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Gospel of Wealth Tips by Dr. Paul Schervish

What is a Moral Biography or Gospel of Life?

 

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A moral biography or gospel in an individual’s life occurs at the point of intersection of empowerment and moral compass. For moral compass without empowerment leads to ineffective idealism, while power without moral compass brings arbitrary domination.

 

Aristotle said that the gospel of life is happiness and that closing the gap between where we are now and where we want to be is what creates and expands that happiness. How does one achieve this? According to Aristotle, the gap is closed by wise choices that contain the two elements of a gospel.  Choice is essentially capacity or empowerment. Wisdom is the essence of moral compass. Just as empowerment and moral compass are both necessary for a moral biography, Aristotle asserts that the very condition for wisdom as a virtue of character is capacity or freedom of choice. For without freedom, there can be no virtue. At the same time virtue cannot exist without an underlying capacity that bestows the ability to choose. Thus, a moral life is the ability to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be by combining capacity and character.

 

One example of a gospel is the story of Moses. His family has left him on the banks of the Nile so that he will be able to thrive outside the harsh conditions of an enslaved family. Moses is brought into the household of the Pharaoh and becomes the heir apparent. He exercises capacity in the name of the Pharaoh and according to the moral compass of his vice-regency. But in the view of his kin, Moses, despite his capacity, actually lacks moral compass until he learns of his ancestry, abandons his empowerment, and flees to the mountains. There, he regains his moral bearing but works as a shepard with no singular capacity. In the manifestation of the buning bush, the Lord reconstitutes Moses’ moral biography, giving him a new moral compass and the worldly capacity to accomplish it. So equipped, Moses returns to the fray, going miracle for miracle with the Pharaoh, eventually breaking his opponent’s resolve and demonstrating a nobler moral bearing. With moral compass turning into geographic compass, Moses leads his people through the red Sea from the land of slavery to the land flowing with milk and honey.

 

First published in “Better Than Gold: The Moral Biography of Charitable Giving” 2003 

 

 

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO DR. PAUL?

 

Paul Schervish B&W

 

Paul G. Schervish is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy (CWP) at Boston College.  Schervish served as a Fulbright Scholar for the 2000-2001 academic year at University College Cork in the area of research on philanthropy.  For the 1999-2000 academic year he was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.  He has been selected five times to the NonProfit Times annual “Power and Influence Top 50,” a list which acknowledges the most effective leaders in the non-profit world.

 

He received a bachelor’s degree in classical and comparative literature from the University of Detroit, a Masters in sociology from Northwestern University, a Masters of Divinity Degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Aristotle Onassis the Tycoon Who Bought a Country by Peter Ireland

Money won’t buy you happiness but it will get you the yacht that will allow you to pull up alongside of it and say “hello.”    – David Lee Roth

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Self-made billionaires caught my attention at a very early age. One of the first to do so was Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis (b. 1906 – 1975) who achieved global notoriety by marrying John F. Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline in 1968. (She finally agreed to the marriage after being pursued by Aristotle for years. By most accounts, her primary reason for accepting his proposal was financial security for her and her family. For Ari, she was probably the ultimate trophy wife.)

 

Onassis started his career with little more than ambition but eventually became part of a Greek shipping empire through marriage in 1946 to Athina the daughter of shipping magnate Stavros Livanos. By then he had already built up his own fleet of freighters and tankers. The marriage also made Ari the brother-in-law of a third Greek shipping tycoon, Stavros Niarchos, who was married to Athina’s sister.

 

For several decades the two brothers-in-law dominated the oil tanker business along with American billionaire Daniel K Ludwig. The rivalry between the men throughout the 1950s and 60s was intense with all three engaging in a “supertanker race” aimed at building the largest ships for  their respective fleets. However, no matter how much money and power Ari accumulated, it was  never enough to assuage a deep-seated insecurity. Deep down inside, he felt himself to be an outsider shunned by polite society and looked down upon by the significantly better looking and more suave Stavros.

 

Ari craved acceptance and respect. In early 1952 he thought that he had found a way to win both. He did so by purchasing Monaco which was Europe’s traditional playground for those possessing wealth or nobility, or both. Americans who had never heard of the place learned about it after movie star Grace Kelly became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956 through marriage to Prince Ranier.

 

The way Ari accomplished this acquisition was by quietly purchasing a controlling interest in Societe des Bain de Mer, a public company trading on the Paris Bourse, which  owned most of the principality of Monaco, including the famed Monte Carlo Casino where James Bond drops by to play Baccarat:

 

Being accepted in Monaco was the ne plus ultra of social climbing. You couldn’t go any higher. And if you owned the place, they would have to accept you.  Onassis, a Greek born in Turkey, had always felt socially inferior, and having to compete with a brother-in-law like the polished, handsome Stavros Niarchos, who chummed around with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at Ascot, didn’t make it any easier.

 

So Onassis had bought Monaco, where he could rub elbows with the royalty of the rest of Europe. But he had gotten more in the bargain. Monaco, however small, was its own country, with its own laws. No other nation’s laws applied. If you owned Monaco, you could do what you pleased there, and nobody would object.  (Source: The Invisible Billionaire: Daniel Ludwig by Jerry Shields)

 

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Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them – Aristotle

We give up leisure in order that we may have leisure – Aristotle

The proper way to be angry – Aristotle

Educate the mind and heart – Aristotle

Entertain a thought without accepting it – Aristotle

The aim of the wise is to avoid pain – Aristotle

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