JOE WEBB AND CO. – THE WRITTEN WORLD

LESSON #36: BECOME A PHILANTHROPIST

Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 17, 2008

LESSON #36: BECOME A PHILANTHROPIST

typewriter9          When Warren Zevon died in 2003, he was surprised to find himself in Rock and Roll Heaven, where there is, in fact, one hell of a band.  Anyway, upon his arrival, St. Peter started showing him around, and walked him into this beautiful music studio where Jimmy Hendrix was blasting away on the guitar, John Bonham was hammering the drums, and George Harrison was whittling a lute out of this 300-foot tall Sequoia.  All of the sudden, the jam session stopped, as Bono walked through the studio doors.  “Holy shit,” Zevon says to St. Peter, “I had no idea that Bono had died!  When did that happen?”  St. Peter shook his head sadly, gave the great songwriter a meaningful look, and quickly whispered into Zevon’s ear.  “Shut up, you idiot.  That’s God…He just likes to pretend He’s Bono.”

************************************************

          You want to know who’s really hard to make fun of?  Bono – that’s who.  Because even though he wears those goofy sunglasses and every U2 video is basically just a tribute to his ever-growing legacy, I’m pretty sure that he’s a better person than the rest of us – which always makes jokes about him sound a little hollow and petty.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that at this very moment, while I’m wallowing in existential angst and trying to piece my life together one day at a time, Bono is on a plane to Africa to deliver food to the Sudanese, after which he’ll catch the last flight to Bangladesh for a week of reforestation and meetings with the executive board of Grameen Bank.  Now, maybe it’s easier to be a great fusion philanthropist once you are already filthy fucking rich – after all, it seems to be the impetus that led Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie to charitable work – but regardless, and I can’t believe I’m writing this down, we could all take a lesson from Bono, and participate in a little more philanthropy.

          Unfortunately, because I’m not God (and I’m not even Bono), I can’t tell you the ultimate secret of life.  That is, I can’t tell you exactly why we’re here on this planet, or what comes next.  I can, however, share with you what I believe to be the secret of living the best life possible – and that is to balance your personal responsibilities with your responsibilities to society at large as you develop into adulthood.  At it’s most basic level, that’s what Dr. Wizard’s Advice for College Students is all about; I’m trying to help you maximize your potential both on the hallowed grounds of campus and in the murky world of life.  Luckily for us, Lesson #36 bridges the gap between your two nascent responsibilities, and is useful on both fronts.  You see, in the long run, nothing is quite as good for you as the act of engaging in charitable work – it will make you a better student, a better manager of your time, and will give you this warm fuzzy feeling that makes your life feel worthwhile.  Llikewise, in the long run, nothing else you do in life matters as much as the things you do for other people – because if there’s a scorecard at the end of the game, that’s what’s on the top of the list.

           Now, earlier I alluded to the fact that perhaps it is easier to become a philanthropist once you have already stacked away a fat pile of cash.  This, I believe, is true – but it’s also no excuse for you to be a completely self-absorbed prick right now, when you still don’t have what you’d consider to be much money.  What we must remember as Americans, particularly as Americans who have been fortunate enough to receive a college education, is that relatively speaking – we are all pretty rich when you stop to think about it.  In fact, according to a 2006 United Nations study, the median level of worldwide income in the year 2003 was only $2,161 per family.  So, let’s put that in perspective – that’s about what the average 14-year-old makes in one summer of mowing half-a-dozen lawns.  And that…means that over 3 billion people are looking up the socio-economic food-chain at your pimply faced kid brother.  And that…means that over 3 billion people would give anything in their power to have the advantages in life that you have.  And that…means that if you don’t decide to do something with your privilege, you completely suck at life.

          So, my challenge to you, as we’ve now reached the halfway point of Dr. Wizard’s Advice, is to make some time each week to do something for the poor – because even though they may make more than $2,161 a year, there are plenty of poor people right here in your community – wherever that may be.  Make sandwiches at a local homeless shelter, build playground equipment in a poor neighborhood, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity – just, for Christ’s sake, do something.  I’m not saying you have to be Bono, and you have to learn How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but get the fuck off your ass and get out there into the world – somewhere Where the Streets Have No Name (or, perhaps, somewhere where the streets are named MLK – because most of the neighborhoods that front that street could usually use a little help as well).  It’s not a request, and it’s not coming from me.  It’s an order from the 3 billion souls in this universe that haven’t got what you’ve got.  And it’s advice that I need to do a better job of following myself.  

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14 Responses

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  1. Tom Humes said, on November 17, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. Greece Lightning said, on November 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Yeah – so you have to respect him, I get that, but…

    ON TOUR: In the middle of a song, Bono quiets the band, takes off his sunglasses, and stares at the crowd. Slowly, he begins clapping to the rhythm laid down by Larry Mullen.

    BONO: “Every time I clap (CLAP) my hands (CLAP), a child dies in Africa.”

    THE EDGE: “Then stop fucking clapping you moron.”

    And, by the way, he looks like he’s about to pummel that sapling into submission with his gold shovel. (And by this, I mean to say, what an awesome Humanitarian he is – and he makes me feel guilty for sitting around and watching football on Sunday…Bloody Sunday. Bastard.)

  3. Carlin said, on November 18, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Lest we not forget that even if you don’t care about helping people, being a better person, or getting into heaven… volunteering looks amazing on grad schools apps and resumes. It shows well-roundedness, time management, and that you’re an all-around good guy. If you were a hiring manager, wouldn’t you rather hire the guy that walked dogs once a week at the SPCA than the one who sat home and watched a Friends marathon on tv?

  4. MS said, on November 18, 2008 at 1:25 am

    I’m more of a Jonathan Swift type of philanthropist.

  5. UVA Mike said, on November 18, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Meaning that you advocate the eating of Irish babies???

  6. Meghan Jansen said, on November 18, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Ummm, if that’s what MS means by being a “Jonathan Swift type of philanthropist”, I somehow think that wouldn’t sit so well with Bono.

  7. drwizard said, on November 18, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Don’t let MS fool you, folks. I happen to know for a fact that he spent time volunteering for the Obama camp this fall – which I’m pretty sure falls under the broad umbrella of service for others.

  8. Meghan Jansen said, on November 18, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Ahhh, well then, I guess it’s kinda cute how he hides behind that cynical facade. YES WE CAN!

  9. MS said, on November 18, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Don’t let surface level knowledge of Jonathan Swift fool you. First off, UVA Mike, Swift’s advocation of serving Irish babies to wealthy English aristocrats was satire. This guy gets a really bad rap (so in a way, I’m doing a bit of philanthropic work at the moment to set the record straight for the dear old Dean of St. Patrick’s). One must remember – if we want to run with the Modest Proposal example – that the English, at the time, saw the Irish as prosperous (or prosperous enough), Swift opens their eyes to the truth of the situation. To be sure, their condition is so wretched, so hopeless, that serving their children as a main course was their only value. So you see, Swift writes out of benevolence, not misanthropy. The same can be applied to Gulliver’s Travels, Against Abolishing Christianity, A Description of a City Shower…(I’ll stop here before getting into a ridiculous Swiftian catalogue). What is interesting, and why I bring up Swift in the first place, is to show Ireland’s long history of lending a helping hand despite not having much themselves. In the late-90s (arguably post-Celtic Tiger, but still a maturing nation), Mary Robinson (fthen president of the Republic of Ireland, first female president of Ireland) resigned her post to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 12 September 1997. She drew an obvious connection between those dying of hunger in Africa with her own nation’s troubled past (especially during the Great Famine 1845-48 [roughly]). So, when I say that I am a Swiftian Philanthropist, don’t be fooled by his misanthropic persona (he did make a living off of satire), his motivation was not to point out the flaws of humanity, rather to illustrate the potential that has not yet been achieved.

  10. Green Wave Fever said, on November 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I love a good Celtic Tiger reference early in the morning. So, my question is this. Does the fact that Andrew Carnegie donated Mattoon’s public library excxuse his horrible mistreatment of his workers to amass that money? Or, to put it differently, is there any way that all of Bono’s charity work can ever make up for the shitty U2 albums of the 1990s?

  11. The Uncle Jesse Fan Club said, on November 18, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Bill Gates is definitely thinking to himself, “I wonder what I’d look like in a pair of those glasses?”

  12. Cooper Manning said, on November 19, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Outstanding post, Wiz.

    In the words of Bono, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”

  13. MS said, on November 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    re: Cooper- Yeah, that or “Uno, dos, tres, treinta y seis!”

  14. LU said, on November 20, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Heck, forget about Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie, Bono convinced JESSE HELMS, the archconservative and racist senator from NC and supporter of Reagan/the religious right’s assertion regarding HIV/AIDS that “they that live in sin shall die from sin”, to join in and vocally support the fight to combat AIDS. Even God himself couldn’t do that…


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