Wednesday, October 14, 2015
It turns out the ancient stoics were right when they argued that personal liberation could come only from the right attitude – even if they did not always practice what they preached, and in some cases needed drugs to achieve the desired framework shift. This is at least the life lesson offered by financial planner Carl Richards in the NYT (“For True Freedom, Learn To Deal With Uncertainty”). He draws on the example of a guy working in the financial industry who was raking in huge sums and living a life of plenty, but found himself on the rocks when the financial crisis hit – until his boat was lifted when the financial tide eventually came back. It turns out this guy was Richards himself. Musing on his fickle fortune, he at one point told a friend, “If you fast-forward five years, I could end up homeless or own a private jet, or anything in between.” His friend, a life coach, retorted, “Yeah, and if you can get yourself to accept that, you’ll finally be free.” This seems to make a lot of sense – and perhaps some form of meditation could help everybody chillax along these lines. Yet, wouldn’t it be even more liberating not to face such extreme odds? Not to have to hope or worry that the “capitalist casino” (as someone impersonating an American presidential candidate calls it) can toss you up or down with such force? Could we then embrace a bit more easily the fundamental truth that “life is irreducibly uncertain”? Apparently, this thought doesn’t merit serious attention. Plus, Richards might not have the right incentives to entertain it. After all, he has a new book to pitch, offering “the one-page financial plan” that can reliably propel you on an upward trajectory. Perhaps the homeless need to read it, too.
In his comment on the Democratic presidential debate (“Hilary Clinton’s Democratic Debate Magic”), NYT columnist Frank Bruni heaps praise on the frontrunner, and mild disdain on her main opponent. In his words, “Sanders grew redundant, returning with questionable frequency to a single issue – greed and income inequality – that made him sound like a one-note candidate.” This is immediately qualified: “He’s 100 percent right to question corporations and trumpet the plight of the middle class. But he does so as more of a firebrand, calling for a ‘political revolution,’ than as someone who can be trusted to make meaningful progress.” Bruni then concludes that Sanders “evoked yesterday” – “with his slight hunch, his somewhat garbled style of speech, and a moment when he cupped his hand behind his ear, signaling that he hadn’t heard the question.” How true, even if a bit insensitive directed at a 74-year-old. During the debate, Hilary billed herself as a “progressive who likes to get things done” – and, as we all know, progressives moved on a long time ago – focusing on areas where they could, and did, effect meaningful change.