I can be in or out as one called to foolishness in the public square, but I can't change, only be broken. With you, and through your example, I am finding the courage to be my strange self, Harlequin in patches, "a Socrates gone mad," as Diogenes said. Philanthropy is teaching, but the payoff is activism. For me that means the liberal arts, the arts of freedom, not a passive thing to watch and admire, but to imitate, among the Pharisees, in the public square. What stands a chance of saving us is someone like Martin Luther Kind or Vaclav Havel. And people like that are not waiting around for permission or a grant. Some of us aren't even waiting for real artists. We just shit out what we can and pray that it contains here and there a fertile seed amidst the dung. You know all this. Or are the carrier of it. It is not a blessing, but a calling. And the call is not to peace of mind. The reason you can't shake my support is that I was going where you are going long before we met. You are an optimist by temperament; I consider that wisdom and caritas come with "brokenness and surrender." You and your cousin George have learned moderation in maturity. I have been driven half mad.
We inherit a tradition, and we pass it on. It no more cares whether we live or die than do our genes. We are the carriers, the dead husk; the living germ courses through us. We pass it on as we received it, as a gift, the dangerous gift of knowledge, the apple Eve gave Adam. We spit the seed from our mouth. Hence the orchard. The garden run always to weeds. We live among snakes. And the fool should be as wise as the serpent.
Extinct? Not yet. Nor Born Again, but Rapture Ready.