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The Uncle Bunny Scenario
What if you had 'fuck you money'?
In order to read Stoic Observations at a deeper level, you are going to have to become familiar with several concepts that I have developed. They have a brightly colored candy coated shell which is easy to identify, but there is some rich complex chocolate in the center. In today’s philosophic journey we are considering the practical and psychological ramifications of attaining riches. This relates to my concept of the Peasant Theory and our place in it as peasants who want to exploit the American meritocracy, or maybe just bypass it by sucking up to the right kind of asshole or becoming that asshole.
I have white ancestors. I met them when I was a child. They were my Uncle Bunny and Aunt Mae. They lived in Connecticut in a small pristine house. I loved them immediately. Uncle Bunny had a head so bald that that it shone in the sunlight. Aunt Mae said he had a special formula that consisted of eggs that he used to polish his dome. Aunt Mae was just sweet, and you could tell that they loved each other. It was said that Uncle Bunny bought stocks in Ford when the company first went public. I am thinking about that today.
Someone I've known online casually mentioned in an interesting way that she inherited a bundle. And for some reason, I actually felt opportunistic. It's something I never felt before - not in the way I did for a few hours. I happen to know that the way she particularly came into this money was the cause of some embarrassment and discomfiture. You see she had lived her life without it purposefully not wanting the power it would give her over her material circumstances, but through some complications of the law she was forced to take possession of it or lose her wish to donate it all to charity upon her death. Seven figures is no joke, it might even be eight. Now it must be parked, for the moment, in a liquid state. She's going to buy an SUV.
We all have that wish for the genie to grant our wishes. I know that I have made a number of choices in my life that made me flirt with various probabilities of riches. I originally called it 'Fuck You Money' as did many people in my generation, especially those of us who worked in Silicon Valley. Although many of my wishes remained the same, I renamed it the 'Dosh Point'. And so I considered what I would do if I ever reached my Dosh Point. I must say that for a good majority of my professional life, the Dosh Point has never seemed that far away from me, and I have felt relatively confident that I would attain it. So I adopted such an attitude that I assumed it and so my tastes were never too far away. For me, it would be relatively easy to achieve the few material possessions I wanted and afterward settle into a kind of shabby gentility that always seemed appropriate to me.
After some time, it became apparent to me that people much younger than I were cashing out of the casino capitalism having studied the game and counted the cards. Whatever it is they have done, I have recently considered that like Shaft, they must have planned for and achieved a Big Score. By my calculations of the thermodynamics of life, this effort must have had some serious opportunity costs. I've certainly known men who have sacrificed family for the glory of being the top dog. And while I often am thankful for what I have, I sometimes wonder in my solitude if I might have been happier with more money and less sagacity and more assholiness. I wrote about that earlier this year:
A couple years ago I gave myself a bad haircut and went to see a long awaited popular military hero movie. In the men's room after the show, I met an irascible old man who grumbled that the actors in the movie didn't do shit compared to what he did in 'Nam. I took him out and bought him some drinks at the PF Chang's next door. He had come down the hill from Palos Verdes to condescend to the public. He informed me that when he was young he was a statewide track champion. He went to the war and became a helicopter door gunner. His bullets would spray but he didn't pray. "At least 100 kills" he said with a kind of practiced, gruff sangfroid. One day his chopper crashed and it broke his spine. He was told he'd never walk again. He walked like an old man for the rest of his life. He built a chemical company and lives in a multi-million dollar home with his wife. She let him out of the house, where he rarely goes. He still runs the company from home. He has beat everyone.
As I recall the story it reminds me of how Jordan Peterson says that disagreeable people make for good apex predators in the game of life. This man was certainly a case in point. He reminds me slightly of another man who was the one who loaned the computer that changed my life to the highschool I attended in the 70s. I called him to thank him one day, and he still grumbled about how OSHA set him up. He too ran a chemical company. The most successful men I know, with few exceptions, don't want to be happy. They want to win. They are only happy that they're not losers. Life's a pile of shit that you must climb and stay rooted on top. These old climbers are kings of the hill and they'll tell you about it. They're not bragging to you, they're warning you.
I have some measure of this assholiness, but owing to the shape of my personality and life experience I have consciously bent myself into the service of others. Sometimes, though I am often disagreeable, I wish that I was more disagreeable in the way I was as a callow youth. But I have grown a social skin and it has become me. The engines of my single-mindedness have a lower redline than they used to. I could fearlessly go out and have that experiment with myself given double my Dosh Point, but I'm truly not motivated to do so. It gives me a sense of pleasure to know that I can and that I would, but I moderate my want for things I know I don't need, like that vintage Porsche and that California Bungalow house in Pasadena.
So I think I understand my friend (Sheila's) desire to resist the temptations at all costs. If you've made peace with the life you actually have, with person you have become, then why do that experiment? Perhaps it was in a moment of insight that you promised never to be that experimental asshole. Something like that commitment must be close to the heart of the reluctant heir. Isn't it the reformed alcoholic who knows better than anyone the power of the addition? Isn't it the beaten child who knows the terror of abuse? Isn't it the truly loved who know the horror of abandonment? I'm guessing there was something decidedly extra in my friend's experience that has made her swear off the fortune, or knowing her, she's just hardheaded enough to will that wall into existence, except for the SUV. Gotta have a good SUV.
I know in my heart that when I first read Fortune magazine and saw the profile of three rich families, I identified with the restaurant owners of Marina Del Rey. They pulled about 300,000 per year (in the 70s) from their businesses. They could have franchised and made way more money, but for them, they knew that would just translate to more expensive Christmas gifts to buy their friends. That dovetails with the warning I had from a close friend of means who said if I made much more money I would only succeed in spoiling my children - a wreck of a sort I would never forgive myself. So yes, I am pretty much accommodated to my distance from the Dosh Point and consequently my bucket list is very short. I am comfortable and I don't need much more comfort. It would be nice to have that Porsche, that fabulous house and that extraordinary stereo system before I spend the rest of my life maintaining my health. It would be nice to have a month to waste in Paris with the Spousal Unit. There's not much more debauchery I'm interested in, not that I can think of any at the moment, but I do want to be exhaustive here.
All I can think of, seriously, is funding that business that builds that system that I think the world needs and only I have thought of, and time to write my books. It was that first opportunity that made me feel like asking, selling, begging when I heard Sheila’s news. But I didn’t. Now it is in this state of relative poverty that I must face my lazy indifference and the possible disorder of my priorities. It is in this manner, as a peasant, that I deal with my own faults, a motivation I would lose if I suddenly had Uncle Bunny's money.
I think I understand the point. That's why I no longer call it Fuck You Money. I'm not trying to be more of an asshole than I already am. I'm trying to reduce my asshole footprint. Personal riches are not going to help with that, they will get directly in the way.
I don’t mean to suggest that one must of necessity be an asshole to succeed. After all, your Dosh Point needn’t be so astronomical as the one Sheila has had on lockdown. But one doesn’t simply walk into that eight figure Mordor. (Have I used that analogy before?) You cannot suddenly become the guitar virtuoso that Keith Richards is. You can only manipulate your way into becoming his agent and skimming his fortune. If you wanted to exploit the meritocracy of the guitar, you would have done your 10,000 hours before puberty. In that case you might have become Dana Plato or Chester Bennington instead. Which is to reiterate the opportunity costs of going all in and actually winning an embarrassment of riches.
I think a good meditation on this is found in the remastered version of the Beatles remastered I Want You. Riches are so heavy.