Monthly Archives: May 2014

Charity, Part 2

Peter Buffet, son of Warren, wrote a memorable article about philanthropy, which I’m attaching. But for those who won’t read it, I’ll give a few quotes:

“Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”

“Micro-lending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?”

“What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it.”

The philanthropists to whom Mr. Buffet refers attempt to tackle the problem of poverty. The mindset he attributes to these good folks holds that well-being consists of making more money, so the poor can meet their practical needs, and the rich can live at least comfortably and also practice charity.

Dallas Willard, the late USC philosophy professor, wrote some enlightened and enlightening books. Still, in Spirit of the Disciplines he proved that even the wisest can be can be dead wrong. He addresses and advocates these spiritual disciplines: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice, study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, solitude, fasting.

While other wise Christians contend that poverty should be considered among valuable spiritual disciplines, Willard dismisses the discipline of poverty in derisive manner, suggesting that that people in the church should reconsider the praise and admiration they lavish on those who live in intentional poverty.

I have to wonder what church he was referring to. In about twenty years of church attendance, I haven’t known of anyone praising anyone for choosing poverty. But I’ve heard plenty of praise for people who choose wealth and then pass some along.

My friend Olga, who held two college degrees and could’ve drawn a professional salary, chose to live by cleaning houses, two or three days a week, so that she could devote herself to prayer, worship, writing poetry and helping friends in need. Another friend, Diane, a lay sister with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, took a vow of poverty, chastity, obedience and wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor, the same vow all MCs take. Only for the lay members, chastity doesn’t preclude marriage, nor does poverty mean they should give away everything. Rather they should minimize their needs, so that they can offer wholehearted and free service. Like Olga did. Like Christ did.

Again I wonder. Could it be that serving others is more vital than giving to them or enabling them to earn more. Maybe loving human contact is the most precious commodity of all.

I won’t suggest that devoting ourselves to serving people is the cure for poverty. But perhaps we might consider opting out of the mindset that earning and spending (even though our spending may be philanthropy) should be framework in which we live and move and have our being.



Immortality or Promotion

Over the past couple years I have collected what would probably be a ream or so, were the collection on paper, of advice about business promotion in general and book promotion in particular. Since I’m an avid collector but not such an avid reader of how-to stuff, I have yet to read most of my collection. But now and then, usually with a sigh or grimace, I plunge into business mode.

During one of those plunges, a piece of advice struck me as real wisdom. Which may only mean I found it easy to swallow, like health advice that praises dark chocolate, red wine, and coffee. Either way, what I appreciated was a reminder that we can’t do it all and the assurance our best course was to concentrate on the kind of promotion we either enjoy or at least find somewhat palatable.

With that wisdom in the back of my mind, I later came upon this gem: rather than attempt to promote our books, we should work on building our legacy.

One reason I find this notion appealing is, before we can build our legacy, we need to decide what we want it to be. The notion has led me to some parenting insights and a change or two in behavior. And it has sent me on a quest to define what exactly makes me unique as a writer. And clarifying who or what I am, say the promo gurus, is essential to the success of my book promotion.

My legacy should be something that promotes what I love. Aside from sports, romance, and family, the great passions of my life have been reading, writing, learning, thinking, and teaching. For my legacy to promote the love of reading, learning, and thinking, I can attempt to write books at once fascinating and thoughtful that also contain stuff worth learning about, such as history. And, rather than be egocentric and miserly, I can offer a resource to help people discover other fascinating, thoughtful books they can learn from.

I’ll sign off here and get to work recommending. I have done quite a lot of reviews for magazines and newspapers. But I’ll turn to recommending rather than reviewing. Since a recommendation is akin to a guarantee, should you read one of my recommendations and disagree with my assessment, feel free to send me a bill for what the book cost you. I’m not likely to pay up, but you never know.

I’m at: