It's the headline news! Money! Stock markets tumble throughout the world! The Dow Jones Industrial Average loses more than 500 points in the course of the afternoon, then recovers enough to register no more than a 400-point loss by the end of the day. What does all this portend? The experts are trotted out. Conclusions are drawn. Predictions are made. The nation extends its wrist to allow its financial pulse to be taken. Are we healthy or sickening? Are we headed for the toilet? Will we all survive? The panic mounts...
It seems to me that the markets and their mavens would do well to take a lesson from simple Buddhist wisdom: sit back, take a breath... take another... Bring the attention to the breath and, of course, keep bringing it back each time that the mind is tempted to lose itself once more in idle speculation. That way, panic is avoided, the situation calms, and equanimity is restored.
How we love the drama, though! How we love to tease ourselves with the direst of all possible outcomes! How we yearn for those very things that are denied us by the nature of reality: for certainty, for reassurance, and knowledge of the future! The financial markets are no less subject to change than everything else in this world, but the human mind is always reluctant to grasp that simple reality. We want the markets to keep going up, to satisfy our desperate need for security.
The media, of course, who report on these events, are savvy to what it is that appeals to our less noble qualities, and play to the lowest of them all: our greed and fear. Will I lose what's mine? Is this the beginning of the end? Will the capitalist system fall apart? Is this the demise of civilization as we know it? The first sign that Armageddon is upon us? Will the terrorists win?