"Writing itself becomes the subject of the writing course..."

 — Michael Carter       

Introverts and Imagination

November 28th, 2015 by

I am an introvert. There was a time in my life when I tried to fight this. I tried to be an extrovert, and all I got was exhaustion. I tried to hide my introversion, and I simply looked more introverted than ever. I finally gave up.

I am happy with who I am. I will never have legions of people dancing around me. I will never lead a corporation. But I know how to recharge after having had to attend meetings where people collaborated. Occasionally, in those meetings, I smile when I hear of others being imaginative and even whimsical. This is because I am perfectly capable of entertaining, all by myself, in my own head, different scenarios. I think about how others must view things very differently than I might. I have a vivid enough imagination. Some may think that this means I am cut off from reality. But the sense I have when I hear my extroverted friends processing their thoughts loudly to me over coffee is that my own processing isn’t divorced from reality. I have simply done it without a sounding board, sometimes going a little deeper with the same ideas than my extroverted friends. I seem to have gotten this from the imaginary conversations I’ve enjoyed from reading books.

At the same time that my own introversion is sometimes seen by others as a liability, I also know that imagination has been given a bad rap. Fancy is the term often applied to it. But I know this is hardly fair.

I connect imagination to a focus on real problems–to problem solving itself. And there is one greater area of the human condition that I really find imagination is vital to: loving my neighbor.

This is not where the blog gets sentimental. I am talking about love in basic terms of knowledge and understanding. I am convinced that it is people of imagination–that is, people who can think about a single problem or person or picture from more than their own angle–who are able to move toward solving the problem, giving the kind of love that is fulfilling, and/or seeing new things in the picture.

Think about some of our national responses recently to terrorist attacks. The responses have all, I think, been imaginative, or at least they have engaged the imagination of most people–mostly the darkest parts of our collective imaginations. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. I know so many people of Islam who are also good people that I can imagine that profiling all of them is the wrong imaginative response. In fact, I think that profiling reflects a reduced, impoverished, fearful imagination. It reflects an inability to observe, to note differences.

I can no longer separate most of the things I work at from imagination. It is not fanciful, elite, cut off from everyday reality any more than being introverted is. It is how we move to transform the everyday. It is how we learn to love our neighbors.

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