Table of Contents

Greed

Sin. Greed is the sin of valuing anything over love. In my life there are two episodes where greed got the better of me. Both happened in Seattle, in my period of drunkenness leading up to quitting drinking in 2016. Both involved interactions with people in the dance community. They were mistakes I needed to make.

Prepper. One was with an acquaintance who was something of a prepper, a survivalist. I listened to his prepper ranting and let myself get all worked up, so worked up that I took his recommendations for stocks to buy, and diverted a good chunk of my savings into two rock-solid, can't-miss, prepper-approved stocks. By the time I came to my senses and sold those dogs, I had lost about $18k.

MLM. The other was a much bigger deal, a descent into the madness of greed. I was exposed to one of greed's scariest and most grotesque manifestations, MLM, aka Ponzi scheme, aka pyramid scheme.

At a dance, I overheard a dancer talking to a group of other dancers about a business he was trying to get off the ground. If only he had about $25k to work with, he'd make this struggling business take off, and it'd be huge. My alcohol-addled brain was engaged: here's an opportunity to get in on something big as an angel investor, and be set for life by being part owner of a successful new enterprise. So I spoke up, saying I might be able to help, and we arranged a meeting. I met with him at his house, and he explained his idea to me. I never stopped to examine the idea rationally to see if I thought the proposed business made sense. I was just completely gung-ho, eager to get rich, blinded by greed. So I invested in his scheme. I even talked him up from $25k to $45k so I could get a bigger equity share. We made a contract, which I signed with him and his wife. She was really the one in charge; he was acting as her tool. One of the things I heard her say, a ritualistic question she would ask as she came in to join us in a meeting: "Am I rich yet?" The two of them were also involved in an MLM scheme involving expensive equipment. I went as his guest to one of their MLM meetings, where they extolled the wonders of this equipment. Various local people got up and gave testimonials, and there was a visiting lecturer with an elaborate slide show. The claims were amazing, incredible; this equipment could do so much. The meeting felt creepy. I did some research online. I saved myself from going down that rabbit hole. This soured our relationship enormously. It was as if I had betrayed them on some deep level. They looked at me so reproachfully. But I still had confidence in my initial investment; I was gonna be rich. So yeah, I lost the $45k and they skipped the country. Lesson learned.

Everything's a gift. That insight was my earliest conscious bit of wisdom. It came to me one night in Asheville. I didn't make any of this. It was all given to me. The whole world and everything in it is a gift. As I grew older I was able to get back to that insight at times. The idea of a self made man is ludicrous. No man or woman ever made anything. It was all here already. All we humans can do is rearrange pieces of what we've been given to make our gift more useful or otherwise profitable. That's what we're here to do: create by finding clever ways to use what we've been given. The better we do that the more we mess stuff up, the more we disrupt nature. That's our niche: we're the part of nature that disrupts the rest of nature to create new possibilities like art and gene splicing. All our advances are destructive because creative doesn't work without destructive. So greed is a peculiarly absurd sin. How can I be greedy when I've been given everything?