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August 09, 2011


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Another reason poets shouldn't panic is because we are...well...poets, and by definition most of us don't have a lot of money anyway. I wouldn't know a stock from a bond from a duckbill platypus.

There are advantages to being fiscally oblivious. I won't get rich, but I won't get ulcers, either.

I'm glad to see a discussion of financial issues here on the BAP site. I wish I had greater understanding of markets and related issues. I feel I did learn something, however, from an interview I saw some years ago with the financier George Soros. It was after the crash in 87, and Soros was asked if the thought there was reason to believe that the market might crash again.
Soros answered that at every moment there are always good reasons for markets to crash. But those reasons only emerge after the crash has actually taken place. A credit downgrade, interest rate fears, or whatever, might already be in place but they only become "reasons" in hindsight.

It’s like, “Mike Tyson is invincible. Nobody can beat him.” But after the Buster Douglas fight, it’s, “Oh yeah, he was ready to lose. He didn’t train hard enough. He was smoking weed with the geishas over there in Japan. You could see it coming.”

It's the same with relationships, isn't it? A couple might have real problems -- snoring could be one example. A man might have snored for thirty years. Then one night his wife says, " I'm leaving." The “reason” for leaving was always there, but it only became a reason when it was acted upon.

One more thought. In 1979 there was a major plane crash in Chicago. I was walking my dog when I became aware that dozens of sirens were sounding all around me at the same time. Strange! Well, all the ambulances and fire trucks heading out to the airport. Anyway, it turns out that not long before the crash a man had called American Airlines and reported a dream in which he saw a DC-10 aircraft crash as an engine fell off the wing on takeoff. He described exactly how this looked and said he was very disturbed by it. Could the airline do something? Of course, there was nothing they could do, and the crash happened exactly as the man described. This was all documented and authenticated.

In reading about this kind of paranormal phenomenon, I learned that found that researchers immediately discount and ignore anyone who reports precognition after the fact. In other words, it’s considered worthless to say, “I knew that was going to happen. I had a dream, etc.” You’ve got to say it before the event actually happens. This seems a reasonable approach for market fluctuations also. Anyone can say, “I knew it was going to happen. Here are the reasons why I knew. Blah, blah.” Again, the reasons are always there – but they’re not really reasons until they become operative. On the other hand, if you can see what’s going to happen before it happens, place your bets. “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Finally: who is the silver-haired man with a lisp to whom David refers? I was thinking Andy Griffith but don’t know if he lisps. Andy's colleague Don Knotts is another possibility, as he has gone gray. Or Warren Buffett?

Thank you for the comment, Mitch, wise as it is witty. Yes, the reasons are reasons only after the fact, and predictions are worthless except in a casino, like Ladbroke's of London, where you can get odds on who will become the next pope or how old Prince Charles will be when he succeeds his Mama on the throne: long-term situations where the time between bet and payoff is incalculable. Also, defeat is an orphan and victory has a thousand fathers, which is always quoted in films about JFK, the bottom line being this: only in retrospect is history inevitable.
I wanted to create a little mystery with the silver-haired man who lisped, but I was thinking of a segment of Wall Street Week with the late Louis Rukeyser who had a knowing glint in his eye and spoke very calmly after the crash, reminding viewers that this event, though lamentable, needn't affect you unless you panicked and sold your holdings (or unless, alas, you had no choice but to sell at that time, because you needed the cash for college or a house, in which case you shouldn't have been in the market at all, which is easy to say in hindsight but who knew it back then?) Am I crazy to find this stuff fascinating? Crazy like a fox!

I love the first comment saying that in the end it really doesn't matter because we're poets and we wouldn't know what a stock bond was if it bit us. The first and most important thing to worry about is you and your family. Do the best you can with whatever situation you face and you'll be off to a good start.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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