What I look for when I read

Let Pat Conroy say it.

Now, when I pick up a book, the prayer that rises out of me is that it changes me utterly and that I am not the man who first selected that book from a well-stocked shelf. Here’s what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of South Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me a Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader’s armor, a cardinal’s vestments. Let me feel the pygmy’s heartbeat, the queen’s breast, the torturer’s pleasure, the Nile’s taste, or the nomad’s thirst. Tell me everything I must know. Hold nothing back.

You don’t ever want to need the government’s help

Let me note, first of all, that we all get the government’s help. In my reading, I came across the observation that 80% of the wealth that we have is due to the place in which we do business, the USA. The infrastructure, the capitalist system, the technological advancement, etc., are all in place to make the creation of wealth not only possible but even probable for those who desire it enough. Born in another place, Africa for instance, the same amount of ambition and smarts might be able to produce mere survival. An accident of latitude and longitude.

But that said, you don’t ever want to be in the place where you have to have a government service. First, those who have to have what the government can give are the very ones kicked to the curb first. It’s just the way it is.  The very way the government spends money on itself is the giveaway. The inordinate salaries, the obscene benefits, the time off, etc., give you some indication of what the mentality of government is and the level at which you are going to be serviced. You are never first when it comes to government. Government is first.

Second, once you need the government your life will be filled with bureaucrats. Believe me, these are people you want to meet as little as possible. Been to the post office lately? Ever thought you would see people move so slowly? Ever thought you would like to ask one of them out on a date? Ever thought you would meet someone who is so incapable of eye contact? These are not people you want to mainstream into community and home.

Third, people who work for government are experts at rules. I’m all for order. But they aren’t for order. They are for rules. And that’s different. As you know, at some point in the rule making, there will be that place where one rule contradicts another. It’s gonna happen. Just be in the system long enough and you will find yourself there. And then watch the government worker’s head explode. It’s like watching a ministroke. They mumble, shake their head and wander away from their desk into the labyrinth of government hallways. When they return with an answer, it will be no answer. You will just get another phone number that you can only call on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 4pm, not during lunch and never on a Monday – Monday has too many holidays.

Fourth, you don’t have enough time to cross lines with the government. They have all the time in the world, since they really don’t have to produce anything. You, on the other hand, have no time since you have to produce everything.

Fifth, if you ever make friends with a government worker who you have come to rely on, don’t get used to it. By age 50 they are gone. You thought they cared? No, being vested and early retirement is the name of the game. Unlike the guy in the local hardware store who actually knows and cares about his customers and is always rethinking retirement because he has some sense that his customers need him, you’ll never get to know a government worker who has a personal commitment to you. You are not needed and irrelevant to their pay. For them it’s time put in, rules obeyed and the last three years at the highest salary.

Sixth, if you need government, they will call the shots, not you. Your life will be based on their rules, their mindset, their parsimonious hearts and bespectacled squinty eyes.  They will make you beg as you plead that though you know it is cheaper to have your leg amputated, you want one more try before they make it easier for themselves and cut off the doggone thing.

So squirrel away your money. Don’t go on vacation. Don’t add a pool. Send your kids to community college, and buy a 17″ TV at a yard sale and forego the big screen TV. Save all you can, and maybe you will have enough money someday never to have to interact with the government. That’s the one big ticket item I want to be able to purchase.

You don’t ever want government’s help.

Today’s Money Shot, 2/18/11

The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in “what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower.”

— Vincent of Lerins, quoted in Christopher Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers

How to know if you have a real job?

Greg Gutfeld writes this in The Bible of Unspeakable Truth.

For the next week, do your job drunk. If your performance stays the same, you don’t lose any limbs, and no one notices you’re soused, then your job is not real. But if your performance suffers, and you lose a limb, then congratulations-you have a real job and you actually contribute something worthwhile to society. You should be proud, even if you’re dead.