Monday, June 29, 2009

Value

Bernard Madoff, a 71-year-old man, has just been sentenced to 150 years in prison. Dang.

For those of you who haven't heard about this, Madoff ran a "Ponzi scheme" which apparently is not as cool as it sounds. Here's some background info from Cnn.com:

Madoff orchestrated the scam by masquerading his investment firm as a legitimate business. But the business became a front for a Ponzi scheme, in which the scammer uses fresh money from unsuspecting investors to make payments to more mature investors, creating the false appearance of legitimate returns. Madoff sent statements to victims claiming that their investments had grown several times over, but in actuality he had stolen, not invested, their money. Investigators believe that he had been running his scam since at least the 1980s, bilking thousands of investors until he finally ran out of money in December 2008.

Right before the judge announced the sentence, Madoff made apologies to the victims, many of whom pretty much lost all the money they had ever saved. He also said, "I live in a tormented state for all the pain and suffering I created. I left a legacy of shame. It is something I will live with for the rest of my life."

There are a lot of interesting aspects of the situation.

Although Madoff says he lives in a tormented state, he didn't come clean about the scheme until he got caught. I'm sure that many people doubt the sincerity of his apology. How could a man cheat so many people out of so much money for so long (he even hid this from his wife), never admit to it, and then feel sorry when he gets caught? Part of me believes him, though. There is something about hiding things that causes their reality to be hidden even from yourself. When public light shines on your life, it's easier to see yourself for who you are.

Many of Madoff's victims applauded, cried, and hugged each other when the sentence came through, which struck me. It seemed more to me like the reaction one would have after a murderer or rapist is sentenced. Now I have no idea how much of an impact the loss of this money had on these people's lives, but, money is money. Just having enough money to invest anything at all means you're doing okay. Judgment and justice is a funny thing. Something about a man spending the rest of his life in jail for stealing money (granted, an absolute TON of money) seems weird to me. I wonder what the exchange rate is. How much money would I have to cheat someone out of to get five years in prison? Ten years? When we start equating money with life I think we find ourselves in a strange position.

What intrigued me the most, however was the sentence itself, and what that means to Madoff. Let's be honest: a 71-year-old man serving a 150-year sentence. Unless science does some crazy stuff and soon, this guy is in prison until he dies. I wonder if he thinks about suicide? I mean, I hope he doesn't but I wonder if he does. I wonder if he thinks, "Is life worth living if I'm going to spend it in prison?" And that brings to mind a very important question: What is it that makes life worth living? What is it that gives life value? Can life in a prison have value?

Anyhow, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love for you to respond to these questions here, or just ponder them in your own head and heart.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Praying in a bathtub

It's official folks, I'm in a blogging drought. Recently several friends have joined the blogosphere, all excitement with their bright eyes and bushy tails. They don't know what it's like. They don't know what it's like to have been blogging a whole six (okay, five) months, to have exhausted every interesting thought in my mind and still have people (okay, one person) demanding more. Well, my friends, I've walked through the blogging desert. I've trudged through the mucky swampland known as "I'd rather watch an episode of Friends I've seen ten times than blog" I've been fooled time and time again by the mirage of "Oh, I think I'll blog...wait...oh yeah, I'm too lazy to even fini..." I've been there my friends. In fact, I cannot guarantee that I'm not still there. But I'm going to try.

So last night I was journaling about prayer. In fact I was prayer journaling about prayer (sometimes writing to God is easier than talking to God for me). So I was writing to God about prayer and about something that I had read earlier in the day. I was reading this part of the Bible where Jesus tells people that when we pray we should go to our rooms and shut the door and then pray. Then I read something not from the Bible but talking about that verse and how we should all find a special, specific place to pray. Not necessarily that we should only pray in one place but that it's good to set aside a time and go to a special place to talk to God.

A little background: prayer is a struggle for me. Always has been. For lots of reasons. Don't get me wrong, I do it, but a lot of times it feels empty, like my heart isn't in it. This feeling comes and goes in waves and perhaps in some ways its natural.

Anywhosey, to whittle this blog to a point, I wondered if anyone out in blogland has a special place they pray? As I journaled last night and thought through all the places in my apartment and at my work where I could pray, nothing seemed to fit. The best idea I had was the bathtub. But then I thought, maybe my journal is my place...hmmm.