Monday, November 24, 2008

An Apt Description, Or Perhaps Just A Desirable One

I was chopping vegetables beside her when she brought up a cooking show I hadn't seen. I told her that I don't have cable.

"What!" she said. "Do you live in a bubble?"

I ignored the question for a minute or two and resumed chopping. I thought of the picture I have in my bedroom, the one depicting a group of people standing atop a bubble as it floats over a rocky beach and the sun sets behind it.

"Yes," I said after a while, "I guess I do sort of live in a bubble."


Friday, August 22, 2008

Silence Equals Consensus?

There was diversity training at my office the other day, and it was painful (not because of the topic, only that it's so tedious). Everyone else was a good sport about it, but I wanted badly to leave. In any case, the instructor made a statement during the three hour session that seemed appropriate to mention here. She said, "Silence means consensus." I'm taking her statement out of context, of course, but I've heard this phrase used before and I don't agree with it. The point being made is this: if you don't speak up about someone's "wrong" behavior, then you're accepting of it and possibly even complicit in encouraging it. For instance, if someone is using derogatory or stereotypical terms when discussing others, not calling the person on it is the same as agreeing with it. But I think there are many other reasons why a person might remain silent.

A person might:
  • See their silence as a rejection of the behavior, and their lack of participation, verbal or otherwise, is evidence of that;
  • Think the behavior is unacceptable by personal standards, but realize that in most cases people should be entitled to their beliefs, however idiotic and wrong-headed they may be;
  • Be lost in thought about it;
  • Just not care to contribute anything;
  • Be in shock;
  • Have more important things on their mind, like what kind of groceries to get later or what to do once the weekend arrives;
  • Plan to send a written note rather than discuss matters openly;
  • Or any number of things.
What's funny is how much emphasis the instructor put on being open-minded. And yet she was quick to jump to conclusions about a person's silence. I'd say that is very judgmental. What is it about silence that troubles people so much?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Fun Way To Plead For Silence

What? Silence offends you? You feel you have to make conversation?

Quoted from Northern Exposure
By the wonderful character, Adam
In the episode, "The Bumpy Road to Love"
Season 3, Ep. 1


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So Called Introverts

It's nearly impossible to identify for sure who is and who isn't an introvert. Even an extreme introvert is hard to spot at times. Take myself as an example. Every social activity that I partake in makes it more difficult for people to peg me. Even venturing out into the world helps create a blurry image of the type of person I am. My own claims to be one of the more extreme introverts you'll ever meet mean nothing. And I can't blame anyone for not believing me. After all, I don't believe others who make similar claims!

I hear it all of the time. A friend once told me that he considers himself to be introverted. If my facial expression didn't convey my disbelief, I think I said something like, "You?" He's one of the most outgoing and social guys that I've befriended. He's nearly always talking and joking with someone, and often he's either the life of a party or its clown.

As another example, I've heard many celebrities make the same claim, actors who are apparently creating a ruckus in public every day and who seem to crave attention from news and media -- not for work or to garner publicity for a film, as far as I can tell. Although I don't know them personally and could never say for certain, their claims seem to defy believability.

I realize a wide spectrum may exist for introversion, but sometimes I'm forced to wonder if anyone truly understands what it means. Other times, I begin to think that claiming to be an introvert has become fashionable, that everyone wants to "join the club". I should probably be reluctant to call myself one.

Though it sounds very elitist, perhaps I should come up with some guidelines on spotting real introverts. Or the extreme ones, at least.



I can take some ragging. Anyone with even a slight sense of humor should be able to. And, if one particular subject has been the impetus of the ragging for your entire life, you should be used to it by now. So it is with my quietness. But I still like to document it, if only to illustrate how regular it is.

I'm on my way out of the office at the end of the day, nodding and saying a few goodbyes, when one of my teammates says, "Good chatting with you today," the joke being that I'd said not one word to him. These have become common parting words from him during the last several weeks. This from a guy with whom I've worked closely for the last seven years, with whom I've enjoyed many lunches and activities unrelated to work, whose family I know and whose home I've been to.

You'd think some jokes would get old. But maybe the humor is in how old they are.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Relief In Solitude

Freedom, in my eyes, involves settling into the void, a place where no one can detect me, being able to disappear and feel that I don't exist to others. Freedom involves breaking free of the chains and shackles that emanate from the awareness of others; it involves no longer feeling self-conscious. There is such relief in being alone.


Why Not Speaking Is Better

The other day at the office, a coworker walked by my cubicle while showing a potential employee around. As she made her rounds, she introduced everyone to the candidate. When she got to me, she told the said candidate my name and then she said about me: "He's shy."

Why do people do that? Why try pointing out a person's most prominent character trait?

First of all, I'm not shy -- I'm an introvert. I felt like replying rudely, "I'm not shy. I just don't like you."

Secondly, it doesn't take much creativity or intelligence to frequently make note of a readily observable feature. It's like remarking that the sky is blue. Every single day. And if I were to take up the same habit, it would be the equivalent of introducing people thus: "Hi, this is Sally. She's fat." Or, "I'd like you to meet Bob. He never shuts up."

For extreme introverts like myself, I'm sure this is a common occurrence. In fact, this happened last week as well. Another coworker was showing someone around the office and, when she got to me, said, "He doesn't talk, so you'll never hear from him."

What the hell?

Sure, people think they're funny, but really they're just being insensitive and dull. It would be better if they said nothing at all. At least their silence would be a kindness to us all.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Keys To The Soul

I was watching a favorite show of mine the other night, Northern Exposure, and in this particular episode one of the main characters loses his voice. He later laments the loss of his voice by quoting Voltaire -- I believe it was this quote: "Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls" -- and, taking it further, by saying that the voice is the bridge to other people's souls, that without it we are alone in this world.

This struck me as a sad and typical view. It could be interpreted as saying that the souls of introverts are shut off from others. At the least, it portrays being alone as an undesirable thing. But why must it be undesirable? It can be wonderful! Also, there are other routes to the souls of others. There are many ways to communicate and there are far worse things than not being able to speak to people. In fact, it could be said that many of the troubles in life occur because we speak too much!

Anyway, I haven't written in a while and I figured I'd jot down these simple thoughts. Nothing serious. I'll try getting into more of a groove here.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Defeating My Purpose

Here I am, attempting to document my thoughts about what it's like to be an extreme introvert, while every word that I write seems to discredit what I claim to be; after all, words and introverts don't seem to belong together. The fact that these are written words and that they remain unspoken means little. I'm releasing these words rather than hanging on to them, setting them free rather than storing them inside, pouring them forth rather than bottling them up. I'm defeating my purpose with every keystroke.

And yet my claim remains the same. The irony involved in sharing my thoughts is likely to make my credentials hard to understand - if not believe - but that's an integral part of being me. I still intend to put together this collection of notes. Whether my words work against me or not, I believe they are still true and honest.

Maybe they'll also carry some insight with them.