Sunday, May 13, 2007

If my best could equal his worst...

I am generally opposed to the use of quotes out of principle. Quotes tend to do two harmful things: (1) encourage short attention spans and (2) force the hearer to add context (often distorting the intended meaning). Last night, I finished John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent and was vaguely disappointed. To be honest, I don't think I get the big picture. This wasn't Steinbeck's best, but if my best could equal his worst, I'd be set for life.

It did, however, have at least 18 quotable passages. I thought about sharing all of them, but I think one will suffice. The protaganist, Ethan Hawley, is a clerk at a grocery store he used to own, much to the chagrin of his wife and children. His wife's friend and quasi-lady-of-the-night, Mrs. Margie Young-Hunt, reads his tarot cards to say that he would soon make a fortune. Trying to make some inroads with that fortune before it arrives, she goes to his store and flirts with him quite obviously and suggestively, including by "bouncing her behind." That night, she's a dinner guest at the Hawley house as an invitee of Ethan's wife, Mary. He notes:

In the morning the out-of-coffee Margie was set for me like a bear trap. The same evening she drew a bead on Mary. If her behind bounced, I couldn't see it. If anything was under her neat suit, it was hiding. She was a perfect guest--for another woman--helpful, charming, complimentary, thoughtful, modest. She treated me as though I had taken on forty years since the morning. What a wonderful thing a woman is. I can admire what they do even if I don't understand why.

People often do crazy things for rational, irrational, and a-rational reasons. That's part of what makes us human. The job of the lawyer is, at its most basic, to prevent and resolve disputes between people. The only way to do that effectively is to understand why people do what they do, why they make the decisions they make. I chose to study law because it seems to recognize that people rarely act truly rationally. After one year studying law, I think I made the right decision. After two weeks clerking for insurance defense lawyers, I'm even more convinced that lawyers are the highest paid psychologists in the world.

Plus, we don't have to deal with the whole "pseudo-science" allegations psychologists have to face.


Yee said...

Freaking A, I hate that "pseudo-science" crap people push at me. I once had a large fight with my friends about it (me against everyone) and I still have not recovered. It was a war of attrition and I lost. The worst bit was probably when Jon's older sister (who all of our friends look up to, God knows why) joined in with their side. Just for a moment or two, but the damage was done.

ANYWAY, my psych degree has helped me immensely in the last week or so. I analyze them in my head, judge them, then can talk normally with them. It makes it much easier on me when I can pinpoint their issues, even if it's as simple as "wow, he's a total moron." But I don't think I'll really ever understand them. Why did that guy rob the bank? Somehow, needing to pay for his half of the furniture he and girlfriend bought just doesn't cut it for me.

avacadojer said...

I was sitting in a technical writing class in college once when I realized that every class I was taking was essentially an applied psychology class, even tech writing. Tech writing is basically getting into the reader's head, figuring out where he's confused, and fixing the problem in a way he can understand. If that's not applied psychology, I don't know what is.

And if that's not the most useful thing in the world, I don't know what that is either.