IMG_1216 BW small
Blog powered by Typepad

« Happy Easter! | Main | Don't blog angry »


I think that there is a certain amount of truth to this, Michael, but I've begun to think that this isn't as true as it was a generation, or a century ago. David Brooks discussed the>'thoroughly modern do-gooders' in last week's New York Times, where he points out that there are many contemporary entrepreneurs who are applying their considerable business skills and the associated frenetic pace to social issues of many different varieties.

It also occurs to me that two wealthiest men on earth, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have each contributed huge sums to the>Gates Foundation. In Buffet's case it will eventually amount to 85% of a 50 billion dollar fortune.

While there is no doubt that many still pursue wealth with a predatory and selfish zeal, I think these are hopeful examples of the potential for us to remain open to the better angels of our nature, while remaining deeply involved in the harried environment of Western society.

Perhaps the needle's eye is slowly growing larger.

Michael H, Bill Gates and Microsoft are not good examples. MS is a fierce. predatory monopoly. And the tactics it uses are despicable. Oh, and their software is crap.

I tend to agree with Michael P on this one.

As Michael alluded to with the title of his post Jesus said something to the effect that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to get into heaven.

Profound words and from my point of view no truer words were ever spoken. Of course I think to understand that statement one must also understand Jesus statement about my father’s house has many mansions.

“Perhaps the needle's eye is slowly growing larger.” Michael H I suspect only to our egos not to the absolute laws of the universe.

Mystics and enlightened people see no need for wealth or a luxury lifestyle. Their feelings of a oneness with the universe appears to be enough for them. Indeed even blissful.

Good post, MP: one of your best. Detailed and evocative. All it lacked was an epigraph from Macaulay: "Great men are bad men."

Ryan: Microsoft's OS is built on a faulty foundation, because Gates refused to listen to knowledgeable people in the nineties who warned him that his design was insecure. He wanted to provide something that was speedy and consumer-friendly (at the outset), to secure his hold on the market, and short-sightedly put that consideration first. (One insider told me he thought that he had nothing to learn from mainframers, whom he considered dinosaurs. That’s an arrogant and childish attitude.)

But the Office suite, especially Word, is a staggering technical accomplishment, even if it isn't as tasteful as it ought to be. (I've written a five-page, 50-item list of improvements Word needs, and that barely scratches the surface.)

On a tangent now: Another example of MS's lack of flair and flat-footedness: The name they chose for their "Surface Computer." It's a beautifully left-brained choice (it "makes sense"), and it's a "safe" choice, being as beige and boring as anything IBM ever came out with. It has zero zip.

They should have thought different and called it the "taptop computer." That's a memorable, intriguing name that makes the consumer warm to the product. "Surface computer" makes him turn the page.

Oh well, maybe Apple will use "taptop," when their version comes out, and steal MS's thunder.

Hi Roger,

I don't want to hijack MP's post completely (ladies and gents, please pay attention to MP's post).

I think there are two problems with MS; their conduct and the quality of their software.

In terms of their conduct, it represents everything MP described as predatory. Plus they spread misinformation and propagate fear, uncertainty and doubt (often referred to as FUD).

In terms of the quality of their software. Of course, I can't say every single piece is atrocious. The OS, is crap. MS have created a billion dollar industry -- as companies try and protect us from and repair their crappy, insecure product.

In terms of their office software, I think you (Roger) give them too much credit. It has always been prone to crashes and viruses. OpenOffice can handle longer documents like books, better. Gnumeric has a more accurate statistics engine than Excel. An office application is not the best approach for a database -- a bespoke solution is much better, etc, etc.

But worst of all is the the sheer mediocrity and ugliness of their software. The great Stephen Fry said it best:

The feeling, as with all things Microsoft, is that all design features and functions are there to suit MS rather than to delight, enthuse and compel the user. Compromise, short-cuts, inconveniences, vestigial residues - no one responsible is likely to pat themselves on the back for the design or the s’ware engineering, any more than the architect or project manager of a 60s council flat is likely to point it out with pride as he rides by with his grandchildren ... WinMob ... muscled in on a market they never spotted and they did it in a clumsy, bullying, ugly manner, exactly as they had with Windows before, and exactly as IBM had with the PC itself a decade earlier.

>In short, to attain a certain exalted level of success, one must become a predator - hungry, impatient, restless, ravenous. And predators, it seems to me, are not the most promising candidates for spiritual growth.

Michael, I smiled as I read those words, because they are so very far removed from my impression of Oprah Winfrey.

I don't claim to know much about what she's up to these days, but during the early nineties, her TV show was practically a national headquarters for the kinds of people and concepts we talk about in this blog. She had entire shows devoted to near-death experiencers, researchers like Raymond Moody, past-life authors like Carol Bowman, spiritual writers like Gary Zukav.

After decades as a militant atheist, I myself was just opening up to a more metaphysical or spiritual perspective. And Oprah Winfrey, with her remarkable guests, and her intelligent, open-hearted questions and responses, was a lovely part of that awakening.

I wish you had seen some of those shows. You might understand why I don't take her endorsement of Obama lightly.

As I said, I don't know what Oprah's up to these days. But a restless, hungry, predator? I don't think so.

I guess the topic refers to secular business people, but what about spiritual people who unite and with a vision amass great wealth into the multi millions to distribute back into community services, building orphanages overseas for the poor, providing aid to the sick?

Yes they are out there, probably in your area. I speak of the highly successful mega churches and ministries all over the world.

The church I go to turns over close to 10,000,000 a year. The pastor's income is from his books, he gets nothing from the church to supplement his income, his wife has a normal job (she's the regular income worker)and whatever they do earn they still return 10% or more back to the church, not to mention their time, effort, hours and faithful duty to serve, forfeiting a life of ease and privacy we take for granted

All monies that goes into the church, pays for its running costs and also into its many community services (free mechanical service for the sole parents and the destitute persons, care for the elderly, supporting a young womens rehabilition clinic, building homes overseas for the poor, building farms overseas to provide food for the needy, orphanages, drug centre's for the youth, food and temporary shelter for the desperate and the list goes on and on.

Every year the vision expands and not one of these people are ruthless, unspiritual or making a personal gain. Those on staff earn a regular salary and tithe 10% back into the church to support the needy and the vision.

I see selfless, loving, compassionate people with big hearts and dreams for those suffering and yes they are passionate and driven too amass more millions each year, they have goals and targets set to expand their services and do more outreach.

The only difference here is the motivation is focused away from themselves to serve mankind.

The super rich driven A types spoken of here are the ones who feel an emptiness within.

Money "business and assets etc" seems to be the balm or quick fix similar to a drug addict or alcoholic, the insatiable appetite will always want more until that hole is filled with God.

Oprah I believe is somewhere between the two, I see a woman who gives back to the community because it feeds her emptiness and puffs the ego to an extent.

Is it from "love" all her charitable acts? or is it a balm that makes her feel good because deep down she doesn't feel that crash hot??? Is it her cry to be loved by you and I, the love she never felt or probably still feels unworthy of?

Your right Michael P, could she walk away from her billion dollar empire, be content with a more modest annual salary, a average home, one car and a little security in the bank, while effectively using that amassed money to make a huge difference in society or will the lure of having multi million dollar mansions fitted with 24 carat gold bathroom fixtures and oppulance beyond measure be more attractive?

I see a woman trapped with wanting to do good but still very much a materialist also.

She may have more money than you and I but are we really any different to Oprah? How easy is it everyone here to give up the little extra you have to help a brother or sister in need?

If unconditional Love is all that matters, then our lives are a framework for expressing it. There is no qualitative difference between a rich man doing great charitable works and a poor man helping an old lady cross the road. But the more you have, the more the World expects of you, and the more your own soul pricks you.

In Bill Clinton's book 'Giving', he quotes Warren Buffett, on Buffett's gift to the Gates Foundation: "My gift is nothing . . . .The people I really admire are the small donors who give up a movie or a restaurant meal to help needier people." Seems to suggest some spiritual advancement. Maybe he's an exception.

Whether Oprah is spiritually advanced and who she endorses are 2 separate issues. She was duped by author James Fry (A Million Little Pieces). Now she's endorsing Obama. Duped again?

With regard to "the eye of the needle " -as I understand it - this refers to a narrow gate into Jerusalem . When merchants were bringing their wares into the city they would find it extremely difficult to get their laden camels through .The camels would have to be unloaded and reloaded on the other side - very time consuming and difficult . Thus Jesus was saying it was difficult but not impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Surely it depends on what you do with your millions . There are many wealthy Christians who tithe their income so that the more they earn the more is given to their various good causes.
Anita Roddick was an extremely successful business woman who founded The Body Shop and ran an ethically based business -so it can be done.

I think a materialistic outlook - where money is the be all and end all - is what prevents spiritual development rather than having wealth.
If a person only has an average income but is consumed with the aquisition of material goods that person will be as undeveloped spiritually as a billionaire with the same preoccupation.

Just to hijack the MS discussion - I would take using Windows XP over any other operating system. I think it's pretty good, despite what the "angry young teenage" generation (these are the same angry young teenagers who are extreme atheists because of Richard Dawkins) says about it. I've used OSX, Ubuntu, and a few other OS' and I just don't think they stack up. Sure, Windows has its shortcomings and quirks, but I would take that any day over the mass of fundamental problems I have with the other operating systems, like stuff absolutely refusing to install, sound not working worth a damn, or programs crashing like a destruction derby. Augh.

However, as for Oprah, she seems like a smart woman who isn't "spiritually" bankrupt. Sure, she's been duped, but she gives the time of day to all "spiritual" outlooks and is at least genuinely interested. A far cry from simply being a money monger.

There is a huge difference between what a person is worth on paper and what they have in cash money. Bill Gates may be "worth" $90 Billion dollars, but he doesn't have $90 Billion dollars cash. He owns a huge company and lots of stock in that company, but he is most likely on Microsoft's payroll and gets a (albeit) large paycheck every month, Gates does not have $90 billion dollars cash. I'm sure the same applies to Oprah. She may be worth a billion dollars, but it is mostly likely tied up in stocks and companies and she most likely draws a paycheck from her investments. On paper we are worth almost a million dollars but I don't have a million dollars cash money. It's invested in all kinds of index funds, etc. and generates a modest retirement income of around $40,000/year. I'm just an old retired dude that lived frugally, took my lunch to work every day, drove small cars, and took advantage of 401K's and IRA's. On paper we look wealthy, but we live a modest retired life. You don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg. You don't sell all that you have just so you can have a huge stash of cash so you can roll around in it. You let your money work for you. If Bill Gates and Oprah sold all that they have, and gave all the money to poor starving Africans, each one would get a few bucks, spend it, and within a week or two be right back where they started. The smart thing is to invest the money in something smart, and let it generate income and a subsequent flow of money. Jesus statement to the rich young ruler was wrong in my opinion. Sell all that you have and give to the poor would have just made the ruler poor, and wouldn't have solved the problems of the poor. They'd still be poor.

Mm, Art. Sounds like you're trying to say basically this:

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

Just giving the men (poor people) the fish (money) will not do a damn thing.

“Jesus statement to the rich young ruler was wrong in my opinion”

Art there is a bit more to that statement then give all your money to the poor. And we do not know if “scholars” who wanted to make Jesus statement fit their existing paradigm may have altered that statement. When we read newer versions of the bible one can see these subtle but often profound changes made by unenlightened men.

Pearl: I believe there may be several dimensions or planes of existence on the other side and heaven being a very advanced dimension. From my point of view a very advanced soul on earth would see no need to acquire wealth but I suspect this person would devote their life to be of service to humanity such as healing or helping others in need. Jesus being an example of this lack of desire for wealth.

“But the more you have, the more the World expects of you, and the more your own soul pricks you.”

Ross: some people’s soul appears to feel more pricked than others.

As far as Oprah being duped who among us has not been duped. I suspect being duped and the embarrassment of being duped is a great learning opportunity for the soul.

“her TV show was practically a national headquarters for the kinds of people and concepts we talk about in this blog.”

God works in mysterious ways; who among us could have predicted a black woman in America introducing spiritually to a mostly religious America.

Gary Zukaf’s book was my second book I read when I started my journey to find the mysteries of life. I used to watch him on a show called thinking allowed. It was on at about 3am on a pbs channel.

Hope: very insightful statements I think into the mind of Oprah.


> Bruce Siegel said, "Oprah, in my view, is one of the most spiritually evolved, intelligent, compassionate, people on the planet."

I admit it—I went overboard there. I should have thought twice about any sentence that combines "most" and "spiritual", as if there's some kind of contest going on here. Or, as if I can look into anyone's heart and know how well they're meeting the challenges they've chosen for this particular Earth walk.

But Michael, I think your description of Wright as a hate-monger may be equally ill-founded. I just watched the entire clip of Wright's "chickens coming home to roost" speech.

The reason I like your blog is because I know you to have an open mind. And in that spirit, I hope you watch the clip in its entirety. The most important words were spoken near the end.

Think of how frustrated you get when a James Randi examines only the piece of evidence most conducive to his own argument.

Spoken shortly after 9/11, Wright urged the members of his congregation to look within and re-examine their own relationship with God. He cautioned us about lashing out in revenge, reminding us that America, with its history of genocide toward Native Americans and oppression of blacks, has done its own share of "killing of the innocents".

It was a call for an end to the cycle of violence, a plea for honest self-examination.

Hate-mongering? I don't see it.

I'm afraid I can't stand to watch any more of Wright's sermons. Anyone who claims the government invented AIDs and spread it among the black community as part of a genocidal plot is, to put it bluntly, deranged.

Though I'm open-minded on some things, I draw the line at insane hate speech that incites racial warfare.

As for Oprah Winfrey, I suspect that her happy-talk TV persona is a carefully crafted image that in no way reflects her offscreen self. Martha Stewart managed the same thing for a long while, until she went to prison for insider trading.

> insane hate speech that incites racial warfare.

Does anybody else here—someone who's watched the ENTIRE clip—feel that that's a fair description of it?

As it turned out, I steeled my stomach and did listen to the longer excerpt from Wright's speech. I thought it was absolutely disgraceful. Just a few days after the atrocities of 9/11, this bellowing blowhard blamed America for the actions of the terrorists who attacked us. (He also got a lot of his facts wrong; for instance, "hundreds of workers" did not die in the bombing of the Sudan factory; to minimize casualties the factory was bombed at night, when it was empty except for one janitor.)

To start caviling about Reagan's bombing of Libya two decades ago, to complain about Israel's "state-supported terrorism" against the suicide-bombing Palestinians, or to draw bogus moral equivalence between the United States and the most vicious terrorist regimes on earth would be offensive at any time, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it is unspeakably vile and disgusting.

I almost wish Wright had been charged with sedition for these appalling remarks. He is no better than Tokyo Rose.

>> insane hate speech that incites racial warfare.

>Does anybody else here—someone who's watched the ENTIRE clip—feel that that's a fair description of it?

To be clear, I'm not saying that Wright was inciting racial warfare with this particular speech. His incitement to race war is found in other speeches - for instance, when he claims that the government created and spread AIDS to inflict genocide on blacks, or when he claims that the CIA spread crack cocaine in black neighborhoods. If these charges were true, they would indeed justify the overthrow of the government by violence. But of course they are only lunatic fantasies of the Oliver Stone variety.

Wright wasn't spinning those tales on this particular Sunday. He was just being a militantly unpatriotic hard-left agitator.

"In my own, admittedly limited exposure to movers and shakers - the type of people who earn large fortunes - I've noticed the following characteristics:"

I wish I could give you a counterexample, but all of my investment banker and lawyer friends are walking cliches. All, I repeat ALL, of them will admit that they hate their jobs and are completely miserable, but they're too status hungry to really care.

> he was just being a militantly unpatriotic hard-left agitator.

Well, "militant" hardly seems like the word to use here since he was preaching against violence and cautioning against a too-hasty military response.

Agitator? What—he was agitating people to look inside their own hearts? (That's what the final section of the clip is about.)

"Hard-left": Boy, would I like to get past convenient and divisive labels.

As to patriotism, well, I think it's vastly overrated. I like the way Obama frames the issue. He's not big on superficial symbols like lapel pins. He says that what really matters is: Are we looking after one another?

Maybe he learned that from Wright. Crazy guy.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the most spiritually evolved people on earth? Give me a break. When Oprah gave everyone in her studio audience a car, that was one of the most absurd things I've ever heard of someone doing. Do you know how far the money of just one of those cars would have gone in a country like Nepal saving little children from indentured servitude?

Jesus was a carpenter. Siddartha Gautama left his palace and never went back.

You only have so much time in the world, and if you spend most of it building an empire, then you aren't spending it on issues of your own soul. And if you do spend that much time on empire, it says something important what what you think is really important.

People who are successful in the world are number counters. They love to count stuff, to measure and weigh things. They are trapped in an endless loop of numbers, and the counting and weighing is how they measure success.

That doesn't translate over to the realm of soul. In the realm of soul you must be an anti-banker. In the realm of soul you give when you are owed, and if you think that's easy to do, look at how many people are unable to do that after spending their lives as number counters and collecting on debts owed to them.

You are what you practice.

"Wright wasn't spinning those tales on this particular Sunday. He was just being a militantly unpatriotic hard-left agitator."

Give me a break. Maybe Wright went overboard with his remarks, but the truth is that the United States deserves a lot of criticism these days. Let's face it, the contemporary U.S. is far removed from embodying the Enlightenment values of Jefferson and Paine. We aren't even close to being in the same league as the European social democracies.

Truths, half truths, and untruths. To separate the “truths” from these half-truths and untruths one must step outside their nationalism and patriotism. That is extremely hard to do. He spent much of the sermon quoting someone that appeared on fox news ( i.e. a white guy). I think some of his preaching was about what Ron Paul’s was calling blowback and Jesus’ we reap what we sow and the eastern religion’s teachings about karma.

I think he was advocating we Americans must look into a mirror and not just play the victim role after 9/11. The reverend used his pulpit to vent his anger but oh so many preachers do just that. We must seek understanding of that anger not just condemnation. So easy to state, soooooooooooooo difficult to do.

I think one must be black to understand where that anger came from. As a teen in the 50’s I had a black friend and often when we entered a business such as a pool hall the owner would yell out to us “no blacks allowed in here”. This friend apologized to me for our not being allowed to play pool. He apologized to me. Those incidents never left my mind.

I spent an evening with a black couple in the 60’s a very nice professional couple and they were talking about where they could buy a home and where they were not allowed to buy a home. Even through that may not be the case today in America that anger could still be there buried deep but in their consciousness. Reverend Wright appears to still have some of that anger.

Hard left? If hard left means that I am against this war in Iraq based on lies and deception and if a person was against the Vietnam war based on lies and deceptions and fear mongering than it looks like I fit the description of hard left. Labels we love to label people makes it easy to disown their opinions.

"It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government."
-- Thomas Paine

guess I have a different definition of patroit.

Ike warned us what would happen if we did not reduce the size of our military and detune our industrial military complex but most Americans did not listen. Seems odd now that a general and a republican president warned us about how our industrial military complex could lead to wars for profits. Go figure.

One more time:
"A nation that spends more year after year on military offense (and I mean offense) than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death". (Gunnels)

It is,I think, a natural human reaction to try to puzzle out the motivations behind other people's actions. I don't think it's truly possible that often. Surely it would be better to recognise a generous act rather than spend time and emotion identifying another "more worthy" recipient?

I am not a Christian but if we are quoting him I seem to remember hearing something like "do not judge and you will not be judged". I don't see the point in trying to quantify how "spiritually developed" another person is - even if it was possible: which I don't believe.

IMHO life isn't some kind of contest as to who has the "biggest or most perfectly formed spirit" - it's about how we develop as individuals. I work in business, and have consulted at the highest levels in major companies. I can honestly say that many of the people who I have met exhibit a lot of the characteristics that Michael mentions at times, but have also been capable of great kindness - very often hidden. To my mind the acid test is motive. I think we rarely fully understand our own motivation let alone a strangers.

In speculating we often say more about ourselves than about the subject of our attention.

Ryan: The latest Office incarnation fixes many flaws. Vulnerability to viruses has been reduced, especially on the Mac, where Windows' absence eliminates an entry point for malware. Competing software, especially as regards word processing, isn't in the same league. They can't put together the same number of advanced features, all working more or less harmoniously and speedily together.

At any rate, my main thrust was to rebut your blanket assertion that MS software is crap. What I said is that Word is a stunning technical accomplishment, which is true, Stephen Fry's remarks notwithstanding. And I think Office's latest incarnation has tried to make the product less of a jumble and more intuitively coherent. We should at least give them credit for taking the big risk of overhauling their familiar interface.

Of course, there's lots to dislike there too--my list of 50 gripes is an example. But I think they're coming around. This Ozzie character they've brought in is impressive and lacks Gates's flaws, which are reflected in MS software.

Anon. said:
"Sure, Windows has its shortcomings and quirks, but I would take that any day over the mass of fundamental problems I have with the other operating systems, like stuff absolutely refusing to install, sound not working worth a damn, or programs crashing like a destruction derby."

The Mac's OS X is built on a solid foundation (Unix BSD) and its superficial flaws have been mostly corrected by now. It's much less vulnerable to malware; and the consensus of recent experts, including long-time decriers like John Dvorak), is that this is the system they recommend to others who ask them for advice, in order to avoid having to provide follow-up babysitting advice on how to cope with problems and be a systems administrator (in effect).

I had Windows XP and it got to be Too Much. And a free item MS sent and urged me to install crashed and trashed my hard drive. Windows machines often become bloated and slowed down after a few years. And upgrading from one version to another is such a headache that it's usually advisable to buy a new PC. The Mac doesn't have those problems. It's starting to win on its fundamentals, now that its teething troubles are past. I'm satisfied with it, although Jobs is twice as annoying as Gates.

Your soul is where you invest your love. If you love money greed becomes love to you. If you love power then arrogance becomes your idea of love. It's easy to become stuck in those feedback loops; acquisition and status are animal instincts and success pays off in easily understandable terms. Kindness, empathy... they often aren't rewarded in terms a materialist can understand.

Bruce I agree with you, I watched the whole video of Pastor Wright and that is why I felt it needed to be seen.

But regardless of what he said then, or at other times, he is fundementally NOT Obama, he is SOMEONE ELSE!!!.

He is also now retired, not that that means much either, but here's how I see it.

God teaches us the lessons we need to learn, if we judge, we get judged, if we have a habit of condemning others, we get condemned ourselves, our deep seated issues come bouncing back someday sometime, whether we are aware or not, this is karma.

Maybe when we ourselves are in the position we put others in a few times, maybe then we will recognise what we are doing, maybe a little light goes off in our head, the higher spirit whispers in our ears and when that happens, we change, we humble ourselves and move forward. If we don't well we'll just keep attracting the same ol' same.

I have posted a few links in the "How not to do Religion" thread which I felt were important to the whole essence of that discussion.

I think anyone who chooses to refuse to look at stuff because they have stubbornly made up their mind, say's alot, sometimes what it does says is deep down within them, they know they may be wrong but they just aren't ready to see it :-)

I agree what MP brings forward is that a large mayority of the rich must be of the predator type he spoke of,but that's not to say every rich person is the of the same spiritual caliber,that would be generalising.

Thus I think the best we can say about Oprah is that we don't know.I take the stance of innocent till proven guilty(of being a predator,spiritually dirty) if a vote would be given.

Plenty of poor people are predatory too. I think it is ridiculous to generalise like this.

exactly Paul, alot of predatory poor people, looking of the fence of the rich with poor spiritual motives.

Exactly Paul, alot of predatory poor people, looking over the fences of the rich with poor spiritual motives.

PS- The first two Steve Ballmer clips I posted appear to be the same, but the second two are different.

Michael started this post asking the question "Can making a huge amount of money be compatible with spiritual advancement?"

Whether you have that money because you ambitiously and successfully sought it, or you crave it but do not have it, the focus is the same, whether you are rich or poor.

I believe the hidden difference Michael is getting at is not the difference between rich people and poor people, but between people who want a lot of money and STUFF, and people who do not.

The comments to this entry are closed.