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I’ve been slowly working my way through “Capital in the 21st Century“ by Thomas Piketty. It is fascinating! Some of the earliest data for his research comes from novels that described economics in the 18th and 19th centuries — like Jane Austen’s “Pride and Predjudice,” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Capital in those days was LAND. Those who had it were the “landed gentry,” les rentiers, and everyone else rented and worked the land to eke out a living. The landowners did sometimes have to work, but for the most part they received an income in the form of rents on the land.
TRANSITION FROM LAND TO FINANCIAL SECURITIES
These days, capital is more often in the form of financial securities — stocks, bonds, index and mutual funds, and other “financial instruments.” The top 10% of the population typically owns 50% to 70% or more of available capital. The top 1% owns 40% or more.
Much of this capital is passed on from generation to generation through inheritance. But in the 21st century we have seen a rise in the “supermanager class” of corporate CEOs and top executives who are able to earn incomes far in excess of any productivity value that can be attached to their actual work. It is this new class of supermanagers that is threatening to tip the (im)balance of capital even more towards the top elite. Here in America the top 10% are coming to own close to 80% of available capital, which gives us some understanding of what the “99 percent” are facing.
THE ROLE OF INHERITANCE
I don’t know where exactly I fall on the scale between that top 10% and the vast majority of people who are living paycheck to paycheck with no opportunity to save, invest, and have a chance at improving their lot in life. But the fact that I can receive “an income” from my investments even as they keep growing is little short of amazing, isn’t it?
“Capital in the 21st Century“ has also made me more aware of the culture that forms the backdrop of the PBS Masterpiece series, “Downton Abbey,” which takes place between the two world wars in the early 20th century. It was a transitional time when workers could come to own their own property, when land was giving way to securities, and when les rentiers began to wonder how long they would continue to be able to live the priviledged life, or hold on to their grand estates. Next time you watch Downton, pay attention to the economics!
I see a little Macallan in you.
A certain playfulness and charm, a bemused puzzlement, a need to stretch and shy away, a mix of sugar and salt. This is Macallan I see in you.
Where you are orange, I am white.
Where you are looking down, I am looking up.
When the back door opens we go out.
This is the Macallan I see in you.
In your best days you were the biggest cat; on my lap you stretched from hip to knee. You’re still that big cat in me. And I see that big cat in you.
Fearful of the ceiling fan, was it a danger in the sky? We made up stories of your kittenhood — the Macallan swept up in a hawk’s talons. It explained the fright… to our satisfaction. As often as we pull the chain on that ceiling fan, do we remember Macallan as he was, and as he is now — in you and in me.
Macallan was found, so the story goes, in the middle of the highway on Vashon Island. Still a kitten when we brought you home, quarantined you in the bathroom along with Duncan, the Hospice Case, until your fleas were gone and Camille got to know you, batting paws under the bathroom door.
I see a lot of them both in you.
Do you remember playing with the paper bag on the kitchen floor? And becoming scared and running with the bag still over your head and crashing into the wall?
Do you remember how you made us laugh?
When you turned your head a certain way, it was as though you were trying more than ever to figure us out. An unspoken question, hanging in the air.
When you turned your head another way, with light from the window falling across your golden eyes, I saw my mother in you, and was glad you could bring her to my memory in this way.
Macallan, existing everywhere and in all of us, stepped out of possibility and into physical being, in a gentle breathing life we could touch and see and love.
From kittenhood to all grown, from Washington to Indiana, from Casa d’Oro to Mama House, from Gretel (frenemy) to Whidbey (cuddle buddy) we have all known your sweetness and can touch you in countless memories.
I see all of that in you, my friend.
When I look at you, it’s all there, all that was Macallan, all the inquisitive and fearful and kind life that was Macallan.
Your love of the outdoors in the green and the sun, eating the grass, swatting at insects, smelling everything.
Dear precious Macallan.
So frail at the end
when the time had come, with certainty,
and we said our goodbyes
and let your life slip peacefully through our fingers.
Everything we remember of you is now part of who we are becoming. Your life will go on, moments of you scattered with high probability into each living being we greet today.
You are in every part of this experience
as we remember you
and we are glad
that we knew you
in this way.
I wish all my dear readers all the blessings, goodness, kindness, good luck, triumph, perseverance, commitment, loyalty, and all the riches that life offers, all in a measure we are able to believe we can achieve, and imagine beholding, and prepare to receive.
That sweet anticipation of a better and ever-improving future, beyond the normal turbulence we find in the day by day.
The turbulence has a way of absorbing us into the froth of detail this world arrays before us in vivid splendor. It holds us. It captivates us. It pushes other awareness away.
W E L C O M E H O M E
A larger space of awareness awaits.
It breathes within, the inner space of mind, where continuous waves of light pulse the color of your inner life: the accustomed narration, the critic, standing in the scatter of thoughts over a more solid, less discernible steady-state of mind, and the emotional burden of judgement, the gravity beneath it all. See this bath of thought in which we are submerged.
Now look closer and try to find who it is that bathes in this enormous pool of thought. And wonder out loud “How can I breathe?” when I am submerged like this. And we stop the thrashing, and watch the turbulence become still, and find a direction, and begin to float.
Floating upwards to the open air above the ocean of light.
And in deep stillness begin to breathe.
I N T H E S T I L L N E S S
What is emotion if you chose to set your inner chemistry to this setting, or that? Guilt, judging, conviction, loss, failure, darkness, doom; these are all manners of thinking, and when we change our manner, our clearer thinking helps us rise.
The observer of all-that-is lives in a vortex of light constantly spinning. This too can be quelled.
- Anything that is fast can be slowed…
- Anything that is dark can be made brighter.
- Anyone that is dull can become sharp.
- Anything that is dusty can be buffed.
- Anyone that is judged can be found innocent.
- Anyone that is guilty can find release.
- All things that have died live on as a perturbation in the flow, in everything they have touched.
Anything that loses attention becomes a ghost, barely there except for the merest waveforms.
And all boundaries of belief can be dissolved in favor of a seeking, cherishing, loving awareness of everything as it happens — and we rise.
Share these good wishes with a few others that come to mind.