Recession-time Manhattan and recession-time Brooklyn exhibit different modes of coping. Take the B to Brighton Beach and its easy to picture yourself on the streets of Moscow, where men stand outside of liquor stores and rub rubles together, waiting for someone else to come along with the remainder of the cost of the bottle of vodka they will soon share. Money is magic when it brings you new friends and the stories alcohol opens us up to share. But in Manhattan, money still hasnt proven itself to not be the root of evil. The greed of a Park Avenue titan is an almost ancient curse.
Almost three thousand years ago, Solomon was the final king of a unified Jerusalem. He built the First Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant and kept seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And if we can believe those old wives tales, its simple to believe how he more famously settled a quarrel between two women over the custody of an infant by suggesting that the child be divided in two with a sword. Where I draw the line is with the completely outlandish details such as his sixty square mile flying carpet. Diving too deep into the legends of Solomon with a literal interpretation demands an unheard of suspension of disbelief.
Dont get me wrong. Solomon was certainly a mystic of sorts during his time. The Key of Solomon was a grimoire a textbook of magic written in two volumes. The second volume provided instruction on how to construct magical implements as well as what animal sacrifices need to be made to which spirits. The first volume contained the spells to conjure demons and constrain them. Solomon was reputed to have invoked the power of God to trap the spirits of seventy-two demons in a bronze vessel.
But Solomon wasnt all magic and divine mysticism. Of his more human and relatable qualities was his sin of greed. Solomon may have only requested God to grant him wisdom, but divine wisdom alone will only allow a man to behave well to a limit. He may have attuned his power of influence and built his empire through wisdom, but he enjoyed his spoils as any trust-funded college student would. Along with his extensive number of wives, Solomon collected 666 talents of gold each year each talent valued at roughly the equivalent of over $20,000 of modern currency.
As a king, Solomon was commanded not to multiply horses, wives, or gold. But when you have divine wisdom and you are already exploiting it to bring you whatever your heart desires, what else is there to pursue? It must be this human boredom that compelled Solomon to sin against God by financing the construction of temples across the globe, dedicated to the pagan spirits of his many foreign wives. Or maybe Solomon was frightened by other powers that his wisdom wouldnt protect him from.
In my articles of the previous weeks, Ive ruminated on the rumors that multiple mystical Artifacts exist and drive much of the power, ambition, greed, and turmoil of this world. But evidence of the very existence of these Artifacts alone does not determine the motivations that drive an individual to acquire such power. These Artifacts are connected. They dont exist in vacuums segregated from each other. Knowledge of one Artifact drives the curiosity to seek out and accumulate more Artifacts.
The deceased captain-of-industry Kenneth Irons was rumored to have built his entire fortune in the quest to obtain a transformative blade that would sap victims of their souls. Recent reports of a mercenary group breaking into Fort Knox to destroy the effigy of an unknown Roman aristocrat merely support my claims that ancient Artifacts are vessels of wisdom, power, and demons.
Of all of the magic, power, and legends surrounding Solomon, the Artifact that strikes me for being the least mentioned is the rare noting of a bronze coin he kept with himself. The historical minting of coins as currency didnt occur until approximately the 6th or 5th century BCE, long after Solomon died of natural causes and the Tribes of Israel divided the kingdom into northern and southern territories. What purpose did it hold? Was the coin the vessel of a trapped demon? Was Solomons greed a curse of its influence?
Great wealth brings great power. But the accumulation of wealth alone does not deem one responsible enough to wield that power. Hopefully Bernie Madoff figured that one out.