Friday, August 5, 2011

Connecting the Dots

My name may be Bull, but I always have been a bear. The only time I ever made money in the stock market was when I bet against the bull market of 1987. The result was a quick one-day profit. Since then, I have known 24 years of pain. So when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 500 points yesterday and the Asian markets continued the tumble early this morning, I felt vindicated.

Being bearish is like being Catholic. Convinced of the world’s sinfulness and corruption, you find it hard to understand why everyone else seems to be having such a good time: sex, money, rock ’n roll! Like a bearish investor in a bull market, you look at the party everyone else is having and you say, Can’t possibly last. Then somehow it lasts, and you’re off to the side lamely clutching your rosary.

Incidentally, the only reason I even knew about the Asian markets was that I had to sit two hours in the cell phone lot at Logan Airport, from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am last night and this morning, waiting for my daughter’s delayed flight from North Carolina. During those two hours, I discovered with some idle Web surfing on my nifty new birthday iPad that there was financial mayhem in Tokyo. Just my luck, my minutes ran out at 12:45.

The only reason you have to read this Friday morning madness today is that yesterday I posted for the first time in over three weeks, and the dang thing, as my old buddy Frank would say, drew a bunch of readers. I had been withdrawing from blogging without unpleasant symptoms, but a chain of events on Wednesday had been too striking to ignore, so I wrote about it. Then, seeing yesterday’s response, I thought, maybe I’m supposed to be doing this after all. . . .

“Doing this,” for me, is connecting the dots, reviewing the experiences of a day or a week and making my own judgment about what they mean. Reading a book and mulling it. Seeing a film and writing a review. The unconsidered life is something or other, according to someone or other. Blogging invites me to consider.

Yesterday’s series of dots included that post written in the morning, a financial meltdown during the day, and a long, irritated wait for my daughter who was far more irritated than even I can be when she finally folded herself into the car and we headed home. The air-conditioning on the plane was freezing! Her back was aching! Her father was impossible! My daughter did calm down in about seven minutes and the rest of the ride home was heaven. I love my daughter and she loves me. 

Yesterday’s one dot that I find impossible to connect is the news that greeted me at my current job site, a boarding school for which I am writing a history. In the dining hall, where I have come to expect free, excellent food, I have recently made friends with one of the workers, a quiet, gentle man named Peter. There are perhaps a dozen workers in red jerseys circulating through the dining hall here, but for some reason Peter is the one who struck me and has become a friend.

Yesterday I was told that Peter’s 20-year-old son had died suddenly of an aneurysm. Peter was nowhere to be found when I walked across the road to lunch, and he is not expected back until next week, so I could not offer condolences. This left me with an unsettled lack of closure.

How can God allow such a death? The sudden passing of Peter’s son is the Holocaust in miniature. Because the problem with the Holocaust was not Hitler or his Final Solution. We all know man is evil, or at least we Catholic bears do. The problem with the Holocaust is God, as in, How could He? There was no evil agency in the case of Peter’s son. There was only a young man, his destiny, and God looking on.

The only way that this dot can connect with anything else, the only way the death of Peter’s son is even tolerable, is if there is Something Else I am not considering, Another Dot just outside the field of my vision. We Catholics, bullish or bearish, call that dot Jesus Christ, the one fixed point on the stock chart of our lives. Jesus, I trust in you, has become a more-or-less-constant prayer for me over the past few weeks. Jesus, I trust that you care for Peter’s son, now and forever.

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