The Invisible Hand

On Sunday, I went to find the high priest, Adam Smith, the One who guides all free markets and leads to the betterment of society. His Invisibl-e Han-d is omniscient, omnipotent and Most High. He is the father of cotton gin, the dot com boom/bust and all in between.

He was seeing the sinners in the dressing room at War-Mart.

As a small business person, I had opposed this company’s bid to open a second store, a “superstore” in my home town of Santa Fe, NM. Yet to see Adam, I was willing to enter the belly of the beast, Mordor, the Swamp of Grendel, the hell of Dante.

I got out of my car. I buttoned my rain coat up to my neck and skulked across the parking lot. Still wearing sunglasses, I walked through the glass doors of perception and was greeted by a man with a smiling face.

Even through the shades, I could see I was surrounded by the activity of Adam’s heaven: the ddddddd of credit card machines, the soft music, mothers pushing their shopping carts, children in tow, their eyes were wide, surrounded by the stained glass of merchandising: the dressing racks, the televisions, the clothing in colors like the coat of Jacob. The myrrh of our age, formaldehyde based deodorants and beautifying products, wafting through the air.

Above me were the dark colored domes. Every moment was being watched by the heavenly hosts. Television sets, high tech versions of the Delphic Oracle, were everywhere. As I passed through the men’s section, the socks, underwear and tee-shirts, I saw a rack of fantastic cargo pants. I pick up a few sizes and proceeded to go try them on.

A young woman, pimpled yet pretty in that teenager, cherubic kind of way, sat at the pearly white gate of the dressing room. I smiled and look down. She was the St. Peter of Merchandising. I marveled at this transformation that has taken place since the lawsuit for discriminating against women. If I could accept the suffragettes, why not a feminine Peter?

She noted what I was carrying three pieces of clothing and smiled knowingly at the numerological significance of my trinity. She handed me the key on its great plastic handle. I snickered to myself. Who says that you can’t take it with you?

I enter the booth, alone before my conscience, waiting for Adam. I look at the four small walls, the bench, the mirrors on both sides. A few hangers were left on the floor by a previous pilgrim. Beyond, the voice of G-d himself echoed from the loud speakers, letting all know the latest sales edicts.

I could hear the prayerful mumbling Adam’s voice, in one of the stalls next to me, the voice of an old man. I unlaced my shoes, opened my belt, and began to take off my pants.

Wait! Is it right to appear partially clothed before Adam Smith? Then I remembered. First of all, he is a priest. More importantly, pornography is huge business, so certainly he could not disapprove, at least on moral grounds, of my white hairy legs.

As I took off my pants, the person next to me had finished. The door opened and closed.

Adam opened up the slot. My heart beat in my throat!

“Yes, my son,” he whispered. His voice was deep, yet hoarse. He sounded just like the Don, played by Marlon Brando, in Godfather I. I instinctively bowed before the forgiving Father of the Free Market.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Turned sideways. Cute butt, still. Not bad for a guy in his mid-forties, if I don’t say so myself.

“Father, I am searching for a new company to outsource our silver chain to. I found someone in India. His prices will help me to offset the huge price spike in sterling silver. And yet, I have no idea of the working conditions of his factory. They say that they don’t use child labor but I do not know for sure…. I don’t have the time or desire to fly out to India again. I’m too busy and yet his prices are great. I’ll probably start outsourcing some of our jewelry to him. Is this right? The last thing I want to be is a mini version of Nike or Gap. This bothers my conscience.”

I pause, waiting to see if he has any reaction, but I cannot tell through the latticed reflection of the mirror. I wonder, will these cargo pants make my ass look good?

“Father,” I continue, “I pride myself on running a progressive, ethical company. Yet I need to be competitive and my competitors are sourcing out items to the cheapest place. The work out of India ups the perceived value of our work…and we probably don’t charge half of what John Hardy does for the same thing. Father, what should I do?”

I put my pants on. Feel the stiff, unwashed fabric against my bare legs. I gaze again at the side profile, waiting for Adam’s reply. Nice fit around the waste.

“My son, you have not sinned. You have merely done what is best in the free market… Capitol flows freely, like quicksilver, for the betterment of all. But this issue of charging less than John Hardy for your jewelry… makes me wonder, have you been leaving money on the table by under pricing your product?”

Suddenly, I feel a dagger in my heart. Because I have been in Santa Fe, NM for twenty years, I effortlessly regress into a past life when I was being tortured by the Holy Inquisitor in Europe. I am roasting in the sins of my conscience. I have been accused of undervaluing myself by Adam. Selling myself for cheap! What a whore I am, alas, alas… Letting self worth and concepts of fairness so valuable to me as a consumer get in the way of market research and getting the most for what we fabricate. Leaving money on the table—not making all my prices end in either five or nine—I mean, why charge $574 for something that can be $575 or even $595 or better yet $599? Do you think that anyone who pays $599 will care much about paying $625—how far can I take this line of reasons… I have not slept for forty days and forty nights…. The consumer will pay it—he doesn’t know the true value of what it costs… What a pathetic business man I am. I hate myself… I am burning, burning in the fires of hell! I should have never studied literature in college—what was I thinking in not getting an MBA—burning, burning…. Now the pressure of red hot nails pierces my skin on the rack of business acumen.

“Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa,” I whisper to Don Adam Smith. “I swear– I had not a consulaire. I did not know what I was doing.” I look in the mirror at my charged face… is there a ring I can kiss anywhere? The pressure eases. The raging fires stop. I breath easy…

“Do not fear, my son, You are forgiven. My Invisibl-e Han-d has been with you all along.”

My eye scans the pants, from cuff to waste in the mirror. I am waiting for the unconscious cue to rise up so I can make a decision here about these pants. I feel fine again. These pants are cool—trend forward, but not so far forward.

“Your Holiness, it is just that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so alone!” I look closely in the mirror at my face, noting that once again I have forgotten to shave under my left jaw.

Adam turns his warm, fatherly gaze toward me. His eyes with the wisdom of centuries are warm, yet somewhat distant at the same time. I look down, unable to face his radiant continence. “Do you remember the story of the footprints on the seashore—at first there are two sets, but then, as the journey continued, there is only one set?”

“Do you mean, Father, that time when we drove to a retail show and almost all our jewelry flew off the back of our dying pick up truck … and we got to the hotel and some guy started throwing punches at me in the parking lot because I mistakenly cut in front of him. Then I locked our keys in the truck? And, once we set up at the show, a wind came and blew our tent away into the next field and by the time we got home the unpaid bills were piled up from floor to ceiling and…..”

“Yes, my son, yes, yes, yes. I was with you during that time.”

“We were alone and abandoned.”

These pants… I like them. And they are only $10 bucks!

“No, my son, the Invisibl-e Han-d was there even when you were a child and you did not have any sense of your market or even if your product would sell. Remember the trade shows when you were just starting… in Atlanta, LA and Chicago back to back?”

“We didn’t make even our hotel expenses in Atlanta and Chicago. Ten thousand dollars in the hole! Then the night before Chicago, when all seemed lost, I got food poisoning in LA and was up all night. The next day we missed our connecting flight out of Albuquerque. We drove 22 hours straight, overnight, to Chicago, arriving five minutes before they closed load in…”

“You thought all was lost and it was your first good show. My Invisibl-e Han-d was with you”

“But look—just one set of footprints!”

“My son, you think you were alone in those dark times. In fact, I was carrying you, holding the weight of your capitalistic aspiration like a father carries his child. My Invisibl-e Han-d, ever present, always graceful, always offering itself to you.”

“Father, I see the light!” But what I really want to know… will my wife find these pants sexy?”

“This is the Gospel of the Free Market truth.”

“Mea Culpa…. Mea culpa. Thank you, Father.”

I look into the mirror again. I think I’ll get these pants. I wonder if they have the same style in a teal. Then I can get two pairs. It is a good deal. Maybe I should stock up with four or five!

“Do not fear. Go out into the world. My Invisibl-e Han-d is with you, now and forever more.”

I walk out of the dressing room, feeling positively angelic. All is watched and the Invisibl-e Han-d is with me. Just ten bucks for these pants! Glory to the Highest! Materialism is flourishing and I can renounce all my Old and New Testament guilt for a New Way! The American Way. Man has dominion over the earth.

Christ overturning the tables in the temple? That’s just a story that has very limited application in today’s modern world. What would Jesus do? He would take the advice of president Bush who was chosen by God to rule this country. The patriotic thing to do in America today is spend more money! Besides, as a wanabee Calvinist, what matters is truth and history, not metaphor and interpretation.

On my way out, I pick up some bullets for my 270 and go to the cash register. “No bag, please. I’ll carry it.” Plastic. If it ain’t made with biodegradable cornstarch, Yuk!

On the way out, I put on my trench coat, hat and dark sunglasses. The last thing I want is for any of my friends to see where I have been this Sunday morning.

Getting into the car, I am in need of further purification! Wholefoods. There, I eat a good organic salad with tomatoes grown in Mexico, olives from Spain and Feta from Greece. The hell with how much petrol it took to get them to my dinner plate or the working conditions when harvesting the items. Outta sight, outta mind. It tastes great and the view from up here is blue sky.

And yet, something is not quite right here in Whole Paycheck… even though my belly is full, I am still hungry. I am surprised to feel this in such a happy place, a veritable bastion of bourgeois bohemian culture where even the posters of people enjoying themselves have exactly the politically correct racial profiles of one giant happy family.

An image flashes before my mind—something I have seen in Eastern iconography of a very fat man with a mouth so small he cannot possibly even get sufficient food to nourish himself.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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On Sunday, I went to find the high priest, Adam Smith, the One who guides all free markets and leads to the betterment of society. His Invisibl-e Han-d is omniscient, omnipotent and Most High. He is the father of cotton gin, the dot com boom/bust and all in between.

He was seeing the sinners in the dressing room at War-Mart.

As a small business person, I had opposed this company’s bid to open a second store, a “superstore” in my home town of Santa Fe, NM. Yet to see Adam, I was willing to enter the belly of the beast, Mordor, the Swamp of Grendel, the hell of Dante.

I got out of my car. I buttoned my rain coat up to my neck and skulked across the parking lot. Still wearing sunglasses, I walked through the glass doors of perception and was greeted by a man with a smiling face.

Even through the shades, I could see I was surrounded by the activity of Adam’s heaven: the ddddddd of credit card machines, the soft music, mothers pushing their shopping carts, children in tow, their eyes were wide, surrounded by the stained glass of merchandising: the dressing racks, the televisions, the clothing in colors like the coat of Jacob. The myrrh of our age, formaldehyde based deodorants and beautifying products, wafting through the air.

Above me were the dark colored domes. Every moment was being watched by the heavenly hosts. Television sets, high tech versions of the Delphic Oracle, were everywhere. As I passed through the men’s section, the socks, underwear and tee-shirts, I saw a rack of fantastic cargo pants. I pick up a few sizes and proceeded to go try them on.

A young woman, pimpled yet pretty in that teenager, cherubic kind of way, sat at the pearly white gate of the dressing room. I smiled and look down. She was the St. Peter of Merchandising. I marveled at this transformation that has taken place since the lawsuit for discriminating against women. If I could accept the suffragettes, why not a feminine Peter?

She noted what I was carrying three pieces of clothing and smiled knowingly at the numerological significance of my trinity. She handed me the key on its great plastic handle. I snickered to myself. Who says that you can’t take it with you?

I enter the booth, alone before my conscience, waiting for Adam. I look at the four small walls, the bench, the mirrors on both sides. A few hangers were left on the floor by a previous pilgrim. Beyond, the voice of G-d himself echoed from the loud speakers, letting all know the latest sales edicts.

I could hear the prayerful mumbling Adam’s voice, in one of the stalls next to me, the voice of an old man. I unlaced my shoes, opened my belt, and began to take off my pants.

Wait! Is it right to appear partially clothed before Adam Smith? Then I remembered. First of all, he is a priest. More importantly, pornography is huge business, so certainly he could not disapprove, at least on moral grounds, of my white hairy legs.

As I took off my pants, the person next to me had finished. The door opened and closed.

Adam opened up the slot. My heart beat in my throat!

“Yes, my son,” he whispered. His voice was deep, yet hoarse. He sounded just like the Don, played by Marlon Brando, in Godfather I. I instinctively bowed before the forgiving Father of the Free Market.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Turned sideways. Cute butt, still. Not bad for a guy in his mid-forties, if I don’t say so myself.

“Father, I am searching for a new company to outsource our silver chain to. I found someone in India. His prices will help me to offset the huge price spike in sterling silver. And yet, I have no idea of the working conditions of his factory. They say that they don’t use child labor but I do not know for sure…. I don’t have the time or desire to fly out to India again. I’m too busy and yet his prices are great. I’ll probably start outsourcing some of our jewelry to him. Is this right? The last thing I want to be is a mini version of Nike or Gap. This bothers my conscience.”

I pause, waiting to see if he has any reaction, but I cannot tell through the latticed reflection of the mirror. I wonder, will these cargo pants make my ass look good?

“Father,” I continue, “I pride myself on running a progressive, ethical company. Yet I need to be competitive and my competitors are sourcing out items to the cheapest place. The work out of India ups the perceived value of our work…and we probably don’t charge half of what John Hardy does for the same thing. Father, what should I do?”

I put my pants on. Feel the stiff, unwashed fabric against my bare legs. I gaze again at the side profile, waiting for Adam’s reply. Nice fit around the waste.

“My son, you have not sinned. You have merely done what is best in the free market… Capitol flows freely, like quicksilver, for the betterment of all. But this issue of charging less than John Hardy for your jewelry… makes me wonder, have you been leaving money on the table by under pricing your product?”

Suddenly, I feel a dagger in my heart. Because I have been in Santa Fe, NM for twenty years, I effortlessly regress into a past life when I was being tortured by the Holy Inquisitor in Europe. I am roasting in the sins of my conscience. I have been accused of undervaluing myself by Adam. Selling myself for cheap! What a whore I am, alas, alas… Letting self worth and concepts of fairness so valuable to me as a consumer get in the way of market research and getting the most for what we fabricate. Leaving money on the table—not making all my prices end in either five or nine—I mean, why charge $574 for something that can be $575 or even $595 or better yet $599? Do you think that anyone who pays $599 will care much about paying $625—how far can I take this line of reasons… I have not slept for forty days and forty nights…. The consumer will pay it—he doesn’t know the true value of what it costs… What a pathetic business man I am. I hate myself… I am burning, burning in the fires of hell! I should have never studied literature in college—what was I thinking in not getting an MBA—burning, burning…. Now the pressure of red hot nails pierces my skin on the rack of business acumen.

“Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa,” I whisper to Don Adam Smith. “I swear– I had not a consulaire. I did not know what I was doing.” I look in the mirror at my charged face… is there a ring I can kiss anywhere? The pressure eases. The raging fires stop. I breath easy…

“Do not fear, my son, You are forgiven. My Invisibl-e Han-d has been with you all along.”

My eye scans the pants, from cuff to waste in the mirror. I am waiting for the unconscious cue to rise up so I can make a decision here about these pants. I feel fine again. These pants are cool—trend forward, but not so far forward.

“Your Holiness, it is just that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so alone!” I look closely in the mirror at my face, noting that once again I have forgotten to shave under my left jaw.

Adam turns his warm, fatherly gaze toward me. His eyes with the wisdom of centuries are warm, yet somewhat distant at the same time. I look down, unable to face his radiant continence. “Do you remember the story of the footprints on the seashore—at first there are two sets, but then, as the journey continued, there is only one set?”

“Do you mean, Father, that time when we drove to a retail show and almost all our jewelry flew off the back of our dying pick up truck … and we got to the hotel and some guy started throwing punches at me in the parking lot because I mistakenly cut in front of him. Then I locked our keys in the truck? And, once we set up at the show, a wind came and blew our tent away into the next field and by the time we got home the unpaid bills were piled up from floor to ceiling and…..”

“Yes, my son, yes, yes, yes. I was with you during that time.”

“We were alone and abandoned.”

These pants… I like them. And they are only $10 bucks!

“No, my son, the Invisibl-e Han-d was there even when you were a child and you did not have any sense of your market or even if your product would sell. Remember the trade shows when you were just starting… in Atlanta, LA and Chicago back to back?”

“We didn’t make even our hotel expenses in Atlanta and Chicago. Ten thousand dollars in the hole! Then the night before Chicago, when all seemed lost, I got food poisoning in LA and was up all night. The next day we missed our connecting flight out of Albuquerque. We drove 22 hours straight, overnight, to Chicago, arriving five minutes before they closed load in…”

“You thought all was lost and it was your first good show. My Invisibl-e Han-d was with you”

“But look—just one set of footprints!”

“My son, you think you were alone in those dark times. In fact, I was carrying you, holding the weight of your capitalistic aspiration like a father carries his child. My Invisibl-e Han-d, ever present, always graceful, always offering itself to you.”

“Father, I see the light!” But what I really want to know… will my wife find these pants sexy?”

“This is the Gospel of the Free Market truth.”

“Mea Culpa…. Mea culpa. Thank you, Father.”

I look into the mirror again. I think I’ll get these pants. I wonder if they have the same style in a teal. Then I can get two pairs. It is a good deal. Maybe I should stock up with four or five!

“Do not fear. Go out into the world. My Invisibl-e Han-d is with you, now and forever more.”

I walk out of the dressing room, feeling positively angelic. All is watched and the Invisibl-e Han-d is with me. Just ten bucks for these pants! Glory to the Highest! Materialism is flourishing and I can renounce all my Old and New Testament guilt for a New Way! The American Way. Man has dominion over the earth.

Christ overturning the tables in the temple? That’s just a story that has very limited application in today’s modern world. What would Jesus do? He would take the advice of president Bush who was chosen by God to rule this country. The patriotic thing to do in America today is spend more money! Besides, as a wanabee Calvinist, what matters is truth and history, not metaphor and interpretation.

On my way out, I pick up some bullets for my 270 and go to the cash register. “No bag, please. I’ll carry it.” Plastic. If it ain’t made with biodegradable cornstarch, Yuk!

On the way out, I put on my trench coat, hat and dark sunglasses. The last thing I want is for any of my friends to see where I have been this Sunday morning.

Getting into the car, I am in need of further purification! Wholefoods. There, I eat a good organic salad with tomatoes grown in Mexico, olives from Spain and Feta from Greece. The hell with how much petrol it took to get them to my dinner plate or the working conditions when harvesting the items. Outta sight, outta mind. It tastes great and the view from up here is blue sky.

And yet, something is not quite right here in Whole Paycheck… even though my belly is full, I am still hungry. I am surprised to feel this in such a happy place, a veritable bastion of bourgeois bohemian culture where even the posters of people enjoying themselves have exactly the politically correct racial profiles of one giant happy family.

An image flashes before my mind—something I have seen in Eastern iconography of a very fat man with a mouth so small he cannot possibly even get sufficient food to nourish himself.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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On Sunday, I went to find the high priest, Adam Smith, the One who guides all free markets and leads to the betterment of society. His Invisibl-e Han-d is omniscient, omnipotent and Most High. He is the father of cotton gin, the dot com boom/bust and all in between.

He was seeing the sinners in the dressing room at War-Mart.

As a small business person, I had opposed this company’s bid to open a second store, a “superstore” in my home town of Santa Fe, NM. Yet to see Adam, I was willing to enter the belly of the beast, Mordor, the Swamp of Grendel, the hell of Dante.

I got out of my car. I buttoned my rain coat up to my neck and skulked across the parking lot. Still wearing sunglasses, I walked through the glass doors of perception and was greeted by a man with a smiling face.

Even through the shades, I could see I was surrounded by the activity of Adam’s heaven: the ddddddd of credit card machines, the soft music, mothers pushing their shopping carts, children in tow, their eyes were wide, surrounded by the stained glass of merchandising: the dressing racks, the televisions, the clothing in colors like the coat of Jacob. The myrrh of our age, formaldehyde based deodorants and beautifying products, wafting through the air.

Above me were the dark colored domes. Every moment was being watched by the heavenly hosts. Television sets, high tech versions of the Delphic Oracle, were everywhere. As I passed through the men’s section, the socks, underwear and tee-shirts, I saw a rack of fantastic cargo pants. I pick up a few sizes and proceeded to go try them on.

A young woman, pimpled yet pretty in that teenager, cherubic kind of way, sat at the pearly white gate of the dressing room. I smiled and look down. She was the St. Peter of Merchandising. I marveled at this transformation that has taken place since the lawsuit for discriminating against women. If I could accept the suffragettes, why not a feminine Peter?

She noted what I was carrying three pieces of clothing and smiled knowingly at the numerological significance of my trinity. She handed me the key on its great plastic handle. I snickered to myself. Who says that you can’t take it with you?

I enter the booth, alone before my conscience, waiting for Adam. I look at the four small walls, the bench, the mirrors on both sides. A few hangers were left on the floor by a previous pilgrim. Beyond, the voice of G-d himself echoed from the loud speakers, letting all know the latest sales edicts.

I could hear the prayerful mumbling Adam’s voice, in one of the stalls next to me, the voice of an old man. I unlaced my shoes, opened my belt, and began to take off my pants.

Wait! Is it right to appear partially clothed before Adam Smith? Then I remembered. First of all, he is a priest. More importantly, pornography is huge business, so certainly he could not disapprove, at least on moral grounds, of my white hairy legs.

As I took off my pants, the person next to me had finished. The door opened and closed.

Adam opened up the slot. My heart beat in my throat!

“Yes, my son,” he whispered. His voice was deep, yet hoarse. He sounded just like the Don, played by Marlon Brando, in Godfather I. I instinctively bowed before the forgiving Father of the Free Market.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Turned sideways. Cute butt, still. Not bad for a guy in his mid-forties, if I don’t say so myself.

“Father, I am searching for a new company to outsource our silver chain to. I found someone in India. His prices will help me to offset the huge price spike in sterling silver. And yet, I have no idea of the working conditions of his factory. They say that they don’t use child labor but I do not know for sure…. I don’t have the time or desire to fly out to India again. I’m too busy and yet his prices are great. I’ll probably start outsourcing some of our jewelry to him. Is this right? The last thing I want to be is a mini version of Nike or Gap. This bothers my conscience.”

I pause, waiting to see if he has any reaction, but I cannot tell through the latticed reflection of the mirror. I wonder, will these cargo pants make my ass look good?

“Father,” I continue, “I pride myself on running a progressive, ethical company. Yet I need to be competitive and my competitors are sourcing out items to the cheapest place. The work out of India ups the perceived value of our work…and we probably don’t charge half of what John Hardy does for the same thing. Father, what should I do?”

I put my pants on. Feel the stiff, unwashed fabric against my bare legs. I gaze again at the side profile, waiting for Adam’s reply. Nice fit around the waste.

“My son, you have not sinned. You have merely done what is best in the free market… Capitol flows freely, like quicksilver, for the betterment of all. But this issue of charging less than John Hardy for your jewelry… makes me wonder, have you been leaving money on the table by under pricing your product?”

Suddenly, I feel a dagger in my heart. Because I have been in Santa Fe, NM for twenty years, I effortlessly regress into a past life when I was being tortured by the Holy Inquisitor in Europe. I am roasting in the sins of my conscience. I have been accused of undervaluing myself by Adam. Selling myself for cheap! What a whore I am, alas, alas… Letting self worth and concepts of fairness so valuable to me as a consumer get in the way of market research and getting the most for what we fabricate. Leaving money on the table—not making all my prices end in either five or nine—I mean, why charge $574 for something that can be $575 or even $595 or better yet $599? Do you think that anyone who pays $599 will care much about paying $625—how far can I take this line of reasons… I have not slept for forty days and forty nights…. The consumer will pay it—he doesn’t know the true value of what it costs… What a pathetic business man I am. I hate myself… I am burning, burning in the fires of hell! I should have never studied literature in college—what was I thinking in not getting an MBA—burning, burning…. Now the pressure of red hot nails pierces my skin on the rack of business acumen.

“Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa,” I whisper to Don Adam Smith. “I swear– I had not a consulaire. I did not know what I was doing.” I look in the mirror at my charged face… is there a ring I can kiss anywhere? The pressure eases. The raging fires stop. I breath easy…

“Do not fear, my son, You are forgiven. My Invisibl-e Han-d has been with you all along.”

My eye scans the pants, from cuff to waste in the mirror. I am waiting for the unconscious cue to rise up so I can make a decision here about these pants. I feel fine again. These pants are cool—trend forward, but not so far forward.

“Your Holiness, it is just that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so alone!” I look closely in the mirror at my face, noting that once again I have forgotten to shave under my left jaw.

Adam turns his warm, fatherly gaze toward me. His eyes with the wisdom of centuries are warm, yet somewhat distant at the same time. I look down, unable to face his radiant continence. “Do you remember the story of the footprints on the seashore—at first there are two sets, but then, as the journey continued, there is only one set?”

“Do you mean, Father, that time when we drove to a retail show and almost all our jewelry flew off the back of our dying pick up truck … and we got to the hotel and some guy started throwing punches at me in the parking lot because I mistakenly cut in front of him. Then I locked our keys in the truck? And, once we set up at the show, a wind came and blew our tent away into the next field and by the time we got home the unpaid bills were piled up from floor to ceiling and…..”

“Yes, my son, yes, yes, yes. I was with you during that time.”

“We were alone and abandoned.”

These pants… I like them. And they are only $10 bucks!

“No, my son, the Invisibl-e Han-d was there even when you were a child and you did not have any sense of your market or even if your product would sell. Remember the trade shows when you were just starting… in Atlanta, LA and Chicago back to back?”

“We didn’t make even our hotel expenses in Atlanta and Chicago. Ten thousand dollars in the hole! Then the night before Chicago, when all seemed lost, I got food poisoning in LA and was up all night. The next day we missed our connecting flight out of Albuquerque. We drove 22 hours straight, overnight, to Chicago, arriving five minutes before they closed load in…”

“You thought all was lost and it was your first good show. My Invisibl-e Han-d was with you”

“But look—just one set of footprints!”

“My son, you think you were alone in those dark times. In fact, I was carrying you, holding the weight of your capitalistic aspiration like a father carries his child. My Invisibl-e Han-d, ever present, always graceful, always offering itself to you.”

“Father, I see the light!” But what I really want to know… will my wife find these pants sexy?”

“This is the Gospel of the Free Market truth.”

“Mea Culpa…. Mea culpa. Thank you, Father.”

I look into the mirror again. I think I’ll get these pants. I wonder if they have the same style in a teal. Then I can get two pairs. It is a good deal. Maybe I should stock up with four or five!

“Do not fear. Go out into the world. My Invisibl-e Han-d is with you, now and forever more.”

I walk out of the dressing room, feeling positively angelic. All is watched and the Invisibl-e Han-d is with me. Just ten bucks for these pants! Glory to the Highest! Materialism is flourishing and I can renounce all my Old and New Testament guilt for a New Way! The American Way. Man has dominion over the earth.

Christ overturning the tables in the temple? That’s just a story that has very limited application in today’s modern world. What would Jesus do? He would take the advice of president Bush who was chosen by God to rule this country. The patriotic thing to do in America today is spend more money! Besides, as a wanabee Calvinist, what matters is truth and history, not metaphor and interpretation.

On my way out, I pick up some bullets for my 270 and go to the cash register. “No bag, please. I’ll carry it.” Plastic. If it ain’t made with biodegradable cornstarch, Yuk!

On the way out, I put on my trench coat, hat and dark sunglasses. The last thing I want is for any of my friends to see where I have been this Sunday morning.

Getting into the car, I am in need of further purification! Wholefoods. There, I eat a good organic salad with tomatoes grown in Mexico, olives from Spain and Feta from Greece. The hell with how much petrol it took to get them to my dinner plate or the working conditions when harvesting the items. Outta sight, outta mind. It tastes great and the view from up here is blue sky.

And yet, something is not quite right here in Whole Paycheck… even though my belly is full, I am still hungry. I am surprised to feel this in such a happy place, a veritable bastion of bourgeois bohemian culture where even the posters of people enjoying themselves have exactly the politically correct racial profiles of one giant happy family.

An image flashes before my mind—something I have seen in Eastern iconography of a very fat man with a mouth so small he cannot possibly even get sufficient food to nourish himself.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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