We've all had conversations and experiences that make us stop and think. It might be a word someone uses that evokes a deep and painful memory; maybe a loved one shuns you at an important moment; perhaps a once cherished and profoundly important place in your life ceases to be. Whatever happens, life will use this opportunity to reveal a truth, one previously veiled and unfathomable.
In James Joyce's first book, Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories published in 1915, he explored this idea using early 20th century Dublin, Ireland as his experimental canvas. On this, he paints pictures of ordinary people in the city going about their day. For example, Joyce uses priests, teenagers, landladies and drunks to name a few. Reading a snippet from the daily life of a pubescent boy may not sound like anything new, but if you get the chance to read these stories, you'll quickly realize you're dealing with more than the vapid ramblings of a Irish boozer.
Joyce was writing at a cultural and historical crossroads in Ireland. The country was experiencing the last dying breaths of 800 years of English colonialism, and ultra-Irish nationalism hung thick in the air. Thus, the majority of Irish people wanted to assert their Irish-ness and carve out a future free from the straitjacket of colonial repression. This ardent desire for freedom lead to converging ideas and influences. Joyce explores some of these important themes such as regret, realization, self-hatred and moral demise.
One of the interesting things about the book is Joyce's' use of epiphany, a word previously loaded with religiosity:
'the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi' (Matthew 2:1–12)
Joyce plays with the word and expands its meaning to represent a moment of sudden and striking realization. Today, it's used to refer to scientific breakthroughs and philosophical discoveries.
At the end of each short story (and most are very short, bar the final story 'The Dead') the protagonist experiences an epiphany and suddenly a significant life lesson rabbit punches them in the kidneys.
For example, in 'At the Races' a spoiled young Dublin man, Jimmy Doyle, is lured by ostentatious displays of wealth - namely flashy cars, and the chance to mingle with high-society. All of this leads him into agreeing to throw his money at a dodgy Parisian car business. As Jimmy tags along with the rich folk their tall tales intoxicate his thinking and eventually he ends up losing all his money in a late night card game. The grim realization of his follies are the moment truth poked his ugly head into Jimmy sense of being.
'He knew that he would regret it in the morning, but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly. He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his head between his hands, counting the beats of his temples. The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in a shaft of grey light: －Daybreak, gentlemen!'
I love the how the everyday words ' Daybreak, gentleman' expose Jimmy's foolishness. He's been duped and he knows it.
Have you ever been there before? Have you ever suddenly realized you have been wasting your time? Have you ever wished the ground would open like the San Andreas Fault and swallow you whole?
If your like me, then I'm sure you have.
So, here we are at another departure point in the posts of Singapore Dividend Collector. Just how do I dig myself out of yet another blogging hole of waffle and abstract noodling and make this post related to the blog's namesake? Good question indeed.
Well, to perform this Sisyphean feat I must tell you about an encounter I had with an old friend just a few days past.
As I've said in previous posts, I'm big into jungle running. You know, proper hardcore jungle trail stuff. No messing about. Swamps, leaches - the lot. Anyway, after runs, a few friends and I huddle together, tell tales of woe and drink a few cold ones under the deepening evening sky.
I struck up an investing conversation with a trusted confidant the other day, and it unraveled something like this:
"So are you still preparing your 'All Weather Portfolio?"
"Oh yes that. Not really actually. I've gone offf the whole investing thing after Bitcoin's crash"
"Really? What so you've given up completely?"
"Maybe. I lost a ton, but that said, the whole thing taught be something I'd never thought of before."
"What? How to lose all your cash and end up a street drinker?"
"Na, but sure you never know what could happen. What I learned was this: It was like a switch flicked on in my head. My January Bitcoin slaughter fest made me think about the brevity of life. One minute we're here, the next we're gone. To where I don't know. Scary isn't it?""
"Jesus! This is a bit grim for a Saturday evening, isn't it? Lighten up."
"You asked, and I'm telling you. So many people invest likes there's no tomorrow, like they're invincible. It's an ego driven business and one to keep a close handle on."
"What... do you mean investing in general or just Bitcoin?"
"I'm not sure. The feelings I experienced are difficult to express, but one thing's for sure, THEY FELT RIGHT. IT WAS LIKE AN EPIPHANY" After the Bitcoin rout, I was on the edge. My thinking drifted inwardly towards the antipodes of my mind. In moments of deep, blissful self-reflection I discovered the self to be an illusion and that we are simply the imagination of ourselves. I'm not saying people should stop investing, far from it. I just want people to stop and think before they gamble their kids education on a 10% dividend yield. There's more to live, don't you think?
"What? You drifted toward the Antipodes of the what?"
" Ha! I'm only joking with the trippy stuff. But really I'm not investing for a while."
And there you have it folks. This was the moment I heard the word Epiphany in an investing context. Please if you haven't already read James Joyce's masterpiece 'Dubliners' and learn for yourself how a sudden, unexpected realization can change how you perceive and interact with the world around you.
All for now.
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