If I removed the filters that constrain my speech, people within earshot would be shocked. Awkwardness would wash over them—and me—putting a damper on casual conversations. Some people might blush. Others might be titillated. And still others might react with anger and offense. There could be other reactions, as well. Jealousy. Longing. Flattery. Fear, perhaps? Or disappointment? Embarrassment?  Of course, there might be no reaction at all; as if my words did not sufficiently disturb the molecules of air, failing to create the vibrations we associate with sound—as if I just mouthed the words. One day, when I am alone with someone—you, perhaps—I will speak my mind. Jointly and simultaneously, we will experience whatever shock my words could cause.


The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.

~ Dante Alighieri ~


As offensive as capitalism often is, the excitement and allure of the economic system can be intoxicating, as well. Years ago, I spent quite a bit of my free time “playing” with very small stock market investments. I relied heavily on Morningstar to learn how to assess a stock’s short-term and long-term potential. Because my investments were so small, even highly lucrative stock plays yielded little in absolute terms; a 100% increase in the value of a $100 investment does not constitute the accumulation of wealth. With such miniscule investments, the wrong buy and sell decisions could erase weeks or months of stock value. And that reality is what steered me away from investments in individual stocks. Over time, I lost too much of what I had won to convince me the allure was worth the risk. But I never completely lost my appetite for investment research. I still explore potential investments in stocks from time to time. Yesterday, for example, I spent a good hour or two reading financial analysts’ assessments of various company stocks, after which I employed my very rusty analytical skills, in an attempt to identify stocks with significant upside potential and only modest downside risk. But I did not invest in any stocks in response to my efforts. Not yet, anyway. Between yesterday’s foray into naked capitalism and this morning, I have almost decided to treat my interest in investing the same way some people (including me) treat gambling: give myself permission to establish an initial investment fund of up to a certain amount (for the sake of argument, I’ll say $10,000) and limit my losses to no more than that initial investment. So, the sky’s the limit in terms of investment returns, but if the investments do not pan out, the most I could lose would be that original amount. I’ve almost decided. But not quite yet. I want to remove more of the rust from my memories and my strategies. Only then will I be willing to give myself permission to invest and, in the worst case scenario, lose every penny of a limited investment pool. We shall see how it goes. In the interim, I will watch some stocks:

ASML, the predominant supplier of photolithography equipment for semiconductor manufacturers, has been identified by Morningstar analysts as one of 33 undervalued stocks that hold promise for the second quarter of this year. But it is not cheap; not by any stretch. It closed yesterday at $629.24. It’s 365-day price has ranged between $363.15 and $683.69. And the analysts give it a fair value estimate of $760. If a person were to buy 100 shares (a $6,292.40 investment at yesterday’s close) and if the stock reached its fair value estimate of $760 in one year’s time, the investment would reach $7,600, an increase in absolute value of $1,307.60. That’s a nice jump, but it is not enough of an increase to keep food on the table. Serious investors might need to buy 1000 shares of the stock at yesterday’s market price to make the investment’s payoff worth the risk. An investment of roughly $692,000 might yield a return, if the stock were to reach its fair value estimate, of $130,760.

Suddenly, the amount of money (and the risks associated with it) necessary to achieve a “significant” return seems out of reach. Even if it were within reach, I cannot imagine myself accepting such an enormous—in absolute numbers—risk.  Perhaps that is why it has been such a long time since I played the stock market. I am more risk-averse than I once was. And I am more risk-averse than I want to be. Yet I prefer safety and comfort to starvation and insolvency. For now, anyway.


Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

~ Confucius ~


Phaedra woke me this morning. When I did not get up immediately, she went into the bathroom and knocked an orchid off a table, littering the floor with potting soil and arrogance. Had I been in a different state of mind, I might have decapitated the cat and placed its severed head on a post in front of my office window. Fortunately, I was cool. I maintained my serenity. I stayed calm. Phaedra will live to yowl another day.


I have a craving for something, but I can’t put my finger on it. Taste is difficult to explain; it is especially tough to explain taste to a person born without a tongue.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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