Practical analysis for investment professionals
24 February 2017

Weekend Reads: The Call of the Void

Posted In: Weekend Reads

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression with this question, but have you ever been on the edge of a precipice and experienced a sudden, inexplicable impulse to jump?

Or how about your last trip abroad? Did you find yourself doing something you would never do back home, maybe wearing a local item of clothing — think crazy hat — or striking up conversations with complete strangers?

Well it turns out there are precise words for these emotions. That sudden urge to leap? That’s l’appel du vide, or “the call of the void.” It’s also known as “high-place phenomenon.”

As for acting out of character in different environments? Another French word: depaysement.

Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, delves into the subjective experience of emotions in The Book of Human Emotions. She details the “diversity of feelings named by cultures around the world,” from “basorexia,” the sudden impulse to kiss someone, to “abhiman,” a 3,500-year-old Sanskrit term that means bruised pride.

For a fun look at a few examples from the book, New York Magazine explored “10 Extremely Precise Words for Emotions You Didn’t Even Know You Had.”

Here are some more links to interesting articles, podcasts, and videos, in case you missed them:

  • I seldom have the time or presence of mind to listen to an hour-long podcast, but after seeing tweets praising Patrick O’Shaughnessy, CFA, and his recent interview with Joe Mansueto, Morningstar’s founder and executive chairman, I closed my office door and hit “play.” What a treat. As O’Shaughnessy explains in the teaser for this episode: “Joe is an entrepreneur at heart. He has the gene for spotting good business ideas and building them out with the customer in mind, so it is no surprise that the story behind Morningstar’s birth and growth is both entertaining and enlightening. While there are many business lessons in this episode, there is just as much to be learned from the way Joe conducts himself.” (Disclaimer: CFA Institute sponsors the Invest Like the Best podcast.)
  • If you had to pick an article from The New York Times that you thought was the most-read in 2016, what would it be? Chances are you would be wrong. Much to my great surprise, it was “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” an essay by Alain de Botton. (Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, as it turns out the topic of 2016’s most-read article, like the year before, was love.) I discovered this fact when I landed on the On Being website and host Krista Tippett’s interview with de Bottom, “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships.” Like the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem, I’m not sure if it was On Being that lead me to TED, or vice versa, but I thoroughly enjoyed his talk, “A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success.” (The New York Times, On Being, TED)
  • Kathryn Schulz has written a deeply personal and profoundly moving essay about loss and grief: “When Things Go Missing: Reflections on Two Seasons of Loss.” (I will never forget a line from her review of H is for Hawk, in which she captures the depth of grief in this sentence: “Like a tent poorly staked, she is filled by the storm that is grief and blown away.”) You may recall Schulz won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and a National Magazine Award for “The Really Big One,” about seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest. And for the runners among you, she wrote a terrific piece: “What We Think about When We Run.” (The New Yorker)
  • Since you are reading this post, you are already familiar with Enterprising Investor. But here are three recent pieces that are worth drawing your attention to, in case you haven’t read them: First, in “Gauging Market Sentiment: Selling Greed Is Harder Than Buying Fear,” Greg Blotnick, CFA, writes that “crowd psychology doesn’t show up on an income statement, nor can it be translated into a P/E ratio.” So how do we gauge market sentiment? Second, Julia VanDeren has “Five Tips to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile.” And third, in the latest installment of his Where Markets Fail series, Jason Voss, CFA, notes that markets assume a context entirely out of view of their participants, which can be bad news for both sides of the supply-and-demand equation. (Enterprising Investor)
  • Back in my days as a reporter for The Financial Times, I did a spell as consumer industries correspondent covering tobacco. (This was around the time the comedy Thank You for Smoking, based on the novel by Christopher Buckley, was released.) So I was especially interested in “The Man Who Studies the Spread of Ignorance.” It was the nefarious practices of the tobacco industry that prompted Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, to coin the term “agnotology” to describe the study of the “deliberate propagation of ignorance.” The writer notes, “Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking,” and in a tweet linking to the story, Jason Zweig quipped, “Now here’s somebody who doesn’t have to worry about being put out of work.” (BBC)
  • If you are interested in design, you may enjoy the images in “Living the High Life,” which is based on a book that explores some of the ways architects are developing innovative techniques for addressing overcrowded cities. Also, if you’re looking for an escape from the news, Netflix has a new original series, Abstract: The Art of Design. There are eight episodes in the first season that explore everything from footwear design to photography. (The Economist)
  • As a kid, I remember believing that carrots improved your eyesight and spinach was full of iron (thanks, Popeye). Well, neither is true. Nowadays, we hear a lot about “alternative facts” and “fake news.” As Emily Dreyfuss points out in her timely article, “Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again,” repetition makes things seem more plausible, and when people are weary or bombarded with lots of other information, the effect is likely more powerful. (Snopes, Daily MailWired)
  • How often do you find yourself describing something as “interesting”? If you’re like me, too often. So “Whatever You Do, Don’t Call This an ‘Interesting’ Idea.” (Aeon)
  • Willpower is a dangerous old idea that needs to be scrapped, according to Carl Erik Fisher, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, in “Against Willpower.” (Nautilus)
  • On most weekends, I head out on long runs with a group of friends. And as the mercury starts to rise, as winter turns to spring and spring to summer, the conversation inevitably turns to the subject of water. When I lived in New York City and ran in Central Park, it was never an issue because there are water fountains throughout the park. But in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I live now, water fountains are few and far between. And I don’t like carrying water. One of my fellow runners is always quick to remind me that each of us is responsible for “carrying our own water” in life — in the literal and metaphorical sense. He loves to quote Detective Maxwell Hoover’s line in the crime thriller Mulholland Falls: “Here’s something that doesn’t cost you 25 bucks an hour: You carry your own water, Ellery. You understand? You carry your OWN water.”
  • It’s the Oscars this weekend and I’ll be rooting for Hidden Figures for Best Picture. The film tells the true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three African-American women working as human “computers” at NASA in the early 1960s, during the height of the Space Race. This week also marked the 55th anniversary of John Glenn and Friendship 7‘s historic launch into orbit. On 20 February 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. There is a scene in the film when Glenn says, “Get the girl to check the numbers.” The “girl” he was referring to, of course, was Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson. With those words, Johnson’s role in history was forever changed. (Johnson, by the way, turns 99 in 2017.) (CollectSPACE)
  • For more on Hidden Figures and the book on which it is based, see: “The True Story of ‘Hidden Figures,’ the Forgotten Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.” (Smithsonian)
  • And on that note, a closing image from space. Have a great weekend!

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/oorka

About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster was a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

5 thoughts on “Weekend Reads: The Call of the Void”

  1. Dr.L Brody says:

    another panoply of “interesting” articles, congreatulations Lauren

    whoops on “interesting”

  2. Dr.L Brody says:

    another panoply of “interesting” articles, congratulations Lauren

    whoops on “interesting”

    spelling corrected

  3. Peter says:

    Lots of cool things to read, thanks.

    Regarding the fake news paragraph, it seems to me that the “fake news” thing is part of a much broader experience of being lied to than we often realize. We always want to put the spotlight on what politicians and corporations are doing, but consider the themes and assumptions that subtly pass by our critical filter when we watch the movies or television. How much of this is truth and how much is false, and what standard(s) do you use to tell the one from the other?

  4. Rob Martorana says:


    Thank you for collecting all of these links in one place. That’s a lot of work!

    Reading these articles is probably a better use of my time than reading most financial news (a necessary evil), since the links you cite might actually improve my decision making.

    Thanks again,

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