See these guys? These guys are portraying big money investor types on Wall street in The Big Short, which I just came home from seeing. These are the kind of people who have 50 million dollars to invest, in something. I never got even remotely close to anyone like this, but I was taking on mortgages during that era and I saw the madness on the street level up close.
In 1998 I wrote this poem:
“Middle aged white men with excellent credit, the Mortgage Man and I become kings of the Earth for a while.
Our bald heads shine in the soft Spring sunlit office, and his eyes twinkle as he spins out sheets and sheets of numbers.
My income and debts expand and contract with only a moments thought, and what I’m worth and how much I can afford all depends on how we look at them. Kings of the Earth can borrow enough to do anything !
His friends, the lenders, love me. My credit history shines for them like the Hope Diamond. They will lend me more money than I could ever pay back !!”
And that was what the banks did, they lent money to hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t afford to repay them, and that’s what led to the Great Recession that almost brought down the world economy, and cost 6 million their homes. But I’m going to highlight a different side to the crisis that the movie ignores.
As mentioned in the movie I could get, and did get, more than one, “no income verification” loans. In other words, all you had to do was tell the lender how much you made and no one checked to see if you were telling the truth ! The Mortgage broker often encouraged me to borrow more and more money during those years, I remember having to say no thanks to huge loans that I couldn’t afford. But you know what saves us from being seduced? Practice.
Chogyam Trungpa tells us that, “Wisdom is seeing and knowing.” In everyday language you could interpret this as, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Because if someone is offering you a deal which is going to screw you over, you can SEE and KNOW that. Now, anyone can become more wise. It’s not a factor of your IQ, or your background, or your education. Trungpa tells us how to become more wise, “The Earthy situation of actual things as they are is the source of wisdom. You can become completely one with smell, with sight, with sound, and your knowledge about them ceases to exist; your knowledge becomes wisdom.”
So, I was wise, I saw, and knew, that this whole thing was a trap, and I could lose my shirt, so I said no. I tapped out my little numbers on my little calculator and knew that I couldn’t make the big payments on these big loans and I said no, many times. You can too. Just say No when a deal seems too good to be true. Be wise. And, if you’re not wise, there is hope. There are things you can do that will help you be more wise. They are hard works, they involve being more present, and Seeing and Knowing.