Nasdaq — Or Gnostic?

Are there atill some bastions of capitalism the NASDAQ hasn’t reached yet.

September 5, 2000

Are there atill some bastions of capitalism the NASDAQ hasn't reached yet.

One day something terrifying happened at work that would be the catalyst that would push me out the door on a pilgrimage. With about a minute and a half to go before airtime, I was walking toward the studio, giving a script about the day’s financial news a final, preflight check. “While the Dow was in the dumps,” the script read, “the gnostic was doing better, with the gnostic composite index rising 1.2%…. A gnostic trader is quoted as saying, ‘Everywhere investors look, they see reasons to buy.'”

I paused in mid-step, about to recuse myself from further broadcasting duties that day on the grounds that I was losing my mind. Did it really say “gnostic”? I blinked twice and fearfully shuffled back to that page again, praying I would find instead the word “Nasdaq,” the electronic stock market run by the National Association of Securities Dealers.

But it did not say Nasdaq. Settled before the microphone, in the remaining moments left before the show’s opening gong, I was forced to go on a furious hunting expedition, crossing out as many gnostics as I could find.

“Thirty seconds,” the director said into my headphones. “What does ‘gnostic’ mean?” I asked, pressing the intercom button. The producer’s eyes widened in panic. “Number one, I don’t know. Number two, you’ve got ten seconds. Number three, forget gnostic, they’ll think you mean Nasdaq.”

Greek isn’t listed on my resume as one of my languages, but I managed to recall that gnostic has something to do with knowledge, maybe self-knowledge. Somebody must be trying to tell me something with this gnostic thing, but what?

It occurred to me that I could study all I wanted about money and how it works, but until I knew myself, I would never understand what to do with it. The on-air light glowed red.

A forensic reconstruction of the events leading up to what has come to be known as the “Gnostic Incident” concluded it was “pilot error.”

An intern had thought he was doing me a favor by running an electronic spell checker on the script displayed on my computer screen prior to its posting on our Internet site. WordPerfect’s spell checker did not recognize the word “Nasdaq.”

The spell checker had taken it upon itself to make the substitution. “Gnosis” does mean knowledge, but the kind of intuitive knowledge that is more at home around the word “insight” than it is around the words “curriculum” and “training.” It is about coming to an understanding of yourself and then using that kind of knowledge to help interpret what is going on. It was the sign.

I concluded that it was time to get out and “Do the Knowledge,” just as we like to say we “Do the numbers” on Marketplace.

Adapted from “Squandering Aimlessly” by David Brancaccio. Copyright © 2000 by David Brancaccioi. Used by permission of the author.