I've Discovered My True Vocation: Millionaire Philanthropist


Apr 7, 2011
So, our Scientologist friend MusicMan recently wrote on another thread in which he was trying to convince people to pay him A$88k for an Ayahuasca experience:

"I've discovered my true vocation as a millionaire philanthropist."

I want to do a deep-dive into that phrase and what it means, to make sure I fully understand it. A few key points stand out about that sentence, lets dive right in:

1.) You don't "discover" a vocation. A vocation is a calling, a mission. In fact, the word itself comes from the Latin for "to call", related to lots of English words like "vocal." The word "vocation" was historically used in a religious context: you get a calling from God; it is when God gives you a mission. Moses's vocation was to lead the people out of Israel, as I learned from Charlton Heston.

So a "vocation", this message from God with your mission to build something or make something happen. It isn't something you "discover." It's something of deep importance that the universe commands you to do. "Discovering" -- literally, the un - cover -ing, is when you something is *already there*, and you're just the first to see it. Newton discovered Gravity, but gravity predates Newton by millions of years. Some white dudes who only remember through bridge names like the the Verrazano bridge "discovered" the "new" world, but the New world predated them by a long time. You discover something that is already there; but a vocation is when the universe commands you something new to do -- the precise opposite.

So, "discovering my vocation" just makes no sense. No. You get a calling, and then you answer that calling.

2.) Musicman didn't actually discover his "vocation", but his "true vocation." Ah, the true one!

Why is the adjective "true" in there? Only one possible two reasons:

Either, Musicman previously was led to false vocations. But if this is so, then how does he know that this one is real? In fact, if he's previously followed false callings, he's probably a pretty bad judge of which calling is real and which one is fake. It's like a woman who has been divorced 11 times, and then she meets a man whom she wants to be her 12th husband: do we really trust her judgment?

OR.... there's another possibility why the word "true" could be there. As Orwell taught us ( http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/ ), people add in needless adjectives to deceive. Shakespeare captured this well in his, "Methinks she doth protest too much" joke: yeah, adding in lots of needless words shows that there's something you're not saying.

3.) "Vocations" have an interesting characteristic: they are public, by definition. Your calling from the Heavens, with your life mission -- it's the sort of thing you tell everyone, everywhere, every second, until it's complete. It's like getting married, which, in every tradition in the world, from ancient times to modern times, is a public ceremony, marked by witnesses. Weddings are by definition public events. Just like vocations. Like a husband/wife, it's the thing that you will dedicate yourself to the rest of your life.

So this leads to a curious question: why doesn't Musicman tell us a single thing ever about his philanthropy? If it is truly his mission, then he will be screaming about it, sharing it, making the world know he's doing this. Of course, with some vocations, you have a long and quiet (and solitary) period before you launch upon the world... so maybe MusicMan will just one day announce, "Secretly, I've been spending the last years building the MusicMan Hospital with my own $50m donation, come to the ribbon-cutting tomorrow" and I will be pleasantly surprised.

4.) So what is this vocation of his? It is to be a "philanthropist." Great etymology of this word, one of the all-time classics for etymology nerds: a lover of man, literally. ("Man" in the sense of "mankind" or "humanity"; no gay references here.) Someone who so deeply loves people, that he really wants to share his love his love.

The weird thing here is: that is quite the opposite of having an 88,000 peso event. The lover of mankind says: "I'm doing something that will change your lives, and I need you to come. This is so important for you, I'll pay for you - I can afford it, anyway! - and I'll come to your house and pick you up." The lover of mankind goes all out to help others, even at his own *considerable* expense.

The key word here is, "considerable." If you don't put "considerable" time and money of your own into it.... then it's neither philanthropy nor a vocation.

5.) But actually, he might be using "philanthropy" in a bit more of a recent sense of the word: someone who distributes money with the goal of signaling their own virtue to the world. If MusicMan donated a spare $45m to Harvard to have Music Department named after him.... many modern men and women would say, "Wow, MusicMan donated $45m to Harvard, he's a philanthropist" -- and, with this modern definition, people today use the word in the exact sense I just defined it: he's spending his money to signal to the world what a good, great person he is. In this sense of the word, it's all about showing off, and has NOTHING to do with helping other people. I'm not sure the Harvard Music Department needs any help ;)

(Side-note: in many real-life cases, "philanthropy" has a mixture of these two extremes taken together, of course. I always remember ((Julius Rosenwald)), founder of Sears, who donated his fortune to build up the great Chicago institutions - but quite amazingly, refused to ever let his name be put onto any building or institution or anywhere. "Anonymous" donation, indeed.)

6.) So Musicman's vocation is to be a "philanthropist", in one of those two senses. But wait a minute, we have a problem: being a Philanthropist *IS NOT A VOCATION*. It's like saying, "My favorite food is a hammer" -- umm, hammers are useful and great, but they're just not food. A vocation, as we discussed above, is your calling to build something or make something happen. Thomas Jefferson's vocation was building the University of Virginia, as he wanted to be remembered for on his Tombstone. Rembrandt's vocation was painting amazing art in his style. But being a philanthropist, by either of the definitions, is not "building" or "making" something. Of course, maybe your vocation is to "build hospitals" -- that is both a vocation and philanthropic (and philanthropic ventures can fund you). But then, your vocation is "building hospitals", not "being a philanthropist."

7.) However, it turns out: MusicMan's vocation isn't to be a "philanthropist" but.... this is the best word in the entire sentence.... to be a MILLIONAIRE philanthropist. O. M. G. So much to say on that. First -- why does he need to say the word "millionaire"? To be a philanthropist, you have to be a millionaire. (A philanthropist who isn't a millionaire is also known as, "a man" or "a man who isn't a complete asshole" -- that is, normal people, just help other people out.) See point #2 above, the analysis applies here, too: basically, the only reason to add in this word that's repetitively redundant is because you're trying to hide something. Me-still-thinks he doth protest too much.

8.) Also, I know a few "millionaire philanthropists." Including a few that I'm close to. And many others that I've observed in many social interactions, and many others I don't know personally but have observed their language from afar. And I can say confidently: "millionaire philanthropists" just NEVER call themselves "millionaire philanthropists." And I don't mean this in the joking way that "People who attended Harvard say they went to school in Boston" (side-note: something I love mocking; maaaaany people whom I've met, who ask where I went to school, I tell them the truth, that I attended a university in the slums of West Philadelphia... and almost everyone leaves). I mean, very literally, they just never say it. It's so never said by anyone who is, that it really makes me suspect that he's not.

Imagine going to a bar, going up to talk to someone in a beautiful dress with long hair, and after a few pleasantries, this person tells you, "I want to inform you that I am indeed a human being of the female gender, including the various accoutrements women have, such as two breasts and a lack of facial hair." Wouldn't all of these details make you think that xe is in fact not a woman, despite the fact that these extra details seemingly support xer claim that xe is a woman?

Reminds me of my favorite Thatcher quote: "Being powerful is like being a lady... if you have to say you are, you aren't." There's probably a version of that quote with being a millionaire, another version of that quote with being a philanthropist, and now we can invent a variation of that quote for a millionaire-philanthropist.

Your resident language-fiend, who obviously wrote this after an intense, sleepless night and on a coffee high,