About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What to do with $350 million?

According to a recent report from the AP, Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has placed an order with Airbus for his very own A380 - the new super jumbo that dwarfs the old standby, Boeing's 747. Of course, the prince won't be happy with the standard configuration of ca. 500 seats, which comes in at about $330 million. No, he'll want to customize it and turn it into a flying palace with spacious bedrooms, a jacuzzi or two, lounges and bars, an exercise room, and probably a movie theater - at an additional cost of between $50 million and $150 million. Let's say he decides not to be too extravagant and charts the middle course between them: he's still looking at paying $400 million for an airplane, for himself.

I've heard of the wealthy extravagantly flaunting their riches, but really! This super rich, super pampered Saudi prince will sink $400 million into a plaything for himself, while his country's infrastructure languishes (say what you will about the film Syriana, it did make this point very well: Saudi princes have a tendency to invest in their own luxury rather than the future of their country). While nearly a billion people on this planet languish in the deepest poverty and privation, a man in Saudi Arabia, grown rich off his oil, will luxuriate in his own, private flying palace.

Does he think that the world will respect him more for his monumental waste of money? Does he really think that he can buy himself happiness upon that flying monstrosity? Is he really so blind to the abject needs of so many, both in his own country and around the world? Can any man really be so blind? While I dare not to judge the thoughts of his heart, which are known to him and God alone, I will most certainly pronounce judgment on this particular action of the Saudi prince: he mocks all of humanity with so selfish an act, and proclaims to the world that his own private luxury, which exceeds all heretofore known bounds of extravagance, is of greater priority than the charity which could well be done with his $400 million.

Thank God that there are still some in this world who do care: I refer you to the "Anonymous Friend" who has gifted Erie, Pennsylvania charities with $100 million--a fraction, to be sure, of the prince's palatial payout, but done anonymously, not to boast of the having of money, but to be kind in the giving of it.

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