The Power of Introverts

I’ve been writing about this book, and here is the author’s TED talk. (The book is so much better. Of course.) But the talk is well worth a quick listen, holding within it glimmers of the richness in the book itself.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

This all leads, in some way, shape, or form, to Carmel, The Ascent of Mt. Carmel by John of the Cross – Spain’s greatest poet, one of the Church’s greatest spiritual writers, with a deep and rich call to the interior life that he did not take for granted. The necessity of time away, time with one’s thoughts, time spent in one’s heart, where alone we know the Lord, who reveals Himself in majesty.

A song of the soul’s happiness in having passed through the dark night of faith, in nakedness and purgation, to union with its Beloved.

1. One dark night, fired with love’s urgent longings — ah, the sheer grace! — I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised, — ah, the sheer grace! — in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me more surely than the light of noon to where he was awaiting me — him I knew so well — there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united the Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast which I kept wholly for him alone, there he lay sleeping, and I caressing him there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret, as I parted his hair, it wounded my neck with its gentle hand, suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved; all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

John of the Cross

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The Culture of Personality

It’s a simple idea really, and she documents it with precision.

As Cain writes in her book, we currently live in a “Culture of Personality,” where extraversion is the ideal, a far departure from the past “Culture of Character,” which prized honor and discipline. “What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private,” she writes.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-power-of-introverts-qa-with-susan-cain/

Thrown into the mix of a culture growing on salesmanship, the same culture in which Dale Carnegie grew to be an icon, she documents the change in advertising as a simple way to see what was growing in the popular culture of the time. Ads changed from simple advertisements, to the perceived need for a product to be accepted and loved. “Buy this Toothpaste and make the best first impression.” “Buy this scent so everyone will know you’re the best.” That sort of thing.

Business schools started gearing their classes towards extroversion, et cetera down the line until we see today the leadership courses so popular that rely almost solely on extroverted leadership as the basis and norm of action in being a qualified leader.

As priests we take these leadership courses on and off – team building, brainstorming, meetings galore. Nothing is ever said about the need for people to have time to focus and develop their ideas, and nothing is said about the fact that many of the most successful corporations and businesses have as their leaders complete introverts (think Microsoft, Apple, for starters.)

This boils down to our current situation, in the Church, where we priests being expected to be extroverted leaders in a world dominated by extroverts, aside from the fact that most priests are introverts. The culture of personality shows up very strong in such an environment where we see priests needing to be liked more than they are expected to behave in a Catholic way in private.

The reliance on a culture of personality for church leadership can, in my own consideration, lead to such things as Fr. Travis Clark and Fr. Pat Wattigny, doing everything right to be priests, yet having a bizarre double lives.

Extroversion and Introversion aside – they’re just preferences and not the ultimate shaper of one’s free will – Cal Newport writes about Deep Work. His writing is geared towards academics, but how much more necessary is it for the Church to observe his own basic and obvious conclusions? Three to four hours are required to enter into a state of thought conducive to our best work in any subject.

As a musician I would practice three hours a day at least, it was the only way to play a Bach Fugue on the organ as it should have been played. (I don’t have that time anymore, so don’t play publicly anymore – many musicians do the same once they move on.) As a leader I insisted one of our introverted workers have the free time to spend three to four hours in her work, because she is capable of greater things when allowed that time and space.

In the Church today we see everyone going from Parish to Parish for Fr. X, Fr. Y, Fr. C – it’s all about the Priest and not about the Mass. Fr. So and so is nicer, he understands me, the music is better. Parishes – most of them – are no longer formed around the Faith – they’re essentially formed around the current Pastor.

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“The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.” Cal Newport

Much to reflect upon in our current state of affairs.

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