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Let's take a deep breath.

October 18, 2008

Count to ten, relaxing ever more.


At a time when the forces of the global markets and the collective mindset seem out of control and beyond comprehension to even the “experts,” I’m unable to resist sharing some music.  This connection might be a stretch, but go with me.

We often hear that in trading the market it is important to act not on what we think, but on what we SEE.  What IS happening, regardless of whether we understand why.  Ich habe genug (I have enough) is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach.  It seems an appropriate selection now as we must remember the value of accepting and submitting to a higher power be it a God, spiritual guide, or a market in which we each play such a minute role that our impact or contribution is virtually insignificant.

This work was written in Leipzig for the Feast of the Purification on 2 February 1727. The Purification commemorates an incident recorded by St. Luke in which Mary takes the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to offer ritual sacrifices.  I am not much of a religious man, so I see this and present it merely as a tale and not a biblical lesson.  Take from it what you will.

As I undertand it, the text for this aria is taken from Simeon the Righteous.  According to a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint (LXX).  As he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”, and wondered how this was possible, or even that it might be a copyist’s error, an angel appeared to him and told him that the prophecy was correct as it was written, and that he would not die until he had seen its fulfillment with the Christ born of a Virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously longeval.

According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.).  Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, the Holy Family encountered Simeon the Righteous. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.” (Luke 2:26)  Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

I get the impression that the general public is increasingly unfamiliar with the music of Bach.  They can’t possibly know just how beautiful and affecting his music can be. One must simply be willing to slow down a bit from our media overloaded world, broaden the attention span and take in extraordinarily soul stirring, earthly and captivating music.  Bach was one of history’s great composers and a true master of counterpoint.  Although he introduced no new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic organisation in composition for diverse musical forces, and the adaptation of rhythms and textures from abroad, particularly Italy and France.  In a period when the building blocks (tonality, harmony, form) and structures of western music were developing into a sophisticated and refined language, Bach transcended any feeling of confines or convention to give us an emotional experience we can feel innately. (In writing this, I have drawn heavily from Wikepedia.)

With the finest of baroque music, there is an opulence, a supremely tasteful and polished order, yet it is emotionally exposed, direct and exposed.  Broad musical structures and an effortless use of counterpoint around divine melodies make this music both soothing and stimulating, almost as if a mental message.  One might consider it intimate.  In this work, the ensemble of strings, oboe, basso continuo and bass soloist combines for a beautiful, natural, delicate and still a full, balanced body of sound.  German bass-baritone Thomas Quashoff is the singer here and has a beautiful and seemless sound.  Notice also how nicely this language with all its “harsh” consonants flows from his native tongue among the wavy musical backdrop.

This is the first Aria in the work, after which come two more arias with recitative in between them.

Relax and enjoy.  This is good. 🙂

English translation below:

Ich habe genug:

I have now enough,
I have now my Savior, the hope of the faithful
Within my desiring embrace now enfolded;
I have now enough!

On him have I gazed,
My faith now hath Jesus impressed on my heart;
I would now, today yet, with gladness
Make hence my departure.

Obviously, the point I make in connecting this tale to our place as traders in this market is not to say that we should make our departure or accept our defeat.  But rather to step back, respect the will of the market, and get in line with it.  To remain active and successful in the market, we must embrace and submit to it.

Regardless of what we may think, the trend is a powerful force and we are powerless to it and its waves of volatility.  So as they old saying goes, “The trend is your friend.”

Walk with Jesus!  🙂     (Sorry.  I couldn’t help it.)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    October 19, 2008 1:45 am

    “is not to say that we should make our departure or accept our defeat.”

    Who is defeated? Are you defeated?

    When did Simeon accept the fate the Angel described to him? When he was 100? 150? 200 years old? When Jesus arrived “for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

    We do not make money as traders submitting to the will of the market after the fact, but exactly when the Angel appears.

    Thus, the question I would ask myself in seeking a lesson to apply to this story… when did I accept the Angel’s words? When did I accept there was a bear market going on? Just now? a month ago? 4? or over a year ago when it started? What was the Angel? Did I heed him? Will I recognize him when he comes again?

  2. uptownred permalink*
    October 19, 2008 11:20 pm

    There are at least two things I can usually count on with these blog posts:
    1. There will be little or no response from the group.
    2. If there is a response, it is likely old Smokey, and there are likely to be some rhetorical, passive-aggressive questions.

    No, I am not defeated. I can’t say exactly WHO is defeated, but with some record amount of money pulling out of funds and equities on whole, it seems that a significant portion of the investing public does feel defeated or unable to confidently invest their money in the market.
    My point is the same as you are making, to listen to the Angel when it appears. Not to wait until your account balance of zero finally delivers the proof to the prophecy. In our case, the angel with the most usable prophecy is the charts. Of course, charts are open to interpretation and they DO change with each new day. So I agree with your take on how to apply any lesson here. Have I accepted the direction of the market? Now that it’s been down for a year, when and how did I factor that into my thinking. How do I interpret things now and how do I move forward.
    In trying to make a connection between this piece of music and the current market, remember that I warned it was a bit of a stretch. Perhaps I tried a bit to hard to make it relevant. Regardless, it is still perhaps useful in terms of stepping back from the violent swings and the fear they have induced (as evidenced by the VIX and the 13 week Treasury Bill going to zero at one point) to not only assess whether or not we as individuals have appropriately reacted to the markets over the last year, but also to identify the NOW of what the charts and angels are telling us.
    It is a bit late to “get bearish” as a blanket statement, and it is also late to take one’s money out of the market (AFTER the huge retracement of the bull market.
    There are surely as many opportunities now as there are risks on both sides of the market. We must learn to submit to what the markets are showing us instead of what we think the market SHOULD do. Surely, this is no small challenge for most people, particularly considering the mentality that “market timing” is impossible. This will always be the case.

    Anyway, in the end, the post was really mean to be a brief musical repose, as opposed to a big philosophical lesson. A moment of silence, if you will, for the sake of rejuvenation and clarification of one’s position and plan going forward. The quiet after the storm is always an interesting time for reflection and taking stock. It may not be quiet for long, but hopefully we’ll all be ready and confident to act on the signals we’re given in the coming months.

  3. Jim permalink
    October 20, 2008 5:40 am

    Those were two different thoughts in my comment, first the “rhetorical, passive-aggressive questions” followed by my interpreation of the bible passage rearding trading. The passage in the music is kind of like Simeon “taking profits” if you will as his ordeal is over. What this made me think of though was Luke 1:26-38 where Mary is told by the Angel Gabriel she will conceive a son without “relations.” At first she is confused and resists but then submits saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” So she is “entering the trade” here. lol. But this is what we are doing when entering a trade or changing our posture based on a technical view since we don’t know wha the future will bring or especially how fast it will bring it.

    So in order to profit be must enter like Mary and take profits like Simeon. hehehe. Love that bible.

  4. cate douglas permalink
    October 20, 2008 1:39 pm

    People don’t always write or express their thoughts –
    not because they don’t care either.

    I enjoyed the music and reading your thoughts.

  5. Ed Krupa permalink
    October 24, 2008 8:19 am

    Very nice…It’s good to step back and mix it up a bit and get another perspective…I like the music.

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