Monday, November 15, 2010

Introversion and You?

Last week, standing in a packed crowd at a general admission Ben Folds' concert, my daughter had an epiphany.

"You look uncomfortable, Abba," Avigayil said, "maybe we should move to a less crowded spot. Boy, now I see why you say you're introverted. I'm so charged up by being in this massive crowd, and you just look miserable."


It's one of those classic catch-22s in life. It is difficult to explain what its like feeling safer in your own space, when by definition you are talking to someone outside it. As Tom Lehrer said about alienated people writing literature, "If you have trouble communicating with others, the very least you can do is to shut up."

So it is always a relief to find someone who expresses it well. I recently heard that Emily Dickenson once took herniece into her bedroom, locked the door with an imaginary key, and said, "Ah, Mattie, here's freedom!"

Gut gezukt.

She found the freedom she sought in her own mind, in her own thoughts, in her own creativity. This was expressed by her poetry and in her poetry.

          A fairer House than Prose-- 
          More numerous of Windows-- 
          Of Chambers as the Cedars-- 
          And for an Everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky-- 
          Of Visitors--the fairest-- 
          For Occupation--This-- 
          To gather Paradise--

Rav Kook described a very similar existence. As in most things, I find his words to be beyond comfort. Rav Soloveitchik teaches me new ways of looking at things, that deepen and change forever my religious inner life. Rav Kook speaks out of my own soul, telling me things I feel and neve knew that I felt. I don't know how I could be me without him. 

I've been having a few crazy, busy weeks. It is hard to recharge without the time for quiet inner-space.  Reading the quote below gives me strength. 

Orot Hakodesh III – The Ascent to Inner Greatness

There are great righteous persons who are imbued with higher dispositions, who feel oppressed in their inner soul, because they do not penetrate into the inner greatness of their spirit. They do not believe with full faith in the holiness of their aspirations, and therefore they do not recognize sufficiently the enlightenment represented by the wide embrace of their thoughts. They go about bowed because of the secular burden of the world’s folly, the anger of fools, which presses on them. 

For this reason they find themselves in a sea of spiritual afflictions. The narrow thoughts of the masses oppress their spirits, and they lack the strength to raise themselves to think their own thoughts, to affirm the firmness of their own will. 

But they must finally awaken from their slumber. With all their attitude of peace and respect for the behavior of the masses, they will return to God, who always reveals Himself to them through their special windows and lattices. 

If you aspire for the Torah, raise yourself and gird yourself to meet that higher sensibility which stirs inside your spirit. With all your movements, with all your speech, with all your burdens physical and spiritual, that are placed on you, be brave and look straight toward the light that is revealed to you through the lattice.

Emily Dickenson


rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Great post, really spoke to me. I'm an introvert, get recharged by going inside... And I'm sometimes afraid to let my out of the box out.

dbs said...

For anyone who identifies with this post, you'd probably be interested in Devora Zack's book (full disclosure, she's my awesome sister in law)... Networking for people who hate networking: a field guide for introverts, the overwhelmed, and the underconnected.