Beware The Expert

Someone once told me they appreciated hearing about books I’ve read. Well, maybe not this one. The topic is a study of randomness, or rather, random events. It is part math, part philosophy, part economics, part daily life. It is The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

A Black Swan is a seemingly random event that has great effect. Perhaps you could see something coming, but still the event precipitates suddenly. As we say in English “out of the clear blue sky.”

The economics part of the book discusses that Taleb, both a Ph.D. in math and a stock trader, protected himself from a potential black swan and made a lot of money in the 2008-2009 crisis.

One thing I picked up (and it actually reinforced observations I’ve made for years) is to beware the experts.

He actually began to suspect this as a youth. He grew up in Lebanon during the civil war. He had a close relative in the government. After talking with both the minister in the government and his chauffeur, Taleb discovered that there was no difference in understanding between the two. The expert and the “man on the street” had almost equal lack of understanding.

Taleb documents many times that Nobel laureates in economics got things wrong–about the economy.

Beware the expert!

Transferring the thought to our spiritual formation–look for practitioners who humbly share their insights. I have tuned in to books and podcasts by popular religious teachers and discovered that they are so full of themselves that I wonder if there is room for the Spirit.

Beware “experts” who know much theory and so little practical spiritual practice.

I am so influenced by a statement of Carl Jung the psychologist and opponent of Freud who, after years of personal experience, answered the question do you believe in God, “Believe? No, I don’t believe. I know.”

Or as the teacher Mike Breaux said in a podcast I listened to yesterday, “Don’t believe in God; believe God.”

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