This may be why grass is generally so short.
I’m a bit enchanted by Susan Cain’s Quiet, a book whose principle characters (i.e. Elaine Aron, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) include voices I’ve long known and much appreciated.
My first point for today’s blog is to sound a mournful note of compassion for students far and wide who are putting themselves back together in the face of rejection as the blood and dust settle in the wake of the absurdist ritual known as college admissions.
The psychology of competition, elitism and scarcity are such that the more difficult something appears to be (expensive, rare, etc.) the more it is treasured and thus the higher the price (financial, emotional, etc.) becomes… until, at some point, the bubble of delusion and inflation inevitably burst. Trees do not grow to heaven.
Thus I am both wishing love and hugs to young kids who have put themselves out there in the most personal and vulnerable sorts of manner, only to be told that they did not quite measure up. This s a brutal process that appears a sacrificial rite of spring promulgated by bogus and inflated would-be rain-makers (brain makers? connection makers? status makers? heart breakers?).
I’m not too interested in deconstructing our manic culture of extraversion so much as encouraging a quieter listening for the rise of something kind, connected and more authentic. I believe that spirit counts and I invite you to join me in wishing love, confidence and mending to kids who may be taking their “no’s” personally.
No makes sensitive kids wonder, was it my essay, my scores, my grades, my background, my what that made some other kid get chosen?
Applying to college is a loud and extroverted fracas, a sell-yourself sort of awkwardness that makes me particularly want to put arms around the sweetest of the kids, the ones who lack guile, and also those who tried to out-tiger all the others and still tasted dirt in the end. They’re kids. It’s we who should know better, who should not be playing Hunger Games with our babies.
Perhaps it is up to us introverts to raise our own esteem and consciousness, to take stock and own that we may have some solid ideas on how to do things differently; and to pragmatically accept that “no one” (meaning currently dominant culture) cares what we think precisely because we are not extraverted and brash.
Maybe it’s time for us sensitive sorts to carry our sensitivity more proudly, to see that it is a gift and a valuable part of a balanced culture. Perhaps we will not get the loud to listen, but we could stop trying to catch a meaningless ride on the loud cloud. We could think more quietly, we could listen more to each other, the formerly overlooked people in our own sphere; we could re-think what we personally wish to seek and promote and, upon reflection, begin to buy that which is sensitive, reasoned and introverted.
We vote with our money, and we “pay” with our attention. Perhaps our feverishly burning culture is akin to cleavage, of which Jerry Seinfeld counsels that one should “look, and then look away.”
So… Introverts unite! But only very loosely. Unite, but don’t come over to my house (or at least call first). Better yet, let us employ our powers of poetic imagination to realize that we are indeed, and already, united and voting with our hearts and minds for a pendulum swing back toward realness and away from empty, cynical and money-extorting hype.
Susan Cain inspires by stepping up and playing the extravert game in her own style. But what really excites me is that Cain helps me realize that I don’t even have to be like her (book tours and talks; I could try for more of that, but I don’t have to). If my metric is not Ivy League, or NY Times “best seller” or what have you, perhaps I, we, participate in a radically different world in which our group and its spirit, heart and ethics become a sort non-personal or personified hero rising to its own collective hero’s journey, and not from the glory of any particular one of us.
For years I had a “fear of success” and I could not explain it to those who would seek to encourage me, to whisper “grow, grow.” My fear, I sense, was to become empty and hollow in the pyrrhic victory of soulless “success.” But when I look at what our culture has become, what is “famous,” and what hyped-up mediocrity passes for brilliant, great and amazing I realize that the mind we carry with us from childhood knows what it knows, and it knows what is crap. It just turns around and lies to itself in order to fit in, to be popular, to be “cool.” That, as I mature, strikes me as a dangerous sort of failure.
Thus we need the courage to keep it real, to actually care about each other without conforming to some monolithic and saccharine crunchiness any more than we conform to some monolithic and inane idiot wind of the social media.
We don’t need to take our stand against extraversion on steroids, rather we need to take our stand, together, for realness. Authentic extraversion? Fine. It’s those cloying and doomed-to-suck attempts at mimicry and conformity of the dominant, brash, deeply unnourishing culture that ties us introverts into hopeless and hapless knots. Opt out. Let it go. Perhaps try to connect with us fellow introverts and see if you don’t move from virtually invisible toward interwoven and included, visible as a trend more than as any given spokesmodel for nothing but one’s self.
People always point to Gandhi as a quiet example of world-changing. Yet it’s been quipped that it took a lot of money to keep Gandhi living in poverty. Maybe our new world is better served by an even quieter, leaderless and organic rising consciousness. Perhaps we are co-creating that very consciousness as we write, think, care and love.
Meanwhile I’ll see you in the secret quiet cafe, the lovely inward-growing garden, along the trail one forges through the wild and wooly authentic unconscious, and in the soft-spoken corridors of life well-lived according to our own terms. Sure, we’ll need a little money along the way but even then we need to embrace and trade in our own economy, make our own marketplace founded on spiritual wealth before material. Then we will have trust, honest exchange and we will be the market-makers.
Then we will arrive at what the trees-grow-to-heaven crowd will never have: enough.
Perhaps if we give ourselves some space and time to think and breathe, to create what interests our soul-Selves, daring to transcend the rushing time-frames of hyper-competitive preschool admissions, and middle-school, and high-school, and college, and graduate school, and corporate director, VP, President, pundit, I-am-my-resume and my prizes and then my tombstone as identity… perhaps we quieter sorts might tumble into a different consciousness, a boon of spirit gold and a genuine ability to craft things and ideas, lives and loves—co-crafting a consciousness of loving kindness deeply rooted in pragmatism and thus able to reach its branches toward real clouds.
And maybe we’ll do a little better by each other and all our collective children.