Are you Waiting for Godot when it comes to investing?

“Have you seen that play called ‘Waiting for Godot’?” asked the wealthy man living in the sprawling bungalow next to my house. He was known to speak sparingly and in a cryptic manner when he did. We had just met him at a common friend’s wedding reception.

“Have heard and read about it, but never got myself to watch the play,” I remarked.

“It could be called either funny or absurd or nonsensical on the one hand; or, it could be called philosophical, existential or even having a spiritual message on the other hand. I get reminded of it a lot when I see the constant chatter and commentary on the markets and economy in today’s media.”

The wealthy man looked up Wikipedia on his smart phone for Waiting for Godot and narrated to us what he found:

“Waiting for Godot follows two days in the lives of a pair of men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognize him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide – anything ‘to hold the terrible silence at bay’.”

The wealthy man chuckled when he read that. He said “If you see or read the play, your first reaction would be ‘what kind of absurd play is this?’ It is about two men Vladimir and Estragon waiting for someone called Godot. There is a sequence of events that happen over the two days where we are shown three characters –  Pozzo and his slave dog Lucky who keep forgetting, and an unnamed boy who keeps getting messages from Godot. During the two days, many times the two men decide to leave, but every time say that they can’t as they are waiting for Godot. At the end of the two days, eventually no one knows who Godot is, and he never appears!”

Elaborating further, he continued, “I am just an audience, not an expert on the play, but I have found it funny, boring or profound based on my mood. People who study the play have called it everything from absurdist, meaningless, humorous, philosophical to a ‘representation of repetitiveness of life itself’ in which the two men represent mankind and Godot is God.” Obviously it looked like depending on how you saw it, there were multiple interpretations of it.

I asked him, “So why do you see parallels between the play and life in the markets?”

He said, “Indeed. most people seem to be like Vladimir or Estrogen, waiting for a Godot or a set of Godot’s who never come. And then there are the people who complicate things more than required – seeing patterns where none exist.”

“So what did the author actually mean when he wrote this play?” I asked eagerly, not quite sure I was able to comprehend it completely.

He smiled and replied, “You know, Beckett who wrote this play was always a bit cryptic and non-committal when asked this question. Beckett clearly realised that one of the reasons for the play’s success came down to the fact that it was open to a variety of readings and interpretations, and that this was not necessarily a bad thing. Beckett was actually surprised when people started analysing it, and had once remarked in honesty, ‘Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can’t make out.’ Not very different from what we see around us in the markets, I guess – the complications, the analysis and interpretations, the lack of simplicity, the various characters, and the endless waiting for Godot.”

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