Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

For my Law and Psychology class, we've been focusing each week on a different emotion, and we have to write short response papers about some of the reading. This week's emotion was worry, and the reading was about how part of Worry is physiological, and adrenaline can burn holes in our brain, and also about how people experience strings of worries -- one patient described calls them SBPOWs (spontaneously branching polymers of worry) -- that can take over their minds. I just finished the paper and sent it. I'm kind of amused by it. So I feel compelled to share. I've edited this slightly. Which perhaps I should have done before I submitted it. :)


My first inclination was to write a short paper this week all about worrying about what to write about this week. I was going to describe the “SBPOWs” (although I was worried I would spell that wrong) that developed as I sat down to write: the thought that it wouldn’t be a legitimate enough topic to write about, and that any positive feelings you may have had from the previous papers I had written would be overshadowed by the negative feelings that such a pointless and ridiculous paper would create in your mind; the thought that these negative feelings about my paper would lead to my being called on more often during the seminar; the thought that I would give a terrible answer to one of the questions you asked, and my classmates would hate me; the thought that they would tell their friends what a terrible answer I gave in class, and those friends would tell other friends, and pretty soon I would have no friends left at all; the thought that without any friends, I could find myself alone forever.

But then I realized that this was too easy. Surely, I wouldn’t be the only person who would decide to write about worrying what to write about. It’s an obvious angle, and pretending it was some original thought of mine would just make me seem silly and naïve. And I worried that if you thought I was silly and naïve, you might be inclined to give me a lower grade in the class, simply as punishment. And that would lower my GPA, which would potentially make it more difficult for me to find a particular job (although I’m not entirely clear how my GPA will affect employment possibilities, since everyone here gets jobs and it doesn’t really seem like, in practice, it matters much at all what our grades are), either now or in the future. And if I can’t find a job, I’ll have to eat lunch by myself, because everyone else will be working. And that might make me sad. And if I’m sad, no one will want to be around me. And I could find myself alone forever.

So I decided that I would take it one step further. I wouldn’t just write about worrying about what to write – I would write about worrying about writing about worrying about what to write! But then I worried that this would be confusing, and if I wrote a confusing paper, I might confuse myself just as much as I’d confuse you, the reader. And if I confused myself, at least according to the reading, I might burn a confused hole in my brain that would make it easier to be confused in the future, because the confused pathway would be deeper and more able to be filled with adrenaline. (It took some energy for me to convince myself that this reading wasn’t trying to be funny, because the idea of a “brain burn” sounds pretty silly, even if it’s actually a real physiological occurrence, but I’m going to pretend I really believe it’s true, especially because the author apparently went to medical school.) And if I was confused more often, people wouldn’t like me as much, and I could find myself alone forever. It’s worrisome how that always seems to be where these strings of worry end up.

In any case, then I started to think about whether it was actually true that people wouldn’t like me as much if I was confused more often. Maybe they’d like me more. Maybe people like when others are confused, because it makes them feel smarter. Maybe if I burned a hole in my brain to make me confused more often, I’d actually have more friends, and a more satisfying and fulfilling earthly experience. So maybe I shouldn’t have been worrying at all about writing a paper about worrying about writing about worrying about what to write, because the more confusing, the better!

But then I worried that this whole thing was just silly. Oh well. I can’t very well start from scratch now that I’ve gotten this far. Because then I’d have to cancel my lunch plans, and people would stop making plans with me, and I could find myself alone forever. Which is worse than getting a lower grade in this class. Maybe.