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Orson Scott Card says something decent!

July 8, 2010

I know plenty of people love Orson Scott Card’s novels (and in the ever-present [although most likely misguided] search for the Great Mormon Novel, OSC generally gets put forth.) This hasn’t stopped people from realizing that, outside of the realm of science fiction, Orson Scott Card often says some ridiculous things.

I guess the only reason I even occasionally view his column in the Mormon Times is a sense of searching for the next trainwreck to observe…but his latest on introverts had some decent points to make.

This is a point I often try to emphasize, and it seems clear as day to me, but a lot of people don’t get it. So, I think OSC has done a great thing in emphasizing this point to the Mormon Times readers:

Often we think that “shy” and “introverted” are the same thing. This is not so at all. I’ve known many shy people who were nevertheless extroverts, constantly seeking company; I myself project an open, outgoing personality in public, while in fact I’m profoundly introverted.

The greatest of all talk show hosts, Johnny Carson, is a perfect example. He made his fame and fortune from entertaining crowds, from conversing with people. No one has ever done it better.

Yet he came away from all such encounters drained and exhausted, and when given the choice he liked to be in places where no one knew him, no one expected anything of him; he loved to be alone for long stretches of time.

Carson, an introvert, was excellent with other people; there are also some extroverts who, while insisting on being in the company of others, have no talent for pleasing them. (No one is more in need of compassion than the hungry extrovert with no social skills.)

I might even go further and state that shyness as we so often see it portrayed is most often an extrovert’s phenomenon. We see someone who wants to be social and outgoing, who is energized by socialization…but for whatever reason, he or she is crippled by shyness. Shyness is tragic in this case, because what we see is someone who does not get what he or she so desperately craves.

This is not to say that introverts cannot be shy. However, if an introvert gets some more time alone, this doesn’t cause the sense of anxiety, boredom, and energy drain that might happen to an extrovert fish out of social water.

I think that OSC correctly notes that the LDS church is lopsided in favor of extroverts. I think that this kind of orientation is great for both extroverts and introverts to learn to be gregarious and sociable — I like to say that much of what I learned from public speaking was from growing up in the church. (The rest was from playing Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. That game had sweet quotes.) Nevertheless, learning to be competent at socialization and speaking is different than being primarily energized by it.

So, I was interested to hear OSC’s solution to introverts in the church. After all, the article is enticingly titled “A place for Mormon introverts.” He weaves a wish for Mormon monasteries — monasteries that offer solitude, but are not permanent or lifelong. He suggests that within the Mormon calendar are these sorts of things.

Oh boy, what could that be? I’ve been a member all of my life…how could I have not heard about this?

…his answer are the Sundays when we have either Stake Conference or General Conference.

…am I the only one who feels so tragically let down? I can’t believe I fell for that.


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  1. I fall under the socially inept introvert category. Feeling obligated to socialize was one of the things I hated about church. Mormons tend to equate being friendly and outgoing with being “Christlike.” I felt like I didn’t measure up because I didn’t like being around people all the time. Now I see my introversion as simply a characteristic, not a character flaw. I do wish I had better social skills. Church helped me with public speaking abilities, but not face to face interactions. I never fit in at church, never knew how to relate to anyone there.

    Hmm, I can see General Conference qualifying as a monastic break, but not Stake Conference. When even missing one Sunday of church can be seen as slipping into unfaithfulness, it’s a hard knock life for Mormon introverts.

  2. And even with the General Conference/Stake Conference distinction, before we got satellite and BYU TV (and realized that conference can be watched online), we had to go up to the stake center (which is our ward’s building, so that’s convenient) to watch that. Technically, we’re still supposed to go for the priesthood session (which is not broadcast).

    I just don’t see how two Sundays (or, being more charitable for OSC, four) really cuts it.

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