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Solitude



The scholar's tendency to neglect social life while he is working intensely has caused loose thinking to classify him as "an introvert." The term, "introvert" and "extrovert," as they are used in current social literature, usually seem to imply degrees of selfishness or the less selfish and the more selfish. Degrees of selfishness appear to be measured by sociability or volume of acquaintance and social contacts. It is assumed that the unselfish person, interested in others, goes out of his way to meet them and to cultivate their society, while the introvert, or selfish person, avoids the trouble of meeting people and keeps to himself. And yet even the simplest observation tends to show that an interest in meeting people is by no means eyidence of an unselfish interest in them. The politician is eager to meet and know people because he wishes to obtain their votes though he may or may not be keenly interested in their welfare. A salesman may be a highly sociable fellow because he wishes to sell bonds or cars or vacuum cleaners. The self-centered society woman may be interested in people and able to charm them because she wants an audience and because she likes to exercise her charm. The unsociable scholar or creative artist, on the other hand, may be very little interested in himself, as his personal appearance all too often attests, and in many instances his work is of greater moment to him because he realizes its potential value to mankind. It would appear that an interest in people is an interest in people and that something more than a quantitative measure of it is needed before it can be stated that it is selfish or unselfish.

Both the scientific research worker and the creative artist require as their normal condition for effective work a large measure of solitude at intervals and the ability to enjoy and profit from solitary effort. But the prevalence of the belief in some circles that the only normally adjusted person is the bouncing back-slapping joiner commonly labelled the "extrovert" has made it difficult for the person of creative ability or scholarly interests to secure normal conditions of work without being subjected to ardent missionary attentions from those who want him to make their form of normal adjustment by joining clubs, playing bridge, riding to hounds, and betting on the races.

The annals of the sociability experts are replete with histories of the shy retiring lad with stooped shoulders who wrote poetry as an outlet for his repressions until the expert persuaded him to join a club. Whereupon his shoulders square, his chest bounces out to normal dimensions, he walks with a spring in his step and his eyes sparkle with fun. As further evidence of new-found manliness he takes lessons in boxing, challenges the local bully and in the final scene knocks him to the floor while crowds cheer. Of course he stops writing poetry since he no longer is repressed and the world rejoices that another average man is born from wholesome club life.



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