The world won’t stop hovering

CAIN - Quiet

Very late last night, right at the heels of some kaiju-attack-inspired wishful thinking re Monday [01] [02], I realized why I’ve been so resistant to Susan Cain’s Quiet. It never really made sense to me, why I wasn’t all snuggly with the book, when it could very well be a manual against (erm, for?) the world. This book was on my side—who loathed the fact that the world won’t calm itself enough, won’t shut the fuck up, more than I did? Sure, my shorthand was to liken it to the Chicken Soup books—a whole lot of rah-rah encouragement without a lot of meat behind it; distressingly patronizing as though it very well knew that introverts will always be goddamned little weirdos—but I couldn’t quite quantify all that grump.

The answer, it struck me, lay in Monday and all its myriad ills. The TL;DR version of this epiphany is: “Bitterness re problematic real life application of how amazeballs introversion is, plus the mechanisms that will ensure it keeps on being amazeballs.” That, despite all the research we’ve done and all the gains we’ve made, despite all that we know for certain—introversion will always be wrong. Reality insists that we can’t make “allowances” for introverts, never mind that these’ll make everybody’s life so much easier.

[For what it’s worth, I think the Quiet-reading will be smoother going with this realization. And it also helps that the book has begun wading the science waters.] [ETA: The science part tapered off soon enough, and we’re back to Wall Street go-getters, a whole lotta pimping of the introvert ideal, plus I had to sit through a rather uncomfortable comparison of Western extroversion vs Asian (or, really, just Chinese, accdg to the book) introversion. Right.]

In the first hundred pages of Quiet—I had dropped out thereabouts, before I picked it back up again yesterday—Cain focused on exemptions to the rule. We have creative geniuses who rose above the cult of groupthink because the world let them be left alone. We have organizations conscious of the need for solitude, and thus improved on their protocol and created spaces that would foster creativity—both for extroverts and introverts. And all that just pissed me the fuck off. The last thing any of us—me!—needs are reminders of how those examples are not the norm; we are not in the ideal world. Or, at the very least, in the world that listens. The world that can let go of decades of status quo and personal bias, one that could just leave us all alone for just a bit so we can function, goddammit.

Visual artists at work on some grand scheme hunched in front of the laptop screen that the rest of the room can see anyway. Writers who have to escape to bathrooms and stairwells and parking lots just so the writing heart could un-freeze itself. Managers who work best from some hole in the ground, sending missives via the interwebz, posted smack-dab in the middle of the bullpen. The open floor plans and the glare of the fluorescent lamps—the nerve-wracking exposure! Group brainstorming sessions! Supervisors with itchy feet! The looks when you insist, “If you want the work you hired me for, knowing what kind of weirdo I am, you have to walk away right now from this dark and cozy cave I’ve fashioned for myself.” Exclamation points!

The world hovers. It’s standing behind you right now.

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One comment

  1. Oh true, I think I agree with you about this definitely being a drawback of the book. Then again, there is no way of discussing the subject of introversion without drawing attention to how the world does not really approve of the characteristic.

    Quiet for me was a less than perfect book. I very much enjoyed the idea of it, but the execution was not exactly as I would have wished. Perhaps what I disliked most was the idea of biological determinism that seemed to slip in here and there.

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