Dumb Smart


In 2008 the US financial market saw itself rocked by an incredible crisis following the bubble bursting on its own housing market. However a nifty few saw their investments sky rocket thanks to their considerable pursuit of subprime mortgage bonds, CDOs and Credit Default swaps. It was a tale that unfolded in dramatic fashion and has been perfectly captured by Michael Lewis in his book The Big Short. Which I am currently in the midst of reading and found myself peaking above the 100 page mark this morning and have yet to understand more than five percent of it. That isn’t to discredit Lewis’s writing if anything it is more to his credit as while I know near nothing about finances, money and banks let alone the world of Wall Street, stocks and bond trading he unravels an extraordinary tale with pose and excitement. Even in my depths of naivety I turn each page with an ever escalating ferocity and I can’t explain why I am so enamoured and so taken with the subject.

Which leads me to here and now, to what will likely be a flow of utter conscious thought on why that may be. I don’t want to discuss Lewis’s writing but rather why even in the face of the complete unknown, of being in uncharted waters, we as humans plunge ahead, seeking fulfilment and knowledge no matter what the outcome. Why do we like what we like? Where do our interests begin? What causes them? Creates them? And what drives us on, ever pursuing them? Ever (hopefully) enjoying them. Lewis’s book is filled with such real life characters who have taken their fascinations and pursued them to incredible lengths. Take The Big Shorts somewhat central figure of Michael Burry (as portrayed by Christian Bale in the oscar nominated film adaptation). Burry spent years in med school learning to become a neurologist, who like many med students emerged the other side thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt but whom decided his passions lied elsewhere in the finance markets. Burry would spend all day on wards and in classrooms learning to become a doctor and then he would go home each night and pour over trade reports and statements before detailing all of his findings, thoughts and ideas in his blog taking him way into the early hours of the morning before he would do it all over again. Until eventually he packed it all in and quit the profession he had spent his life working towards and ultimately had no interest in to pursue his true passion. What drives a person to uproot their life and travel hundreds of miles in any given direction? How following a crappy burger in a fast food joint can someone decide to radically change their life for the betterment of others? What drives that? What sparks that fascination? That passion? Why do I write? Why do I put time aside each week, put stress on myself, in pursuit of my passion?

The easy and simple answer is right there in that final word, passion. It is my passion and in paradox it is my drive. But why? As a boy I hated reading, I hated school, I hated anything that involved me carving the alphabet in ink. I loved movies and comics and TV, Lego, wrestling, play fighting, action figures. I would do anything to escape the mundanity of pen and paper and now I read more and write more than ever before. My interests and fascinations spread are as wide and as varied as from old school sci-fi cover art to type fonts, advertising tactics, cartoons, art, psychology, commercial design, architecture etc. It is quite frankly an endless and random list of things but where does it all come from? What led me from Action figures to writing to art to door design? I know I continually keep posing questions and providing no answers that is because in honesty I have none just the questions, just the curiosity, just the want for knowledge and understanding and that is part of the point. Of course you can chart everything back to a certain extent for instance, my dad taught me all things pop culture introducing me to film, cartoons and television. My friends and brothers emboldened those attributes. Through film came art and design which led to a penchant for posters and trailers which brought with it an interest for advertising tricks and type fonts and so on and so forth. Just like a family tree we can follow all the splintering threads back, we can find something akin to answers but little actual knowledge into we delve into the individual.

I know incredibly little about the US financial market and by the time I finish The Big Short I may still know very little but it has sparked a fascination in a world completely unbeknownst to me and who knows where said fascination will take me. What drove me to the book originally though? What brought me to now? An interest that sparked somewhere deep down inside of me for some reason but an interest sparked nonetheless. An interest turned to a fascination but when does a fascination turn to knowledge, become a passion, become a personality trait, become a complete part of your life? Where will that next spark come from and where will it take you? Maybe sometimes it isn’t best to question these things but I was just curious, interested, fascinated to see if I could garner an answer and maybe you can, maybe you all ready know but we will ever stop pursuing our curiosities and fascinations and passions. As who knows where they will take you maybe you will be as lucky as Burry and make billions from your fascination or maybe you will get even luckier and find your place in the world thanks to an interest, a pursuit of knowledge, a fascination, a passion.

As stated at the beginning I have yet to finish Lewis’s work and so if any or some of my information, references or metaphorical examples are wrong or ill placed about Burry or the events encapsulated in The Big Short I can only apologise and hope that the sentiment of this piece remains. 

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