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011 - On Introverts - Moral Letters for Modern Times

Introversion is not something that is remedied by exposure. If anything, repeated forays out of comfortable seclusion only strengthen the desire to return to safety.
011 - On Introverts - Moral Letters for Modern Times

I talked recently with your friend Didacus after a lecture. He is capable, and gives the impression immediately that he is a sincere student. When I challenged him, he was at first hesitant to respond. I could see him drawing away before he pulled himself back, and I fault him not. It is a natural instinct, particularly among the inexperienced, to avoid a confrontation and retreat to safety. The introvert is never so safe as inside their own head. And I do not doubt that though he will be cured of the affliction of youth, he will continue to shy away even as his experience grows. Introversion is not something that is remedied by exposure. If anything, repeated forays out of comfortable seclusion only strengthen the desire to return to safety.

Examples of accomplished recluses come easily to mind: Howard Hughes was fantastically wealthy and freakishly eccentric, all but guaranteeing he would be of constant interest. He could so little bear interaction with others that he would shut himself away; he spent four months in a studio screening room without once leaving. Upon checking in to the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, he refused to leave, eventually buying the hotel to avoid confronting the owners.

Or consider Harper Lee, who blazed into the public eye after publishing To Kill a Mockingbird. We could not get enough of her, but she had her fill of us, and so retreated into isolation and published nothing more for over half a century. Some types of people thrive on exposure, while others wilt and withdraw.

As I noted, practice alone cannot undo the introvert element of human nature. If we could simply wish to change our nature and make it so, wishes would rule the world. An introvert by birth will be an introvert at death, no matter how often they force themselves into public interactions to lessen the power of their feelings. But you need not worry if you yourself or another you encounter has introvert tendencies, because all that your progress requires is within you.

It is time now for my parting remark. Listen and learn from this lovely lesson:

When witnessing the good action of another, encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it. Censure yourself, never another.

This, dear Deuteros, is the wisdom of the Zen practitioners, who remind us we can behave correctly when there is no one about to correct us. The introvert need never be separated from both good and bad examples, and from both they may take their lessons though they stay secluded. When we bring to mind a virtuous act, it serves as an example for us to emulate. And observing the foolish in their cavorting, we see clearly the line we know not to cross. Blessed are they who by keeping both the worst and best in their thoughts, know which paths to avoid and which to favor.

Though we may shun all others as a measure of our self-sufficiency, we can still measure ourselves against the standards of humankind.

Be well.

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