Coincidentia Oppositorum

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Agree on the premises but squabble about the conclusion.

What sort of treachery has become reality!

It’s all about the rich, you see.

Ah, yet another scapegoat to deny my intrinsic responsibility.

Precisely.

Right and Left,

Rich and Poor,

Division is at our very core.

Our false dilemma is a deceptive snare that captures many in pits of despair.

Is all of this beyond repair?

Perhaps—to the extent that you’re aware.

How do you win in games of psychological warfare?

Prepare to be pulled into one-sidedness,

But continue moving where you allocate your care,

For finding bliss in either side would be remiss.

Before you dismiss, remember to give each cheek a kiss.

Divisions of the Heart

Brutality over emotionality is such a clever reality.

Chaos builds in the collective ‘we’ and inside of the individual’s ‘me’,

As violence in the name of righteousness blinds how we see.

An intermittent love marked by fleeting trust and hearts betrayed by lust.

Each day is a rush, as we move toward our eventual return to dust.

However, today is a must, for this is a moment to adapt and adjust.

Psychological Pitfalls

I’ve noticed a common theme from the side that is trying to counter this movement about justice for George Floyd, specifically, and social justice and equality for systemically oppressed populations, generally. That is, I noticed a theme of one-sideness and selection bias being rampant.

For example, to the latter point, people are selectively choosing to focus their attention toward anything but the deep, painful, raw, and pervasive issue at hand; instead, people resisting this sort of societal change are gravitating toward anything that they can use as a suitable straw man. Therefore, their arguments are usually highly fallacious, so it is better to limit engagement in these psychological trenches so the forward momentum can remain unified and targeted on the true goal: Justice.

The former point of one-sideness is intertwined with the biased selectivity outlined above; however, it delves somewhat deeper into the human psyche. Cognitive dissonance is the state of holding two opposing beliefs simultaneously, and it is well-documented that this phenomenon influences a multitude of human behaviors, because it makes people so uncomfortable that they are motivated to seek change. Unfortunately, inherent to life is constant change. Therefore, trying to resolve the tension produced by opposing forces through fortifying, or doubling-down, on a single point or node that is polarized toward a specific side is ultimately self-defeating. It is as if one is so disturbed—and, consequently, dysregulated (out of balance)—that balance is subjectively restored through the solidification of a single position. Furthermore, this single position is then fallaciously used and treated as if it is inherently self-sufficient.

Let’s take an example to further illustrate what is being said by this point. Take the example of rigid and flexible. If I were to resolve the tension between these two opposing forces by deciding that rigidness is all that matters, then this would be an example of being one-sided. However, if I were to take one more movement in this cognitive direction and decide that I was so happy by the security and comfort from believing in only rigidness, then I can start to discredit the existence or the necessity of flexibility.

We should pause at this point. It is quite easy to carry on from this line of thinking, transforming into subsequent arguments; however, at this point in the example, we have reached a point where, if we were to proceed, it would be rooted in a false dilemma; that is, there is not an argument originating from categories that exist in pairs of opposites. To belabor this point further, one cannot start with a premise that is rooted in a belief that the end is better than the means; particulars are better than universals; permanence is better than change; product is better than process; and individual is better than social.

For any of the above examples, as well as any other family of oppositions, to proceed with an argument that one side is better or worse than the other is starting an argument from a false dilemma; therefore, nullifying any subsequent arguments, premises, or conclusions made after the fact.

Hope for More

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In times of turmoil,
You are there to help in the toil.
For don’t let these opportunities be spoiled by fears that you won’t succeed here.
God has a plan for those that seek His face
However, this journey is set at His pace and you must learn to trust and have patience, even in the fear and uncertainty of the duration of this race.

Questions of the Times

There will be a day when it takes all your power, concentration and energy to keep the darkness at bay. But, for how long can I keep these shadows away? And with what do I use to keep them this way—Should I retreat to my inner cave?

Because none of this is set to remain, rather we are all destined to one day return to our life as sand. Therefore, when is it the right moment to take a stand? A better question might be: How much more can I withstand?

Isn’t this the continual background theme spanning the story of human history? Is the way we progress not in some way shaped by the past? The past is far more vast than our notion of a personal past.

Both kinds of past influence what we define as “normal” or what constitutes “the best.” What does it mean to last? What does it mean when something endures the test of time? Is it not the case that each morning we awake a refined version of ourselves? What happens if choose to skip out on some of life’s tests; would this help in alleviating some stress? Will this insight change the way we invest; will it shift the content with which we obsess—will it do anything to relieve the burdens of the oppressed?

We all face a similar distress, but if we do not identify what we know to be best, then we run the risk of slipping back into the primordial unconsciousness from which we emerged.

Is this time of turmoil a result of a tension between the light of consciousness and ignorance of darkness? Will we find that we have acquiesced to a primitive mind, and a simpler time, free from obligation or responsibilities to think or to find, merely to survive and get by.

Mysterious Arising

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See what it is that rises from dark days and turmoil.

Bear witness to the tides receding inwards.

As time’s weight flickers in significance,

The flame in all of us elucidates the darkness.

Those outward projections wane in their collective values,

As we return to our personal milieus.

Waste not for the time has arrived—

Indeed, it is already here.

New, Collectively

In times of chaos and turmoil,
We are forced to recoil.
While uncertainty rises,
A certain peace subsides within.
From the depth of the numinous waters in thyself,
Emerges remnants of primordial past.
A shared adversary that has plagued the course of human history
Begins to rekindle the collective necessity for collaboration.
Our faith in society’s infrastructure diminishes,
As our mandate to one another replenishes.
The finish line has become unclear—
A pervasive fog obscures the cognitive certainty once known.
Leaving us to either agonize about being alone,
Or rejoice in humanity’s change to a compassionate tone.

Unprecedented

While the markets closed with another one-day record high, it is important to think about the last few weeks, as well as place it in a historical context.

Within the last two weeks, we have witnessed multiple one-day record highs and lows. Simply looking at this past week, Monday started with a record one-day low, the worst drop since the crash of 1987, and then the markets set another record one-day high the Friday of this same week (Friday 13th, 2020). The week before last there had been days with record lows followed by record highs the very next day. This is market volatility on a different level.

For example, during the historic drop on Monday, the markets tripped the “circuit breaker,” a mechanism that automatically halts trading for a period of time when markets drop too sharply. This was the first time this mechanism was tripped since 1997; moreover, the circuit breaker was tripped two more times within this last week, due largely to the coronavirus fears.

It is well-established that the markets do not like uncertainty, however, that is exactly the situation that coronavirus is causing. During the 2008 financial crisis, the main issue was the popping of the housing market bubble that led the U.S. Federal Reserve to slash interest rates to zero and the government to approve the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act—a $700 billion bailout to buy mortgage-backed securities. Moreover, while the exact cause of the 1987 crash is subject to some debate, it involved investors’ growing concerns of an impending bear-market, the novelty of beginning to use computer systems on Wall Street, and issues surrounding the role the Chairman of Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, had in the matter. While both these cases resulted in significant economic effects and the loss of jobs for many, the current situation is quite different.

In general, people use the past as a model to predict the future and help inform decision-making. There is a slew of cognitive biases that effect this process; however, when it comes to Wall Street and the stock markets, it seems that there are some foundational assumptions that blind people from the notion that the future is novel. For example, The Black Swan Theory highlights the fact that people tend to have biases that blind them to the potential for rare and unexpected future events that may have significant effects. Nowhere is this more true than the stock market, which is literally based on decision theory—a fixed model of outcomes that ignores and/or minimizes the impact of events that are considered “outliers” or outcomes outside of the basic model.

Unfortunately, this is not how life unfolds, as we can look back on historic events that were quite rare, though having a significant impact. This is the reason for the recent headlines of articles featuring economists stating that “This time is different.” One notable economist sounding the alarm on this issue is Economist David Rosenberg. He was serving as the chief economist for Merrill Lynch during the 2008 financial crisis. However, in a recent article, he clearly delineates the 2008 crisis from the economic crisis currently happening when he states:

“In the financial crisis, air travel didn’t come to a halt, borders weren’t being closed, we weren’t talking about quarantines and self-isolation. In the financial crisis, people weren’t scared to leave their homes. We’re talking about palpable fear and when people get fearful, they withdraw from economic activity…. The reality is the financial crisis did not come with a mortality rate.”

The effects of the coronavirus have already led to unprecedented cancellations of events, activities, etc. These effects have already prompted The Federal Reserve to take action. Most recently, this action was in the form of $1.5 trillion in short-term loans to banks in order to “address [the] highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak,” The Federal Reserve remarked Thursday, March 12th. The response by the Federal Reserve is detailed and not limited to simply this one action. This plan will be implemented over the course of weeks, in addition to the possibility of cutting interest rates more (a move they already did a few weeks ago).

However, despite these moves by The Federal Reserve attempting to prevent an economic collapse, some like Christopher Whalen, investment banker and founder of Whalen Global Advisors, do not think The Federal Reserve will be able to stop what is coming. Whalen highlights the fact that the financial system was not healthy to begin with and states that “The virus was the catalyst but it’s not the cause. Both bonds and equities were inflated rather dramatically by our friends at the Fed. You’re seeing the end game for monetary policy here, which is at a certain point you have to stop. Otherwise you get grotesque asset bubbles like we saw, and the engine just runs out of fuel.” Whalen is pointing to a sickness in the symptoms that predated this coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, David Rosenberg wrote in detail about some of these issues in a Financial Post article dated February 7th, 2020. In this article, Rosenberg writes “Fed policy, the trajectory of GDP growth and global economic fundamentals in general all tell a cautionary tale. Both bonds and stocks can’t be right at this moment in time…the equity market no longer seems to trade off the economic fundamentals. Never before has there been such a loose relationship to economic growth.” He wrote this article before the coronavirus started having its significant effects; additionally, he never mentions the virus in the article. What Rosenberg was critiquing was the framework of the current economic system and the dysfunctions that existed, such as discrepancies between market values and asset values.

Taken in sum, these points that I have laid out indicate that the economic effects stemming from this virus were not limited to the coronavirus alone. Instead, the virus served as the catalyst that is now testing the economic foundation of the system itself. After all, this event is one that impacts all aspects of the economy, since it impacts daily life and social activities. This event has released a cascade of events that cannot be walked back; moreover, the temporal extent and the economic/societal impact of this outbreak are entirely uncertain. The only certainty is that the coupling of a pandemic—that has not reached its peak yet—with an economy that has been built using the most advanced technologies in human history and relies on mass, sustained and fast-paced consumerism, will produce an outcome that is entirely novel from the status quo we are accustomed to.

 

References

https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/recession-feature

https://www.vox.com/2020/3/12/21176567/us-stock-markets-shut-down-trading-coronavirus-massive-sell-off-circuit-breaker

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-to-inject-1-5-trillion-in-bid-to-prevent-unusual-disruptions-in-markets-11584033537

https://business.financialpost.com/investing/investing-pro/david-rosenberg-this-turbocharged-debt-cycle-will-end-miserably-its-just-a-matter-of-when

Uncertainty is Clear

Lines of division become more clear.
Our intertwined minds work to subdue fear.
Confusion runs rampant—
Fracturing even our desires to cheer.
What is going on here?
Should we prepare as though the end is near—
Or, downplay happenings by reviewing previous years?
Nevertheless, we trek onward into the unknown.
Some welcome this novelty with a delighted tone.
While others express distress over the state of unrest.
What is clear is there lacks a consensus on what is best.

Valentine’s Day Free Download

Four years ago, I published my first book A Two Sided Truth. It was during a time in my life surrounded by uncertainty and chaos. The compilation of this book involved gathering and editing poems, prose, and short-stories that I had written in college, and the process (though imperfect) provided me with a sense of completion.

This process of creative expression helped me to make meaning in an extremely difficult time in my life. Producing something containing your own words and effort is inherently vulnerable, but it helped me to cope with adversity; therefore, if it could be of help a single person like it helped me, it would be entirely worth embracing my own vulnerability and post this announcement:

From February 14th to February 17th, the kindle version of A Two Sided Truth: An Anthology of a Human Experience will be free to download on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2wgHKfJ