Life is hard. Coronavirus.
WW3 never happened and the Australia fires eventually stopped.
I wanted to write a blog post about that my thoughts on the current state of the world and my attitude towards the COVID-19 'situation' such that down the line, when it is over, I don't lose sight of what happened or how I felt.
A lot of my thoughts mimic those outlined in this Hacker News thread - Ask HN: How are you coping with all the (mostly bad) news around you?, and a lot of the quotes are taken from there.
There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present.” - Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda.
I have a very laid back approach to life. I like to turn everything into a joke, and try to see the funny side of everything. That said, this 'crisis' has put me on edge. Why? It scares the shit out of me because I am a member of one of the generations that has never actually experienced anything bad.
Given that people are fighting over toilet roll in supermarkets and generally being all round dicks it is (IMO) fair to say that these kinds of people would struggle with mandatory conscription were we to go to war for example.
There is also a lot of virtue signalling going on. On social media everyone is being good, following directions, and absolutely not one of those morons packing into public parks at the weekend. There are people left, right, and center justifying to their friends why what they did is OK and does fit into the guidelines for social distancing. As with everything, if you have to justify it.. you're wrong.
During my university days "this is why we are not allowed nice things" was a commonly cited sentiment. It was always stated in jest. I find myself saying it sincerely. If the world goes to shit and the Coronavirus takes us out we will only have ourselves to blame.
I have always taken an interest in Nietzschean philosophy (yes I am aware some of his thoughts are nuts) and one area that I always related to was his suggestion that following crowds is the wrong thing to do.
I will stop short of saying that I am a 'higher man'. Apparently that is arrogant. But this situation does make me firmly believe that society is generally comprised of "the quintessential mediocre man. Striving solely for comfort and contentment, an end which makes him lazy and contemptible, the last man is wholly devoid of any creative urge within, and blind to higher values which render creativity possible." (Source)
It seems like it is not enough to try and be good, to try and do the right thing because society more generally will ruin things for everyone.
OK, I'm virtue signalling now.
This, too, shall pass.
At the end of the day: this, too, shall pass.
At that point everyone will downplay how serious it was and will pretend that everything was chill and they never pushed an old woman out of the way to get the last tin of chopped tomatoes.
Remember the Y2K Bug? I remember it being a thing but didn't know much about the intricacies of it. I researched it. It was a really serious problem and it was only not a massive problem because super intelligent people worked super hard to fix it. People fail to appreciate that.
'We're all gonna die. But for most, not today, and not from this.' So stop being a dick. Think about other people for once because when we survive you have to be able to live with yourself.
The situation is presently very inconvenient for everyone. If you find yourself saying 'its not fair' or 'its so annoying'.. it really isn't that bad and some perspective is required.
'Optimism is a skill, and takes a lot of practice.'
Coronavirus has understandably caused world stock markets to crash. I have all my money invested (in a diversified portfolio) across worldwide equity and bond markets. I have lost a lot of money on paper.
I've been trying to find the mental capacity (and time) to sit down with my thoughts and work out what to do.
It's a very privileged position to be in to have enough money to be able to lose it. I get that. It does not however take away the psychological impact of such a loss. The distress is further exacerbated by the above - the fact that this situation is much worse than it could be because people have no empathy for others and can't follow basic rules. Who knows what (or how long) it will take to get this virus under control, but it is fair to say it will be quicker and easier if people do what they are told.
There is a lot of volatility in markets at the moment because people don't know what the future holds. As with many areas of my Economics degree most ideas/models work premised on assumptions. Assumptions of rationality, assumptions of following the rules etc. In practice, as we can see, these assumptions do not hold.
In the presence of panic buying (an irrational action) it is interesting to think that following the crowd and also panic buying might actually become the rational thing to do. Eurgh. Someone needs to control us because we can't control ourselves.
I have done a lot of reading on the subject and this market crash is as a result of an exogenous factor - a virus. Were the virus to disappear tomorrow, confidence would likely promptly come back, 'unknowns' would disappear and the world economy would probably fire up again.
On the face of it everything is fine and dandy and a cause has had/is having an effect.
Markets are down 30+% percentage points across the board (I don't look anymore so I don't know an exact figure) and that is horrifying to me. It makes it apparent that everything you work hard for can be lost very quickly. At the same time it is a good lesson in perspective.
I wrote in my 2019 year review post that my portfolio was up 12%. I was happy and had gotten to that point of complacency with the idea that my money just makes more money. If I can live with the ups I have to acknowledge and accept the downs. I knew this could happen, and now that it has I can't really complain.
If stock markets recover (I sincerely hope they do) I don't want to forget this happened, I want to learn from it. I want to appreciate and acknowledge that I don't know my own tolerance for risk and that I am not infallible.
As for the now. Whilst I perpetually worry, getting out of the stock market is surprisingly hard and arduous. With massive volatility there are serious complexities. Even if I wanted to (and to be clear, I don't) it would be difficult to actually do.
When I first got into the stock market I wrote an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Something that clearly defines my approach and goals. Something to look back at when I am concerned to reassure myself that I am doing what I said I would do. The crucial statement from that is:
The theory behind stock market investments have been heavily researched. The money is not needed for day to day expenses so I should do nothing.
It is somewhat reassuring to know that I am doing what I said that I would do even if it turns out to be wrong.
As I recall about The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus concluded that life is fundamentally absurd and meaningless, and "what counts ... is the most living."
Given that I have the Myth of Sisyphus tattooed on my leg I probably shouldn't have needed a prompt to consider the big old question of the meaning of life.
This situation made me aware that I had gotten complacent about my life. I was in the fortunate position of being able to self sustain my lifestyle whilst running my own business. I took my fortunate position for granted and considered myself invincible.
I considered doing various charity related activities related to my passion for running but never committed premised on my inability to reliably afford it. Yet, now, I have lost significantly more than I ever would have committed and I am still alive (for now). Things are incredibly suboptimal, but I am alive. Life to many extents has no point or premise but in the moment I feel like one has to make their own meaning.
So a note to myself - remember how this feels so that if/when things are better you can be a nicer person, be more appreciative of life, and stop taking things for granted
Some final positivity
Lockdowns are great - they keep the assholes away from you and lock you in with the people who will live and die with you.