Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review: The Poet and the Billionaire

There is nothing so compelling as a new idea that's stood the test of time. Philosopher-author Jared Matthew Kessler has reinvented at least two of them -- the Socratic dialogue and the Zen notion that the answer is to be found in the question.

In The Poet and the Billionaire: A Personal Journey of Conversation, Kessler (the poet) conducts an ongoing correspondence with an anonymous guru (the billionaire), who advises a daily Process of self-empowerment by setting goals and attending to every detail with care, love, and commitment.

This little book is full of wit and wisdom and well worth a plane-ride span of your time to digest, although you may be spending the rest of your life working through the insights it stimulates in you.

I do take issue -- kindly, and not adamantly -- with the notion that guru equates with billionaire. I think it's really unfortunate, if not misguided, to think that your run-of-the-mill billionaire has any corner on spiritual insight. Supposedly Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey are nice people. I would guess that Warren Buffet is a decent sort, although I suspect he's more of a disciplined pragmatist than a philosopher. I would not under any circumstances, however, take personal advice from the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Donald Trump. In the jargon of Hollywood, they are reputed to be attackers, not attractors.

If you carry New Age thinking to its extreme, you begin to wonder, if I'm so spiritual, why ain't I rich? But the corollary question might just as well be, if Mr. X is such a jerk, how come he's so stinking rich?

I'm reminded of that ancient Hippie quip, "There's no reason for anyone to work. The economy is strong enough to support everybody." (Admittedly, this was pre-meltdown, dot-com and real-bubble.)

I wish latter-day philosophers would take some economics courses just as much as I want some health-remedy hawks to take basic chemistry.

So I cringe the same way when I hear Christopher Howard talk about his crash-course in success, Billionaire Boot Camp. If just a few percent more of the world's population were billionaires, the rest of us would be devastated. There's this economic principle called inflation. A loaf of bread would cost a million bucks (as it did in pre-Nazi Germany for awhile), and those of us who aren't spiritual enough to become billionaires would literally starve.

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