Wednesday, February 10, 2016 (“Peace” by Ornette Coleman)

There’s a bit of a gap between anything going on to report here, so I thought that I might write something more of what’s on my mind about the world in general. I may or may not have written on here about my ideas on the world. It’s not a theory of everything. That might require more than one post…

In the last few years, I’ve been able to see the world in two categories: the Macro World and the Micro World. The reason why I’ve labelled them so is because I had several years of learning Economics crammed into my head and that necessarily affects the way that I look at the world and talk about it. I’ll explain.

The Micro World is everything you see around you. It’s the computer at my fingertips. It’s the song playing on in the background. It’s your friends, your family, your animals, your weight, your diet, your car, your job (or lack thereof). It’s things that you see almost every day. It’s things that you can affect directly and things that can affect you directly. You have control, at least partial, over what happens. This is the world you know at a concrete level.

The Macro World is everything that you don’t really see. It may or may not exist in real terms. Who knows? That’s sort of the big mystery about it. It might affect your or it might not. I’m sure after years of studying economics, I can tell you how interest rates are where they are and how that affects you. But you can’t really do a thing about it. And even if you could, we could make you the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and you’ve studied economics for years, devoted your whole life to interest rates, etc., you probably only still have a vague idea of what you’re doing. When you don’t really know what you’re doing and that something that you’re doing can affect not only you but the entire world, you probably shouldn’t be extremely confident about it or so arrogant or hubristic as to think that you’re an expert. Anyway, that was just an example. The point I’m trying to make about the Macro World is that unless you’re extremely powerful or willing to do something most people consider murderous and insane (blow up a bunch of buildings for whatever your pet cause it), you really have no control over what’s going.

For example, if I vote or if I don’t vote in this up-coming election in November, I will have no or minimal effect on the result. I’d be just 1 of 100 million people voting. That’s 0.000001%. I’d be pretty much a grain on a beach of sand. The thing that reels so many people into the issue is the personalities, the platforms, the past records of the candidates and the various side-shows going on around in the background. In Probability and Statistics, they use an “expected value” for many things. It’s basically the value you put on an event happening the way you wanted it to happen multiplied by the probability of it actually happening. In this case, my odds of 0.000001% (0.00000001 in probability terms) would be multiplied by whatever value I placed on the event. Let’s say I value my desired outcome at $500. I guess in this case, I value it fairly highly. Let’s calculate: $500 x 0.00000001 = $0.000005. That’s 5/10000th of a penny. That’s not very much. I worry very little about the pennies that have probably dropped from my pocket and down beneath the seat of my car. This is even less than that. I essentially have no control over the outcome and have so little interest in the outcome that it’s scarcely worth bothering about.

That might be a dismal way of looking at it but it’s probably a good thing that one person doesn’t control the fate of an election. The same is true with so many other things. The stock market is another example. You may have money tied up in stocks or bonds or funds or commodities. The value of these change based on the fluctuations of their sales in the market. If someone wants to buy one share of Apple, he’s basically taking the price as a given. He has almost no influence on the price. If he tries to haggle with a broker, he’ll soon be disappointed in the result. If he wants 2 shares, he’ll have slightly more bargaining power, but still practically none. It’s not until you start trading in the thousands and tens of thousands of shares being traded for does he even have any lee-way in the trade. Interestingly enough, that trade in the tens of thousands of shares is actually jacking the price up ever so slightly because he’s also bidding against himself on top of all the other bidders. You can imagine how a simple manipulation can yield a higher return for the seller. But since this is such a small increase that we’re talking about and large trades usually only happen when clearing houses get the thumbs-up from the SEC, it’s hard to manipulate prices without some really sneaky business going on. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

All of this is to say that in the Macro World, unless we’re put in an extraordinary position of power and wealth, we don’t have much influence in what goes on in our individual actions. It’s just an aggregate of what we are all doing. That might seem terribly depressing. Like when you look up at the stars and understand that not only are most of them 100s of times larger than our sun, but the light we’re seeing is millions of years old. Those stars might be gone by now and the light we’re seeing is just the light waves sent out in the sky with fewer and fewer waves behind it because that star is kaput. We’re just a speck of dust on a speck of dust. We want to feel important and significant but judging by the size of the things in our neighborhood, we’re only tiny. I guess we’re only interesting because we’re alive.

I guess all of that was just to say that Macro World might affect us but probably not. Supernovae happening every day in the universe are only a tiny flash in the sky. If you were anywhere remotely near that thing the shock waves alone would vaporize you. So, I try not to pay too much attention to it anymore. If something disastrous did happen there would be precious little that I could do to save my own skin or that of anyone else.

What do I pay attention to anymore? The Micro World. This is the only thing that really affects me. This is the world around me. And why not? It’s nice to look up at the stars and see what they’re like but their existence shouldn’t worry me or be the be-all and end-all of my life.

So, what does that mean? I don’t really read the news. I don’t really listen to the news.  I don’t watch the news. I don’t even go anywhere near the comments sections on anything I do see. That’s all bad shit there. Some news does affect me. The weather. News about road closures. Some stuff is just only for the entertainment. I like some sports. It’s been getting me down a bit lately. I just caught myself last night a little down about the Flyers losing in an embarrassing way. I had to stop myself and remind myself that I had no role in it and will not in the future. I like hockey. I like Philadelphia. I like the Flyers. But I don’t lose money on their losses, nor do I gain money on their wins – I don’t like gambling. I do get joy out of a nice win. I do even get a buzz out of a close game, even if it ends up in a loss. But it’s Macro. It doesn’t really change my life.

I guess keeping things in perspective in terms of things’ relevance in my own life is most important. That’s not to say I’m completely self-centered. I do get joy from other people feeling good about things. I do get joy out of myself getting good news about myself (Come on, job! Come through for me!!!). I do feel bad when things that are important to me fall to shit. I do feel good when good things happen.

Ignore the Macro World. It doesn’t do anything except bring you down. Knowing details about it helps you in no way. The further removed it is from your world, the less important it is. The closer is, the more important. I have to remind myself of that on a consistent basis.

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