Archive for the 'financial markets' Category

Widows, orphans, and single moms

July 4, 2014

I was reading about the dark (trading) pool at Barclays, and the piece in the NYTimes by James B. Stewart quoted a law professor (John C. Coffee, Jr.) who referred to big institutional investors as being like widows and orphans in relation to high-frequency traders — meaning easy to take advantage of.

And I thought, “Yes, been there, done that, still there in many ways …”  And then I got to thinking about single moms who are single from the get-go, no widowhood or divorce involved, and how stigmatized they are, especially if they are young and poor and members of minority groups.

People talk about the statistics on the unfortunate outcomes for such families, and we talk about remedies focused on sort of improving the parent and the children, but I don’t think we talk about the degree to which they get taken advantage of, just like widows and orphans, and how that contributes to the unfortunate outcomes.

Bursting bubbles and breaking hearts

October 13, 2011

I’m writing about broken hearts and Blondie comes on the radio singing about hearts of glass — I’m encouraged that there is something here to “surf,” some artifact to dig out or even splinter to remove.

Michele Bachmann spoke the other night of having broken hearts for disadvantaged kids.  Henri Nouwen spoke, and wrote, a lot about brokenness, and I would connect broken hearts and brokenness to things falling and breaking.  I suspect it works best when we fall, our hearts break open, and that flower inside opens like one of those blossoming teas my friend Kathy used to brew — when that inner strand, that core we each possess, becomes more accessible to our conscious mind.  I suspect that falls for some people may actually consist of separate incidents over time that eventually, like the straw that breaks the camel’s back, breaks open the heart.

We learn that broken hearts can be healed, even broken souls, but in the meantime we learn compassion for others that is more easily applicable to others and their situations than a piecemeal approach of trying to assess situations according to a cipher.

When our hearts break, all that stuff we’ve accumulated for years spills out, and like our financial bubbles bursting, the clean-up can be lengthy and painful.

Here’s where I think some people get stuck:  that inner core that we gain access to from a fall is like a parachute.  What happens when someone jumps, the parachute seems to them not to open, and they are damaged in the landing?  They may not want to jump again, try jumping again.  First of all, because they are concerned the parachute is defective, but also now just out of understandable desire to avoid pain again.

One solution could be borrowing somebody else’s parachute, so to speak.  But here’s where a new issue arises: you still gotta take the fall, that part can’t be borrowed, I don’t think.  But when people are able to relate to each other in the way that would allow them to do this parachute-borrowing thing, there is a huge temptation to borrow the parachute without taking the fall, and the result is kind of like Phaeton — the borrower is in the position to drive but without an important component that is necessary for the drive to be accomplished safely.

I would characterize that component as that extreme willingness that we sometime call surrender.  I have learned from difficult experience not to lend under these circumstances, even under the influence of romantic love.

Why is it so difficult for the person borrowing to surrender?  My guess is that’s it’s a little like that line “Did she put on his knowledge with his power?” from “Leda and the Swan” — the borrower can see where this is going and balks.  I know I would not have had the courage to proceed had I known where my willingness would lead me — which is not to say I regret the entirety of the experience, but I doubt I could have undertaken it had I known then what it would entail.  But I had the gift of not knowing.  I also suspect the borrower doesn’t realize that the surrender is actually necessary.

I’m not sure what to tell someone who has to make the decision whether or not to take the fall with more information than I had.  I am wondering whether with enough willingness the heartbreak part will be accomplished in some other, some newly unexpected way.

The dance between the irrational and the rational

August 10, 2011

A lot of arguments in the public square seem to be over the correct proportions between the irrational and the rational.   For example, politics and financial markets have both rational components and irrational ones.  We also seem to have both rational and irrational operating systems in our brains.  The answer to the question of what proportions in those contexts would give rise to greater balance and more helpful functioning I think is a complex one.  I’m thinking it’s maybe more like finding a helpful way for the two components to interact, to call and respond to each other, to dance with each other as part of a couple, less like an issue of static measurement.  This kind of dynamic I think is thought to be at play between “nature” and “nurture,” between genetic capacity and the environmental context.  Maybe it’s also the idea behind having others interpret the words of an ecstatic speaker like an oracle.  So, instead of trying to embrace exclusively one of these ways of operating, maybe we should focus on how best to get them to work together, like a plowing team of ox and horse.