Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reflections: Weblog Commentary

I have been meaning to launch this blog post for some days now, but I’ve kept putting it off because I couldn’t decide how to frame it. Rather than continue not to get the words online that I wanted to share, therefore, I’m just going to go ahead and post them unframed and let them stand (or fall) for themselves.
This material consists of a comment made by Ron King, a valued sometime visitor to this blog, followed by several comments made by me, elsewhere. I asked Ron’s permission to share this comment because it will be made available to my Facebook friends, as well as to readers of this blog. Ron made the comment in response to this post. I will edit Ron’s comment only to the extent that his very first sentence has been moved to the end of the comment. I do this in order that it may segué into the rest of the material, all of which consists of comments I made on a couple of different strings, to a couple of different people, following posts on one of my favorite blogs, Vox Nova. These I will simply clean up to stand alone, if any such polishing is necessary. I will offer them without comment, while inviting comment on them here. Without further ado, Ron King:

The problem for introverts is the early emotional conditioning of fear and rage due to the pain of being aware of not being validated by the primary caretakers and then the educational system. Consequently, the introvert is constantly under the intrusion of forces trying to make her/him into something she/he is not. This will cause a further retreat into self along with an ever increasing suffering.

Once the introvert has an awareness that being created in this way has a distinct spiritual purpose of exploring the dynamics of human suffering and the loss of love as the cause of suffering, then introverts can begin healing the false identity that has formed in reaction to a world that does not know how to love.

Loneliness begins to fade when the introvert begins to educate others about what it means to be an introvert. They can begin to teach extroverts what it means to be more sensitive. Every introvert I have known in my life has a passionate desire to be free to express their truth. The freedom is to be found internally and not externally. It is to be found face to face with extroverts, regardless of what they may say or do.

xxxxx[and now the sentence I've moved]

Jesus is an introvert.

Vox Nova: excerpt 1

Another commenter said of Jesus,

“…if he were conversant in Greek philosophy to any extent why did he not lay things out ever in a similar style.”

I replied,

Jesus perhaps did just that, when speaking to learned Pharisees; or, perhaps, to learned Romans. It is unfortunate that in the Gospels we are usually only given the punch-lines of his dialogues with his intellectual opposition. But, in most of what we are given, he is preaching to peasants and fishermen and shopkeepers, etc. There is nothing to be gained by speaking over the heads of one’s audience.

Any time I am arguing with a Catholic and I quote a Bible verse in support of my central thesis, and that Catholic then visibly pales, frantically starts making the sign of the cross and backs away from me screaming “Sola scriptura! Sola scriptura!” I am reminded that this once had some validity. Pre-Gutenberg, people didn’t own Bibles. Most people weren’t literate. What they knew about the Bible had to be spoon-fed to them by clerics. The priests don’t want to relinquish that power, so they preach still today against the “proof-text,” as though the text shouldn’t be a source of proof. I have to either spit on the floor, or chuckle. Hopefully, I usually choose the latter course of action. Luther, to his credit, not only translated the Bible into German, but preached that people had a duty to read it, and to interpret its meaning (with a little help from above), each according to his special spiritual need at any given time. This is not to use the Book as an oracle, but rather to use it as a learning tool; as a workbook for the student of the spiritual connection between heaven and earth.

To sum up: Jesus knew what he was doing.

Vox Nova: excerpt 2

I don’t know what “go to heaven” means, because I can’t conceive of heaven as a place. I can only understand heaven as a state of being. The upshot of that would be that only saints would “go to heaven.” One would need to be in a state of being compatible with heaven, i.e. “heavenly.” And by “saint” I don’t mean what the Church routinely means. What the Church means, in most cases, is something like “Employee of Decade” or “Distinguished Professor” or “Father of the Year.” So, what happens to the rest of us, I don’t know. That sad alternative may be what’s happening to us now. Being Christ-like does not mean being a really big fan of Jesus. It doesn’t mean liking Jesus, it means imitating Him.

Vox Nova: excerpt 3

I’m not so interested in the theories such as that Jesus went to India during “the lost years,” or that Jesus was the iniate of a Greek mystery cult, etc. I think it enough to speculate that Jesus was very probably literate; that he grew up in a Hellenistic milieu; and that he may very well have had some acquaintance with, and instruction in, both Greek (Platonic) and Roman (Stoic) ideas and used some of those, tailored to the levels of sophistication of his audiences, in his teaching.

I also think it very telling that Jesus was apparently not a Jewish nationalist. Reading the New Testament, one would get the idea that Jesus and his followers were wandering about in tranquil, almost sleepy countryside. In fact, of course, the area was crawling with insurgents and a constant thorn in the side of Rome. Jesus seems to have been totally aloof from all of this, which makes him somewhat less than ultra-Jewish in his thinking.

Moreover, if he had been nothing more than an unusually witty freelancing Jewish rabbi, I doubt that we would be talking about him today.

Finally, Socrates had Plato, and Jesus had Saul of Tarsus: the rest is history.

Vox Nova: excerpt 4

The difference, of course, is that Socrates and Jesus had visionary interpreters of real genius, both of whom offered a set of ideas too grand to ever be exhausted by subsequent speculation, or completely co-opted by "the world," and which, therefore, endlessly spark the imaginations of intelligent and creative persons who come in contact with them.

This is to take nothing away from the mediation of Socrates or Jesus. In both cases, their teachings were worthy of such interpreters. I assume that this was a necessary condition for the production of those interpretative bodies of thought.

I see the institutions--the Church, the Academy--to be like globs of semen; millions of sperm sent forth to produce one fertilized egg; millions of the "faithful" assembled to produce one true saint. And only the saint transcends.

Vox Nova: excerpt 5

The very last thing that a saint would want to be, I should think, is innovative or original. A saint is simple. There is nothing novel in the truth. The saint is proof that the truth can be received from its source and that life can be lived in accordance to it–not merely read about and acquired by rote for recitation on command. Man would get redemptive brownie points for the latter only if Kafka is G-d and the path to “heaven” really does lead one through the corridors and the various official stages and offices of some vast bureaucracy, beginning in the kindergarten of the parochial school and ending before the throne of judgment.
Your comments are welcome.


wade-m said...

There's a lot of material upon which to comment in this post. For now,--and with all due respect to you and Mr. King--let me take issue with the following statement:

"Jesus is an introvert."

Is this to be taken to mean that Jesus, seated now at the right hand of his Father in heaven, is feeling rather inward and shy and reflective...?

(Maybe this explains why we haven't seen him for two-thousand odd years--he's a shy introvert!)

Or did we mean to say that Jesus *was* an introvert?

Well, it's certainly possible--just like it's possible that Jesus levitated from off the earth just before that first Pentecost of the Christian church (do you believe that, Rodak?).

Now, according to Luke's gospel, at the age of twelve or so, Jesus was found in the temple engaging the teachers of the law in a vigorous exchange. Does that sound like the behavior of an introvert?

Are you in the habit of going out in the street, approaching complete strangers and telling them, "Come, follow me!" If you are, then you're one helluva(n) extrovert...

Rather than saying, "Jesus is an introvert", or "Jesus is a socialist", or whatever, wouldn't it be more apt to say, "Jesus is a fairy tale"?

What is to be gained by asserting that a fairy tale is like us?

Rodak said...

Thank you for reading and commenting. I think that you are using the term "introvert" more in its vernacular sense than in the way Ron is using it in his comment. I obviously can't go into any great detail about Jung's psychological theory of introversion here, but let me suggest just this: introverts are not necessarily "shy and withdraw," although they aren't apt to be characteristically boistrous. The thing that distinguishes introverts from extraverts, is their whole orientation toward the world: instead of always looking outward and being drawn *out* of themselves to seek objects in the world, introverts internalize that which they value, bringing those things *into* themselves where these things are then "metabolized" (my word, not Jung's) in order to nourish the introvert's whole gestalt. Is this not what Jesus seeks to do with you, and with all souls--bring them into Himself? Jesus taught that the Kingdom is within you, and within Him ("my kingdom is not of this world"). I hope that Ron will correct me, if I'm not doing his meaning justice here.

Rodak said...

I should have added to the above that, with the exception of his choosing of his twelve disciples--for which it is fair to assume he must have had some kind of selection criteria--Jesus is not characteristically shown approaching strangers on the street. They come to him, and he takes them, and their problems, in.

wade-m said...

Rodak, your reply to my comment is fair and your points are well-taken. Yes, I'm using "introversion" in its vernacular, and not in its psychoanalytical, sense. The nature, worth and problem of introversion in this psychological sense is indeed interesting and I hope to have more to say about it in coming days.

The gist of my comment, however, had less to do with the nature of introversion than with the tendency to identify the figure of Jesus with our own characteristics and qualities.

Would Jesus vote Democratic? According to some of the commentary on this website, he most certainly would.

Does Jesus have repressed memories of being abused as a child? According to some of the commentary on this website, it is most likely...


Ron King said...

Rodak, first of all what you summarized as an introvert I totally agree with.
wade-m, Introverts are internally driven through the development of their extremely sensitive neurobiology. Consequently, they will experience the existential crises of death, freedom, isolation and meaning more consciously than their less sensitive counterparts. The manner in which the introvert interacts with the environment is determined by the family history of social interaction and the quality of the relationship with their immediate caretakers. A secure attachment will enable the introvert to be very expressive about subjects which are related to the well-being of human relationships. This will give others the impression that the introvert is an extrovert. When the introvert is self-aware and free from the influence of fear there develops a passionate love and compassion for those suffering in the world. That love is then externally expressed as an action. There is also a passion for understanding how love and lack of love affect all of creation. An introvert will be open to the suffering of others and will experience an intense empathy as a result. If the introvert does not have the secure development of her or his identity then this empathy may become diagnosed as a neurosis or psychiatric disorder.
There is so much to say but I hope that is helpful to understand where I am coming from.

Rodak said...

I would reject as simply not interesting any attempt to psychoanalyze Jesus at the personal level like that. I think that there is enough known about him, however, to assign him to one of two categories as broad-based as introvert and extravert. This is especially true since these orientations only express a set of general tendencies. All introverts have a little extravert in them, which shows from time to time, and vice versa.

Moose said...

***All introverts have a little extravert in them, which shows from time to time, and vice versa.***

Case in point, you writing this blog. It does take a certain amount of extraverted balls to set up site and post your thoughts while inviting others to make comments to what you post.

At first, I had taken exception to the "Jesus is an introvert" comment, in the same way as Wade did.

But, I wasn't even thinking of the word "introvert" outside the vernacular sense.

And your last post from which I had quoted above touches on a point I was going to make. Nobody is a complete introvert/extrovert as most people have some nuance to them.

Interesting post with food for thought.

Rodak said...

Thanks, Moose.
Ron's comments are much better stated and more detailed than are mine. He is a man who has given these things much thought, using a fine mind.

wade-m said...

First of all, let me say that I appreciate the thoughts everyone has expressed.

Ron--you would seem to speak as "one who knows", i.e. I take it that you are a "self-described" introvert who has more or less made the passage which you relate in your comments. And while I certainly don't fully understand everything of which you speak, equally certainly I understand its thrust. Rodak has already identified himself as an introvert in a previous post; and in a previous comment thread, I indicated my own affinity with the label.

So I consider myself to be an introvert--in both the commonplace and clinical senses of the term--just like the two of you. In fact, I *know* that the two of you must be introverts--because it *isn't possible* for an extrovert to have knowledge of introversion (apart from the recognition that "this guy isn't like me") and I am skeptical of the notion that their ignorance can be remedied by education. That would imply the very capacity to sympathize which I believe they lack.

One issue that I have with the tenor of the discussion of introversion thus far--both in this post and in the previous post where this theme was taken up--is the emphasis the two of you seem to place upon the "dark side" of being an introvert, its negative implications and consequences, its "victimology" if you will, and the need for some sort of "recovery".

And, again, I know where you're coming from and what might give rise to that sort of attitude. Nevertheless, from the vantage point of my life today, I wouldn't myself want to paint it in such colors.

Instead, I'd like to think something like the following: That "introversion" is almost the supremest gift and blessing of a human life and all that is needed is for the introvert to accept it as such. Thus, if we're feeling victimized as introverts--that's really something we're doing to ourselves. Introverts--not extroverts--are the real victimizers of themselves. Extroverts, insofar as they "victimize" introverts, are completely innocent in so doing--as "they know not what they do".

Again, there's enough material in this theme of introversion, etc. to fuel a lengthy discussion on any number of lines and I look forward to everyone's ideas.

Rodak said...

I agree, Wade--it is a gift. But it is also a cross-to-bear, in many ways. The introvert is often lonely; usually misunderstood; sometimes despised; and routinely ignored. This does not mean that one should go around thinking of himself as a victim. But it can be difficult; particularly when one is young and not yet sophisticated enough to understand the dynamics of his situation.

Ron King said...

Rodak, I appreciate your comments very much. I remember my high school english teacher telling me in front of the class that I was not capable of going to college. I proceeded to graduate ranked 180 out of 220 and went into the air force instead.
Wade, I also appreciate what you have written and I agree there is so much to discuss. I passionately agree that being an introvert is a blessing and for some it feels like a curse. I counselled Viet Nam Vets for 5 years during the late '80's and I remember one vet stating "Where there is mystery there is no mastery." Such is the case with introverts and extroverts and everyone in between. I believe we are victims and we victimize until we begin the process of awakening and then we have the freedom of choice. Before that we are mechanistic in our primitive response to the environment both external and internal.
Many years ago I read a statement of Buddha that we must know our hate before we can love. After reading that statement I half-jokingly wanted to start the I Hate People Club in order to begin to love them.
Where do we begin? First, I think it is important to understand generally speaking that the introvert is more sensitive physiologically and consequently psychologically. It has been discovered that certain people are born with more pain receptors and as a consequence they are more prone to feeling the effects of painful stimuli more intensely and earlier than others who do not have the same receptivity. In an experiment with people who had fibromyalgia and those who didn't an MRI took pictures of the brains' response to pressure being placed on each person's index finger. It took 50% less pressure to trigger the pain center in the brains of those who had fibromyalgia. The majority of those who had fibro were females and a few males. I wish they had been tested for introversion and extroversion. There are also 7 primitive neuropathways to address as far as identity formation and interpersonal development are concerned. The common names for these pathways are fear, rage, separation distress, nurturing, lust, fun and drive. In my view the introvert will experience the separation distress signal sooner than the extrovert due to extreme physical and emotional sensitivity in response to physical distress or distress coming from the caregiver. If the caregiver is unable to calm self and thus calm the child, then the child will amplify in distress to the development of fear, then anger, then rage and then a shutdown or dissociation from the internal pain and the external inability of the caretaker to relieve his/her pain and thus causing a trauma in the safe attachment between child and parent. If this is consistent the distressing emotions of the child become internalized and lay the foundation for the identity. Internalized is fear, rage, isolation and a sense of helplessness. This is what is considered darkness, but I consider it evidence of an inability to understand what it means to love which is transgenerational.
In my opinion the introvert must first understand that whatever she or he considers unlovable within is the result of not receiving the perfect love that she or he was created for. However, this is not to be used to blame anyone for as you noted "they know not what they do". That is a start.
Extroverts can develop sensitivity but it is extremely difficult to teach them because they have mutated into warriors with extremely strong primitive defenses.
I hope this made sense.

Rodak said...

I can't add anything to that, Ron. Right where you say "That is a start" is where I lost any need I may have been feeling to add to your thoughts in this comment. What is needed, in both the individual and the world, is equilibrium, which puts gravity to positive use, or at least neutralizes its negative effects. Easier said than achieved.