Charles O'Rear, 1973, Diving into the Colorado River at "Parker Strip." Credit: US National Archives.

What Think-Piece Writers Get Wrong About Lobotomies

The web is full of pundits looking to turn every topic into think-bait. One writer commits himself to thinking much, much deeper.

We live in the golden era of thinking. At no time in the history of civilization have so many thoughts from so many minds thinking about so many things been so widely available through so many thought-through think pieces. This is a democratic and altogether salutary publishing trend. However, as a prolific think piece writer myself, it’s only right that I pause to consider the innate advantage that qualifies me for this noble calling: a fully functioning brain. 

Therefore, being possessed of a decent healthcare plan and the ethical imperative to check my cerebral privilege, I drafted a will and scheduled an appointment to undergo a transorbital lobotomy the following afternoon. I also pitched my editor beforehand; no way was anything but by brain getting scooped.

To observe the lobotomy’s effect on my think-piece processing, I requested that a compilation of scenes from Gone Girl, Oscars telecasts, and Miley Cyrus music videos be shown on loop during the procedure. Once in the operating room, I exchanged pleasantries with the charming staff—no Nurse Ratcheds here—before a doctor thrust a pick through my eye socket and severed the neural pathways connecting my prefrontal cortex to my thalamus. Things were getting compelling.

Before going under, I had expected to feel listless and uninspired afterwards. Indeed, I went in wholly prepared for the possibility that I would never be able to compose a think piece again. But much to my surprise, I awoke brimming with critical energy. By the end of my first post-op day, I had composed three essays: “In Defense of Bedpans;” “Stop Surgeon-Shaming Lobotomizers;” and “No, Claire Underwood is Not a Feminist Icon…And That’s OK!”

Would I recommend that everyone get a lobotomy? Of course not. That would be an inexcusable act of brainsplaining.

A week later, I was churning out pieces at such a rate that my editor promoted me to head thinker and ordered the whole staff to undergo similar procedures.

My newfound productivity made sense. The doctor showed me a scan of my culture-stimulated brain during the operation. The buzzword and hyperbole areas of my cortex were lighting up like fireworks. Better still, the surgery had unexpectedly affected my visual processing such that I could now perceive unlimited shades in the most dully monochromatic of objects.

A seeming triumph, but elective brain surgery is more complicated than it first appears. Would I recommend that everyone get a lobotomy? Of course not. That would be an inexcusable act of brainsplaining. Moreover, having the ability to immediately translate every bit of pop culture ephemera into impassioned essays can be a curse. Hell is not other people (at least for the lobotomized). Hell is not being able to watch reruns of The King of Queens without writing a think piece on eldercare.

Another drawback is that I’m now and forever emotionally dead inside.

I know that my little experiment will be justly criticized by the think-piece community. What of those who can’t afford to go out-of-network for a reputable lobotomizer? Aren’t I carelessly appropriating an ancient ritual practiced by Grecian soothsayers? And isn’t this just another instance of Millennial self-absorption, lobotomies as the new selfies? Valid questions all, which is why I considered each in a series of preemptive hot takes that beat my colleagues to the punch. I vowed going in that no one would think through my lobotomy more thoroughly than I would.

I’m not going to pretend like I have the answers, partly because my pierced frontal lobe hasn’t yet fully healed. All I can say is that having my brain cut open gave me the confidence to make my voice heard. And that voice will continue to be heard as long as celebrities say things, dance in various ways, or act in critically acclaimed television series.

Alas, to quote from Ecclesiastes, one of our culture’s earliest think pieces, “To every thing there is a season.” Two weeks after the operation, I feel myself drawn toward a new purpose. I never could have predicted this, but being lobotomized has made churning out material just too easy.

But before I hang ‘em up for good, perhaps all of us—lobotomized and unlobotomized alike—should ruminate on one more thing: Is Adnan Syed guilty? More important, what does our obsessive need to determine his guilt tell us about ourselves? Personally, I solved the case, pinpointed the root cause of our true crime fascination, and deconstructed Serial’s unaired second season the instant scalpel hit brain tissue, but I’d still like to hear your thoughts.

Matt Seidel is a staff writer for The Millions. His articles can be found here. More by Matt Seidel