Imagine 32, 19 and 20 year olds learning (in some cases literally) at the feet of two professors who are married to each other in a class that covers everything in Western culture from The Bacchanalia to Freudian libido. It’s a large, sunny family room of a Victorian, mining-era home with wing chairs, chaise lounges, dreadlocked freshmen in thermarest loungers, towering first-line hockey players and a half dozen people who easily could have gone to Williams or Yale but thought the winters in New England would suck and therefore, came west to be intellectually fabulous and a mere two hour drive from Breck in their late model 4Runner. Everyone in the room is smarter than you. In the classroom are several future attorneys, surgeons, human rights activists, an individual that to this day is one of the brilliant political puppeteers in all of Colorado and yours truly. It’s the 1994 edition of Colorado College’s Greek History and Philosophy.
To keep it simple, here’s a Wikipedia synopsis of Aeschylus’ amazing Orestia, specifically Agamemnon.
The play Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων, Agamemnōn) details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon’s absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family, who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.
You wonder why the Greeks are rioting. They used to be great. Clytemnestra is a 2600 year-old example that life is not resolved in a P&L. Agamemnon just won the flipping Trojan War people… he’s the conquering hero of the age. Clytemnestra, if motivated by a profit-motivation, is in the proverbial catbird seat. Her man is home, and her man owes. Instead, cause does not equal a neat and tidy effect, and she murders him. You really have to read Aeschylus (preferably out-loud with others, make some spanikopita, get some grape leaves and wine, it’s fun) to get the full effect of this early heroine of feminism’s motivation. Let’s just say it is timeless because life doesn’t work in mechanical input-equals-output ways. It is timeless because it is eerily true in a way that surprises us with it’s unpredictable familiarity. To accelerate the gamut of emotions, it’s something like this: “Wait… she did what? That way? Wow. Yeah. I could see that. Wow.”
Fast forward two decades and Aeschylus is as relevant as he was 2600 years ago. My advisor at CC said “there is truth, and then there is the meta-truth”. She was talking about the dot and the dot and the dot that people see as life’s datapoints… and then the artistry that was woven between those dots. To use math language, what if the dot and the dot and the dot that we see from a distance on one plain as a triangle are actually being influenced by poles on two additional planes… how will we know to even look for those poles? Well, immersion in the Classics (and Philosophy, and Political Theory and Ancient Language and all four major epochs of western history) has a way of getting one’s brain past simple face value. We read the Orestia in a night, then read large chunks in the round with assigned parts, and debated and tore it apart for three hours straight with two phenomenal teachers who usually didn’t agree with each other. Sure, knowing the facts and details is important for the bucket list of education; but knowing why it all worked the way it did, and how other examples can later unfold, that’s something else entirely different and far more potent.
People who buy their residence based on Excel are usually the same ones selling a year later. They came to a vital decision in what academia calls STEM-thinking (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). STEM-thinking allows you to see clearly all the objective pieces (the dots), even all the objective pieces interacting on the board. But it doesn’t tell you how they might interact on the board, why they interact, why things are not always mechanical or systematic… and it also doesn’t tell you to look for outside influences that can break down the relational structures. Mechanical STEM-thinking hates things like “personality”.
And if this all sounds like high-minded, ivory-tower horse pucky, well, it is horse pucky, but it ain’t ivory tower. A social psychology professor friend (CC ’97, represent!) posted this great article from The Economist today on Facebook, the need for more anthropologists on Wall Street. The Economist, an international standard-bearer of rational, empirical thought, is puffing up a colleague over at The Financial Times, another standard-bearer of the left-brain P&L crowd. And one of the sharpest tacks out there is a Cambridge educated Ph.D in… anthropology. Gillian Tett predicted a credit-default-fueled implosion in 2005, largely because she understood inter-personal relationships. To quote: “But the other thing is, if you come from an anthropology background, you also try and put finance in a cultural context. Bankers like to imagine that money and the profit motive is as universal as gravity. They think it’s basically a given and they think it’s completely apersonal. And it’s not. What they do in finance is all about culture and interaction.” This line of thought sees financial crises before they happen. It explains why banks, who are in the money of usury, are not lending money to suitable borrowers (inventing metrics for trust and relationships). It explains the political ramifications and vendettas of our present day.
What Hannah and I do in real estate, finance, economics, is far more about culture and interaction then it is about a gravitational attraction to profit. Today I got to speak to someone that was looking for 500 acres to lease for wild horse habitat. There is, let’s see, exactly no money to be made in this project if I’m thinking like a banker. Like, um, nothing. And since most 500 acre land owners in eastern Colorado subscribe to the theory of highest and best use (see Banning-Lewis Ranch and it’s dangerous infatuation with gas leases of late) putting a very small number of horses that need huge range on an oversized property is what economists call “a sunk cost”. How do Hannah and I see that? First, educate on the prevailing winds of sunk cost, but then flush out the angle of what the opportunity cost looks like: Good will. Story-telling. Common hearts. Who are the players. How do we get Catamount Institute involved? Who in CC’s Environmental Science Department might be a catalyst? Can we get media, the visuals are superb, but media will likely have to pay for a night’s lodging with the day long drive to Montana so we really need to craft a home run here to get them on-board… etc. What will Hannah and/or I make on this? Are you serious? Anything? Probably nothing. In the short-term.
Will we learn something? In the short and long-term, we will.
We don’t have it nailed. Goodness no, we don’t. That’s why we don’t do this blog for SEO. We do it for a finite audience that wants something different, who doesn’t trust easy answers and wants to make lasting decisions of value.
The Stat Pack is well into it’s sixth year, bigger, fuller, richer with more data than ever. About 85% of the Stat Pack is data and charts. What we do differently is that 15% of subjective. It allows us to craft lessons and strategies that are not as universal as gravity and are completely personal.