Responses to Last Post

I was touched and fascinated to receive many responses to my last post. I have listed some below.It seems the idea of being  part of an illustrious family or having any edge in life affects many of us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

I so empathize with a great deal that you said about your growing up, but I think I may have been more fortunate than you in having had the difference between financial success and success as a person clearly defined for me. I was taught that if you were fortunate enough not to have to earn your daily bread that you had a responsibility to your community to be a responsible and active source for those less fortunate. I also feel inferior because I never had a paid job, but so be it. It’s a bit late now.
   As to defending one’s children; I have always been accused of being a mother tiger, and that will continue until the day I die.
  

I love what you wrote.  It is candid, caring, and true.  Speaking for
myself, I am mightily impressed by all you have accomplished not because
of your inheritance, but in spite of it.  By example, you have answered
the question of what to do with such a privileged background–with
dignity, integrity, and skill.  You have also faced and conquered many of
the psychological and emotional problems that all of us share as human
beings.

And FYI, the notion of “privilege” is relative.  I have always been
embarrassed that I went to a private boarding school, that I got into
Harvard in the days when it was easy, that I learned to read and write
(especially to write) at the feet of true masters.  All that gave me an
unfair head start in the academic rat-race, or so I thought for many
years.  So I glossed over all that stuff, at least in conversation with
colleagues, not wanting to reveal the privileged foundation that was
bestowed upon me by hard-working, hard-drinking, and self-sacrificial
parents.

>Your essay on entitlement was brilliant and very moving. In a very minor way I saw somewhat similar problems as a child.  A schoolmate at the Brearley was Barbara Field, daughter of Marshall Field.  Sometimes I would visit with her on her father’s place on Long Island and shield her from the company of spongers who surrounded her.  She married three times, ended her life battling mental disease.  My grandparents were friends of the Frick family and one of the cautionary tales I was told was about “Poor Helen, she never married.  Always suspected that every man was after her money.”  The Depression almost wiped out my family and I never had such a worry.  The names Watson, Frick and Field are names of burden to their children, and I congratulate you on your survival!  You done good.  

I thought this was beautifully written. I agree that few of us middle class guys respect the business successes of our richer born friends. I know in my case when I meet some guy who was born with every advantage and is now a partner at some investment bank etc. I assume he had a running start. For me to respect his success he would have had to achieve it as an entrepreneur or in a non business area-the arts, academia etc. Third most of my friends who are” the children of” seem to have difficulties putting that badge aside. I say “seem” because I can’t know for sure. However many still seem to carry an invisible weight. Finally, and this is personal I always thought I was incredibly lucky to find work I loved and was good at. Growing up in a materialistic middle class Jewish environment I was pushed towards money making professions. I can still remember learning that our local high school hero had cast aside his Yale and Harvard B School degrees to become a rabbi. When I rushed home to tell my parents my mother said, “Billy can afford it. His family is rich…” I know my brother would have been happier working in the Foreign Service or as an academic. I think is still true today that most middle class parents ask their children to pursue the work that will make them happiest. As a result their children often don’t ask themselves the most important question. I never asked the question and was lucky that the question didn’t matter. Finally the other thing I learned from your blog is that you write better than I do.

Palm Sunday and Family

Sunday started at four AM when the sprinkler system went off in my fragile house alerting me to the morning. From the small window in my bathroom I could see the palms reflected against the sky prompting me to go out in the garden and take a photo which I have posted here. If I had to tell the story of Palm Sunday on this page I couldn’t do it as I am cloudy on certain practices and traditions of my church. What I am interested in at this moment is not palms, however, but bounty in general.

I have always been interested in the paths which people chose in life. I worked for ten years in a business school where my job was to help people achieve success in interviews for the job of their dreams and so I spent a lot of time listening to what these dreams were. I heard all about job satisfaction, balancing work and family, good health and how much money was needed to be happy. The last measure was the most interesting to me which may sound surprising to you, my spiritual readers.

I have met and known many very successful people in my life and found them usually very interesting which is why I wrote a book on success and spent over a year interviewing these people. I am interested in why certain people have a drive to succeed and why others are content with doing little in their lives. I am also interested in the connection between accruing wealth and success and the transition from active work life to retirement. I am interested in the mind set of those who are making millions of dollars and have children. Some say they are doing what they do for their kids but then they resent it if their kids are not attempting to achieve as strongly as they did. Or they resent it if their kids surpass their own achievements. Some very successful people somehow manage to pass on wealth in their family and also create a family that functions well as each individual finds their own way and is respected. Even if they are not achieving the kind of financial success their parents did, their path is a solid one and is supported by family.

I grew up in a family where my father was well known and very successful and was once on the cover of TIME magazine as “The World’s Most Famous Capitalist” As a child my world was filled with people who were like me: children of “companies”. My best friend was the daughter of a mattress company founder, another was the child of the president of the stock exchange, and a third had a Dad who owned a major shipping company. AT school everyone seemed about the same to me: same economic level, same ethnicity, same thoughts, and same parents. Life was a blur of beauty and similarity. Households were run by our mothers with the help of staff and the focus of the day was the hour when our fathers would arrive home on the train and we would have family dinner. I don’t remember thinking about my future much except to fantasize about whom I would marry and how many children I would have.

Eventually I left home and went out to live in the real world where I wasn’t exactly certain what I was supposed to be doing with my life. As I hadn’t been raised with a career goal I started to look around to find one for myself. I married and moved to a new town where I meet a lot of people and enjoyed my life. I noticed how important it was to others to know who my family was. I also noticed I was often introduced as “the child of…” which began to bother me. Sure there were times when I was happy to be in that circle of light. Don’t get me wrong here; I am not going to whine about my advantages in any way. I am grateful for them. What I am writing about here is what success brings to the children in a family because it is a subject I have thought of for a very long time. A lifetime, in fact.

Many people dream of providing their children with lives that supersede their own and they do. Few people make a lot of money and are able to raise kids that are proud and happy of their achievements because, to the world, if you inherit money or a prestigious family, you are not accomplishing much on your own as you had this “head start”. I will try not to generalize here and focus on my own experience because that is what I know best.

I am still being introduced as “the child of..” and I am sixty years old. I have accomplished a lot in my life and am proud of my achievements but I still suffer that bit of doubt because of the entitled childhood I received. There isn’t much sympathy around for people like me as for the most part we are looked upon with envy and a bit of awe. It is difficult to know whether or not someone likes you because of who you are, what you have, what you can do for them, or just because you are a likable person who is fun to have around. You can chose to be friends with others who come from families just like yours which is what many people do, or you can chose to branch out in life and test the theory of relatedness. You can try to find people you love because they are wonderful people and you can chose to trust them because life is infinitely more pleasurable with trusted friends.

The other choice you have is to forgive people who want to stereotype you and downgrade your achievements because of jealousy. This is a harder decision and takes more time. The hardest part of being in a family where one of the parents has been a great achiever is to find achievements of your own that may be completely different and believe in them. It is harder to do this than if you come from a middle class family where all parents can afford to do is get you to college. In this type of family your achievements are yours, alone.

Probably, to most readers, this piece makes not much sense as it applies to a very minute part of the population and one that is not in any way in need of help. I find it interesting for obvious reasons. I freely admit my inheritance has in many ways prevented me from believing in my own ability: in my case it was a combination of personality and situation that caused this to happen. In other cases I see arrogance, anger, sadness, complacency, joy, acceptance, accomplishment: a whole plethora of results of having an entitled childhood.

I write this as a way of asking others to consider the results of accomplishment and to consider the choices available to you when you don’t have to work. Now, to most people, this is an impossible dream. No one will have compassion for someone in this position nor do I ask them for compassion. I ask you to consider what you would do with your life if you didn’t have to work? Would you accomplish great things in the world of philanthropy? Would you travel constantly? Would you shop until you dropped? And what if you were a bright and thoughtful person? What then? How would you fill your days if you didn’t need a paycheck and you valued your work on the sheer basis of personal reward? Now we are getting closer to the meat of what I am asking. What if you were brought up in a family like my own where you were not given a career choice and the possibility of work was never really discussed. What then? How would you choose to live out your days?

Still not asking for sympathy here only commenting on life and its complexities. Most people out there believe that having a lot of money is the best thing in life they could possibly have. I think having a lot of money is a wonderful thing and giving away a lot of money is even better. I also think that there is an interesting relation between success and sorrow within families and it is important to look at how the children of success can believe in their own lives and their own abilities.

too bad a pope can’t resign!

After reading the New York Times cover story this morning about yet another case of abuse gone unpunished due to our current Pope’s decision to overlook the “transgression”, I think Pope’s should resign when found guilty of major misdeeds.  Why Not? Our President’s are forced to. I don’t want to read another story about Benedict’s decision to overlook abuse. It is intolerable.

Funny how Catholics are afraid of the Pope…

I don’t really understand why Catholics are afraid of the Pope having been raised without much organized religion. My Dad would periodically take us to church and then spend the bulk of the service chewing gum and writing in his notebook. During our Sunday lunch sometimes he would ask one of us what we had thought of the sermon as he had not heard one word. I don’t think church made us better children or better people in the world. I  enjoyed Sunday School as I liked to examine the teacher’s mink wrap with its beady eyes and small claws. Once I actually pulled out a claw and took it home with me. This is probably why I will never go to Heaven. One single mink claw theft.

As of this moment I am disgusted with the Catholic church as you know, my good readers! I can’t help it as I find it unbelievable that priests have been able to abuse children over and over and still go unpunished. Their behavior is incomprehensible to me as is their lack of accountability and punishment.Some say it is because the abuse is not reported to the police but to the parish head. I hope Catholic parents begin to see the light here and change their behavior. If someone had abused my son they would no longer be living happily on this earth.I am not saying I am perfect, I am saying I have a strong protective sense of my children even now as they are adults.

Perhaps my lack of respect or terror for the church is a good thing as I don’t fear reporting abuse or any bad behavior. What I resent is the absolute power of the church instilled in children when in the presence of the clergy. It seems clear to me there is a much higher  percentage of abuse among the clergy than in the average population. Why is this, you might ask?I have no answer but I will continue to ask myself this question. There are a few very obvious answers. Until Catholics ask themselves these questions and question the authority of the church, these abuses will continue.

Betrayal: Gay or Straight?

Last Night’s Dinner Party…

So last night I had a dinner party with a dozen assorted friends of all ages and opinions. At one point during the dinner I asked if the women at the table would be more upset if their husbands left them for another man or another woman. There was a clear consensus: the older women felt they would be more upset if they were left for another woman as they would be in competition with her. The younger women felt they would be more upset if their husbands were gay because that would mean the romantic love between them would have been based on falsehood.

I found this really interesting, and logical in a disappointing way. The younger women were still filled with romantic love while the older women were more practical about their marriages. Perhaps older women believe they are in jeopardy of losing their husbands to younger women as it happens all the time particularly in certain socioeconomic groups. Perhaps older women have less of a romantic ideal about their relationships as they have weathered the storm of many years of marriage and the pleasures as well as trials that come with any long term relationship. Perhaps they really feel as if betrayal is still a part of life and one they worry about though many years of a partnership has passed.

I wonder about betrayal….I think it is a wound, if inflicted that will never heal. Betrayal is a pain that cuts through any defense mechanism one may have and results in a fissure which remains permanently open. I don’t care what anyone says about learning to heal when someone has lied to you, basically you can never heal that place in you which is broken. The best you can do is protect your heart and looks carefully before you become involved with anyone.

I loved my dinner party. I love the mix of old and young and the opportunity of listening to what everyone is thinking. Life needs to be magic from time to time.

More on Sexual Abuse by Catholic priests

Today’s New York Times

There is another article on the cover of today’s’ New York Times about priests who get away with sexual abuse for years with the assistance of the Catholic Church.

“German Priest in Abuse Case is suspended”

“Munich- The priest at the center of a German sex-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XV! Continued working with children for more than 30 years, even though a German court convicted him of molesting boys.

The priest, Peter Hullerman, who had previously been identified only by the first letter of his last name, was suspended from his duties only on Monday. That was three days after the church acknowledged that the Pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, had responded to early accusations of molestation by allowing the priest to move to Munich for therapy in 1980.”

New York Times, Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The article goes on to tell the story of this priest who evidently abused hundreds of children and was never punished. Let me repeat that. Hundreds! The church was made aware of his crimes many times and they simply moved him to another parish where he did the same thing all over again. The future Pope Benedict, who was in charge of crimes of abuse in 1980, moved the priest to another parish in Munich. One of Hullerman’s crimes was to have forced an 11 year old boy to perform oral sex on him. That’s right, eleven years old.

Evidently parishioners still praise this priest, calling him warm and friendly even though the accusations against him have been all proven to be fact. People still find ways to protect priests even after sick, cruel and perverted behavior has been proved.

Why?

Why is Peter Hullerman not behind bars as he would be if he were not protected by the church? Why are priests who do these terrible things allowed to stay hidden behind church walls?

I think these men should be treated as common criminals and after being tried and found guilty, sent to prison for the rest of their lives. I don’t understand why this is not done. In this case the Pope was actually a part of the group protecting him. Hullerman is allowed to live a free life while the hundreds of his victims remain tormented because of what one perverted, cruel and sadistic man did to them.

When is the world going to stop being afraid of the Catholic Church and start to seek out and punish  criminals no matter who is protecting them?

Catholic Priests

There have been a few recent stories about Catholic priests and molestation of young boys. In most cases the boys suffered through not one but many instances of molestation by a priest and remained silent about this abuse for years. I am sure there are many more men out there who were molested by a priest and have tried to put these memories behind them. Perhaps they have confided in therapists or wives, friends or parents, and still the molester lives out his life without punishment for what he did to an innocent child. The lives of these boys who may now be men are not the same as they might have been had this abuse not happened. These boys, now men, are forever damaged by what was done to them by a “trusted” authority figure.

Imagine, if you will, a young and impressionable boy being taken to the rooms of priests and subjected to whatever sick act was in the mind of a priest. Could the boy scream and fight and get out of there? Absolutely not. There was no escaping these men as they were careful to choose boys who they could control and who they could force to do whatever they wanted them to do. I can barely listen to these stories as I find abuse so sickening. I have to admit I have begun to disrespect the Catholic Church as it seems to do little to punish these priests, and in some cases, actually protects them for years. A few cases have come to light where the priest’s behavior was known within the church and the church protected the priests and not the boy.

Let’s imagine how that child felt. Who could he share this event or events with as he had been threatened by the priest to keep silent? Where was he supposed to go with his feelings of fear and shame and betrayal? There was no place to go and no one with whom he could speak. There was no safety. He learned as a child that adults in authority could not be trusted and there was no safe place in the world.

 I think we should have the same trial and imprisonment for these priests as we have for abusers outside the church. I think the Catholic Church should go much further than it does in finding and punishing each person who is guilty of these crimes. It is unacceptable to me that some priests are still abusing children. It is unacceptable that churches often do not seek out their criminal members but seek to avoid public disclosure at all costs. There are those who believe church goers are in some way better behaved than the rest of the population. Some believe the authority of the church should be revered and preserved.

 The older I get in life the more I see that we must do our best to create lives for all of our children that are safe and happy and free of any kind of fear. It is up to all of us to do this whether we have children or not. Sometimes we have to speak up when no one else will back us up if we see that something is amiss. It is better to investigate a situation that seems not natural than to lift the corner of the carpet and sweep up everything around you under it.

Bullies and How To Treat Them

Bullies and How to treat them

I am writing a lie with the above title as I have no idea how to treat bullies. Actually it is one of the things in life I am working on: my reaction time to bullies. I ran into one at my little gym the other day. Let’s call him “R”.  “R” was in the gym when I arrived using the elliptical trainer. I sat down on the exercise bike, put my headphones on, and began my workout. AT first there was calm in this small space as two people worked off their frustrations on exercise machines while reading and listening to whatever.  Suddenly all of that changed. “R” received a call on his cell and began to talk about inane stuff in a voice that penetrated my headphones and my brain as well. I felt incredibly annoyed and was unable to focus on my own paper and music. I focused instead on how annoying and rude this behavior was. I thought about how people who use cell phones in places where others are reading or watching TV are really thoughtless. I found myself becoming angrier and angrier. I used most of my Buddhist practices to attempt to overcome this anger. I got nowhere.

At this point I knew I needed to get off the bike and leave the room before I let myself get really mad. I know this sounds ridiculous. I really do. I know I should be able to ignore people who do this kind of thing but I resent people who ignore common courtesy.  I believe that we should all live in a respectful manner and it surprises me when I run into people who don’t have the same attitude. It really surprises me when I am in the gym of a private club in Tiburon. What makes me think people should behave better here? Look at Madoff. I bet he belonged to a lot of private clubs.

Anyway, back to that morning…I went to the club office and asked the manager what the cell phone policy was in the club. I was told there wasn’t a specific one but rather one much likes my own idea of how to behave. The club officers thought members would know appropriate behavior.

After learning this you would have thought I would feel vindicated but I returned to the gym and reassembled myself on the bike only to hear “R” address me in a loud voice.

“Is my talking on the cell bothering you?” he asked in a rather belligerent tone.

Here’s where I caved. Instead of simply saying “Yes” and looking him in the eye, I responded “Well, yes, it is, and we do have an unspoken policy that…”

I was interrupted at this point by “R” who said, “I wasn’t asking about unspoken policy, I was asking you whether or not my cell phone was an issue. Well! Yes or no? I don’t need to hear any BS about unspoken policy!!”  As he was saying this his voice grew louder and his stance became more aggressive. He was peddling more furiously and I was scared. Here is where I need help. What I should have said was, “Yes, your cell phone conversation bothered me and your behavior now is really out of line!”

I should have said “Does it make you feel powerful and important to bully women?”

I should have said, ““R”! Anger management! That’s all I have to say!

I find it difficult to deal with rude people and I usually avoid them and that is what my next move was. I gathered up my things and left the gym, realizing if I stayed it would have been a battle not to engage with “R”’s angry energy.

In retrospect I am trying not to be hard on myself for not fighting back when people bully me. I know that is the only behavior that stops bullies. I am thinking of signing up for a class in Judo or Karate. I am imagining myself the next time I run into “R” jumping into a ready stance with my hands up ready for the killer hit. Imagining this helps me a lot! I know I will be better prepared next time! I bet “R” will not or at least I hope he won’t. I like to win.