Jun. 5, 2010


by Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her dog house
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

"Dharma" by Billy Collins, from Sailing Alone Around the Room. © Random House, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Richard Scarry, (books by this author) born in Boston (1919). He's the author of more than 300 books for children.

It was on this day in 1723 that Adam Smith, (books by this author) the economist who invented the idea of free trade, was baptized in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. We don't know his precise birthday, but we know he was baptized today.

His first important book was The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), in which he argued that all people are selfish, but that the combined selfishness of many people benefits everyone. He wrote, "[We are] led by an invisible hand ... without knowing it, without intending it, [to] advance the interest of the society."

It's the birthday of the poet Federico García Lorca, (books by this author) born in Granada, Spain (1898). He was the son of a wealthy landowner and a schoolteacher. His father sent him to a new experimental school in Madrid where the children of the Spanish elite would learn the liberal values of art and culture. Two of his classmates and best friends were the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the painter Salvador Dali. He could have been a painter, an actor, or a professional pianist, because he was good at all three. But he also liked to write poetry, and in 1928 he published a book of poems based on gypsy folklore, called The Gypsy Ballads. It made him Spain's most popular living poet.

It's the birthday of finance advisor Suze Orman, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1951). Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where her dad owned a take-out chicken restaurant.

She had a speech impediment, wasn't very good at speaking or at reading, and didn't do too well in school, but she was good at math. She went to college at the University of Illinois, but her career counselor told her that she wasn't smart enough to be a surgeon, so she looked around and heard that the easiest major was social work, and she majored in that. After four years, just one class short of graduating, she left and headed to Berkeley, where she worked cutting trees and living in her van, and then as a waitress. She waited tables at the Buttercup Café for seven years, and by the time she was 30, she was still making just $400 a month.

She wanted to open her own restaurant, and a group of regulars decided to give her an interest-free loan of $50,000. One of them suggested that she put the money in a money market account at Merrill Lynch. She didn't know any thing about finances, so she just handed her money over to a broker and let him do whatever he wanted, but he invested it badly and in just three months all of the $50,000 was gone.

So she went to Merrill Lynch and asked for a job, and somehow, she was hired, the only woman in the office. When she realized that her broker had acted illegally the way he had invested her money, she sued Merrill Lynch, not realizing that by suing them, she was also legally obligating them to keep her as an employee for the duration of the case. By the time the case had gone through, she was one of the most successful brokers there, and they didn't feel like they should fire her. So she ended up with lots of money and a solid understanding of the financial world.

She decided to share her advice and story with other normal people like her. Mostly she advises people to follow a few simple rules — to make dependable solid investments, to plan for the future, and to think through their emotional or psychological relationship to money. She has written quite a few best-selling books, including The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom (1997), The Courage to Be Rich (1999), and most recently Suze Orman's Action Plan (2010).

She says, "People first, then money, then things."

It's the birthday of journalist Chuck Klosterman, (books by this author) born in Breckenridge, Minnesota (1972). He grew up on a farm in Wyndmere, North Dakota.

He got a job as a journalist in Akron, Ohio, and he published his first book, Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta (2001), about life as a glam metal fan in his hometown. In 2002, he moved to New York City, and he published Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (2003), a book of essays about pop culture. It was a New York Times best-seller.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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