Amazing Grace, The Zeitgeist, Mating in Captivity.....

April 13 2020

Happy Easter Long Weekend.

How are you ? I feel blessed in so many ways.

A great way to start the day: Andrea Bocelli singing Amazing Grace in Florence yesterday. I got chills up my spine and tears in my eyes.

A. The Zeitgeist:

Zeitgeist: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

What is the Zeitgeist of our time ? What will the 20’s be known for ?

Is it this ?

Wall Street vs Main Street will be one of the defining Zeitgeist’s of our time going forward.

Another could be Nationalism.

Us vs Them.

There is more and more discussion around whether China was forthright or not with information concerning the Coronavirus.

This video is symptomatic of that zeitgeist.

The other related zeitgeist is Deglobalization and American withdrawal from the global economic system, even a mainstream publication like Foreign Affairs, with an article penned by it’s President, Richard Haass titled: The Pandemic Will Accelerate History Rather Than Reshape It, closing paragraph below:

After World War II, the need to meet the looming communist threat galvanized the American public to support their country in assuming a leading role around the world. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson famously said that the government had to make arguments “clearer than truth” to get the American people and Congress to buy into the effort to contain the Soviet Union. Some analysts suggest that invoking the threat of China could similarly galvanize public support today, but a foreign policy based on opposing China is hardly suited to addressing the global challenges that shape today’s world. Meanwhile, appealing to the American people to put tackling those global problems at the heart of U.S. foreign policy will continue to be a tough sell. Accordingly, the more relevant precedent to consider may be not the period following World War II but the period following World War I—an era of declining American involvement and mounting international upheaval. The rest, as they say, is history

And it’s not just a US thing, Japan is paying it’s firms to leave China and relocate production elsewhere.

Moments like this make me realize the cycles of history.

Every few years I read “The Lessons of History” by Will & Ariel Durant. Together, the Durant’s wrote an 11-volume, 13,974-page tome on the history of human civilization. From what I hear, it's as thorough as anything that exists. But what if you don't have time to read thousands of pages?

Towards the end of his life, Durant summarized his learnings in three short books: Lessons of History is for your mind, The Story of Philosophy is for your heart, and Fallen Leaves is for your soul.

A quote from the Lessons of History, seems appropriate:

“From the Medici of Florence, the Fuggers of Augsburg and to the Rothschilds of Paris and London, and the Morgans of New York, bankers have sat in the councils of governments, financing wars and popes, and occasionally sparking revolution. Perhaps it is one secret of their power that, having studied the fluctuations of prices, they know that history is inflationary, and that money is the last thing a wise man will hoard”

Disclaimer: The goal of this section was to outline what could become the zeitgeist. I don’t share the views of the speakers nor am I recommending you do anything. Your financial affairs are your responsibility.

What do you think is the Zeitgeist ?

B. Mating In Captivity

I think I have spent more time with my wife and two kids in the last four weeks than at any other time.

And these have been no ordinary times. I think the family unit is being tested. It’s an unusual amount and type of stress for a family to bear.

Esther Perel is both a psychotherapist and NYT best selling author, one of her books is: Mating in Captivity, which I just finished reading….Felt an appropriate topic for the many types of captivity we find ourselves in. The book is a discussion on how we square the paradoxical union of domesticity and desire.

One of the things that is hard about the current moment is that every single part of your life is being squeezed into the same space and time. You are working, living, parenting, in the same space every day and slowly (and easily) every day becomes like the one before it. One paragraph seems appropriate:

“I suggest that our ability to tolerate our separateness-and the fundamental insecurity it engenders-is a precondition for maintaining interest in a relationship. Instead of always striving for closeness, I argue that couples may be better off cultivating their separate selves. Jacques Salome talks about the need to develop a personal intimacy with ones’ own self as a counterbalance to the couple…Personal intimacy demarcates a private zone, one that requires tolerance and respect. It is a space - physical, emotional, and intellectual-that belongs only to me. Not everything needs to be revealed. Everyone should cultivate a secret garden.”

She was also on the Tim Ferriss podcast discussing Relationships while Quarantined. A few ideas I thought useful:

  • Stressful situations, such as this pandemic, can cause tensions to rise and  exacerbate existing differences in relationships

    • One partner’s coping mechanism can be seen as a threat by the other partner (E.g.: One partner may cope by reading news updates on the coronavirus while the other partner doesn’t want to hear a single word about it)

  • Disasters accelerate everything:

    • “In the aftermath of a disaster, there will be more babies, more marriages, and more divorces. It’s either life is short, what are we waiting for, let’s make a baby. It’s either life is short, I’ve waited long enough, let’s leave. ”

      • Your priorities get reorganized and you rethink WHAT and WHO is important to you

A funny quote from the book (from the chapter on affairs) to end with: ;-)

The bonds of wedlock are so heavy that it takes two to carry them, sometimes three.

- Alexandre Dumas

C. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:

1. Another example of change that was inevitable, but the Coronavirus has sped up is Education. Imagine paying $70k per year for your MBA but instead getting some lame ZOOM classes in your pajamas. These kids are asking for their money back.

Prof. Scott Galloway had a good podcast discussing some of these things and what’s coming.

2. One of financial markets trade I keep hearing about given the “Contango” in oil markets is Tankers. Good discussion on the idea here and video below.

For the uninitiated, Contango means the Crude Oil Futures looks like this - spot Oil is $23 as of this morning (post OPEC+ meeting), while March 2021 is ~$36. You are being paid to store oil.

3. Just finished Bill Bryson’s The Body. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s more a collection of facts than a cohesive narrative. It does have some interesting facts and ideas, for example:

You get cancer every day. Or you would do if your natural defences weren’t cellular stormtroopers. “Every day, it has been estimated, between one and five of your cells turns cancerous and your immune system captures and kills them.”

And there isn’t just one “immune system”. Every individual’s immune system is both unique and changeable: it varies if you are stressed or exhausted. Little wonder, then, that our understanding of so many illnesses remains murky. While techniques that harness the body’s immune response are proving successful against some types of cancer, in other areas we remain woefully stumped.

Quotes I’m Thinking About - Marcus Aurelius:

How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

Understand however that every man is worth just so much as the things are worth about which he busies himself.

We are so lucky!!