Not long after I founded the Chris R. Morgan Memorial Fellowship for Inner-Meaning and Personal Greatness, people have occasionally stopped me to ask, “Chris [or ‘Mr. Morgan’ depending on the contextual formality], why is it you came to found the Chris R. Morgan Memorial Fellowship for Inner-Meaning and Personal Greatness? Understand that I don’t mean to be rude. I’m mostly curious. My basic impression of you is not the kind that goes around founding fellowships. There are, in life, people who are capable of founding a fellowship and people who aren’t so capable. In my observation of you over the years, I’ve never considered you to be eligible for the former category. You don’t display any notable gift for organization. I’m not saying, please be assured, that you are totally, hopelessly, cripplingly disorganized; only that you are not special in that regard — going, again, by my extensive observation of your faculties. Other fellowship founders, who I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of having observed extensively, are master organizers, committed managers of people and resources. Seldom do they ever abuse or waste either, and when they do it is never their own doing or intent. A fellowship is like any other institution, which are like giant beasts. It needs to be soothed, validated, and catered to by the most compatible overseer. Compatibility doesn’t seem to be a part of your skill set from the looks of it. Neither does discipline. Discipline is key, Chris/Mr. Morgan. Though maybe determination is more key than that. You need to get out of bed every day prepared to face down the fresh regimen of challenges that founders of fellowships tend to face. I don’t know any specific examples off the top of my head, but I’m fairly confident that they are myriad. Though I’m also guessing that appeasing donors is a big challenge for fellowship founders. Here I also question your capacity. It doesn’t look as though you’ve monetized a single thing in your life. As soon as I reach the point in my life where I am able to consider turning over parts of my income to invest in something, I’m going to make sure that the idea that I want to invest in has viability. I want to make sure that its vision is far-reaching but also that its means are practical. I would not want to lend my hard-earned money into a dead-end or a bottomless pit; not that it is always easy to tell one from the other, but that is a question for someone else and for another day. And sure, no investor is free from being compelled by a vague, even faulty, premise. But often the flimsiest, most blue-sky proposal must be grounded by sound metrics, tangible projected outcomes, and basic competence. None of that seems to be your forte, in addition to your earlier mentioned deficiencies. Again, Chris/Mr. Morgan, I mean not the slightest disrespect. If I had I would withhold my honest feedback and conceal my skepticism of your plans with total accolades, setting your ego completely afire and putting the few people whose trust you’ve been able to win at risk for monumental embarrassment. And never would I wish on my worst enemy the frazzling that comes with trying to meet impossible demands and unreachable expectations. While I’m here, I’m curious about the ‘memorial’ part of your fellowship. You appear not to be dead. You are standing in front me, in imperfect but still dignified posture, your chest expanding and contracting in the expectant rhythm. This leads me to assume that you bleed when cut, defecate after eating, are prone to base desires and instinctual urges, and pay taxes as a result of being a living citizen of this particular nation. ‘Memorial,’ I must tell you, sounds not a little solipsistic and prematurely pompous, doubtless not the most attractive form of pompousness. The only way you could possibly get away with it is if you had died in a cultural, social, or otherwise abstract sense. By this I mean, in the present American milieu, you no longer feel signs of life. You are a ghost walking against the march of progress and sit on the outside of the ever-widening sprawl of prosperity. I guess that makes me just as curious about standards, guiding philosophy, selection process; things you’d normally have to deal with as the founder of a fellowship. But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I don’t want to be rude. You don’t seem to have a giving nature about …”
They trail off at some point. I ask them to repeat the question. Once they do, I give the following answer.
“In the back of my house,” I begin, “there is this porch. I like to sit out there sometimes and drink my coffee. While doing this very thing one spring day, a gopher crawled out from under the porch. Rather than run away into the surrounding woods, as may often be the case, this gopher calmly walked around me until we were face to face. Standing on its hind legs it told me that I should divert my efforts and energy from whatever I am currently doing (nothing, as it happened) to founding a fellowship program, and that that program should be called the Chris R. Morgan Memorial Fellowship for Inner-Meaning and Personal Greatness. In fairness that is not word for word what it said, limited as we were by our mutually incomprehensible dialects. A more literal translation might be the Bipedal Object Merit-Based, Obligation-Attached Credit Dispensary for All Eternity. This setback aside, the gopher, being wise and modest, gives me a free hand with the course of the program. I notify him on a routine basis of our doings as a gesture of professional courtesy, and he has not voiced any objection so far.”
When I am finished, they usually reply, “Wait, really?”
To which I tend to respond, “No.”
Then they would in all likelihood say, “My dream investment would be a new, disruptive zipper. The kind that zips and unzips more seamlessly than regular, analog zippers. Also it never gets stuck. Hopefully that idea — or something like it — will crest at the same time that I have the money to put into it.”
Then I’d say much more definitely, “Huh.”
They would then say, “Zippers are recession-proof, you know.”
This continues for an extended period (just under two hours is the current record), then they apply to my fellowship.