Friday, March 13, 2009

I'm not sure and the financial crisis

I have been thinking a lot about doubting, questioning (or have I just been doubting and questioning my doubting and questioning?). I don't necessarily mean questioning in a confrontational, trust-no-one kind of way. I mean the questioning and examining everything from the mundane, to the personal, to the public, to the sublime. And I wonder if it is possible to be truly content. I am always questioning, examining. I don't know if this is particularly American. We are supposed to be so sure and bold, and we want those around us to be sure and bold. I am usually neither. And I think that is just fine. Would I exchange my I'm-not-sure-ness for pure contentment? Probably not. Then what would I have to say or think?

So, I was just reading a column in the Washington Post Outlook section (from March 1, 2009 -- yes, almost two weeks after the fact), "What Do They Know: True Confessions of a Conflicted Money Guru." Joel Lovell, himself a financial adviser, questions how those in his profession speak. They "dispense wisdom with utter assuredness, day after day, despite having been so spectacularly wrong in the past." In the recent past, no less. This was written before the recent Jon Stewart v. Jim Cramer
(whose name I barely knew two weeks ago) dust-up. But the two pieces fit together well.

A favorite bit from the column: "The advice I trust most now comes wrapped in doubt. Here's what I'd do, and this is why I think it's right, but I'm not sure." Terrifying, that no one can be sure about what to do in this financial crisis. But maybe also reassuring. We are not alone. We don't have to be sure to go forward. In fact, being unsure (and therefore open) may be the only way.

Who would have thought I would ever write about the financial crisis, huh? But this little piece from a world so unfamiliar to me -- I know very little about the financial realm -- reminds me of the bigger ideas of doubting, questioning, examining that have been so on my mind lately.

I state, for the record: I am not sure.