Madness

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Understand me.
I’m not like an ordinary world.
I have my madness, I live in another dimension and I do not have time for things that have no soul.

Charles Bukowski

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What I Gained From Reading Quiet

Prior to being published,the content of this post has been deleted,edited and re-written countless times.After pondering how I could write a review of Quiet,I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to pay tribute to this fantastic book and encourage people to pick it would be to list everything I’ve gained from reading it.

Every page of Quiet is imbibed with tons of information,so what I’ve written below is just a vignette of what you will see in the book.

Self-Acceptance
Quiet opens with telling us how inclined to extroversion the world is.The process by which people have come to disregard introverts in favour of extroverts took place several decades ago in adverts,magazines and movies,among many others.As a result,we now live in a world that is more than ever dominated by the ”Extrovert Ideal”.There are tons of empowerment programmes that aim to make their clients more extroverted.Introversion is regarded as something that needs to be cured,as we attest in Harvard Business School,where a lecturer thinks he has failed somewhere if not all his pupils have participated in class before the end of the year.Likewise,you’re thought to be a failure if you haven’t made any important contact during your time at the HBS.While this opening part of Quiet might seem depressive,it comforted me somehow.People just cannot accept introversion as something natural.Seeing how introverts are ‘persecuted’ all over the world,I have stopped taking people’s reaction to my introverted behaviour personally and would rather dismiss it as something natural.In short,I’ve realised that part of accepting who you are also involves accepting other people’s view on you.

Knowing Who I Am
There is a fundamental difference between temperament and personality.The former is what we are born with while the latter is acquired through peer pressure,parental influence or the nature of our environment.We also learn of the presence of a small,primitive organ in the brain called the amygdala.This organ is what signals your body to run if you’ve stumbled over a Boa and to stay if you’ve come across a puppy.Introverts,also called highly-sensitive people because of their sensitivity to their surroundings,unsurprisingly have heightened activity in their amygdala.This was really important to know,because I always thought I had social anxiety disorder.I would struggle to maintain composure in crowded parties,would talk quietly when there is too much music or noise,and would be startled if someone pops up from his room while I’m walking along the corridor in my university accommodation.Now,when I have these reactions,I no longer get angry or annoyed at myself; instead I just think ‘It’s alright,that’s the way you are’ and try to be less perturbed next time.I am finally at peace with my introverted self.

Faith
Luckily we also have the prefrontal cortex,which is here to soothe unwarranted fears.For instance,have you ever come across somebody who has overcome his fear? Well,repeated exposure to it helps the prefrontal cortex to take over the amygdala; the person is no longer as excitable or over-stimulated when confronted to the fear.However,the fear is merely suppressed and not eliminated; it still lurks in the brain.That’s why no matter how much you feel you’ve overcome a fear,you’ll still sense it somewhere deep down in you.Learning about the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex has made me comfortable with dealing with things I apprehend.If I have to speak publicly,I will know that it won’t be as bad as I think it will,as my prefrontal cortex will do its job.Instead of cowering away,I can now have faith in myself.

Soft Power
We come across Professor Ni who introduces us to his concept of Soft Power,which is synonymous with quiet persistence: ”In the long run”,said Ni,”if the idea is good,people shift.If the cause is just and you want to put your heart into it,it’s almost a universal law:you will attract people who want to share your cause.Soft power is quiet persistence.” Shortly after,we’re given a brief peek into the life of Gandhi,another introvert like us.He has always been shy and felt nervous when having to speak before crowds.In the brief biography we have of him,we see how passive he has always been throughout his life and might even treat him as ‘weak’.But Gandhi rejected the phrase ”passive resistance” to describe his submissive behaviour towards the Whites,preferring the now-famous term ”satyagraha”,which means ”firmness in the pursuit of truth.” Even before we meet Professor Ni,Susan Cain showed us in the first chapters how unassuming Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks were,yet history wouldn’t be the same without these two ladies.We can see now that quiet people are not lost cases.They too can change things without having to bang on tables.Reading on such people I could so easily relate with was certainly uplifting and inspiring.I will try to read more on soft power and other similar philosophies in the future.

Living in a Bubble is Okay
I don’t have many friends at university.Well,to be honest,I don’t have any.There are just acquaintances whom I meet from time to time at the canteen.I’m always on my own here,yet people will be surprised when I tell them uni life is being an unforgettable experience.I’m not alone in fact; I live in my own bubble.Like all people,I thought this was strange; I thought experiences in life turned me like this.But I not only understood that it is natural for introverts to enjoy little company,but also learned that collaboration kills creativity.And this is not something that Cain just says to merely assert her position as a champion of introverts; she has facts upon facts to support this claim.Also,her best argument is none other than the fact that the first computer was created by an introverted nerd: Steve Wozniack.Cain showed as well how businesses that have open offices for their employees tend to perform less than those giving their employees much needed privacy.By the end of the book,I was glad Cain told us the following:

The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.

Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute to it.If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable,do them anyway.But accept that they’re difficult,get the training you need to make them easier and reward yourself when you’re done.

Spend your free time the way you like,not the way you think you’re supposed to.Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy.Skip the committee meeting.Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances.Read.Cook.Run.Write a story.Make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.

I don’t expect you to read the entire thing.It has unexpectedly got longer than I thought it would.But,if you’ve skimmed through this post and liked what you saw,then I’m happy.Be sure to read this book if you’re an introvert or related to one you wish to understand more. 🙂

How much of Wilde is there in The Picture of Dorian Gray?

In the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray could be read : ”To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim”. Ironically Wilde himself couldn’t stick to that principle, for his only novel is highly autobiographical in nature.

To begin with, both Wilde and Dorian came from a reputable family.Dorian was the son of Lady Devereux, the grandson of Lord Kelso, and the heir to his great grandfather’s Selby property. As for Wilde, his father was Sir William Wilde, Ireland’s leading ophthalmologist while his mother,Jane,was a popular actress who went by the name of ”Sperenza”.

Wilde would go so far as to reflect the scandalous incidents which smeared his family into Dorian’s family lineage. His father, William, had three illegitimate children, and a young woman would even file a charge against Lady Wilde for libel,on the grounds that Sir William had seduced her. To make matters worse, Lady Wilde lost and was forced to pay the young woman. Later on, the once-rich family would slide into poverty: Sir William was bankrupt shortly before his death, Lady Wilde was forced to stay in abject poverty with his other son, and at the time of her death, she was buried anonymously in common ground, for a headstone was beyond her sons’ means.Likewise, Dorian Gray’s ancestors also indulged in scandals and disgrace: Lord Beckenham was infamously known for leading ”orgies at Carlton House”, Lady Elizabeth Devereux had had many affairs while Philip Herbert was engaged in a homosexual relationship with King James-he was ”Caressed by the Court for his handsome face”. In addition, Dorian’s own mother would vitiate her aristocratic background when she fled with a ”penniless young fellow”,and the way Dorian’s grandfather got rid of the man would forever be known as an ”ugly story”.

The biographical nature of the novel becomes evident as we witness the downfall of Dorian,triggered by Lord Henry Wotton who gave him his first mirror – a symbol for narcissism – and the infamous yellow book. In Wilde’s life, it was no different. He too was initiated to hedonism by Robert Ross,a hedonist friend; he too was given the yellow book.For Wilde,as well as for his alter-ego Dorian,this little book played a determining part in their lives; ”The hero….became to him a kind of prefiguring type of himself.” 

What is in that book which proved so destructive to Dorian and Wilde? Well,firstly the book is none other than A Rebours written by Jonathan-Karl Huysmans.It narrates the life of an aristocrat,Jean Des Esseintes, who isolates himself in his castle and decides to embrace aestheticism. But the pursuit of beauty and art can be noxious, as demonstrated by the actions of the aesthete.Des Esseintes once set gemstones set in the shell of a tortoise,which resulted in the creature dying from the accumulated weight on its back. On another occasion,wishing to make his own perfume,he ended up with a garden full of poisonous plants.

In a similar manner,the obstinate pursuit of aestheticism proved poisonous to Dorian and Wilde.The hedonistic belief is that one should not live by any restriction,and it is without surprise that Wilde and Dorian engaged in homosexual acts.Also,although it has not been stated anywhere,one can assume that Wilde also took drugs, as is inferred by Dorian’s consumption of opium.Moreover Dorian’s pride in his success at concealing his immoral life mirrors Wilde’s feelings during the hedonistic phase of his life.According to Ellman’s biography,”Oscar Wilde” – widely regarded as the definitive work on the subject – ”After 1886, he was able to think of himself as a criminal, moving guiltily among the innocent.”

There is a line in the preface that exactly defines Wilde’s feelings about this infamous period of his:

“All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.”

Wilde wrote from experience.It is highly probable that he regretted this immoral period of his,as he engaged in those acts when he already had two sons and a wife.Sadly,ghosts from this sad time would haunt him back later.Indeed,in Dorian’s death, Wilde could foretell his own miserable ending; at the height of his career,years after writing The Picture of Dorian Gray,his immoral past was revealed and he was condemned for gross indecency with men.He died shortly after his release,at the relatively young age of 46,destitute and all alone.