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

Warning: Contains Political Content

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I have refrained from talking about the current political climate in America because the polarization of the “Us vs. Them” mindset seemed impossible to surmount. Out of fears of my inadequacies, I have chosen to remain silent, rationalizing to myself that my silence was justified: Peoples’ minds have chosen sides, and there is nothing that can be said or done to sway peoples’ opinions.

Upon recent reflection, I realized that I had let my cowardice get the best of me. Moreover, I discovered that within this presumption outlined above was the implicit acknowledgement of the “Us/Them” false dichotomy. However, even after this revelation, there still have been persistent beliefs within myself that allowed me to continue to bite my tongue: “You have nothing to offer, and, even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. No one would read it, even if they bothered to read it, it wouldn’t change their minds.” It was this last part that has compelled me to break my silence and finally write.

I am a counselor by trade, even so, it is still fascinating to discover irrational beliefs that produce internal (psychic) tension. The last part of this negative self-belief is where I illuminated a fundamental error in my line of thinking. Similar to the counseling process, the goal is not about changing someone’s mind, rather it is about providing new perspectives, experiences, reflections, etc. that further inquiry and help to refine and better define their beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Furthermore, this shift in my perspective about the starting point for political discussion has also allowed me to reflect upon the array of experiences I have been collecting. I am a member of groups and organizations that would be deemed “far-right,” as well as ones which lean towards the “far-left.” Initially, these group experiences produced a great sense of tension within me that was further exacerbated by the division being portrayed within the American news. However, through maintaining the delicate balance between being open-minded while, simultaneously, having the courage to hold to certain deeply held convictions, I have been able to resist the pull of absolutism; that is, the tendency to want to resolve my internal discomfort produced by the tensions of both sides and foreclose on one of them as the absolute truth and guiding principle that all people should adopt.

This has been a difficult endeavor to undertake, especially considering the political and cultural climate of America growing more rigid and extreme by the day. However, I am grateful for being able to be a part of the “in-group” for both groups of the left and the right, because it has allowed me to understand some of the more mundane experiences, issues, and concerns that are at the root of the larger movements and politics that flood the internet and media. It has provided me with faces and verbalized expressions of the people who hold certain ideologies, instead of the abstract, dehumanized, and dogmatic view of such ideologies that are often portrayed through media. The importance of the medium through which information is absorbed is often overlooked. When ideologies are provided, devoid of any relation to actual experience, it allows the individual’s assumptions, preconceptions, unconscious biases, and a host of other psychic content to be combined with their imaginative capacity. In turn, this perpetuates ideologies and beliefs as having a sort of life in and of themselves, outside of the lived experienced of individuals.

Moreover, this separation between ideologies and actual experiences is doing damage to our democracy, for many individuals have become so certain of the absolutism of their beliefs that there is no room for common ground. While the overt differences in beliefs are emphasized, the nuances within the ideologies of either side are overlooked or disregarded. Furthermore, these nuances have become beyond reproach, since they are entirely overshadowed by the perceived irreconcilable schism of the defining features of each ideology.

Therefore, the impetus for my writing about the topic of politics in America is to emphasize the aspects that are being overlooked. While the differences in ideologies and beliefs between the right and the left are being magnified–and, in fact, personified through the attack or defense of President Trump– the similarities of experienced shared by being a human being living in a world of struggle, change, uncertainty, with feelings of isolation, desire for belonging, and striving for purpose and meaning, are being entirely overlooked. Insofar, that these aspects that comprise life are being eliminated from communal discourse, unless both parties identify with one another politically and ideologically. This lack of communication between members of opposing sides will only deepen the divide that is already present, and it will erase the opportunity to live and interact as fellow citizens of a democracy, learning from one another and enriching each other’s lives through the sharing and celebrating of differences, as well as those of similarities.

A Descent From Normalcy

When I looked up, I saw the sky – And, the sky was falling. Glowing gold shards fell to the ground upon which I stood. What was left was both a hole and extensive fragmentation throughout the entirety of the night’s sky. It was as if the entire sky was a shell that had started to crack – and I had witnessed the first complete breakthrough. The sky was revealed to me as nothing more than a sheet of glass expanding across the horizon.

My state of disbelief only intensified on from this point. The spectacle taking place in front of my eyes had left me blissfully unaware of what lie beneath my averted gaze. For, when I looked down, I saw the tops of trees spanning the breadth of an entire forest. I felt as if I might fall. And then, I did.

As I fell, I gazed back towards the sky, which had started this whole strange journey, and I watched as more and more pieces fell. It was as if an egg was hatching from the outside in; the darkness of the egg’s interior was being consumed by the intense, fiery brightness of the light piercing through the shell’s outer walls. I remarked at how the integrity of the entire shell was compromised the moment the first flake fell. It was not the cracking of the shell that ultimately was causing it to crumble, for something can crack and remain intact; no, it was the moment the fragmented parts began to fall. In that instant, the shell was no longer a shell; its definition had fled the moment its form had. It had descended into something shapeless something decaying and falling into ruin and disarray.

For me, I could see its future. The trajectory of its fate was certain. The cascade of events which had been triggered allowed no prospects of the egg returning to its original state. Though it hadn’t happened yet, I could see it would happen by the signs of its movement.

I, on the other hand, was far less certain of my own future. I knew not why I fell, nor to where I was falling. It was a moment of relinquish, during which the two opposing sides of myself called for a ceasefire. My brain had agreed to quit sounding the danger alarm, because my mind’s reason had deemed the danger of the situation as insurmountable. As a result of surrendering to my fate, whatever it may be, I relaxed into warm, constant, supporting embrace of peace. My eyes closed, my lungs exhaled as if my soul was leaving along with my breath, and then, my entire body let go. My mind, my body, my very essence had yielded to my seemingly timeless descent. Then, out of the stillness and serenity of submission, came contact.

 

 

 

 

Missing The Point

If religious laws and piety produce nothing more than judgement and elitism, then they are not from the spirit but rather the ego. They are societal parameters to regulate appropriate decorum determined by individuals crudely attempting to construct their ideal reality.

Aspects of the true spirit will produce fruit that manifests in forms of love, freedom and peace, not judgement, rigidity and angst. No man made laws, institutions or religious righteousness will bring you to God, but they certainly can distance you.

When you find your religious perspective is one from a high vantage, you should reevaluate what it is that you believe and what it is that you want from others. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all imperfect in our own ways, and to judge others for their specific imperfections, only deepens our own. And, deepening our own imperfections, deepens the chasm that divides us from God’s absolute perfection.

We should shift our eyes from societal things and the eqoic mind which feeds off of comparison and judgement, and instead turn inwards to gaze upon ourselves. Not from the point of view of judgement, but simply from the perspective of an impassive observer.

We should focus more on who we are and what we are becoming in relation to the absolute source that is God, and less about the faults of others in an attempt to falsely build ourselves up.

Tuning Your Frequency

Use your eye to peer into the river of consciousness and pick out from the floating debris only the fruit that is in likeness to Goodness, only which that is alive and illustrates the living, only something that is rejoicing in the divine dance that is an eternal self-sustain cycle of life, ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning, moving – but going nowhere – creating only the energy potential waiting to be harnessed and creatively used by the individual receiver.  We hook into this energy potential, but there is a password. And the password is Love.

You will not be granted entrance by mere semantic utterances of words, but rather by the heart itself. The gate will not open and allow access to the totality of potential that lies behind it, if not the heart is truly in likeness to the true password. . . and the password is Christ. True selfless living, strength, bravery, truth and conviction. He is the greatest of all time. The greatest because of his meekness, blessed because of his servitude and wonderful because of his presence and semblance of God. He was a vessel and a receiver so in tuned with the frequency of God that there was no difference between the source and the receiver: they walked step by step, stride for stride.

We too can live such a life. We too can become the perfect tuning fork to the frequency of God. The challenge is the tuning doesn’t stay long. We are constantly facing resistance on a daily basis. We  much constantly be flexible and adaptable to maintain such a standard of upkeep that we may be able to resonant such a magnificent frequency.

Proof of Life

Have you ever had a moment where you questioned your own life – no, I don’t mean like existentially question your life, but rather experience something that makes you question whether you’re alive or not?

If you have, then think back to that moment (or a similar one), and, if you haven’t, try and imagine.

So, you have this thought of uncertainty about whether you’re alive or dead, nothing too strange with this experience. What is strange is that we determine that we are indeed alive. You might say, “Why is this strange?” Well, it is strange because what is it that caused you to quell the idea that you are dead? What signs did you look for? What evidence did you need to verify that you were in fact not dead, but alive?

I don’t know the answer to this. My answer is simply that I know, which sounds tautological (and is), but it’s the best explanation I have.

What are your thoughts?

Leap of Faith

We separate ourselves from Christ by emphasizing his divinity and undermining his humanity. Instead of seeking to imitate him, we are actually avoiding him by alienating ourselves from him.

We choose this because it is easier than wrestling with the paradox that is Jesus: man and God, meek carpenter and savior of the world, blameless but convicted. We struggle with gray areas, and we are hardwired for dualistic – black and white – thinking.

We logic our way into believing in God instead of surrendering our way to having faith in God. The former is a test of memory, facts, evidence and proofs, while the latter is one of pure intuition – fear and trembling in the face of the reality of what existence is truly about.

 

A Man’s Role in Social Change

Tony Porter references “the man box” as a list of assumed characteristics of a man that are imposed upon men through socialization. He talks throughout the video about this stereotype of men that they cannot show weakness because this shows vulnerability, and this leaves the individual’s identity susceptible to attack. Therefore, the remedy provided by this stereotype is to stuff down emotions repress them, and the repression of emotion is a prized characteristic among men; it illustrates what means to be a ‘man’ because it is supposed to illustrate strength. However, I believe it does quite the opposite.

Suppressing emotion does not show strength, it shows cowardice. The acceptance of emotions and walking out into the uncharted waters of vulnerability show courage and bravery. Real strength lies in the ability to be comfortable and secure, while simultaneously being vulnerable. I believe we should be fostering the traits of resiliency, sensitivity, hardiness and adaptive self-regulation in both men and women. However, the dominant narrative self-perpetuates through culture.

My mom was the strongest caregiver of my life and my most influential role model. She encouraged the idea that there are times to be tough and there are times to sensitive. But toughness was not strength and sensitivity was not weakness. Instead, she prized perseverance as strength. It was not about never having problems or being invincible to struggles; it was about addressing them and handling them properly. It was not about not having fear; it was about handling fear with courage.

However, I still have to work to overcome what feels like a built in script of this “man box.” It serves as a point of reference – a template for ‘manliness.’ A template that I believe has largely been impressed upon me through a combination of cultural influence and socialization. I think much of this idea of “manhood” is transmitted unconsciously and, therefore, only resolved through awareness. However, awareness alone is not enough to uproot erroneous world views. It also requires action. Tony Porter’s uses his horrific anecdote to demonstrate how all men take part in this “collective socialization” which allows for violence against women. Therefore, it is the impetus of all men to change this social paradigm.

Reference: https://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men

Standard Form

How does believing in multiple realities and multiple perspectives automatically justifies the idea that there can be no absolute as well? I feel these ideas are not in contradiction. A simple maxim for summarizing the postmodern viewpoint is that “the only absolute truth is there are no absolute truths.” However, this statement in and of itself demonstrates that an absolute truth can exist within the same system as that which believes all truths are relative. This very maxim uses the word ‘only’ which signifies that this can apply in every case, except this one. This maxim shows that at least a single absolute truth can exist within a reality ruled by no absolute truths. And a rule with one exception does not look the same as a rule with no exceptions.
If my assertion above is true, all I am really saying is that there are rules that can exist that appear paradoxical when looking through the lens of a two-value truth system (true/false). However, if when looked at through a three-value truth system (true, undetermined/unknown, false), then there exists no opposition between the fundamental assumptions put forth by modernism and postmodernism.

Binary Oppositions

“You are an expression of your culture.” – Stephen West

Binary oppositions help us navigate the world but breakdown when forced to interpret the signified or thing referenced. If you say is this shirt clean or dirty? We know but if we say is mars clean or dirty we don’t know what to do with it. The binary opposition of clean or dirty are still there but the signified object has changed from shirt to mars. The meaning then does not lie in the terms or the rule but in the relation between the terms and their governing rules.

How does the term operate under those perimeters? Can it be answered? Or does it need further inquire? Better yet, how many signified objects do we use daily that more than likely need further analysis? We need to first understand both the operator and operated upon before we can understand their byproduct of meaning.