• 87 percent of America's billionaires
• 28 recent Academy Award winners
• Over half the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize
• No members of the U.S. Congress
Now, for the first time, Brother Ty reveals the secrets he has gleaned from the ancient texts of the monks, and tells how you can get God to be your broker. God Is My Broker is the first truly great self-help business novel. Open this book and open your heart. It will change your life.
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About the Author
John Tierney writes the "Findings" science column for The New York Times. His writing has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics.
Read an Excerpt
CHAPTER THE FIRST
Crisis in the Cloister …
The Abbot Gets a Guru …
A Heavenly Tip
The day began, as all days at the Monastery of Cana began, with the tolling of the bells and the shuffling of sandaled feet across a floor of cracked linoleum. In its day, it had been polished marble, but the marble had long since been sold to pay for necessities during our time of tribulation. By now we were well accustomed to poverty, but little did we know, on that cool September morning, just how dire our situation was.
It was the beginning of my second year, and I was excited at being allowed to speak again after the traditional year of silence.
All during that year I had wondered, silently, what my fellow brothers made of me. I had traded the life of a Wall Street broker for the contemplative life, my briefcase for a rosary, the roar of the trading floor for Gregorian chant. Once, as I was on my knees scrubbing the linoleum (taking care not to brush too hard lest I crack it further), I heard Brother Fabian tell Brother Bob: “I guess ‘Brother Tycoon’ bought high and sold low!” That one playful gibe caught on, and my nickname among the other monks became Brother Ty. My vow of silence never chafed so painfully, but then I reminded myself that this was why I had sought sanctuary from the grasping world. And, if truth be told, they were not far off the mark. As my managing director had said to me the day I was dismissed from the firm, “This has been one of the greatest bull markets in history. How did you manage to lose so much of our clients’ money?” I had no answer. I walked out and headed up the Street to Slattery’s Bar.
“Top of the morning,” said Slattery. “The usual?”
My usual? How many mornings had I spent here, reading the Journal while knocking back Bloody Marys?
“Slattery,” I replied, “let me ask you, as a friend: is it your opinion that I have a drinking problem?”
He looked at me thoughtfully. “Well, does it interfere with your job?”
“Not anymore,” I said truthfully.
That was about as much as I recall of that day I came to lying on my stomach in a storage room next to a case of bottles labeled “Cana 20–20.” With some difficulty, and not a little pain, I ascended to my knees and inspected a bottle, which seemed to contain red wine with an orangish tinge. I unscrewed the cap and took a sip. Suddenly I became convinced, without ever having sampled a mixture of grape Kool-Aid and battery acid, that it would taste precisely like the fluid now in my mouth. I spat it on the floor and careened to the men’s room to rinse out the gritty residue. I was staring into the mirror, picking what appeared to be particles of rust from my teeth, when Slattery found me. He was closing up for the night, but I begged for a cup of coffee to wash away the taste. He poured it at the bar.
“You know,” he said as I scalded myself trying to drink the coffee, “maybe you aren’t cut out for Wall Street. Watching you in here mornings, I got the feeling all you wanted was to get away from the Big Board. You don’t need a bottle to do that.”
His words burned into me even more than the coffee, although not quite as much as the wine. Perhaps after all I wasn’t meant for the Street.
“Get away from here,” he urged. “Get out into the country. Remember what grass looks like?” He pointed to a calendar showing what looked at this distance like a country field with cows. Or maybe sheep. I was in no position to distinguish between things bright and beautiful.
“Are those sheep or cows?” I mumbled.
“Those are monks, you blind drunk.”
“Oh, right.” It was a pastoral scene. Monks, doing something pastoral. Maybe with sheep. I was still in no position to judge.
“Why monks?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Those are the ones who make Cana 20–20.”
I shuddered and washed some coffee down my throat. “I spilled some of that in the back room. Sorry. I’ll clean it up.”
“Awful stuff,” said Slattery. “I couldn’t serve it here. I give it to the winos. But it’s a nice place and they’re good souls and what the hell, it’s a good cause, right?”
“What,” I said, “are you talking about? The sheep or the monks?” By now the old windows of the soul were defogged to the point where I could make out the scene on the calendar. In the background, above the monks in the vineyard, was a brick building and a church on a green hill. “It does look like a nice spot.”
“I visited it after my wife died,” Slattery said. “They have rooms for guests—nothing fancy, just a bunk. Most peaceful vacation of my life. You might like it. Although I guess a winery isn’t exactly the place for you these days.”
“Slattery,” I said, “they could serve that stuff at the Betty Ford Center and no one would drink it.”
Slattery smiled as I washed down more coffee. “Well,” he said, “maybe Cana is the place for you.”
“How far is it from Wall Street?”
“Couple hundred miles,” said Slattery. “If you hit Canada, you’ve gone too far.”
I didn’t hit Canada. And the week in the Monastery of Cana’s guesthouse turned into two years. The vacation became a vocation.
It was comforting, that September morning as I chanted with the other monks, to feel so far from the material world, with all its getting and spending and so little getting of understanding.
I was, after the usual custom, about to go out and check the vines for overnight frost, when the Abbot made a special announcement.
“Before going to your duties,” he intoned, “assemble in the calefactory.1 I have something to say to you.”
We gathered around the folding card tables pushed together to approximate the shape of the magnificent fifteenth-century Florentine table that we had sold in order to repair the roof.
Brother Bob, sitting next to me, said under his breath, “Another announcement. What is there left to sell? Us?”
The Abbot stood before us, a picture of exhaustion. A barrel-chested man in his mid-fifties, he had normally a booming baritone voice and a hearty manner that cheered us all through the long winters, doubtless the same quality that had made him a legendary captain of the Holy Cross football squad. But this morning, in the dim predawn light, the usually ruddy face looked drawn and fatigued. The strain of fending off bill collectors and watching the monastery literally fall apart had taken its toll. Of late he had been acting erratically; some of the older monks whispered that he had been muttering obscenities in Latin. Now there was something in his eyes I had never seen before: a look of desperation.
“Brothers,” he addressed us, “I will begin with the good news. There can be little doubt that we have lived up to our vow of poverty” He held up a fistful of cash. “We have $304. Our bank account is empty. Our credit is exhausted. We have nothing of value left to sell.” He sighed. “Unless the antiques dealers suddenly develop an interest in our vintage linoleum floor. We have one functioning vehicle left, with a quarter tank of gas. We have no hopes of attracting retreatants to be our guests unless we do something about the plumbing and—through no fault of Brother Tom—our food.” For the last four months we had been surviving on food stamps and cases of canned succotash and beets that, we had been told by their donor, had fallen off some semi-trucks on the Interstate.
“I have appealed once again to our superiors at the Vatican.” Our monastery was the last remnant of a once flourishing order, the Order of Saint Thaddeus. Our founder, a fervent twelfth-century penitent who was eventually martyred by Sultan Omar the Magnanimous, had put the order under direct authority of the Pope. But our relations with the Holy See in Rome had been strained ever since an unfortunate incident ten years before. As per tradition, the monastery had sent the first case of the new wine to the Pope. His Holiness took ill shortly after drinking a glass with his dinner. Although it was never conclusively proved that our wine had caused his distress, the chemical analysis turned up a number of “impurities.”
“The Vatican was once again disinclined to offer financial assistance,” the Abbot said. “My warning that we would have to shut down our winery was not greeted with alarm. And, frankly, who can blame them?”
The Abbot spoke as though struggling to maintain control. “Our wine-making machinery is hopelessly antiquated. Due to our problems with quality control, the Cana label has been dropped by every wine distributor except the one owned by Brother Theodore’s uncle. And now even his devotion and loyalty are wavering. Uncle Leo called me yesterday after sampling the Cana Nouveau. He is a kind man. I got the feeling that his charity is being sorely tested.”
“What did he say?” asked Brother Theo.
“He described in some detail the difficulty he had swallowing it. Though he does not wish to abandon us, he said that he knew of no liquor store in America, even in the least fortunate neighborhoods, or for that matter, anywhere in the industrialized world, that would buy Cana from him, at any price. He asked me if we had ever considered marketing it as an industrial solvent. I assured him that he must have received a bad batch. At any rate, he is coming next week to taste the new vintage, and I do not think we can try his faith any further. The Lord does not expect us to produce wine from water, but we ought to be able to make it from grapes. If we can’t do that, we’d better find some other business, because when the $304 is gone, so will Cana be gone.”
There was a deep silence, deeper even than the normal monastic silence. Brother Algernon spoke: “You mean, close the monastery?”