Silence is golden at your Breckenridge and Summit County libraries | SummitDaily.com

Silence is golden at your Breckenridge and Summit County libraries

Pat Hasenfus
Special to the Daily

Shhh! Shushing patrons is not our primary mission, but we librarians appreciate the sound of silence — and we’re not alone.

In her No. 1 best-seller “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain leads us through the physical, psychological and historical aspects of introverts versus extroverts. Thoroughly researched and documented, her book provides plenty of anecdotes and “a-ha” moments. We learn, e.g., that one out of every two or three people we know are introverts. “If you’re not an introvert yourself,” she writes, “you are probably raising, managing, married to or coupled with one.” Given the American ideal of the confident, outgoing entrepreneur, this statistic is surprising and possibly depressing.

Charisma and communication are often valued more than content. Impassioned lawyers sway juries despite the evidence; politicians and salesmen routinely convince us to suspend our righteous disbelief; and religious leaders direct their flocks to spaceships, battlefields and KoolAid. Groupthink abounds, teamwork is the new norm, and elementary school desks are arranged in learning pods. From rah-rah teambuilding sessions at Walmart to mandatory study groups in Harvard’s MBA program, collaboration is both encouraged and demanded, in spite of numerous studies indicating that just the opposite is the more efficient model.

What’s a poor introvert to do? Fake it. While introverts can be spotted in the corner of the library or slipping out of a party, not all are so easily identified. A job or a passion forces us introverts out of our comfort zone. We do what we have to do. “One theory … holds that when our ancestors lived on the savannah, being watched intently meant only one thing: a wild animal was stalking us. And when we think we’re about to be eaten, do we stand tall and hold forth confidently? No. We run. In other words, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution urge us to get the hell off the stage, where we can mistake the gaze of the spectators for the glint in a predator’s eye. Yet the audience expects not only that we’ll stay put but that we’ll act relaxed and assured. This conflict between biology and protocol is one reason that speechmaking can be so fraught. It’s also why exhortations to imagine the audience in the nude don’t help nervous speakers; naked lions are just as dangerous as elegantly dressed ones.”

The author defines introvert versus extrovert for us: Introverts require solitude to recharge, while extroverts need socialization. They approach conflict differently, and those differences may be falsely attributed to gender. She reminds us that “without introverts, the world would be devoid of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the theory of gravity, of evolution, of relativity … Peter Pan, Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm,’ the ‘Cat in the Hat,’ Charlie Brown, E.T, Google and Harry Potter.” Rosa Parks would not have been on that bus or JFK in the White House. Cain offers many more such nuggets to keep her readers engaged.

In “The Power of Silence,” Graham Turner takes a different approach. He travels the world and shows us the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of silence. We accompany him to a Trappist monastery, the mountains, the desert, a center for transcendental meditation, a concert hall, a zen retreat, a Scottish prison and a Quaker meeting. The results are unscientific but compelling, and you have to love a book that refers to the “verbally incontinent.”

Both books are readily available at your Summit County library.


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