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Showing posts from April, 2014

The Folly of Unintended Consequences

Great chess players think many moves ahead, always anticipating their opponent’s response to their moves.  The same can probably be said for great thinkers in any field.  For the people who try to play their game without thinking at least a few steps ahead, and without anticipating the reactions to their actions, their world seems to always be filled with unintended consequences.  Today, it seems that we Americans are suffering from a rather large dose of these unintended consequences, and they are showing up in many different places.

Skin

My family and I live in NYC and send our two children to private schools.  Both the schools are liberal, if I were to label them.  Yet, my youngest Everest, who hails from Ethiopia, is the only person “of color” in his pre-K classroom, which we have found surprising given the very liberal leanings of the school.  A couple of weeks ago the inevitable occurred and one of his classmates asked the teacher during their roundtable floor time why it was that Everest was the only child in the classroom with dark skin.  Of course, being singled out as “the only one…” was disconcerting for Everest and for a few minutes he sought the safe shelter of his teacher’s comforting lap.  As an aside, when I recounted this story to a friend (of color) he laughingly pointed out that for a 5 year old, all of whom are desperate to just fit in, even being singled out as the class’s only billionaire would have been troubling.

Barney Frank

Recently, I found myself in a very interesting discussion with an intelligent and thoughtful friend of mine that began with an analysis of what ails our financial system and how it can be fixed, and then shifted to a deconstruction of the housing finance crisis that nearly cratered the global banking system in 2008.

My friend believed that our best chance of repairing things lie with the prospect of appealing to those in the highest levels of power in the investment and finance business and getting them to look past their mandate of optimizing the risk/return that they are charged with pursuing to become more aware of the ripple-effect impacts that their decisions had upon the world.  My friend expressed a deep level of doubt that change could ever be effected through the political process.

Human Resilience

Like all human qualities, resilience can be both a good and a negative trait.  In its positive form resilience implies strength in the face of extreme challenge.  Everyone at one point faces extreme challenge, and for many it is unfortunately a more constant state.  Resilience is the trait that keeps us all upright in these times.  Resilience allows us to maintain hope, when there is no apparent cause for optimism.

I’ve always regarded resilience as solely a positive quality, and have actually prided myself with having a reasonable amount.  Recently, however, I’ve begun to notice the downside of resilience, and have realized that it can be a quality that taken in the wrong direction can undermine one’s potential to experience fulfillment.