We’ve all heard this criticism. We read too much. When we’re seen reading, especially some subject material that seems uninteresting, we seem ‘out of touch,’ ‘with our head in the clouds,’ ‘on another planet.’
In general an introvert submerged in reading is perceived as trading the vibrant world around them for the dusty and colorless world of books. The experience within books seems like a faded and flat flower pressing compared to the three dimensional, colorful, living flower.
To the extrovert, a book is a pale abstraction that crumbles away against the vitality of actual experience. By extension, someone who spends considerable time reading is dry, abstract, lacking in personality, vigor, and practical knowledge.
To an introvert, however, there is nothing abstract, cold, or distant about habitual reading. Rather than distracting from the surrounding world, it sheds light upon it and makes it richer. For a Subtle person, the information found in books makes the experience of our world immeasurably more beautiful. It allows us to reach back into time and through the wisdom of ages so that we may put our world into perspective.
Books allow us to perceive the wonders of our world through countless other people scattered across time, place, and circumstance. To a subtle person, an extrovert lives in a very small pond indeed. They understand their universe almost exclusively through a random handful of contemporaries. That they see introverts as deprived is just a symptom of their ignorance.
A Loud person tends to perceive dead words on a page that yield a pale impression and nothing more. Someone who focuses on all things on the Surface remains on the surface of things. A Subtle person seamlessly moves beneath the dead words and into the pure meaning they represent.
To a Loud person, the content of books is dead, dry, fossilized information. You get a can opener and open it up when you need it.
To the Subtle person, books are living streams of consciousness from other human beings in which we can actively participate. It can be almost like becoming someone else for awhile, a way of freeing ourselves from our own lonely perspective and mental patterns. We are often accused of being selfish, yet we perhaps spend far less time living in the desires and thoughts of the self than do our extrovert critics.
An extrovert could respond that TV and film perform the function of allowing one to step into another’s shoes. Surely these are more tangible, visceral mediums and therefore far more effective than a book. After all, we empathize with the characters we see on screen and are drawn into a director’s vision.
However, books operate on another level because they demand active participation and voluntary shedding of our own perceptions. Visual entertainment gives us the vision and all we have to do is sit back and watch. There is not much participation, mostly just passive dictation to the viewer. TV and film can be excellent ways of escaping our own world. They offer a complete vision to replace our own.
The importance of books that extroverts tend to miss is that one must create the vision. We must actively concentrate on adopting the thought patterns of another and seeing clearly through their eyes. In books, we must actively bring our perspective in synchrony with another. Thus we expand our own perspective rather than replacing it temporarily with someone else’s. When reading a work of fiction, for instance, we must draw from our own experiences to bring alive the blueprint the author has set before us. In trying to make the plan come to life, we are reshaping our own mind until we have a key that fits in the door to another mind. The more we practice, the better we become at falling into the mental rhythm of another human being and escaping the confines of our own solitary vision of the world. The fluid, multi-faceted understanding that results from reading is a source of incredible euphoria the equal of any of life’s greatest pleasures.
That an extrovert would consider us dead, absent, and isolated from the living world because of reading reveals their inability to see that the dry words on the page are merely a blueprint, an invitation to build something. A something that never turns out the same for any two people who try it, or even for one person who builds from the same blueprint twice.