Some days the financial meltdown has me feeling like our stock market portfolio -- trashed.
In an effort to get some benefit from the holy shit! that bursts forth every time I take a peek at our Schwab account (my soma hasn't shown up yet), I'll attempt to suck some cosmic meaning out of the dry rind of increasingly bad economic news.
What's been striking me is how similar a rapid decline in net worth and a sudden loss of religious faith can feel.
Having experienced both, I can say that the defining emotional characteristic of each (for me, at least) is a sensation akin to standing in a rapidly descending elevator. The floor is still there, but it's falling away from you.
Exciting. Disturbing. Unsettling. Exhilarating. All at the same time.
When the elevator comes to a stop and the door opens, you're on a lower floor, closer to the building's foundation. Now you can walk on and go about your business. Or, pleasure.
Similarly, coming down from the artificial high of a financial or religious bubble can make someone feel like the plug has been pulled on a bathtub full of reality.
Except bubbles aren't really real. They've been artificially inflated to appear larger than they are.
Unfortunately, brokerage house statements and theological belief systems don't come with warnings like car mirrors do: "Your financial/religious net worth may be a lot smaller than it appears."
With the housing bubble, people thought that the value of homes was a lot higher than was actually sustainable. With my true believing bubble, I thought that the value of certain religious tenets was a lot higher than they turned out to be.
I'm fascinated by the connection between monetary and spiritual investing (which perhaps is visible only to me, given how little attention my brilliant musings on this subject, such as this post, have received from the world outside my head).
In both pursuits, it's easy to lose sight of basics, fundamentals, simple principles. Most people -- me included, at some points in my life -- feel that they can beat the broad market.
Investors think they're smarter than the "other guy," forgetting that to other investors, they are that guy.
Religious believers consider that they're saved while other apostates are doomed, forgetting that to believers in other faiths, they are doomed.
I've come to the conclusion that it's better to go with the flow, both economically and salvationally. Index investing is the equivalent of spiritual agnosticism. Whatever happens to everybody is what will happen to you.
So this economic downturn is a nice (first time I've used that term about the meltdown) reminder that what goes up unnaturally must come down.
Keeping our feet on the ground...
Not trying to be superior...
Accepting things as they really are...
That's genuine wealth.