Look Back in Splendor

The Bible has that piece in it where it says that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. That got me to wondering about all the captains of industry that turn philanthropist in their old age. It’s commonly thought that they’re trying trying to cover for a lifetime of screwing over their fellow man. Some may indeed be trying to get into heaven but others may just be trying to reform their image for the history books. But then I thought about Warren Buffet. Now I’m no expert on The Oracle of Omaha but I’ve never seen anything to suggest that he got where he is by the sort of dirty dealing that is all too common in capitalism, so I was wondering if he really was as nice as he seems or if there were skeletons buried in his past.

I asked God about it, but he said that he wasn’t going to tell me anything that I didn’t already know. He did offer one plausible metaphor though, something that would explain Warren’s late life philanthropy without it having to be either genuine goodness or nefarious plotting. He told me how I could know the sort of feelings that would lead a man to give away most of his wealth without being either just altruistic or having done some bad that he needed to balance out.

You can know that feeling yourself. Let me tell you how.

Sit back in your chair and close your eyes. Imagine you’re driving along a highway. You haven’t done anything wrong, that you’re aware of, but you haven’t really been paying attention either. You’ve been sort of daydreaming your way along. Now you glance into the rear view mirror and there’s a cop right behind you.

That feeling, right then, is the same feeling that even a good man can feel when he’s nearing the end of his days. That’s the feeling that can lead even the best of men to want to do something more.

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