Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Walking Dead on Wall Street

Synchronicity can deliver a very clear message about a situation and yet its play can be so over-the-top that it's hard to accept what has just been delivered.  In the current season of market and political volatility, my mind returns to an incident that gave me a clear preview of the last big financial crash but was so outrageously inexplicable that I failed to act on it.

The Wednesday before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which set off the financial crash of 2008, I was driving to an evening class I lead for advanced students. I had the car radio tuned to the local National Public Radio station. It was broadcasting the "Marketplace" program, a business report I don't often monitor.
    Halfway through the show, the announcer said. "Now we'll do the numbers", meaning that they would give a summary of activity on the stock exchanges.
    What followed was unexpected, inexplicable, and certainly never explained on that station.
    Instead of a wrap-up of what had happened on Wall Street, I found myself listening to a complex skit. The plot involved mad scientists who were mass-producing zombies in the swamps of Louisiana, to make a fortune for a corporation that planned to market a new product called Zom-Be-Gone in supermarkets all over America.
    This was mildly entertaining, but by the time it was done, I was still waiting to hear the market summary. The program ended with no explanation as to why its time had been claimed by the walking dead.
    Bemused, I shared this incident with my circle of dreamers. I speculated that it was telling me that Wall Street had been taken over by zombies. If that was the case, then what action should I take? Should I sell the modest investments in my retirement portfolio?
    By my own logic - as someone who habitually navigates by synchronicity - the message was quiet clear: Sell all stocks. Do it now.
    But even I was unready to take such a radical step on account of one bizarre episode of a radio program. By the beginning of the following week, it became abundantly clear that I would have done well to have followed the logic of synchronicity. By the end of that week, the value of the stocks I owned had sunk to 50 percent or less of what I had paid for them.
   I did not panic. I was buoyed by a dream in which I was driving a high-performance car that took a nose-dive, barreling down a one-lane road where a turn was impossible in a near-vertical descent - until things finally leveled out and I came to a gentle rolling stop in what looked like a fabulous duty-free area at an airport. This encouraged me to stay in the market, and things eventually recovered.

Photo: Opening of "White Zombie" at the Dominion Theatre in London in 1932.

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